Eurotrip 2023

It is time for a eurotrip, my good man.
Jul 13 – 14
Jul 15 – 22
Jul 23 – 24
Jul 24 – 26
Jul 27 – 30
Jul 29 – 30
Jul 30 – Aug 2
Great Britain
Aug 2 – 28
Aug 28 – 29
Aug 29 – Sep 24
The Continent
Sep 24 – 27
Sep 27 – Oct 3
Oct 3 – 8
Oct 8 – 24
Oct 24 – Nov 7
Nov 7 – 8
Nov 8 – 16
Nov 17 – 28
Nov 28 – Dec 2
Dec 2 – 7
Turkish Roadtrip
Dec 7 – 9
Dec 9 – 12
Dec 12 – 17
Dec 17 – 19
Dec 19 – 21
Dec 21 – 22
Schengen Return
Dec 22 – 26
Dec 27, 2023 – Jan 9, 2024
Jan 9
image of Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn, NY

Jul 12, 2023

But first, a goodbye to NYC - temporary from me and less temporary from Molly - with a dinner party consisting of twists on NYC classics - tajin popcorn, korean pizza, vegan indian-inspired hotdog on bao bun and baklava cheesecake.

image of Paris


Jul 13 – 14, 2023

The start of the voyage!

Major discoveries in Paris included

  • The sewer museum which is a museum in an actual, current, major, working part of the Paris sewer system.

  • The Bastille Day fireworks are actually something quite aesthetically interesting and special, unlike anything I've ever seen in America where we just blast spheres of fire into the sky for half an hour and call it a day.

  • WOLS - I came across this German modernist artist and philosopher at Galerie Karsten Greve: Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz (which, like many galleries in Paris, feels like stepping into a hidden art mansion and I encourage you to explore them) and loved his delicate line work, dreamy jazzy urban landscapes and near-buddhist philosophy.

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image of Avignon


Jul 15 – 22, 2023

My collaborators on Assemble had told me that Avignon is, to serious theater people, the best theater festival in the world, and implored me to go. It turned out they were right.

Avignon is a medieval walled city that was built by France to convince the popes it wasn't so bad if they didn't go back to Rome. It's beautiful, car-free, and, for the duration of the festival, entirely taken over by theater productions and theater goers. It's also in the south of France in the middle of the summer so a life changing peach costs around thirty cents at a grocery store and a glass of wine is three euro.

The main festival curates ~50 major theater pieces from around the world, often with site-specific components to the production. This year the festival was criticized for having somewhat uninspired curation from the anglophone world , but that meant that I was able to appreciate the major pieces without any knowledge of French.

In addition to the main festival, there is also Off Avignon, which is the equivalent of Fringe. About a thousand unjuried shows that happen all around town in parallel to the main festival. Off-Avignon however is very french heavy. I'd say easily 95% of the shows are french-only. Their website has a helpful "accessible to a non-francophone audience" filter which is how I ended up seeing a Romanian production of Ionesco's Rhinoceros.

I saw many many beautiful works of theater that deeply touched me.

A Moi (Teaser)

The most meaningful puppet show of my life

I went to this show because a woman I had met on a dating app in Paris (and never in real life) told me her roommate was involved in it.

I spent the entire 45 minutes enchanted and transported back to my sad lonely fussy five year old self. In like, a cathartic compassionate way’ I remembered the time I was so sad and convinced after my birthday party that my friends had stolen the doors from my micro machines playsets.

Turns out I love tabletop puppetry.

all of it

Three monologues, one after the other, performed by a very pregnant Kate O'Flynn. The last one is a stream of consciousness internal monologue of a woman's life from birth to death and back again. I hope this piece tours.

The Confessions

I cannot tell you what makes this play so good. It's a very straightforward piece of British stagecraft, a biography of a lower middle class British woman making her way through the 20th century, as written by her mid-30s son, the famed playwright Alexander Zeldin. That said, it is incredible. My trio of friends and I all left speechless, all for different reasons. We all felt completely eviscerated by the performances and the story. Writing this paragraph is giving me goosebumps all over again. It is touring!

Shared Landscape

A seven hour, seven piece site-specific immersive theater piece set in a park. Uses almost every immersive theater trick and pulls off almost every one successfully. I still think about being yelled at by the talking LED sign at the end of the day, and about european agricultural subsidies, and about the wind and brass band lying down on the ground so the plants could better hear the music. I would really love to hear it again and am looking forward to the release Shared Landscapes – Seven pieces between fields and forests | Including Ari Benjamin Meyers' new work UNLESS | Esther Schipper


Turns out I love object theater, who knew? Mostly wordless piece with really high technical production values that combined a few themes I saw repeated at Avignon - multiple narratives overlapping in space at different times and the climate changed induced end of humanity.


So glad I made time to see this my last day at Avignon. It's a super fussy, super small scale, super skilled piece of object theater meets circus arts. The actor (when I saw it, it was a woman in a kind of fussy-librarian-hidden-dominatrix mode, who had taken it over from the original male actor) sets up a number of absurd almost rube-goldberg like solutions to the tiny problems of life, like lighting a cigarette or putting sugar in coffee, with absurdly precise table-top circus work. And then she vaguely doms an audience member. Loved it.

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image of Marseille


Jul 23 – 24, 2023

A facebook post about where to go after Avignon yielded the kismet of a friend I hadn't seen in years planning to be nearby in Marseille to do some hiking and driving.

The super Carrefour in Marseille is like a walmart I want to live in forever. Four different aisles of cheese.

We explored the beach of Marseille a bit and then did a classic Calenques hike Sunday morning before realizing that the barefoot art island we wanted to visit in Hyères was closed on Mondays leading to a very silly adventure ...

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image of Hyères


Jul 24 – 26, 2023

Okay, so, the same woman who would suggest I visit Arles suggested I visit an art museum on an island in France where you need to take your shoes off. This sounded amazing.

And a woman I'd met in Avignon wanted to join us for it! And was going to take a blablacar (uber-for-hitchhiking) to meet us ... except that we realized halfway through our Sunday morning hike that she'd need to race to meet us mid-day as the museum is closed Mondays and she had to get back by Tuesday.

There's a longer story that is less funny than I think that involves two taxis and a ferry and arriving at Fondation Carmignac five minutes after they stopped selling tickets even though we'd called to confirm that if we could make the last ferry of the day, they would let us in.

(There is an extremely delicious pastry shop in Hyères called Maison David, which amused me to no end )

Christine sadly had to go back to Avignon (but would reappear in Nice), so I decided to stick around to finish this quixotic quest to visit the barefoot art island.

... and it turned out to be entirely worth it.

I saw the most beautiful piece of monumental sculpture I've ever seen, and also maybe the saddest piece of art I've ever seen too - Adrián Villar Rojas The Most Beautiful of All Mothers, 2015

Walking into a very serene indoor art museum that feels like it was recently taken over from the pleasure palace of the heir to a French wine fortune, in which you need to take off your shoes feels both playful and reverential. The collection is excellent, thematically grouped and getting darker and heavier as the museum continues. And the outdoor sculpture collection is very dense and very beautiful.

Hyères consists of two parts - an old city in the northern part of the peninsula, and a local tourist waterfront and beach in the southern/coastal part of the peninsula. After finally making it to Fondation Carmignac I headed to the city for a few days to discover a town that's known as "the Original French Riviera." Discovering Villa Noailles a free art and design museum where, among other things, Man Ray and his friends made Les Mystères du Château de Dé in the 20s.

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image of Marseille


Jul 27 – 30, 2023

Back to Marseille, which I was repeatedly told was dirty and unsafe and yet someone I trusted said it was her second favorite city in France (after Paris, of course).

Highlights of staying in Marseille proper

  • Jazzfest
  • Thrift shops (including buying an interestingly piped brown peasant dress)
  • maybe the most beautiful hike of my entire life at the Sugiton calanque
  • ON AIR 2023 at Friche la Belle de Mai, a sunset rooftop dance party at a contemporary art museum that reminded me of the old days of PS1 Warmups
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image of Nice
Unexpected climb in my Monaco finest.


Jul 29 – 30, 2023

I was in Nice for exactly one night because a woman I'd met in Avignon thought it would be funny if we went to visit Monaco. We stayed for about half an hour and then had an adventure taking the train the wrong way out of that country and ended up hiking up to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin which was a 1000' elevation gain over the course of a half hour of ancient stone steps.

Monaco: not recommended. I get the sense that, unlike Las Vegas, which is happy to fleece you anywhere from ten cents to ten million, Monaco is uninterested in your money or time unless your other car is a Bugatti.

image of Arles


Jul 30 – Aug 2, 2023

In what is a rather common story in my life at this point, a Parisian woman with whom I went on one explicitly platonic date heard I was going to be in the south of France and then wrote me up an entire travel itinerary that would make it some of the best and most unique few weeks of my life.

Rencontres d'Arles is a yearly photography festival that takes over the town of Arles (a town that inspired Van Gogh and was an important port dating all the way back to Roman times). In 2023, there were ~25 different venues, each one a site-specific temporary gallery/museum. Multiple installations were in buildings dating back to the medieval era, another was in a former warehouse for the french national train system, another was in the storage room of a Monoprix, another was outdoors in a park.

It was an absolutely wonderful way to spend three days and truthfully I could have spent longer. I stayed in La Roquette which I would not do again, I would try to stay in the "old town" amongst the exhibitions. Nothing is really farther than 15-20 minutes max, but it still would have been better on a pretty street surrounded by cafes. Also wish I'd had a day to visit this vineyard that appears to have beautiful art and architecture - https://chateau-la-coste.com/en/.

Arles has the most hilariously terrible Frank Gehry building ever built and if you see me in person, ask me about it and I will tell you the whole story. It was so bad I started laughing halfway through trying to figure out why the building even exists. (Arles feels similarly about it for many many good reasons).

Some of my favorites

  • THE 2023 BOOK AWARDS - Getting to browse dozens of world class photography books in the back of a large grocery store? yes please.

  • ZOFIA KULIK SPLENDOR OF THE ARTISAN - Giant kaleidoscopic black-and-white collage photos that are made using photographic processes and made up of hand cut figures from photographs. Echoes a love I have of object-detection and collage.

  • ERIC TABUCHI ET NELLY MONNIER - Loved this. Process art? Fanatical categorization? Visual rhymes? Ruin porn? Gorgeous. see: Atlas des Régions Naturelles.


  • PORTRAITS THE FLORENCE AND DAMIEN BACHELOT COLLECTION AT THE MUSÉE RÉATTU and JACQUES LÉONARD THE NOMAD SPIRIT - Both of these were some of my favorite exhibits. The first is half visual rhymes between the museum’s permanent collection and temporary photos. Loved. There’s a photo of Igor Stravinsky later on that’s like a one shot masterclass in photo editing Jacques Leonard photos were quite good too

  • ASSOCIATION DU MEJAN - MYOP - MANIFESTOAMNESTY INTERNATIONAL × MYOP** - This was in an abandoned restaurant that had been a punk squat for a bit. The festival built an amazing temple to protest outside in the back of this exhibit. Beautiful sacred space.

  • GROW UP at FONDATION MANUEL RIVERA-ORTIZ - https://mrofoundation.org/Programme-2023 - Photographs of plants and of climate change. So many I loved in here. The photographs of plants growing out of blue plastic industrial barrels in Taiwan by Chuan-Lun Wu especially.

  • SØSTERSKAP - CONTEMPORARY NORDIC PHOTOGRAPHY - The enigmatic woman on the 2023 poster was in this exhibit with her super saturated be-costumed self-portraits, along with a lot of other really great pieces.

  • LIGHT OF SAINTS - A PHOTOGRAPHIC PILGRIMAGE - I think about this exhibit more than any other, possibly because it was the first one I randomly picked at the festival and so I spent a lot of time with it before I realized that giving that depth of time to every exhibit would kill me. It's the story of a yearly pilgrimage to a town near Arles that the Gitano/Romani nomads have been making for over a century. One idea that struck me in particular was the idea of the pilgrimage being a time for the communication network to heal, dump all the stored messages from a year on the road, before fragmenting again into partitioned sub-graphs. In a less nerdy way - I was drawn to the idea of home even as a nomad - there's a place and time you know you can meet where you'll see your friends and family.

  • CHARLES FRÉGER - AAM AASTHA - This show really grew on me. At first, I thought it was really exotic/orientalist, but eventually it won me over. This dude has been doing this photography of indigenous costumes all around the world for decades, and isn’t particularly other-ing any one culture, this just happens to be about one particular culture/region/period. I liked it so much I bought two books collecting different periods of his work.

  • DON'T FORGET ME - JEAN-MARIE DONAT COLLECTION - I'll let the official description speak for this "Faces are serious, attitudes formal, clothes European, signaling the drop of a new anchor. They arrive from North Africa, a large part from Algeria, from sub-Saharan Africa and the Comoros. Their portraits come from the archive at Studio Rex, a family-run photo studio established in Belsunce two generations ago, closed in 2018. Place of passage between the train station and the port, this iconic district of Marseille is temporary host to newly arrived immigration. Ten years ago, I came into possession of this rich photography collection made up of tens of thousands of photographs taken between 1966 and 1985. By combining, selecting, and compiling these “image-records”, a large-scale picture archive emerged, linking the personal to historical record, built around three types of photographs."

  • MACIEJKA ART - HOJA SANTA (HOLY LEAF) - by far the best large scale mixed media photograpy I saw at Arles.

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image of Edinburgh
King Arthur's Seat at sunrise with the clowns and comedians of Fringe.


Aug 2 – 28, 2023

I ... cannot believe I survived a month at Edinburgh Fringe. I did spend ~8 days of it isolating with COVID. I would not recommend an entire month at Fringe, nor would I recommend getting COVID while you are there.

Fringe is ... a bit different from THEATRE. I was hanging out in London afterwards with a theater director who pointed out to me that Fringe plays are somewhat their own art form. Among other things, most shows are ~55 minutes, as opposed to THEATRE which tends to be closer to two hours. The emotional experience of being in the audience is far different.

I heard from a lot of people that something has changed in the spirit and tone of Fringe over the past decade, especially since COVID. The overall story I got was that Fringe has gotten less weird (and the weird has somewhat ossified) because it's gotten so expensive to mount a show there (I can't tell you how many shows made an aside that they were losing money on this run), so the safe bet is to do something as cheap as possible (ideally a one-person show with minimal props) and as safe as possible.

Which is not to say I didn't see weird stuff - my favorite shows were some of the most surprising and surreal hours of my life.

I probably saw over a hundred shows. That is too many.

My favorites (I am probably forgetting some)

  • Frankie Thompson and Liv Ello: Body Show - This has big Adult Swim on extra LSD vibes. Super messy. Many moments of brilliance. My favorite show at Fringe. “dysmorphia, dysphoria, and dystopia”

  • Claire Woolner: A Retrospection - This show saved my fringe. A friend asked me to describe it and I said “My goal, as a woman, is to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible, first for my benefit and then for theirs” “It will be unclear to them if they should laugh, if this is performance art or comedy, and through that dissonance, they will be moved” to which Claire said “you really get it”

  • Chicken - He’s a very famous ketamine addicted chicken, in the basement of Summerhall, all you need to know

  • Funeral - Immersive theater from the masters. Go in with an open heart and enjoy the beautiful visuals they conjure.

  • Julia Masli: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha review - Another no-script all-audience-participation show. Julia asks members of the audience for a problem they have and then attempts to solve it through her own absurd logic and even more audience participation. Seems to consistently go off the rails in beautiful ways. Running into my friends at this show is the reason I ended up hiking Arthur's Seat with all the clowns and comedians at sunrise the next morning.

  • The Umbilical Brothers: The Distraction - zero chance I would have gone to go see this if Melissa hadn't brought me because of her immigrant knowledge of all things Australian and funny. This is one of those shows where they are doing lo-fi video tricks live to put together an hour long variety show. The MVP here is the VJ on a laptop who is in real time doing green screen, matting, video transforms, mixing etc while two very funny, extremely online, extremely middle aged comedians perform the show.

  • Mr Chonkers - I think this is what would happen if you merged the mid-70s cast of SNL into one man and had him do an hour of something that's in between stand up and performance art. Absolutely masterful. A bunch of folks told me to go see this and I was so happy I did.

  • Furiozo - Another one that felt like a slow break out hit amongst the comedians and clowns. Similar to Mr Chonkers, this is a clown at the top of his game doing an extremely masculine character with a very soft edge. Super physical, very funny. He's a delightful follow on instagram too

  • Dances like a BOMB - I think about this show a lot. Two older dancers, a man and a woman, well into their greying wrinkly years, dancing to the joy of life and the sadness of death. I found their vulnerability with their bodies very touching.

  • David O’Doherty - My review - "Just an hour of really solid bloke comedy" He's such a talented and practiced performer that he can make the show feel very laid back and tossed off, yet very funny and warm.

  • Bill's 44th - Very cute muppet/puppet show from NYC with an edge of middle aged pathos

  • Lucy and Friends - I saw a number of shows that I would call "woman on the edge of a nervous (artistic) breakdown," and while I liked Claire's show better overall, this one managed a beautiful catharsis in the end.

  • Klaghaus: InHaus - I think these would make good pull quotes for this show: “You know the house from ‘daft punk is playing at my house’? This is like being invited to that house” “Cheaper than hiring Alison Goldfrapp to play your 40th” “Like being made love to by Vincent Moon”

  • Trevor Lock: You are an Elephant and All Your Friends are Blind Men - If this happened at a burner party, it would be called a "structured intimacy exercise." There's (almost) no script. Trevor has people start introducing themselves, tries to get the audience to nominate three "blind men" to journal on what they think/observe is happening. Periodically he collects the journals, reads what they've written, and riffs from there. By the end, feelings are had.

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image of Yorkshire
Barbara Hepworth and Me


Aug 28 – 29, 2023

People look at me funny when I tell them that I took two days to stop halfway between Edinburgh in London to go to an outdoor sculpture park solely because it had a James Turrell skyspace and I had a good feeling about it.

I was well rewarded. I stayed in a cheap airbnb in a historic church with my own private graveyard, there was a town pub within walking distance, and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was a 45 minute hike through bridle paths.

YSP is quite good. Not as site-specific as Storm King or Art Omi, but still very good.


  • Erwin Wurm - handbags/luggage on long legs and comic-book styled slanted cars. Also, his one minute sculptures are exactly the sort of silly, participatory, push-people-out-of-their-comfort-zone art that I both seek to experience and make.
  • Damien Hirst's The Virgin Mother which shot out into the landscape as I emerged from a wooded part of the park, and found both humorous and imposing.
  • IOU Sound Wave Collider - Sound art AND mega outdoor sculpture
  • Emma Lawrenson: Balance and Form - lovely lithography, ended up buying two prints from YSP that are waiting for me in NYC
  • Leonardo Drew - This was really good - all my favorite things - trash/process site-specific large-scale sculpture with meaning and soul.
  • Barbara Hepworth - who doesn't love Babs?
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image of London


Aug 29 – Sep 24, 2023

I really liked London, way more than I expected. I'm told my impression was somewhat colored by visiting during an unseasonably warm and sunny September.

I rented a flat in Hackney Central, because I had it in my head that "Hackney is cool" so "Hackney Central" must be the center of it. Not realizing that "Hackney is cool" is like saying "Brooklyn is cool."

Too much to summarize - I was there for a month! Highlight was meeting a lot of wonderful people and having lots of art and dance adventure with locals. Particular highlight was a bi-weekly queer sunday day-rave called Unfold at Fold.

Other adventures included seeing a hip modern production of As You Like It at the Globe Theater, dancing into the night at Grow Hackney (get the sense this venue always has pretty good vibes), drag competition at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club (excellent), partying at Fabric (meh), discovering the London canal system, Marina Abramovic exhibit, local theater at Camden People's Theater, seeing Operation Mincemeat, and more.

Oh! Cafe OTO - the platonic ideal of a local experimental/jazz bar in the evenings (and cafe, bookstore, record store during the day), which is right next door to Dalston Curve Garden, the platonic ideal of a convivial feeling outdoor bar and community garden. And truly great laminated pastries at Popham's London Fields.

I also got to see Christian Marklay's Doors, which I found both transfixing and frustrating. Frustrating because some scenes repeat in rapid succession and it's hard to create a narrative reason why.

As well as the Marina Abramovic retrospective (which will be touring), which made it clear to everyone that Marina's art has not stayed as compelling as it once was. I found it wonderful to see large, clean prints of her video work with Ulay, which are so absurdly kinky - seeing the full Rest Energy was intense. I also appreciated seeing some documentation (including bones) from Balkan Baroque which had been on my mind because Claire Woolner's A Retrospection made reference to it. The start of the exhibit was a fair bit of documentation from The Artist Is Present which had been the talk of all of NYC for its entire duration. I was surprised how affected I felt by seeing photos from it given I hadn't gone to see it.

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image of Belgium


Sep 24 – 27, 2023

Sorry to be rude and treat this whole country like one city. I didn't want to pan the map around too many times.

Amsterdam is expensive and so even though I was heading there from London, I wanted to save money on the way by staying somewhere cheaper. One of the transfer points from the chunnel train out of London to the rest of Europe's rail network is Brussels, so I figured why not explore what I thought was a major world city!

Brussels - My favorite part of this city is all the architecture that feels very 60s to me (and is interspersed with boring global capitalism glass towers). The entire subway system felt to me like I was on the set of The Prisoner and I loved it. The center of town feels to me like someone in a government office in the late 80s/early 90s wrote the word "tourism" on a whiteboard and underlined it a few times and lo, tourism. Visited a museum that is trying so very hard to make illuminated manuscripts come alive - https://www.kbr.be/en/museum/.

Antwerp - I liked this city WAY more than I expected, if for no other reason that I found a really cool bar and art space called Bar Paniek but even more than that was a DIY space called Het Bos that I get the sense one can drop into any night of the week and see something pretty great there for cheap, or just hang out in their mismatched chairs in the back, or play ping-pong on their custom-built half-pipe ping-pong table. I think there's a restaurant upstairs too during the day? And maybe they also host community events? I saw a really great modular synth set there. Charmed. And a fantastic DJ set from She The DJ on We Are Various (WAV) Radio, which is I think Het Bos's internet radio station.

Antwerp also had a photography museum - Fomu with two exhibits that were both so good I would go back in a heartbeat. Both the exhibits were done in close collaboration with the photographers which I think helped make them feel much more special than just a bunch of photos nailed to a wall. Vincen Beekman does a lot of collaborative work with non-professional subjects - unhoused folks in Brussels, a lower middle class family, a mental illness residential facility - that manages to be incredibly personal without being condescending or treacly. The audiotour narrated by Vincen was really good. GRACE NDIRITU - REIMAGINES THE FOMU COLLECTION - they could have billed this as a separately ticketed piece of immersive theater and I wouldn't have been mad. ~90 minute audiowalk in a custom built space designed to echo, if I remember correctly, Georgia O'Keefe's mid-century studio. It was carpeted and you had to take off your shoes. The photographs were interested rhymes from the Fomu archives with a few selections of her own work and a long piece of audio theater from Grace pointing out rhymes and techniques and also doing the immersive theater meditation thing. I was so impressed.

Ghent - I was not charmed by Ghent. I did not need to walk around old cathedrals or be in another adorable town. Had I been there for a theater or circus/clown festival I'm sure I would have loved it. Or on a blue-sky day - I started to notice that when I visit new places on days with overcast skies, I tend to not enjoy them. Especially if it's a place I'm visiting specifically to take in the aesthetic charm of the place.

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image of Amsterdam
De Nieu Anita


Sep 27 – Oct 3, 2023

I only went to Amsterdam because I wanted to go from London to Berlin via train and asked on Facebook for suggestions on wheer to stop in between and neb raised his hand and when Captain Neb comes calling, you get in the goddamn boat.

The highlight of Amsterdam was meeting a lovely woman named Yuva who I would go on many future adventures with.

I also discovered a bit more of the interestingness of Amsterdam, including

  • Mezrab - a music & performance venue that felt much more like it had been built by human hands rather than manufactured in a government factory and then parachuted in via airship. Went for a pan-arabic dance party where everyone seemed so happy to be there. There was a belly-dancer who looked like she was having the time of her life, and a band composed of a guy who thinks he's in a rap video, a math-dad, and a beleaguered workaday jazz musician. Perfection.

  • De Nieu Anita - I only got to see the front half of this venue, but it's the kind of place where a guy from a defunct japanese prog-psych band was spinning a night of rare groove records while people played chess and drank beer, if that gives you a vibe. The back half that I didn't get to attend looks like it can host ~200 people in a rock club set up. They seem to host all sorts of varied events. Delightful.

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image of Berlin


Oct 3 – 8, 2023

A mildly cursed weekend in Berlin.

I arrived in Berlin just as it felt like winter had descended - it was dark and cold and rained all weekend and as far as I could tell the "vibes were off." I found the city dark and wet and intimidating.

I decided that the right course of action was to leave Berlin as quickly as possible now that I'd gotten a disappointing weekend out of the way, and come back a few weeks later when my gay rave daddy would be around as a party companion.

But still, there was a weekend to be had.

My buddy begged me to go to a queer rave on Friday night called Power Play, but it was at a venue (MaHalla) about an hour outside of the core of Berlin that felt like too much of a commitment to attend solo. Instead I went to Klub Verboten (at Untertage) and Pinky Promise (at Club OST), the latter of which was a joy but I found myself unable to sink into the baby burner zip-tie crowns and body-chain outfit vibe of the place.

The next morning I dragged myself to Mahalla for rave-spa afterparty which turned out to be magical. The space itself is a giant disused power plant with skylights that let the sun stream in like the apse(?) of a church. Over the course of the day, the party went from ambient music and cuddles to a three hundred person semi-outdoor reiki and breath meditation lead by a seven foot tall drag queen and her five foot tall Argentinian reiki teacher. More and more music and art filled the space throughout the day and it was just what I needed.

In the evening I ended up at Kwia, which is an adorable japenese-style listening cafe that brings in DJs to play chilled out sets to a tiny carpeted room of seated reverential audiophiles and ravers. Their LED wall art / visualizer is pretty good too. I saw estoc do a lovely set with their patently absurd and delightful live mashups.

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image of Amsterdam
Dancing with the second line from De Ruimte to Sexyland


Oct 8 – 24, 2023

The aforementioned woman I had met in Amsterdam called me and asked if I might want to come back to stay with her for a bit in Amsterdam to see if perhaps we wanted to continue our romance, as well as there was a big electronic music festival happening - ADE, Amsterdam Dance Event, a bit like SXSW for electronic music, and an event I always thought was a dance event, not a dance music event - that sounded quite nice to me and so back to Amsterdam I went, brushing myself off after a rough weekend in Berlin.

I will not bore my readers with tales of domestic life with Yuva, but instead will continue with the cultural highlights of the trip.

  • De Ruimte (🙁) - This was an amazing experimental jazz club in the north side of Amsterdam that is unfortunately being displaced because, we thing, of redevelopment. We caught the tail end of their goodbye to their old space in Distelweg, and then second-line'd through Amsterdam Nord to their new home at Sexyland

  • Sexyland - This is not an always-open sex club in NSDM, even though the gigantic SEXYLAND sign, that is visible from the entire northern coast of the main part of Amsterdam, makes it seem like it might be. Instead it's an art gallery, giant outdoor bar, kitschy chinese restaurant, tiny concrete box of a music club, multi-use art space, and also a social club for the local Iranian community? Delightful.

  • Other Side @ ADE - After a somewhat disappointing giant dance party at Pleinvrees, Yuva and I bounced to a small (but, by New York standards, large and beautifully equipped) local dance club near her apartment called Other Side. There we were literally the only people dancing to a DJ duo with live visual in a part of the club that could easily hold a thousand people. On the other side of the club is a small ~100 person room that had good local "head" vibes. I get the sense this is good to return to.

  • Pornceptual @ ADE - Apparently this is a well known party from Berlin that was visiting for ADE. While waiting online for this party, I thought I'd made a mistake going to something that felt like baby's first sex party, when I got to the dancefloor, I thought I'd made an entirely different mistake by going to a gay club night, and then eventually I realized this was one of the best parties I'd ever been to. Fantastic DJs, beautiful people, great dance energy, a weird chill-out room, and tons of dark rooms too. I started to realize that Berlin does parties differently - that you can go to a party for the DJ and that the "fun" comes as an added bonus, with far better music (and vibes, because people are there to enjoy themselves) than you ever get at a party that's more dedicated to play. Looking forward to going back.

  • Mystic Garden @ ADE - This was fun because Mystic Garden is a giant summer EDM festival in the woods and they bring it to Amsterdam to squeeze it into a couple of undeveloped blocks in the former shipyards in NDSM a two minute walk away from the NDSM ferry stops. Decent music and DJs and all the steampunk burner art you could want.

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image of Berlin


Oct 24 – Nov 7, 2023

This was a much better time in Berlin, where I met a lot of fun folks and took in a lot of wonderful culture.

Raves and parties! I went to a party called House of Lunacy at Renate on my second night in Berlin, which is the party and venue that every nyc burner party wants to be. Sexy people, multiple fantastic DJs, giant maze of a former squat house. I also visited Sisyphos, RSO, About Blank, Kater Blau. Sadly didn't make it to Ohm. All those clubs have amazing outdoor space and I can't wait to go back in summer.

KitKat! Oh KitKat. There is nothing like you in the world. A sprawling kink club that can turn out three hundred people in their fetishwear finest on a random wednesday for truly the worst dark techno DJs you have ever heard. I love you so much, never change.

arkaoda! If I lived in Berlin, you all would get tired of me saying "... or we could see what's at Arka Oda." Upstairs is the chillest hippest bar imaginable with DJs playing rare groove and jazz over a beautiful sound system. Downstairs is a super vibey concrete box with benches and fake plants for experimental music. Turns out their original venue is in Istanbul, even though the whole vibe of the Berlin venue feels very Japanese to me.

Artisania! I wish we had spaces this magical in NYC. The closest thing I can compare it to is a punk-ier Pioneer Works. It appears to primarily be one artist's studio space - and his art is everywhere on display and quite good, along with some other studio and practice spaces. The night we went was a bunch of local rock bands - I felt like I was in the ending of a feel-good sappy 80s/90s 'getting-the-band-back-together' movie like Empire Records. By the end of the night everyone was sitting around the art smoking and the bands were jamming in a back room. More of this please.

I got bounced from Berghain! I was convinced that if I went at 10am Sunday morning (which I'm told is when locals tend to go), I'd be fine. I got there in a leather dress in the rain with absolutely no line and was told "sorry, not today."

I saw a lot of beautiful art! Hamburger Bahnhof, an art museum in a former train station, has an interesting permanent collection, and their big exhibit in the former terminal arch space, while very much in the abstract-organic-form instagram-art that is taking over every monumental gallery space, was still pretty good. The Neue Nationalgalerie is a beautiful space, but what I fell in love with the most was one specific Gerhard Richter mirror (pictured) in a windowless gallery in the basement that I thought framed every person who walked by it in a very painterly way. (I went to König Galerie and Berlinische Galerie on my last trip, they are also always great)

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image of Munich
The beer garden at the end of the hike


Nov 7 – 8, 2023

Stopped in Munich for two nights on the way from Berlin to Bucharest because my girlfriend was there for a conference and I was told it would be good to "see a traditional Bavarian city."

Highlight of this trip was hiking up to Andechs brewery (and restaurant) which is a nearly perfect hike in that you hike for two hours and at the end you are greeted by multiple varieties of beer straight from the cask and pork knuckles as far as the eye can see.

They did not take pity on me when I asked for "one pork knuckle" and ask if I actually wanted the whole thing or if I would like a part of one. I tried to honor the meat before me and failed to live up to the challenge. Rick Steves appears to have made the same mistake I did.

The mechanical clocktower puppets in the central square of Munich are not nearly as exciting as I was lead to believe - and I love mechanical puppets.

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image of Bucharest
High end listening at NearMint


Nov 8 – 16, 2023

With my Schengen visa days starting to run low, I decided I should consider heading for some of the few remaining countries in Europe with their own visa - the list is small and getting smaller, Croatia joined Schengen in January 2023. So the options are, non-EU Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and EU but non-Schengen: Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland.

Romania seemed interesting? East meets West! The Little Paris! I'll spend my birthday there!

And yet ... I found it hard to wrap my arms around. It felt very empty and quiet, and while large parts of the city are quite beautiful, lots of cities are and feel much more alive.

It didn't help that I ended up stuck in my airbnb, sick with an upper respiratory infection for five days which prevented me from visiting the major museums (Village Museum, People's Palace) and Brasov (Dracula's castle).

The high point of this trip was stumbling into a bar called RAM (Romanian Art Movement) and telling them "I'd like whatever the local liquor is" and the bartender getting very excited to pull out a 1.5 liter plastic bottle of homemade tuică (plum brandy).

Oh, and also a local audiophile record shop called NearMint where the owner claims 90% of the records in the shop are original japanese pressings.

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image of Moda


Nov 17 – 28, 2023

Yuva and I decided to spend two weeks in Istanbul since she was already going to be there for a bit, wanted to share her hometown with me, and it had the benefit for me of being outside the Schengen Zone.

Istanbul might be the city I have fallen for the hardest and fastest in the entire world.

I've always had a gnawing sadness about New York - for the city that never sleeps, it's never felt very alive to me. Something about the city feels to me like everything happens "behind closed doors" - like one can't follow their nose of their ears to a restaurant, party, cafe, one needs to know where to go. We don't have a lot of public, lively outdoor nighttime spots. Even in pandemic, with the spread of outdoor dining, I still didn't feel an aliveness.

There are actually a few simple answers as to why this is the case. A lack of car-free roads, and on-street parking. A grid system of roads that doesn't lend itself to plazas. And, the cold weather half the year makes it both inhospitable to year-round plaza life, which in turn lessens the will to build for plaza life. But, seriously, it's the cars. Ban cars.

Istanbul, by virtue of being an incredibly old sprawling city, has tons of car free (or virtually car-free) streets, whole neighborhoods of it, where at worst, the cars limp along at the same or lower precedence as the pedestrians. And on both sides of the street are infinite, lively, dense restaurants, cafes, patisseries and tea houses.

The neighborhood of Moda is everything I've ever wanted - iconic sea-side views, lively restaurants, food markets, sundry stores and grocers open late, a few cool performance venues, a lot more venues with casual live music, and infinite bakeries.

PATISSERIES! I have never in my life been to a place that worships wheat and sugar like Istanbul does. Sometimes I would walk down a street and there would be an ice cream shop, a (bread) bakery, a candy store and a patisserie all in a row. Oh, and maybe also a place that specializes in baklava. And this would repeat every block. For entire neighborhoods. If I ever live in Istanbul I will either need a lobotomy or prophylactic insulin for my sweet tooth. My favorites were poğaça and crunchy simit. And how can I forget about borek - which comes in a "water" version that reminds me of noodle kugel and the more traditional dry pastry version. On the sweet side ... all of it. I am not picky. There's a cookie called an "Izmir Bomb" that's a wafer thin cookie crust around a quarter cup of nutella. Tahini bread. Tahini cookies! Honey roasted nuts. Walnut and pistachio baklava. Eclairs. Rice pudding. Halvah. Kunefe, which I somehow managed to not eat. Pişmaniye (candyfloss sesame candy). Lokma (tiny donuts soaked in honey). A million varieties of turkish delight including İncir Lokumu ( Turkish delight with whole pistachios inside and toasted coconut outside). Do I sound like a crazy person?

Istanbul is one of those cities where it appears that almost every restaurant is at the very least decent, and more likely, quite good. A lambachun from a random back alley bakery is as delicious as the one at Çiya, a restaurant featured on Chef's Table that has now taken over at least four storefronts on their block as a result of their popularity. I love all the food (well, except for cold mezes which often strike out for me for being cold, gloopy, fishy, or all three!).

Moda also turns out to be home to the original arkaoda, which I knew as a listening bar and experimental music venue in Berlin (it's their younger sibling venue). The one in Istanbul is great, though it's far less "for the (music) heads" than the one in Berlin. The bartenders never know when there's a live performance and don't seem to care, the live shows appear to have audiences numbering in the single digits, and they don't update their online calendar (even though they loving make a beautiful printed calendar every month with in depth descriptions of the performances!). Which is not to say it's bad, it's just different. It's always a good vibe, like ... everywhere in Istanbul I visited.

The city is full of stray cats - famous for it - and many of them are friendly enough to temporarily adopt your lap for an hour for warmth and then destroy your clothing with their untrimmed nails when you try to remove them! They are very cute.

I've totally failed to mention how incredibly beautiful the city is. Obviously. It's a 2500 year old city that's been at the heart of three empires. How could it not be. I don't have words to describe the constant beauty of the place.

Other highlights

  • Our airbnb had a panoramic view of the European side of Istanbul with all its famous mosques
  • Yuva arranged with her local friends to host a traditional American thanksgiving and we cooked half the courses
  • Daily pilgrimages to Fırın Anatolia for heartbreakingly good poğaça and crunchy simit
  • Seeing Yuva's great aunt's paintings in the Istanbul modern
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image of Kınalıada


Nov 28 – Dec 2, 2023

Kınalıada is part of a chain of four inhabited islands off the coast of Istanbul that happen to be where Yuva's parents met and still own property.

We took a few days to live the rustic island life in what was very much the off season. On one of our nights there we weren't sure if we'd be able to find an open restaurant and I was worried we'd need to do the gas station kitchen pantry challenge, but we lucked out and found a tiny local doner restaurant that didn't even appear to have a name and a group of young folks shared their chicken dinner with us.

It rained for much of our time on the island, but I like being under an overhang in the rain and spent a whole day under an awning at a cafe with a stray dog that adopted us.

We visited the biggest island of the chain, Büyükada ("big island") and did a short hike up to an armenian church, in the company of a stray dog who adopted us for the day (friendly stray dogs were a theme even though there were just as many stray cats on the island as we were used to elsewhere).

Overall a cute break from Istanbul, which I had meant to write earlier, reminds me a bit of Tokyo and could certainly give Shibuya a run for its money in the category of "things which film directors use to illustrate the word 'teeming'"

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image of Beyoğlu


Dec 2 – 7, 2023

Once Yuva left Istanbul, I was on my own to explore the european side of Istanbul, namely around Cihangir, Beyoglu and Galata.

Cihangir had a very different but no less vibrant energy than Moda/Kadikoy. It felt slightly more like the west village, lots more expat bars, cocktail bars, shisha/narghile places and dance clubs. But there are still teahouses that are happy to serve you a twenty cent cup of black tea on an outdoor fabric covered bench in the midst of the hullabaloo.

I seemed to be fighting off either a second round of the cold I had in Bucharest or a similar, shorter lived bug I picked up in Kınalıada, so there was a lot less nightlife exploration for me on this side of the trip. Also I needed to plan for the two weeks roadtrip through Turkey that was about to start!


  • The Museum of Innocence (museum) - I nearly skipped this because I hadn't read the novel that it's intertwined with, but what a mistake that would have been. The story as I roughly understand it is that Orhan Pamuk dreamed of a book that was the narrative of a museum that was the objects of a book that ... you get the idea. The book came out first to wild acclaim and with that, he had the opportunity to buy this house in Beyoglu and build out a cabinet of curiosities museum that contains an assemblage / box / diorama for every chapter of the book. And the museum itself straddles the fact/fiction line - it is somewhat presented as if all the objects are real, and that the main character of the book lived (and died) in that house and Orhan Pamuk wrote down his story in his waning years. How could I not absolutely adore this? It also includes numerous pages from his manuscript, but even more delightful, sketches of the assemblages from long before they were ever realized. It's a bit of a literaryThe Museum Of Jurassic Technology.
  • Topkapı Palace - Maybe my favorite "must-see" tourist destination in Istanbul. Apparently Ottoman palaces weren't the giant sprawling interconnect mansion fortresses we know and love, but instead they were lots of small buildings with beautiful courtyards between them. Each building has been turned into a museum of some sort of object relevant to the Ottoman dynasty - weapons, holy relics, clothing, crown jewels. In my eyes each one was a bit like a process-art collection museum. I liked the open-air choose-your-own-adventure feeling of this museum a lot.
  • Dolmabahçe Palace - Absurdly gorgeous Ottoman palace built and furnished in the 1800s when the Ottoman empire was starting to fall in love with the west, and with France in particular. The grand ballroom of this palace is absurdly stunning, as are all the rooms with ornate ceiling reliefs and frescos. Also, and this is very touristy, but I was hungry while I was there and the on-site restaurants were totally acceptable and reasonably priced. I like this about Turkey.
  • Bova Jazz Club - it's a very standard jazz club! Probably a lot of bebop! Does what it says on the box! This is not a bad thing! Live, high quality, local jazz musicians.
  • Pera Museum - Small museum with a lot of different exhibits. When I went there were two floors of contemporary art responding to the museum's ceramics/tile collection, a floor dedicated to the history of the panoramic drawing/photo/map as it relates to Istanbul, half a floor of weights and measure tools from antiquity to the recent past, half a floor of coffee paraphernalia, and half a floor of Turkey's beloved painter Osman Hamdi Bey, to give you a sense of the variety they cram into what is not much bigger than two row houses.
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image of Safranbolu


Dec 7 – 9, 2023

The start of a two week road trip trying to enjoy the natural beauty of Turkey while the most of country is in a rainy period and I'm trying to avoid the south (because I'll explore that area from Bodrum at some point) and the east (because it's far and also it borders Syria). Yuva and her friends had encouraged me to visit Cappadocia (famous for their hot air balloons) and so I planned a road trip around getting there during the few days in the ten day forecast that looked like there would be decent weather.

Which meant I needed to figure out how to slow roll from Istanbul to Cappadocia over about five days - it's an eight hour straight drive. Googling around lead me to a few national parks in Turkey - Yedigoller and Soguksu - which had Safranbolu right in the middle. I also liked the name, even if I kept pronouncing it in my head as "san fran bolu." If pressed, though, I will tell you that the reason I picked it for the start of the itinerary was a reddit thread where someone posted a photo of the city on a beautiful blue sky day and the first comment started "I love this place but i think cloudy/rainy weather is more fitting to there." - knowing that I was likely to get bad weather, I was sold.

Safranbolu is a UNSECO world heritage city, it's a well-preserved Ottoman trading post along the silk road. It has become a tourist destination for Turkish people. In the winter, it is a tiny shadow of, what I imagine, the summertime vibe is like. The tourist heart of town shrinks to a few streets, five restaurants, three tea shops (one of which is amazing and I will tell you about shortly), two bars and a hundred nearly identical shops selling either saffron-based products, or lokum (the local variety of turkish delight) or both. This was fine, I was looking for some place quiet.

The region repeatedly stymied my plans and then revealed new beauty to me.

My first day there I tried to do a ~5 mile hike through Tokatli Kanyonu which unfortunately was washed out after about half a mile. So after walking out onto the Kristal Teras (Turkey loves overhanging observation decks), Yuva convinced me to visit the local caverns which I had been reluctant to do after a pitch-black audio show at fringe reminded me I have claustrophobia and the potential for panic attacks.

I am so glad I decided to swallow my fear and go. I had the cave system entirely to myself which felt like getting away with a crime. For the equivalent of less than a dollar I got to explore the well built out, maintained and dramatically lit caves for as long as I wanted. I did have the beginnings of a small panic attack but sucked it up enough to get to the end and back. The cave entrance is in a passage between two mountains, so I took the opportunity of the beautiful scenery to meditate, and then went back to explore the caves again now that I knew how long and deep they were.

Exploring town that night lead me to Ehli Keyf Kafe, a teahouse that was the only place in town with more than two tables occupied, with a local band - that I think plays every weekend - that was really quite good. Because the town is a bowl valley surrounded by hills, the music echoes off the landscape such that I could still hear it when I walked up the hill to my hotel.

The next day I drove to Yenice Urban Forest which is stunningly beautiful and reminds me of Zion National Park, but unfortunately, the main hiking trail/road had a major landslide (a large chunk of the road has simply ceased to exist) and trying to hike the trail in the opposite direction put me on a very steep, very slippery trail that I didn't feel safe on in the rain. But even the half mile or so (again!) that I got to see was breathtakingly beautiful. I would love to go back in better weather and really hope they repair the road soon. Next, I opened wikiloc (because AllTrails has zero coverage in Turkey) and found what looked like some reasonable hiking trails on the far side of the park from around the town of Yaziköy - this got me to stumble into a summertime mountain resort/lodge with a surprisingly open, good and reasonably priced restaurant with an outdoor terrace patio that overlooked the valley. After finally fighting my way out of the complex (I had initially turned in there thinking that the trailhead I was looking for left from the property) I took an hour long misty walk through some mountain-top forest before hustling home to beat the rain.

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image of Soğuksu National Park / Kızılcahamam

Soğuksu National Park / Kızılcahamam

Dec 9 – 12, 2023

Short entry for a short stay.

Soğuksu National Park came up in my research as a place I could visit, and I found there were a couple of reasonably price all-inclusive hotels inside the park, which seemed like a great way to relax. The hotel that rose to the top was Çam Thermal Hotel - Kızılcahamam'daki Eviniz. Based on the reviews, I knew exactly what I was getting into - a slightly tacky hotel in a national park that wasn't being maintained as well as it should be.

The hotel turned out to be exactly that! The extensive buffet food all tasted like buffet food (and by the second day I could tell what was being reused), some of the showers in the spa were broken, the waterfall fountains and waterjets in the pools didn't work, and on the second day I walked into the dry sauna to discover someone had put so much eucalyptus oil on the heater that I thought I was going to get chemical burns on my eyeballs and had to leave.

But it was in the park, and so it meant I could go on day-hikes with only a few minutes of prep and come back to a warm shower, cold pool and hot tea. For a few days, it was great. The weather, however, was not - I had overcast skies and pea-soup mist/fog on the hikes. Finding trail maps proved incredibly difficult (wikiloc continued to be my best resource). And all the trails were gravel paths built out for 4x4s.

But in spite of all that, the hikes were beautiful and meditative. I was glad to be moving my body and doing decent distance over well manicured trails. Also, lots of friendly feral dogs - on my first day there, two dogs walked the entire trail up and down with me, far above the snow-line. The easy hikes without a lot of variation or awe in the scenery provided a nice backdrop for some walking meditation and reflection. And the snowy quiet at the tops was very serene. The weather was good enough that I could be hiking in a t-shirt and hiking pants with snow on the ground, one of my favorite ways to hike. And I was glad to be at a hotel where I didn't need to worry about anything (breakfast and dinner were included).

I read Conquest by Nina Allan | Goodreads and got this travelogue caught up to the present. All in all, a great use of two days.

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image of Cappadocia Turkey


Dec 12 – 17, 2023

Yuva, along with all her Turkish friends told me I had to go visit Cappadocia - you know, where the hot air balloon photos are from!.

They were right. This region is ... otherworldly, sacred, stunning.

First off, it's a desert with lots of beautiful geological features that remind me of the American southwest (in the best way, that's where some of our most spectacular national parks are). Hoodoos ("fairy chimneys"), canyons, valleys, striated plateaus, sandstone erosion, pine forests, scrub land, etc. Descending into Goreme is jaw-dropping, speechless special - one of those moments I wish I could have lived in forever.

Second, it was inhabited for over a thousand years by paranoid (rightly so) Christians who built entire cities into the soft sandstone rock and hundreds of churches. The churches are ... almost indescribable. There are two main periods when the churches were decorated - iconoclastic churches, mostly from the 6th century, which feel quite primitive, there's no representational art in them, just rough red crosses and sometimes elaborately carved ones in the ceilings. A second period in 10th-11th century has intense, floor to ceiling murals (my guide said some of the most majestic of these were painted by imported Italian painters), that feel like being inside medieval christian art. These are bright and vibrant and strange and flat. They also, sadly, have been vandalized over the years, first by anti-iconographic (muslim) believers and then by neglect. Most of the eyes/faces are scratched out. Still, absolutely incredible. I felt more awe in these strange, tiny, dark, ancient churches than I have in most of the grand cathedrals of the world.

I've been trying to figure out what made these churches, and this valley in general, quite so breath taking for me. I think it comes down to two themes I keep returning to - humane-scale construction and the fragile, recent bridge between pre-modern and modern times.

I got extremely lucky with weather - it was between 40-60 and sunny during the week I was there. I love winter hiking, especially in deserts - I toured Bryce / Zion / Grand Canyon in January one year and it was great - the trails were empty, warm enough to hike in a t-shirt (with layers in reserve), beautiful snow on the ground. The major downsides are the shortened sunlit daytimes, the temperature dropping very quickly at night, and occasional inclement weather in rain or snow. But the benefits of having massively crowded trails all to myself, scenic overlooks with only a couple of buses of tourists rather than dozens, not worrying about overheating or needing to carry 3-4 liters of water, all make it worth it.

After about three days of solo hiking, I felt like I'd had my fill of the landscape and the churches. I think with companions to do more cave exploring and feel safer on long hikes, I would have felt recharged to explore more. There are infinite hiking trails - you can follow a map, or you can just pull off to the side of the road and follow the desire trails. I've never been somewhere that there was so much unfettered access to so much stunning beauty and playful places to explore. In general in Turkey, I found AllTrails to be super sparse, though it had the couple of big obvious hikes. Wikiloc had far far more.

Important Balloon Note!

Before one decides to hike up to one of the numerous sunrise points at an ungodly hour to see the sky fill with hot air balloons (of which, I only saw maybe half a dozen, and that was still magical), check this site that posts whether or not balloons are allowed to fly that day - https://shmkapadokya.kapadokya.edu.tr/en/ - I do not know why this is not more widely linked to!


Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme, Cappadocia - This is the defacto one every goes to. It's a whole park of cave dwellings and churches that were occupied from at least ~6th? 8th? century until the 1920s. There are a number of reasonably well preserved cave churches, some with 11th century floor-to-ceiling hallucinatory murals. I hired an official guide who picked me up at the entrance and was quite glad I did, it made the place feel much more real and gave a bunch of important history. Visitors aren't allowed to take photos inside the churches, so I've just been linking people to quite good stock photography of Goreme cave churches.

Zelve Open Air Museum (Overview) - Another cave city. This one isn't talked about as much but I found the natural setting of this place incredibly majestic. I spent hours looking at the scenery here.

Kaymakli Underground City and assorted other underground cities - Turns out, I am extremely claustrophobic and will not be going back into any underground cities any time soon! Just writing this is giving me flashbacks to the full body terror I felt getting lost in here. Nothing in these musuems has signage, you really need a tour guide to make them come alive.

Uchisar Castle It's a very beautiful viewpoint, not much to learn or do. Worth going up when it's convenient in your loops of the areas. Can also go at the end of the Love Valley hike or as part of a Pigeon Valley hike.


Love Valley - This was a fantasic long hike through a valley with beautiful hoodoos (the phallic rock formations common to Cappadocia and Bryce and other eroded sandstone geological sites). Not a ton of caves/churches in love valley, but beautiful scenery and a lot of moderate terrain to cover. I ran out of time to include Pigeon Valley which is a playground of

Rose and Red Valleys - I started this hike from the halfway point - currently noted as "Red Valley" on google maps, which meant I started and ended the hike at a high panoramic overlook with food/drink/souvenirs, rather than where this hike says to start which is in an uninspiring ATV parking lot off a small highway. This hike has numerous cave churches you can gallavant around with no supervision. The Cave House and something marked as a "castle" is also maked on the alltrails map. I wish I'd given this a full five or six hours of time so I could freely wander in and out of every single cave and church that caught my eye. The last church I ended up at truly reminded me of Myst or Quake, it had high ceilings, dusy air, and numerous columns. Geniunely felt like an abandoned cathedral, not just church. Incredible hike. Parts of the valley are so quiet it's almost spooky (at least in winter, when I went).

Devrent Valley in Cappadocia: Imagination Unleashed!

Other things one does in Cappadocia

  • Eat surprisingly mediocre food. Basically everything I ate in Istanbul was the best thing I'd ever eaten, and everything I ate in Cappadocia was extremely mid
  • Watch the sunset
  • Buy pottery


Anatolian Cave Houses and Spa - This is exactly my kind of tacky, in the same way as Caesar's Palace or the Venetian in Vegas. It's a sprawling valley wall of rooms connected by lots of twisty turny outdoor stone staircases. Has a relatively well kept indoor spa, sauna and hamam that's included in the price. Was very happy to stay here for two nights.

Sato Cave Hotel - I paid like $40 for this and it was well worth the price. Has a neat view of "downtown" (tourist trap) Goreme, a lovely little terrace, an incredibly friendly owner, quite a decent breakfast with some of the better hot items I had on a serpme breakfast spread, a nice terrace and reasonably priced glasses of wine. Was a fantastic value for one night.

Panoramic Cave Hotel - This hotel was fine. I think if it had been the high season for balloons and I'd gotten to sit outside eating breakfast with the sky filled a million whimsical fly contraptions, it would have been more special.

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image of Pamukkale turkey

Pamukkale and Ephesus

Dec 17 – 19, 2023

This felt a bit like the end of the journey. I had seen Cappadocia, which would be the obvious highlight of this trip, and the furthest east I would go, from here, the roadtrip was going to be a return journey, and it was starting to feel like the tail end of my overall trip too.

Yuva had said offhandedly that maybe I needed to go back to NYC for a bit to feel things out there, and then another friend said "I think it's time for you to come back to New York" - when I asked her why, she simply said "It's been a long time, Molly moved to Chicago an already came back to visit in the time you've been gone." Which felt like perhaps the universe was starting to tell me something.

This was buoyed by posts on reddit in /r/solotravel and /r/digitalnomad I kept seeing where people would talk about starting to lose interest in seeing the sights and experiencing the new. The medicine recommended by other redditors tended to be "hole up in a hotel room and watch movies" but others said "it might be time to go home" - the general feeling seems to be that three to six months of travel is the maximum before the dislocated overstimulation starts to lose its lustre.

But there was still a roadtrip to finish, and there were many beautiful sights and silly adventures (though I found myself quickly becoming numb to beautiful ruins).

My first idea had been to drive from Cappadocia to Konya, a city which is known for being the most religious/conservative big city in Turkey and not all that interesting to visit, but on the map it looked like a good halfway point for a long flat straight, eight hour drive, so I decided I would stop at the Rumi museum. On the way I wanted to see one last cave cathedral at Selime, and it was here I realized I had seen enough cave churches for this trip.

On the way I pulled off the road to Sultanhani, based solely on the density of highway signage and vibes, a tactic that had paid off well so far, and stumbled into (something something EDIT TK), a free waypoint on the silk road from the 1400s that was stunning. I also stopped for gozleme and lentil soup (the pickled weiners of this twineball journey).

Konya turned out to be having a 750th anniversary celebration for Rumi that meant the museum was mobbed and I was already feeling discouraged, so I knowingly made a stupid decision to do the full eight hour drive all the way to Pamukkale. This was ... long, and ended with me on a deserted misty four lane highway in the dark, listening to an audiobook about the plight of people enslaved on Thai fishing boats, and discovering that the exit Google wanted me to take was very closed. I felt like I was in the opening chase scene of the second Matrix movie.

(This is an out of character style of updates for this travelogue isn't it? I think it's because this part of the journey was less stimulating and I was significantly more in my head - which was a good thing, the meditative solo time felt important, but it also meant that the focus wasn't on art or nightlife or hijinx.)

Onto Pamukkale.

It's a beautiful ruined greco-roman city on a hill.

I find ruins like these hard to enjoy without a tour guide, but my gifted kid syndrome often overrides this knowledge. They don't feel very alive to me, just a bunch of stones. I'm not entirely sure what I'm marveling at - I could go to Rome or Athens and see more complete structures still in use. I can never tell how much of the sites are original or reconstructed and I don't enjoy the dissonance of playing that game. I recognize that when these cities were alive, they weren't ghostly white places. I also feel strange bringing them to life in my head using the odd imagery from movies and TV that have populated them - I don't think History of the World Part I or The Emperor's New Groove is a good template for imaging life in ancient Greece.

Still, they were all very beautiful. Pamukkale has a lot of terrain to cover, it can be a full day of walking. The necropolis is quite strange and large and well preserved. The travertine cliffs are beautiful and otherworldly. I don't know that I'd recommend walking down them because it's very unpleasant to be walking on salty rocks for an hour. Apparently they've had to do a lot of water and land management to try to preserve the cliffs due to overuse from tourism.

By the time I got to Ephesus the next day, I was quite done with ruins. The highlight for me though was an excavation of a set of interlocking apartments that has well preserved, still-colored wall paintings and tile floor mosaics. It's at the scale and size to remember that real people lived here with kitchens and living rooms and baths.

Apartment floors at Ephesus

The actual highlight of these two days might have actually been Kalyon Lazutti Copsis, Aydin. Yuva sent me here based on a childhood memory of always stopping there no matter how late in the night it was when they were driving as a family from Istanbul to Bodrum. It's a roadside restaurant at a highway roundabout where one parks at what looks like a used car dealership, sits down to order the exactly one dish on the menu - Çöpşiş, a pile of about twenty beef skewers the size of a small yakitori, a salad, a giant piece of flatbread and a hunk of butter and cheese - while your car windshield is half heartedly pressure washed by some children. It's directly adjacent to a restaurant that serves the exact same food and does the exact same shtick and tries to beckon you to their offering. There are at least two more competiors across the street. I loved it.

Kalyon restaurant exterior
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image of Ceşme

Ceşme and Alaçatı

Dec 19 – 21, 2023

I wanted somewhere to decompress from the roadtrip, without much pressure to do anything (though of course, me being me, I spent the day trying to visit as many different beaches and terrains as I could).

These are two summer resort towns on a peninsula directly west of Izmir about an hour away from the city, bordering the Aegean sea. I visited them in what was obviously the off season, but had a great time in mild weather with sunny skies and gorgeous water and coastline.

The weather was quite windy, which I imagine is a constant fixture of the area based on the wind turbines on the hills all over the peninsula.

There wasn't really a high point to this visit, just a really beautiful easy place. Many of the restaurants and shops were closed for the season without updating their hours on google maps, but it was all fine.

I ate a local specialty called Kumru - a very good sausage and cheese sandwich. I walked along beautiful beaches. I finally ate traditional style Dondurma (turkish ice cream), made with salep and mastic that makes it more taffy-like, elastic, and slower melting. I sadly only ate one mastic cookie (bakeries I went to kept being closed), which the region is also known for and which I love.

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image of Izmir
Boyoz at Alsancak Dostlar Fırını


Dec 21 – 22, 2023

Had I had another day of near-beach weather in Cesme, I might have spent the day staring at the sea and eating Kumru in that deserted off-season beach town.

But grey skies drove me towards Izmir, a city which I am told is held up as a place that will always stand for secularized Türkiye.

I was already feeling a bit checked out of my trip, so this was a quiet day. The highlight was discovering a local Sephardic inspired pastry called a Boyoz, a flaky, oily, savory or sweet ball of deliciousness.

Izmir again reminded me how wonderful car-free pedestrian arcades are. There's also a classic Ottoman bazaar in town that was significantly less stressful and crowded than the Istanbul

I finished my time in Turkey with a simple dinner of pilav, a simple buttered rice dish that has no right to be as delicious as it is.

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image of Barcelona
I think I look a little like Thom Yorke in this photo


Dec 22 – 26, 2023

We decided to spend Christmas in Barcelona with some friends of Yuva, which felt like spending it with close family. It was a few lazy days of overly elaborate meal prep and rituals from prior years and drinking and reading on the couch.

We were staying in El Raval, very close to MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, a museum that I've now visited twice, and both times have seen artist retrospectives that have stayed with me. Years ago, I saw a Exhibition retrospective that turned me onto their work. This time it was Nancy Holt / Inside Outside - an artist I was unfamiliar with who does beautiful things with light art, perception, framing and land art to name a few. I found her work enchanting. One theme of hers was a series of circular viewfinders pointed very precisely at circles on a wall, that play with our sense of scale and perspective. Another was circular cutouts of walls in the gallery with timed lights that allowed the viewer to enjoy the way the light coming through the circle distorted based on their relation to the light source. It sounds simple, but that's part of what makes it so effective and playful.

Other highlights: torrone (especially the one that tasted like an extra smoky creme brulee that I'm told is special for christmastime) from Pastisseria La Estrella, home cooked lamb chops and teaching Yuva that brits combine mint and lamb, a boozy lunch at Denassus. We explored a couple of local queer bars on christmas night - Little House on the Prairie (serie de televisión) which was empty but the vibes were good, and Madame Jasmine (@madamejasminebar) • Instagram photos and videos which was just crowded enough to feel intimate and the vibes were very good. Bubó Barcelona did a lot of "stunt" chocolates and cakes but managed to remember to make them delicious. The nativity scene at Kathedrale von Barcelona was large and immersive (not in like, a tech way), and felt more alive in the sculpture and setting than any others I'd seen, in an outdoor courtyard filled with medieval art that had been protected under an arcade for hundreds of years.

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image of Berlin


Dec 27, 2023 – Jan 9, 2024

Last hoorah of this trip and third time back in Berlin.

The impetus for this trip was to go to the Pornceptual+Gegen NYE party at RSO, a club I'd been to on a previous visit and didn't love for feeling dark and industrial and heavy, but had enjoyed the bright, colorful, playful vibe of the Pornceptual party I went to in Amsterdam that I couldn't possibly imagine the promoters not making over the space in some way.

And I was hilariously wrong! The party had all the hallmarks of an unsuccessful new years eve, starting with a three hour queue and then proceeding to be just a normal, dark, heavy-feeling night at RSO. Yuva and I were disappointed, but not sad about it, and that letting go, and staying connected and positive in spite of burning ourselves out for such a disappointment, felt like growing.

Thankfully, we'd spent the prior part of the evening at a home cooked, elaborate hot pot dinner amongst new and old friends in Neukölln - the neighborhood that we had been told in advance of our visit to avoid because the fireworks on NYE are like being in a warzone - which it somewhat was.

I have never seen anything quite like the fireworks in Berlin on NYE. At midnight, it looked as if fireworks were going off from every single intersection in the entire city. It looked like it was under attack. At some point the streets started to fog up with smoke. The number of burning rosettes in the sky was uncountable. It felt like the end of the world. It was majestic and malevolent. It was grand and it was sad. It was transfixing. I'm glad I saw it.

Happy NYE from Berlin!

Other highlights of this trip included going back to Neue Nationalgalerie to revisit the Gerhard Richter mirror I had loved the last time, shopping for latex at Peter Domenie, a truly incredible chocolate bun at Zeit für Brot, multiple mornings of ham and cheese croissants at La Maison – Boulangerie pâtisserie artisanale, taking Yuva to see the arkaoda to compare with the original in Istanbul, shenangians at ze world famous KitKatClub, revisiting the East Side Gallery and learning more about some of the controversies of its creation and restoration, Turkish grilled meats at Ada Holzkohlegrill Restaurant, Berlin, thinking I'd fractured a finger at Boulderklub Kreuzberg and being refused an x-ray by an english speaking EMT at the ER triage window for not being that broken, absurdly cheap at delicious lunches at Sahara Imbiss, two hours of Chopin at the Chamber Music Hall, queueing for an hour at vabali spa Berlin and then luxuriating at the spa for the rest of it, the ceiling mosaics at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, drinking Glühwein and eating what is essentially carnival food at Weihnachtsmarkt an der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche, starting NYE with gong-bath meditation at Open Studio while firecrackers exploded outside like bombs and then a glass of wine (and popcorn!) at GLASWEISE WEINBAR, an italian wine bar that is the definition of "when you're here you're family," discovering the Swedish-Chinese automaker Lynk & Co that sells their cars out of stores that are like instagram DTC feverdreams, trying on "for the scene, by the scene" clothes at The Code Shop, introducing Yuva to Spaceteam by telling her it's a "collaborative shouting game" and ...

Committing to taking a chance on winding down my time in NYC and spending the spring back in Amsterdam.

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image of Brooklyn


Jan 9, 2024

Back home!