We are on the road again!

It feels so good to write this! And it gets even better: I am sipping my Georgian wine (which we just got as a gift from some locals) on my camping chair in the sun, wearing a tank top and shorts and with the sound of a wild river floating by. This is what we love about travelling! We are located on the edge of the Lagodekhi National Park, in the Caucasus region. We parked our van next to a ranger station, on a big open field in the middle of nowhere. It’s just us and Polly, Brian and their dog Busso here. It almost feels like there is no Corona!

But… let’s start from the beginning. Yesterday, we finally left Tbilisi. Wow, it felt like we were ‘moving house’ again! It took us a few hours to pack up all our stuff, but then we were ready to leave. As you probably know, we have spent the last 5 weeks with Polly and Brian, a Dutch couple. Together with them, we left Tbilisi, heading towards the South East of Georgia. Close to the border of Azerbaijan are some monasteries that we wanted to visit. These David Gareja monasteries are located in a beautiful landscape. Polly calls it ‘bacon hills’, we will try to add some pictures so you can decide for yourself. Unfortunately, the last 30 km to the monasteries was all off-road. On one big bump, we even hurt Tiny again. We now have a loose (and low hanging) wastewater tank, which makes it difficult to drive off-road again. When we go back to the city, we will do another garage retreat.

However, when we got there, it was worth the drive. The surroundings were stunning and the one monastery we could visit was quite picturesque too. The bigger one that we didn’t get to visit, was too close to the border of Azerbeidszjan and the border patrol wouldn’t let us through. We guess this is because of Corona.

After visiting the monastery, we started looking for a place to camp. We were not allowed to sleep in the ‘border zone’, so we had to drive all the way back to the nearest village. Because it was getting late, we decided to ask some locals where we could sleep. Soon, a nice guy let us use his closed campsite for the night, for free!

The night was pretty bad: the wind was so strong, that it felt like we were sleeping on a boat on a wild sea! We decided to leave early the next morning (today), and the main goal was finding a nice wildcamping spot. That really turned out not to be easy! We will spare you all the details, but on our third try we finally found a spot! Without the help of the apps, but with the help of some very friendly locals who even gave us a bottle of chacha and 2 liters of homemade wine. We will probably hang out here for a while!

The spot is beautiful, and we are located 20 meters from the entrance of the National Park. One of these days, we are planning to hike up to a 40m high waterfall. We will enjoy the sunshine and all the things this place has to offer. This afternoon, Nienke already took a dip in the wild, but o so clear river! Right now, she is prepping a fire for our dinner. Wow, it feels amazing to be camping and just to be back in nature again! We are going to love it here!

 

Overlanding in winter

We have been on the road for 8 months now and we have been living in Tiny for 15 months more. That means that this is our second winter in our van, although this one is way different than last year’s. Whereas we stayed in The Netherlands last year, on our campsite in the woods, we have been moving around this year.

The first feeling of winter that we experienced, was in Turkey in December. We took our winter coats from the roof and we saw the first snow. Because we were doing our Workaway in Isparta and we stayed in an apartment, we didn’t mind the weather and we enjoyed the fresh air. We even went skiing/snowboarding one day!

After we had left Isparta, we drove through Turkey and spent some very cold days in beautiful Cappadocia. It was only when we moved further up North that we noticed that overlanding in winter can be challenging; we had many days of rain and snow while entering Georgia. At the same time, we had troubles with Tiny and had to go to the mechanic several times. Fortunately, we were still able to continue our way towards Tbilisi.

As we had read that Georgia is a wonderful country for spending time in nature, we went looking for some nice places to visit. However, only one site was open: we visited the Prometheus Cave near Kutaisi, which we enjoyed very much. We also drove up to a gorge, but there was too much snow in the mountains to be able to get to the parking lot. Thus, we went to see the (very boring) city of Kutaisi instead. As we had some nice sunny days, we didn’t mind the cold at all and we visited Gori and its fortress. Our days in Tbilisi were also amazing, even though we spent a lot of time at the mechanic again.

It had been three weeks since we had left Isparta, so we were ready for our next Workaway. We stayed put in the mountains for two and a half weeks, spending our time with the cats and dogs in the shelter. With a lot of wind, some snow and hours without electricity, these days were very cold! We loved walking the hills with the dogs, though. After we had spent two more days in Tbilisi, we moved on to our current Workaway. We didn’t want to travel around too much, because Georgia has a lot of mountains and therefore a lot of snow in the winter.

We arrived in Gudauri in the middle of a snowstorm, which we actually liked very much. Sparta had a lot of fun in the snow and our heater kept us warm during the cold evening. The next morning, we arrived at the ski resort where we would spend the next weeks, working as English teachers in a restaurant. We noticed that we wouldn’t have a lot of work, as the staff wasn’t very interested in learning English after work hours. We thus bought a 10-day lift pass and went skiing/snowboarding every other day. What a great place for us!

And then, last Sunday night, the Corona madness started… Although we had thought we would be safe in this remote mountain resort, we ended up in the heart of the problem. It turned out that some Czech tourists had brought Corona to our restaurant on March 4. This meant that we had to close immediately and stay in quarantine for a while. Meanwhile, it has been snowing terribly for days and we cannot go outside (at least not further than 5 meters from the entrance). So, our car has been snowed in, everything gets wet all the time and we are constantly plowing our way to our side door. We are still sleeping in the van, which we don’t mind, but it’s getting a little bit annoying. When we want to get out in the morning, the snow comes all the way up to the door and Sparta totally disappears when he jumps out. Besides, the car is getting rusty and icy and we hope we will be able to get it out once the quarantine ends.

For now, we are quite happy that we are in a restaurant with plenty of food. We are obligated to stay inside, but it’s warm and dry and Sparta has a lot of space to run around. We’re getting a little bit bored and we are worried about what will happen in the next couple of weeks, but we are sure that we will stay in Georgia. Hopefully, we will soon have fully recovered from Corona – if we’ve had it at all – and we can get the van checked once we get back to Tbilisi.

All in all, our winter has been both amazing and demanding. On the one hand, we wished that we had stayed in a sunny place to spend the winter. On the other hand, we have really enjoyed the snowy mountains. We miss our friends and family, but we are happy to be able to talk to them every day now most people in The Netherlands have a lot of time on their hands due to Corona. We stay optimistic and we believe the world will recover from this madness.

Please take care of yourselves and the people around you!

 

Spending our time in the snow

This last week, we have been spending a lot of time in the snow. Sparta is finally used to this place, with all its tourists, restaurants, slippery paths and wet feet at all times. We are definitely used to it too, because we have a lot of free time and are able to go up with the gondola whenever we want. However, we get very tired at the end of every day, so we sleep a lot.

We tried to film some of the things we do here, which you can see in the video below. It’s very amateuristic, but we hope you like it anyway! Next week, we will tell you some more about the work we do in between sliding down the mountains.

Moving on to our new Workaway in Gudauri

Last Thursday, after we had safely driven down from the dog shelter, we went to another mechanic. We’ll spare you all the details, but on Friday we were finally sure that we were able to make it to our next Workaway in Gudauri. We still had some days before we had to be there, so we decided to spend our time in Tbilisi. We booked a room for two nights and settled in before heading downtown.

It was Friday night and we had left Sparta in his box. Yay, dinner for two without being disturbed by our little man! We first wandered through the old town and then found a place to eat. We had been willing to try the real Georgian kinkhali for a while and we ordered two of each sort. They look like Chinese dumplings, but are bigger and filled with all sorts of things: cheese, meat, mushrooms, herbs… They were joined by a bottle of Georgian wine (Kindsmarauli) and a ceasar salad and we really loved them! Also, we definitely needed some time together.

The next morning, we took it easy and went back to the city center around eleven. This time, Sparta came with us, which resulted in a lot of walking and doing tricks with him. Fortunately, the weather was awesome and we could have a coffee on a cute terrace, followed by a kachapouri (bread with cheese) on a bench in front of the clock tower. We paid a visit to the post office and then took a taxi back to our hotel. We were exhausted! The rest of the day we spent relaxing in our room and cooking our own dinner. We were totally ready for a new adventure!

On Sunday morning, we left Tbilisi to drive to Ananuri to visit its monastery. It took us only one hour to get there, so we had a lot of time to explore the monastery. Unfortunately, it was very small and even though it had an amazing view, we were quickly done. Thus, together with Sparta, we walked around the village for a while and then sat down for a homemade coffee. At night, we cooked our own dinner again. Cooking in the van is always nice when it’s getting colder outside, because it will raise the inside temperature. Besides, we really enjoy our cozy and quiet nights in our Tiny home!

When we woke up on Monday morning, we got really excited about the next part of our drive to Gudauri. We were going up in elevation, so we were getting back to the snow! The side streets were all impossible to drive, so we only stopped when we arrived in the place where we were going to spend the next few weeks. Gudauri is the biggest ski resort in Georgia, so we found many restaurants, hotels and rental shops. We warmed ourselves inside a modern bistro and then found a place to spend the night. It was a parking next to the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, built in 1983. There was a lot of snow around the monument, so we had some fun playing in the snow and taking photos. It was going to be cold during the night, which meant that we had to boil water for Sparta again!

During the night, a lot of snow had fallen. We wanted to go back to Gudauri, so we had to drive through the 15 cm snow that was still lying on the parking area. After some coffee and a slow breakfast, we took our chances. It was tricky to get up the hill and back to the road, but after four tries Tamara managed to get the car on the asphalt. Hooray! Carefully, we drove back to the ski resort and parked the car in between the many cars that had arrived that morning.

So, after getting to know the place and some of the staff, we definitely think we are going to like it here. Our job is to speak English to the staff of a restaurant that is situated right under the main ski lift. We sleep in the van, because they are short on beds, but we actually don’t mind not staying in the crowded staff rooms. We managed to get an electricity cable to the van, which means that we can plug in our heater and we will definitely not be cold! Yesterday we already went skiing/boarding and many of the pistes are very good, although some of them need a little more snow. The sun is shining, we can be outside most of the day and we can play in the snow. What else would we want?

 

Dogs dogs dogs

By now, we have decided that nearly all dogs that live here, are sweet and funny. We have learned almost all of their names and took many of them for walks around the area. Some of them are very scared, some are going wild when we take them out and others are calm and careful. Still, we are sure that they are all better off with an owner who loves them and gives them all the attention they need.

Because a dog trainer comes here every week, we’ve had the great opportunity to work with him. We were thus able to teach Sparta a lot of tricks, but we also learned how to stop him from biting and barking (most of the times). Additionally, Sparta even goes to his box when we tell him to! We have a lot of fun watching him do his tricks and waiting for candy; he is a strongly motivated puppy!

On Tuesday, a new puppy arrived. She looks just like Sparta: she’s black with white paws and is about the same size. When we took them both outside, they immediately started chasing each other around. The puppy is very skinny and therefore very hungry, but she’s not scared at all and loves to play and cuddle. Unfortunately, we cannot take another puppy with us in the van… so who will adopt this adorable baby?

And, let us introduce you to some of our favourites. Pictures of them can be found below (in the right order).

Indy is a German Shepherd, who used to live in the forest by himself. One of his eyes is not functioning, but he sees everything clearly and runs all over the fields to chase and dig for small animals. When we are inside, he loves to sit with us and he loves to literally ‘hug’ us. He is a calm grown-up, but (carefully) plays with the other dogs too.

Lucy is a medium sized dog with a golden colour, who has a huge amount of energy. She runs so fast that she sometimes can’t stop, which makes her bump into us or run over other dogs. When she wants to cuddle, she can get crazy too: she jumps on our back or on our lap and starts licking our whole face. It’s very cute, but also a little gross!

Jack is our big boy; he loves food and is thus way too heavy. Fortunately, he also loves to come out for long walks, although he’s always the last one to get somewhere. He is calm and thoughtful and would never harm another dog, but he will definitely protect his property. We love to hug him when he is sitting next to us in the grass.

Kusuna has a problem with his legs, as he was hit by a car and many of his bones were broken. However, he’s a very happy dog and always wants to join us for walks. He likes to follow the other dogs through the fields, but is not as fast as they are and thus, he mostly stays close to us. He never lets any chance go to get some attention from us, although he would never bark or bite. He is definitely one of the gentlest dogs here!

Zita and Gita are sisters and share the same looks, but Zita is twice as big as Gita. Before we knew their names, we called them ‘Wolfs’, but fortunately we can now call them by their real names. They are both very energetic and Gita is by far the fastest dog of all the dogs here. She outruns everyone! Playtime in the fields is their favourite moment of the day. However, when inside the gates, they are both very calm and cuddly.

Basara is one of the older dogs and has had many problems in her life. Her back legs are not functioning properly, and she has lost a lot of teeth while eating stones when she was hungry. She still carries around stones when she comes out for our daily walks, even though we try to give her wood instead. She is the quietest dog here, but the last few days she has been asking for some attention too. Probably, she noticed that it’s actually quite nice to be touched and fed by loving people.

OK, OK, it’s enough! We will stop writing about them, because we could go on forever. Besides, we have to leave this place today and move on to our next Workaway in the snow. When we start working in this ski resort in Gudauri, we will definitely miss the dogs and the cats! However, we certainly won’t miss the dirt, the smells and the loud barking and howling! We are ready to move on. Bye sweeties!

There is no gallery selected or the gallery was deleted.

 

Around Tbilisi

While we drove from Gori to the beautiful ancient city of Uplistsikhe, we lost all of our coolant again. We saw the pink fluid dripping out of the radiator, but we decided to visit the site first. Together with hitchhiker Asher, we walked the many steps of the stairs in the tunnel, that led from the river to the old cave town. There were rooms cut out in the rocks, some of them without roofs from the everlasting erosion. The once so important Queen Tamar had her own hall here and there’s a church overlooking the valley. The video in the museum told us that this city was one of the main trading sites on the route from Asia to Europe. Very interesting and beautiful to see!

Once we got back to the car, we had to fix the coolant problem. Nienke had just emptied our bottles with coolant in the tank that morning, so we didn’t have any left. Fortunately, some friendly men helped us and assured us we could fill it up with normal water. One of them even looked under the car and tightened a screw, so that we could drive to Tbilisi without losing all of the water again. We definitely had to find a decent mechanic now!

When we arrived in Tbilisi, we had some troubles to find the right entrance to the Peugeot store. The traffic in this city is very stressful! We finally found out that this shop wasn’t able to help us (even though they are Peugeot!), so we went to Tegeta Motors again. We found this shop very reliable in Batumi, so we had some hope for this one in Tbilisi too. Unfortunately, they didn’t have time to help us, so they told us to come back on Saturday. That meant we had to wait for two days! We therefore drove to a nice park-up on the Tbilisi Lake and settled down for the night.

On Friday, we had to go to the vet to get Sparta’s last vaccination. We found a great clinic that belongs to the Agrarian University and they were definitely very trustworthy. Next to the rabies shot, Sparta also got his microchip so that we can prove that he is rightfully ours! Because we couldn’t drive very far and we had nothing else to do, we drove to Tbilisi mall and walked around the stores for a while. The weather had turned really bad, thus we decided to have lunch in the mall and go to the cinema after. Sparta was exhausted from going to the vet, so he slept the whole afternoon while we enjoyed our first movie on big screen in 6 months.

The next morning, we immediately went back to Tegeta Motors. We had made an appointment with Wild Goose for 11 o’clock, so we wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible! Fortunately, the mechanics told us that they could fix the radiator easily and that they found another problem too, which they would also fix. We took a taxi to the city center and told them we would be back later to pick up the van. Then, we finally met with Tanja and Michael again! They truly had made us an amazing breakfast, which we enjoyed with some sparkling wine and a lot of coffee. The rest of the day we played with Sparta, talked to our new friends and relaxed a little. Hopefully, our car troubles will be gone for a while now!

On Sunday, we went out to check out Tbilisi center. Wild Goose took us up with the cable cars and pointed out all the great spots that could be seen from the hill. They showed us around the old center, took us to a lovely coffee place and told us where the best markets are. We loved the city tour very much and we will definitely be back there to see some more of Tbilisi! The rest of the day, we had another delicious diner together, drank some more wine and talked a lot about all our travels. Thanks for having us T+M!

Monday, we went to Lisi Lake to have one last day of relaxation with each other. We would start a new Workaway on Tuesday, so we really needed to have some alone time. On Tuesday morning, two guys came to pick us up with the van of the company to guide us to the place where we would spend the next two weeks. Luckily, it hasn’t rained for a while and the road was dry, because there was no asphalt for about 15 km! After some bumpy last kilometers, we arrived at a big blue house in the middle of nowhere. 40 dogs immediately started barking at us! That was a very loud way to be welcomed into their territory.

Thus, we will be working with the dogs and about 20 cats here for approximately two weeks. Until now, Sparta is both excited and scared, but he is doing better with some of the other dogs already. We really love the walks we take with a group of dogs twice a day. The house is very dirty and so we have also been cleaning a lot of sh*t, which we – of course – don’t really enjoy. Cuddling with all of the dogs really makes up for that though!

In the next two weeks we will spend a lot of time with very cute dogs and cats. If one of our readers is interested in adopting one of them, please let us know! There are flights to Tbilisi every day and it’s a beautiful city, so you could definitely make a nice trip out of it ;).

One of the best parts of Turkey: Cappadocia

As promised, here is the story about one of our most favourite parts of our journey so far. From Konya, it was only a couple hours to Cappadocia. After another fantastic breakfast and a good shower, we left the house of our hosts and started the trip to Göreme National Park. The road was boring, so we got very excited when we saw the first signs of rock formations and valleys. As we drove up to our spot for the night, we were in awe of the prettiness around us.

Getting to the parking spot was a bit tricky, because it was in the dirt and on the edge of a cliff. Fortunately, Tiny does a very good job in off-road driving, so we found the best spot in no-time. We took out our camping table and chairs and attached Sparta to a long line. This view was amazing! After a short coffee break, we walked a small distance to a place where a lot of cars and vans were parked. There was a small café and some tourist shops, as it turned out to be the lookout spot over Love Valley! Many people were taking pictures of each other, with the funny-shaped rocks in the valley below on the background. We walked a little further, did some tricks with Sparta and then returned to the van for a hot meal and a quiet evening.

Since Sparta has to pee early every morning, one of us has to get out of bed. This time, it wasn’t a punishment, as the balloons were already floating over our heads! It was freezing, so we put on a lot of clothes. Then, we went outside to watch the sun come up while as many as 50 balloons were up in the air. Sparta found it too cold, so he went back to (our) bed and after a while, we went back too. However, we opened our back doors and watched this amazing event until most of the balloons had landed. Two of them even landed right next to us!

After breakfast, we left our amazing park-up and drove to the town of Göreme. This is the heart of Cappadocia, where many tourist shops, restaurants and hotels are situated. Moreover, this town owns a lot of old cave houses, which are sometimes still in use or converted into a hotel. We walked through the center, but soon found ourselves walking toward the Open-Air Museum. As we almost never go into such overly crowded places, we only watched the view, walked by the little shops and went back to a less touristy place. Sparta was already very tired, but we let him off the leash for a little while and then put him in Tamara’s warm and comfy jacket. On the way back to Göreme, we walked up to the ‘Hidden Church’, which was unfortunately closed. The walk to the church was very nice though, so we enjoyed it anyway and then returned to Tiny.

The next destination was the cave town Uçhisar, which’ immense rocks are visible throughout the whole area around it. There was still snow here, what made the giant rocks (with holes for windows) even more astonishing. Although we didn’t want to walk up all the way to the castle on the top of the rock, we walked around for a while. One of the smaller rocks had been turned into a café, and an old man invited us in for some tea. He told us that he was born here and that the house has been owned by his family for four generations. The rooms were covered in carpets and we could climb all the way up to the 5th floor. What a great way to build your house!

We felt like we still had to visit many more places in this area, but we were already pretty tired and we didn’t want to walk anymore. Therefore, we only stopped at a look-out point, took a quick look at the castle in Ortahisar and watched the brand-new cave hotels in Ürgüp. Then, we drove to a viewpoint on the other side of the valley, where according to Park4Night was a nice place to spend the night. Indeed, the place was great, but getting there was another adventure. When we were finally parked, we walked around the place with Sparta and then settled in for the night.

The next morning, we were woken up by the growling sound of jeeps. They were preparing two balloons for take-off! One of them was right next to our bed, so we weren’t able to sleep anymore and got out of the van. Though the view of the ascending balloons wasn’t as beautiful as the day before, we loved watching them lift off. Soon, they were all gone and we prepared ourselves for leaving. Today, we were going to visit one of the famous underground cities. However, we felt like walking around the Red Valley first, so we parked the van and started our hike. This valley has beautiful colours, therefore it’s name. The trails are a lot of fun, there are rocks everywhere and Sparta could walk around freely. We loved it!

After leaving the Red Valley, it took us about one hour to get to Kaymakli, where the underground city was opened for tourists in 1962. It was one of the bigger settlements: it could house about 3500 people. The last people who used to live here, were Greek Christians who had to hide themselves from the Muslim rulers. After the Greeks were expelled in 1923, the city was abandoned and was only used as cellar or horse stables. Although the city has 8 floors, only 4 of them are uncovered. We followed the red arrows into the depths of the earth, visiting living rooms, hallways, a church, storage rooms and stables. Sometimes we even had to crawl through narrow tunnels! Luckily, the way back to the exit was marked by blue arrows so we wouldn’t get lost. We had been in there for only half an hour, but we were both very intrigued by the way people must have lived here. It was definitely worth seeing it!

Online, we had read that we could fill up our gas bottle on a campground in Göreme. Therefore, we had left our almost empty bottle there that morning, so that we could pick it up after we got back from Kaymakli. As it is winter, we were very happy to have two full gas bottles again. Unfortunately, it was now time to leave this pretty landscape and head up north. Our visa would expire in one week and we still wanted to visit some places on the way up to Georgia. The first stop was Kirsehir, where our new friend Esma lives. We arrived around dinner time, so we immediately received an amazing meal from Esma’s mom. Afterwards, we went for a walk through the nice-looking park in front of their house. The rest of the night we spent playing Ligretto, as we had totally gotten hooked-up to that game when we were in Isparta. Fun!

In the morning, we were delighted by another phenomenal Turkish kahvalti. This definitely is our favourite meal from now on! We also had a nice warm shower and another walk through the town, but sadly we had to move on soon after that. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for us Esma!

We drove to the border with Georgia in 4 days. On the way, we stopped in the lovely town of Amasya, where the river is flanked by beautifully lit old houses and where the graves of ancient kings are hidden in the wall of the mountain. The weather turned cold and wet, so we couldn’t really enjoy our stay in the city of Trabzon. Besides, during our drive on the Black Sea coast, the sea was mostly invisible behind the buildings. We therefore kept driving and almost only went outside to walk the dog. When we finally reached the border, we were very excited. After a little detour back into Turkey (oops!), crossing the border went very smooth and we could enter Georgia within 15 minutes. Yay, a new country!

The first days in Georgia have been very wet. It has been raining most of the time, but we are staying in an AirBnb and we don’t mind being inside for a while. Sparta loves it too, because he doesn’t like to get wet either! We walked on the boulevard, explored the supermarkets, went for a run, visited another mechanic for the car (and there is nothing to worry about!) and watched a lot of episodes from The Blacklist. Now, we are getting ready to the next part of our travels: Tbilisi and the beautiful nature of Georgia!

Meeting tons of people

Our days in Antalya were really lovely. The weather wasn’t great, but we managed to go running some days and we biked to the city center once. Antalya has a beautiful old city center, where many little shops are located next to the harbour. We also went for a couple of walks in between the showers and found out that this city is really modern and lively. Other than going out, we talked to Deniz and Ada a lot. We played games, had some nice dinners together and went to see Deniz’ parents. We definitely felt at home with them and really hope to see them again someday.

On the day we were supposed to leave for Isparta, the weather was suddenly really good and we decided to stay and go to the beach one more time. We even went swimming! The waves were very high and we loved being able to swim in the sea on December 16th. After lunch, we finally left Antalya and drove to the city of Isparta. The views over the mountains were amazing and we saw a lot of snow on the mountaintops. Once we arrived in the city, we tried to find the café where we were meeting one of the other volunteers. However, the streets were very busy and some of them were really narrow, so we parked the van in one of the bigger streets and walked to the café. It’s actually more like an apartment, where people come in every night to speak and learn English. We will be staying here for Christmas and New Year’s, so it was nice to meet the people that are also here during those days.

At the moment we were writing this blog, we had already spent three nights at the language café. We’ve met many people: students from all over Turkey, international students, English teachers and many other people that live in or around Isparta. Many of them visit the café every night, so it’s nice to see those familiar faces coming through the door. We usually just spend the night talking to all these people and playing many games. Once, we went out for drinks with some of them, which was a lot of fun. All in all, we like being here a lot and we think we could certainly stay here for a while.

Because there are so many volunteers and not enough bedrooms, we are sleeping in the van. We actually don’t really mind, as we really love to sleep in our own bed. During the days, we just walk around the streets and take it easy. On Wednesday, we went hiking to the nearest lake, together with two of the American volunteers. It was a lovely walk and we enjoyed being outside and in the sun. The next couple of days are going to be sunny as well, but from Sunday on, it’s going to be a lot colder. We really hope that we will be able to go skiing/snowboarding on Davras mountain anytime soon!

Hospitable Turkey

Crossing the border into Turkey was quite an experience! Our first thought was that it was super easy, and we were already cheering that it was so easy, only to find out a couple minutes later that we had only passed the exit border for Bulgaria. Entering Turkey took a lot longer. There was a long line of cars and every car seemed to be checked thoroughly. Some people even had to open and empty all the bags and suitcases!

We were a little worried: if they wanted to check Tiny like that, we would be at the border for a whole day! When we finally got to the ‘checkingpoint’, we opened our sidedoor and the officer opened his eyes really wide. We could see him think ‘how on earth am I going to check all of this’. He opened some cupboards (and didn’t close them again), took a look in our overly filled bathroom, crushed our – just bought – enormous leek and then looked at his colleague. The other guy kept saying the word tourist and I guess that was helpful, because he was finished in just 5 minutes. They were just telling us that it was ok and that we could move on, when a loud alarm rang. All the systems shut down, so even though we were good to go, they couldn’t add us into their system. Luckily the rebooting didn’t take very long! All in all, it took about 1.5 hours to cross the border. Borders have been pretty easy so far, but from now on they will be a challenge!

First days in Turkey
Our first stop was in a city called Edirne, just across the border. To drive on the highway in Turkey we needed a so called HSG sticker. Some other overlanders adviced us to get them at the PTT (just like the one we used to have in the Netherlands!). After we got some Turkish Liras from an ATM we walked into a gas station and ask for the HSG sticker. To our surprise, no one spoke English, so after trying to point it out we had to use our phone to show them what we were looking for. They finally understood what we were talking about, but unfortunately the PTT was closed for lunch. We decided to keep driving and avoid the highways. After another two hours on the road we ended up in Silivri, a nice city on the seaside. We found a really good place to park the van, close to the sea and a park. We weren’t alone; our neighbour was a Turkish van. Since it was already pretty late, we decided to look for the PTT the next day. The van was parked next to a really cute boulevard, so we enjoyed a lovely evening strolling the boulevard and dinking some coffee. Again, no one spoke English, but we could just point out what we wanted. When we got back to the van, our neighbour came to our door. He went out to get us a delicious Turkish bread!! It was really hard to communicate, but we tried to show him how thankful we were!

The next day we walked to the nearest PTT and tried to explain that we needed the HSG. It felt impossible, because again no one spoke English and we needed to tell them a lot of details about the car (weight, license plate, distance between the tires etc.) to get the right form. All of the people we had met so far are super friendly and everyone is trying to help, but without language a thing like HSG is really hard to obtain! Luckily there was a customer who spoke German, so she helped us by being an interpreter. Our van is a category 2 and this PTT office only had category 1 stickers, so we had to go to another one. The friendly lady who spoke German even offered to take us there! It took almost the whole morning, but now we are in possession of an HSG sticker! We have no idea how to charge it yet, but hopefully we will figure that out soon.

Getting to Tuzla, Istanbul
We knew driving in Istanbul was supposed to be pretty crazy, and it was! Especially since maps.me took us to a tunnel that was only 2.80 meters high. Tiny wouldn’t fit and we had to take a different road and then we ended up driving in downtown Istanbul! It’s really busy and cars come from every direction, so we were really glad to get out without any damage! We already got to see a lot of huge mosques and the bridge over the Bosphorus, which made the scary driving a bit more enjoyable. It was really cool to see the sign ‘welcome to Asia’ when crossing the bridge! The family that we are staying with this week lives in Tuzla. It’s an area in Istanbul, about 40 km away from the big downtown. It’s also quite busy, but a lot better than it was in the city centre.

Our first week of Workaway
The family that we are staying with now, are really welcoming. Our first night, we enjoyed a lovely dinner with them and some friends. Tiny is parked in front of the apartment on a parking lot. Our main job is to help them improve their English and we also help with some little household chores. Besides, we will look after their 4-year-old daughter a couple of times. It’s a little hard because she doesn’t know a lot of English, but so far it has worked out. On our 3rd day the family took us to the city center. It takes about one hour by train, but it’s a direct line and it costs only 1 euro! They took us to the famous Sultan Ahmed square and we walked by all the main sites. When we are by ourselves and when Nienke’s dad comes (this weekend!) we will tour Istanbul some more. On Tuesday, it was a National holiday (like Indepence day) so the family took us to one of the Princes’ Islands: Buyukada. It’s a really nice island. The houses are very pretty and huge and there are no cars on the roads. Most people walk up to a famous church on the hill, where the view is spectacular, but some people take one of the hundreds of horse carriages. Of course, we walked. The last part of the climb was really steep, but the view was totally worth it! We enjoyed some drinks and Burek on the top and watched Istanbul from a distance. The city really is humongous, and we can’t wait to explore it some more!

For those who were wondering and saw our Insta story: Tiny is fixed again! Tiny really didn’t like all the crappy roads and speed bumps anymore and was making a lot of noise. That’s why we decided to get a check. Both the suspensions were broken and Tiny stayed overnight at an ‘otopark’ somewhere in Istanbul. It was a bit scary to leave him behind, but the next day he was still there with new suspensions!

 

There is no gallery selected or the gallery was deleted.

Biking Athens, visiting ancient sites and relaxing at the beach

Last Friday, it was time to say our goodbyes in Arla. Even though we loved staying and working with Andreas and Peggy, we were also really excited to start travelling again. However, it felt like our journey had already started on Thursday. That day, Peggy dropped us of in the 3rd biggest city of Greece: Patras. It felt great to be ‘tourists’ again! The city itself wasn’t very touristic, although we saw some English tourists from a cruise ship. In the morning we walked around the old theatre and the castle: really impressive ancient sites! It’s unbelievable what was built in the time B.C.

For lunch we sat down at a cute little restaurant and ordered all kinds of finger food. It started pouring at the time we waited for the food to come, so we decided to really enjoy our lunch and lots of little plates. Tzatziki, cheese pies, pita, blue cheese, meatballs… it was very tasty! After lunch the rain stopped, so we could continue our walk around Patras. We went to a beautiful cathedral, where some Gypsy kids wouldn’t let go of Nienke and we ended the day with a coffee and a visit to the Flying Tiger. This day made us really want to be on the road again, which was good timing, as we were leaving on Friday!

Ancient Corinth
Originally, we had never planned to drive all the way to the Southern part of Greece. We only wanted to stay in the North West and then head to Thessaloniki. However, our plans changed when Nienke’s bike got stolen. The only Decathlon in Greece is situated in Corinth, so after leaving Patras that was our first stop. The Decathlon wasn’t very big, but luckily, they had the bike we wanted! They even did a quick check on Tamara’s bike! Corinth also has an ancient site, so we decided to drive up the hills to find it. We arrived in the late afternoon and it was gorgeous: the sun was shining right on the ancient city. We parked Tiny on the parking lot right in front of the site. It felt like we were part of a movie scene! The next morning, we got up early because we wanted to beat the crowd. As soon as we saw some people opening the gate, we decided to go after them. Thus, we even got in 20 minutes before the official opening time. The first hour, we were the only ones in the ancient city. It was so cool: it was a big fortress/city with 3 different gates from 3 different eras. Everywhere we looked we saw the city walls, all over the hills. We walked all the way up to the top and had an amazing view.

Nafplio
When we finished our visit in Acrocorinth it was only 10 in the morning, so we decided to drive further south to a small city called Nafplio. Another overlander on Instagram inspired us to go there, even though it wasn’t on our route. We really didn’t regret the detour! The city lies next to the sea and has a cute boulevard. We wandered all the tiny, lively little streets with tons of flowers that made the cute streets even look prettier. To make a great day even more fun, we spend the evening with some new friends we met at the parking lot where we slept. They were 2 couples our age, one Dutch couple and one Danish couple, and we had drinks with them in the city centre till late. It was a great day! Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend more time with them, because we had different plans.

Beautiful Athens
The next day we left pretty early, because we had a 4-hour drive before we would be in Athens. We couldn’t really find a nice Park4night spot, so we decided to stay at the Athens campground. At the campground they told us exactly how to take public transport into the city. They even had a pamphlet in Dutch! The lady did forget to tell us that there was no possibility to buy a ticket in the bus, so we ended up walking 40 minutes to the nearest subway station. As soon as we arrived downtown, we walked to the Acropolis. Tickets are expensive (20-euro p.p.), but we really wanted to go in, so we decided to pay 40 euros. And we are glad we did! It felt really special to walk around such an old, incredible place. Besides all the old, beautiful buildings, theatres etc., the view over Athens is fantastic. Visiting the Acropolis really made us want to know more about the ancient Greek times. After our visit, we met up with one of Nienke’s friends who was in Athens for a congress. She and a friend of hers showed us some of the city. First, we went to so a street with white and blue houses. It’s really stereotypical, we know, but for me (Tamara) that really was something I was expecting to see when entering Greece. We had been in Greece for 5 weeks already and still hadn’t seen any (although now I know that I need to go to the Cyclades to see ‘movie Greece’). After the cute streets, we walked all around to see some more temples, gates and the stadium. We were surprised by all the little streets, cafes and restaurants in the Plaka area. Around 10 o’clock we took a metro and a bus back to our campground. Being surrounded by new and ‘old’ friends for two days was so nice! We can’t wait for more family and friends to come visit.

Biking in Athens and visiting Delphi
The next morning, we decided to take our bikes into the city. Biking in the outskirts was a little scary with all the big busy streets, but when we finally reached the inner circle, we even found bike lanes! We went to the ancient Agora, biked some other neighborhoods and decided that we really liked the vibe in the city. Maybe we will be back one day! After Athens there was one more ancient site on our list: Delphi. We thought that our wildcamping spot was 2 km from Delphi, but when we drove the last part the morning after, we realised that Delphi was just around the corner from our spot. We even saw a part of the old ruins (the old gymnasium) from our bed! We got to Delphi at 9.30 in the morning, together with a ton of busses. It felt even more crowded than at the Acropolis! However, it was a really cool site again and we are really glad that we visited it. The part we liked the most were Apollo’s Temple and the Arena all the way on top of the mountain. In the end, we visited so many ancient sites this past week that they start to look alike! That’s why we decided to head for the coast and take a couple of days to relax (and write our blogs).

Still enjoying the sun!
So, right now I am lying in the hammock, in my bathing suit, surrounded by palm trees, overlooking the sea. We got to a wonderful place last night and it really almost feels like paradise. It’s actually ‘just’ a kitesurf club that is closed because the season is over, but the weather is still perfect, some of the sunbeds are still out and the sun is still shining. We even have a toilet and an outdoor shower. Yes, it feels really nice to travel again!

 

There is no gallery selected or the gallery was deleted.