By Jennifer Johns
A popular tourism slogan refers to Ethiopia as the land of 13 months of sunshine. This is a nod to the temperate climate there, as well as the fact that Ethiopians follow the Julian calendar.
Ethiopia is a country rich in contrasts and the landscape is just one example of that. From rolling countryside to mountain vistas to the deep canyon of the Blue Nile Gorge, this country has much to offer visually.
Ethiopia is about twice the size of Texas with a population of almost 94 million people. It is in East Africa and is bordered by the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, and the Kaffa region is considered the birthplace of coffee — or "buna" as it is called in Ethiopia.
My husband and I have visited Ethiopia several times in the last three years as we have completed the adoptions of our daughters, who were born there. There truly is something remarkable about this beautiful country and the warm and inviting culture it is known for.
The Ethiopian people value relationships — as is evident in the hospitality that is shown even to "ferengi" (foreigners) like us — and life moves at a much slower pace there than it does in the United States.
During our trips to Ethiopia, we stayed in the capital city of Addis Ababa, a city of about 3.4 million people that was named as one of Lonely Planet's top 10 cities to visit in 2013.
The city has a number of guest houses that provide great service and are reasonably priced, as well as larger hotels including the Sheraton and Hilton. We enjoyed staying at the Addis Guest House, which is in the Bole area of the city. It has a great restaurant on the premises and the airport, shopping, and a variety of other restaurants are all nearby.
An easy day trip from Addis Ababa is the Blue Nile Gorge. It is about two hours north of the city and the drive is very scenic. Along the way, we stopped to take photographs and to purchase baskets from the local children.
A short while later, we arrived at the Ethio German Park Restaurant/Lodge and then hiked to the Portuguese Bridge, which is believed to have been built in the 16th century of ostrich eggs and limestone. We crossed the bridge and hiked a bit further in order to reach the most scenic overlook. Along the way, we passed several Galada baboons, which are native to Ethiopia.
After spending some time exploring the area, we hiked back to the lodge and enjoyed a lunch overlooking the beautiful Jemma Valley Gorge.
Then we began the trip back to the city. We stopped along the way at the Sululta Palace Resort where, in true Ethiopian fashion, the owner invited us in for refreshments and a tour of his hotel.
We finished our day with a stop at TO.MO.CA. coffee in Addis Ababa, where we purchased numerous bags of coffee beans to share with our friends back home. There is nothing quite like Ethiopian coffee.
We arrived back at our guest house tired from a very full day and thankful for the hot meal that was delivered to our room a short while later.
Jennifer Johns lives in Monticello with her husband and five children. She is the co-owner of Pies by Inge bakery in Monticello.