A series of heinously long flights brought us to Ethiopia. We spent a few days recovering in Addis Ababa before taking another extended bus journey to our first stop – Gondar. This would be our jumping off point for trekking the Simien Mountains which had been on my bucket list since watching BBC Planet Earth in the mid-2000’s.
Gondar is a destination in its own right, home to an extravagant water festival, castles and the famed Debre Berhan Selassie Church. This was also the place where we first had really good Tibs, a grilled meat dish that became a staple dish for us throughout our 7 weeks in Ethiopia.
We spent a morning wandering around and visiting the sites. We didn’t have many expectations and we were pleasantly surprised. We barely saw any other tourists and the locals were friendly and excited to interact with us. In hindsight this would have been a nice place to spend another couple of days, if only to enjoy more of these Tibs, which came with a delicious spicy mustard sauce that I still crave. It was a mix between berbera (or perhaps Mitmita, both are finely ground spice mixtures), mustard, and perhaps horseradish? It was so good we asked what they called it “sen-a-fitch” was the answer but during the rest of our trip no one else seemed to understand what we meant when we requested it. Someday we will figure it out.
The Debre Berhan Selassie Church is a special place to visit in Gondar. We were thoroughly instructed not to talk and only to enter certain areas. Once inside the attendant was relaxed, kind, and happy to let us wander as we pleased. It is amazing how vivid the centuries old paintings are.
We made a final stop at the water palace. While this is also a beautiful site our favorite part was how it is slowly being reclaimed by the forest.
We slept at the L-Shaped Hotel (that’s the real name) that night and heard one of the largest dog howls of our lives. There must have been hundreds of dogs. We were glad to be cozied up together and not outside.