Epic European Cycle

2015-10-17 : Cappadocia
Our last day in Cappadocia. I can't believe we finally made it here, and I can't believe it's already time to leave. We got up early to go hiking in Rose and Red Valleys while the balloons are out, so we got to see the balloons, do a hike, explore town a little, and have a couple of meetings with Brent regarding his plans to develop a good service center for hikers - one of my pet topics. After our lunch meeting Brent was on his way to his place and took us along so we could use his place as a Launchpad for our town walkabout, and gave us a tour of the place he's living in, which includes original cave and fairy chimney. How cool!
While Brent and I were out hiking today, we had an interesting experience with a woman named Virginia.

We were near the end of our hike in Rose and Red Valleys when we came upon a pomegranate juice stand, which, to my dismay, was unattended. Suddenly, from the hill above us, we saw a couple on a small scooter, racing down the hill. The guy stopped the scooter (barely) and the woman got off. He then continued racing down the hill and she began running down the hill.

When he reached us, we realized that he is the juice vendor, and he was racing down the hill to sell us juice. I enthusiastically accepted.

Shortly, the woman arrived. She said her name was Virginia and she was a doctor from South America. She had become separated from her hiking group and the juice vendor had taken her out into the hills on his scooter to help her try to find them. Not surprisingly, they hadn't had any luck (it would be pretty darned easy to miss people in those crazy hills and fairy chimneys).

Virginia wanted to move on and keep looking for her group, while the juice vendor insisted that she stay at his stand. Her hike was supposed to end at a juice stand, and Virginia was convinced his was not the right one, while he insisted it was. When Brent and I were ready to move on, Virginia decided to join us to walk as far as the next juice stand down the way, which is more of a trailhead-ey kind of place.

As we walked with Virginia, we discovered that she had deliberately left her hiking group behind because they hike too slow for her. She asked her guide, Gigi, what direction she should go and Gigi told her to "just go straight" (sorry, there's no such thing as "straight" in those valleys). So, off she bolted, leaving her group behind, and clearly taking some wrong turns. After the hike, her group was supposed to be enroute to the airport to catch a flight out. All of Virginia's important stuff... you know, like her identification, money and credit cards, were in the tour bus. She had nothing. She didn't even remember what town she'd been staying in. She only remembered the name of her hotel, "Cave Hotel" (oh, in Cappadocia THAT'S helpful... every hotel is in a cave). We also learned that she'd recently had several teeth pulled in Europe (which probably wouldn't make it onto her official dental records... you know... in case she ended up a desiccated corpse in the Cappadocia valleys), and that she wasn't actually a "doctor"... she was a faith healer.

When we got to the next juice stand, we encountered some nice young men who spoke some, but not a lot, of English. English is Virginia's third language, and she was pretty skilled, but not fluent. She grilled the guys about whether that juice stand was the correct place for her hiking group to meet. She didn't have any information, though, and they asked her a bunch of questions but couldn't get anything relevant out of her. She got pretty rude and frustrated, exclaiming "you're NOT HELPING ME!" to them, when she hadn't provided any information to help them help her.

Finally she decided to head off down the road toward the town of Çavuşin for some mystery reason. I had tried to help her determine which town she had originated in by describing Göreme and Uçhisar (towns that I thought were candidates for where she's been staying), but she was too impatient and not interested in listening to my descriptions - she only wanted to march on in some direction. Brent and I gave her our little map that we'd gotten from the Flintstones tour company and off she went.

We will wonder often about Virginia. With no resources or ID, no idea of where she was supposed to be, and most likely heading in the wrong direction (after consulting Google, I thought "Cave Hotel" was probably in Urgup), we're pretty certain the remainder of her day did not go as planned. I feel really bad for Gigi, too. I know how awful it can be when someone takes off from your hiking group and goes the wrong way. I bet they both had an interesting day.

2015-10-18 : To Venice
Oy. I cannot keep my nose out of other people's business.

Brent and I met Brent G the night we arrived in Göreme. He spent a bunch of time with us, wearing his travel agent hat, getting to know us a bit and getting to know what we wanted to do. He was clearly focused on providing discount services to hiking types.

As we spent some time exploring and hiking around Göreme, I found something that I've found in a few places before - great hiking opportunities, with little to no good information about said hiking opportunities. So, naturally I slammed Brent G with all of my ideas about how he might further develop a service center for hikers.

On our last day in Cappadocia, we had lunch with him to discuss further, and then met him again later for dinner and further discussion. He was already angling in the direction of a hiker service center, but was a little stymied as to how he might do that. Some in-depth conversation with avid hikers (ie. me and Brent) helped to clarify and solidify a lot of things and it sounds like he is off to the races with developing what he is calling "Hiker's Korner", which will be a gathering place, information center, and service center for hikers. We have been helping to develop a plan to bring in some volunteer tourists to properly document hikes in the area. We're really excited about the whole thing, and it seems that Brent G is also.

I would be so thrilled to have been a catalyst to make good hiking information and infrastructure happen in Cappadocia!
I started coughing this morning and through the day started feeling worse and worse until now I feel like absolute crap. When I get a cough, I often get a feeling that I describe as "like my lungs are stuffed with pink fibreglass insulation", which no one seems to really be able to relate to. I have my fibreglass lungs right now and it sucks. I'm going to take some tea and drugs and hope I can sleep it off.

2015-10-19 : Venice
A drizzly sick day in Venice. I feel pretty awful, but we took advantage of my "best" part of the day (morning) to walk down to the train station and buy our tickets to Innsbruck, and then walk three of the canals recommended by our accommodation host before I demanded spaghetti and a nap. The weather is supposed to be nicer tomorrow, and I hope I'm feeling better as well.
I LOVE that there are no cars in Venice. I wish I could live someplace where there are no cars.

2015-10-20 : Venice
Sickety sick sick sick. This morning I thought I was feeling better than yesterday. Brent and I went out to walk and see stuff. Around 10:30 I started fading and getting vertigo. I made it 'til noon to have pizza, but then I crashed and pretty much slept through the whole night. A brutal way to spend my time in Venice. Boo.

2015-10-21 : Train - Venice to Innsbruck
A little less sick today. I have actually made it past 7PM. But now Brent is coming down with it. Poor Brent!!
Innsbruck is STUNNING! I didn't have any expectations for it. I only chose it as a starting point for the train trip Brent wants to do through Switzerland. And then... Innsbruck happened! It is a beautiful little city surrounded by stunning mountains. And it has an amazing old town! We will have to come back here when we can spend more time.

2015-10-22 : Train to Luzern
Brent hasn't fallen completely ill yet. That's lucky. We had a really nice train ride from Innsbruck to Luzern. The scenery from Innsbruck to Zurich was pretty spectacular, and the scenery from Zurich to Luzern was ok. Luzern is a pretty place, but Innsbruck is a tough act to follow.

2015-10-23 : Train to Geneve
Today it was interesting traveling from Luzern to Geneve, which meant traveling from the German part of Switzerland to the French part of Switzerland. The line was distinct and obvious. It was fun to be back in a French-speaking place for the first time since we left France. I was feeling so good I was going to impress the train ticket lady by conducting my business with her in French. I told her what I wanted (two tickets to Bruges on the 25th). She asked me one question and it was game over. I had to ask her to speak English. D'OH!

2015-10-24 : Day in Geneve
My bug is back with a vengeance. When I get sick, normally I just lay down and sleep for two (sometimes three) days. This time, I've been pushing myself to spend at least half a day moving around and I think I set myself back. Vertigo and exhaustion are back. It meant that "Site Archeologique de la Cathedrale Saint-Pierre", rather than being "a" destination for the day, was "the" destination for the day. Then, I demanded sushi and a nap. I hope this is over soon. Sigh.
One thing I haven't been able to bring myself to do in Switzerland is eat dinner in a restaurant. The cheapest option we found was a Korean restaurant (in Geneva) that would have cost about $100CAD for a simple dinner for the two of us. Brent was ready to suck it up and go for it, but I just couldn't do it. We had dep dinners the whole time we were in Switzerland.

2015-10-25 : Train to Bruges
A long day on the train today, starting with the Claustrophobic Chaos Car from Geneve to Paris. We were at the very end of the train, in a separate little compartment with seating enough for 16. There were 16 of us in the compartment, which doesn't sound too bad until you take into account that it included a man with his entourage of three women and three small children, each with a suitcase big enough for Brent and I to live in, plus a group of six Oriental Amazon people who were all legs, sniffles and electronics. It was a bad B-Movie scene.

2015-10-26 : Bruges
Bruges is AMAZING!! I thought we were burned out on awesomeness and didn't have it in us to digest any more, but Bruges has proven us wrong.

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