I considered skipping the town of Gondar, first of all because of how immediately scammers surrounded me as I walked into my hotel, but secondly (and most importantly) because of how eager I was to get to Lalibela, which I fully expected to be the highlight of my trip—more on that in a second.
However, Gondar quickly showed itself to be the most charming destination in Ethiopia, and not just because of the city's castle, which is known as the Ethiopia's Camelot. Nor was it only picturesque touches, like the statue of Emperor Tewodros or the painted ceiling of the Debre Birhan Selassie Church.
No, it was the fact that this was a real, dynamic, pulsing city, something I realize only when I escaped the city center (and, yes, the castle) and the hacks that haunt it. I actually nearly canceled my day trip into the nearby Semien Mountains, not wanting to miss out on another day in Gondar, although I ultimately decided against that.