This is my story of the trip on horseback in Cappadocia. “There is no land like the world”. It is the most frequent comment of travelers of all ages once they have known Cappadocia . In the geographical heart of today’s Turkey , this region boasts fabulous landscapes and human settlements of absolute originality. A fairytale place, full of surprises.
Between the whims of nature and a thousand-year history, there will be riding an itinerary outside the usual tourist destinations, to know what truly makes the land of King Midas an almost unique tourist destination. Cappadocia surprises us from the first contact. In the equestrian center of departure, the premises are located inside curious natural formations; seen from the outside they would not seem inhabited at all. But the stables, the service rooms and even the owners’ house are caves. Also the beautiful stable is , where a young local sculptor has created, in the center, the trunk of a tree that extends the sinuous branches of the vault and the walls. A true work of art; an announcement of the sweet beauty of which this land is capable.
But it’s time to get in the saddle ; a total immersion in the landscapes and history of the surrounding area awaits us. We are located in the Nevsheir province; the countryside is that of Mustafàpashà, a center of two thousand souls originally from a Greek colony with the ancient name of Sinasos. Experience the magic of Cappadocia for yourself! Follow the link to discover our organized horse ride! The landscape is immediately admired. Wind, ice and rain, eroding the soft local rock, over the millennia have drawn the bizarre shapes that surround us from the very first steps. The water has carved the very narrow valleys we cross; constantly with the nose up. We absorb every news of our guide Hélèn, we enjoy every change of the landscape, moving at the same time without great effort and in a natural way. In the saddle we proceed with the right slowness, but fast enough to cover the twenty-five kilometers of today. Much of the history of this land is linked to horses. The Greeks and Romans read the beauty of the women and equine breeds of Cappadocia. The very name of the Katpadukya region derives from the ancient Persian with the meaning of “Land of beautiful horses” .
And finally today’s first destination appears before us, the main product of the long history of this land: an underground city. The geographical position of the region, in the center of Anatolia , between Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, has made Cappadocia for millennia a crossroads of trade routes but also the subject of repeated invasions from which the local population had to protect themselves. And here, hidden in a canyon, dug into the bowels of the earth, is the troglodyte village of Gomeda . We leave the horses to visit the site , not yet disturbed by the noises of international tourism. It is very likely that the first cave houses were built in prehistoric times by archaic populations of Anatolia. Indeed, the exact age of origin of this unique way of life is still unclear to archaeologists. The ease of digging into the soft local rock has determined the fortune of this type of settlement. Inside the tuff the temperature is pleasant and constant both in summer and in winter. Ingenious ventilation systems are still able to convey the air up to ten superimposed levels and over a hundred meters deep; wells, cisterns or, sometimes underground streams, once guaranteed the water supply. Large disc-shaped boulders, maneuverable only from the inside, closed the entrances to houses and settlements while secret escape routes guaranteed the safety of the inhabitants against the violent incursions of the enemies. In Nevsehir province alone, there are dozens of underground settlements such as Gomenda in the open countryside. Legends tell of kilometer-long tunnels that connected rock villages. An underground world that contributes to making Cappadocia a land of unique charm .
Time to leave. A long ride makes us rediscover the pleasure of open spaces in the incredible surrounding landscape. The pleasure of traveling on horseback is also this: to experience the sense of freedom . We therefore rely on the perfect physical shape of the oriental horses typical of this region of Anatolia and fly with them. Equestrian tourism is the most suitable way to easily reach the most distant places and not miss anything there is to see or know about the area you are crossing. Other stops, all interesting, are possible in the following kilometers.
We are interested in the final destination of this day: the town of Ortahisar and its incredible fortress obtained from a colossal spur of tuff. Once you reach its door, your eyes fill, once again with wonder. Ortahisar is an incredible agglomeration of life where civilizations, from prehistoric times to today, have overlapped without ever leaving the site. In the last century the houses built without interruptions were added to the cave houses. Making similarities with our Matera of a few decades ago is all too easy. Here, too, tourism is now slowly starting to bring about changes in the use of the rock settlement. The man-made caves still remain houses, cellars, stables, shops and even churches, but increasingly they become small restaurants or hotels in a mix of eras that is difficult to describe. We climb up to the fortress to which the town owes its name. “Castello di Mezzo” is in fact the meaning of the name of Ortahisar , only here the castle is not built, but it is a large mass of tuff modeled by man . At the entrance, the guardhouse is a huge cave where shelters for horses have also been created. A labyrinth of corridors and external stairways, originally made of wood, make Ortahisar Castle a perfect example of a fortress. Today it is a tourist attraction where small hospitality activities mix with the daily operations of the inhabitants.
The surrounding landscape is nothing short of spectacular . As evening falls, we look west towards Goreme thinking about what awaits us in the morning. The horses rest, but the journey is not over yet. It’s dawn. Weird shapes are taking shape at the first light of day. Sudden flames light up the darkness that will soon leave Goreme. Soon, the surreal atmosphere gives way to the sequences of a daydream. Dozens and dozens of colored spheres rise on the famous “Fairy Chimneys” that slowly build a scene beyond imagination. One of the surprises that this land blessed by nature can give to travelers. From the top of these “Flying Dreams” the enchanted valleys of Cappadocia are announced: the destination of our next trip. Another beauty to discover, other wonders to be admired in the Land of the Beautiful Horses . This is our horseback riding tour in Cappadocia! To learn more about Cappadocia read the related Wikipedia entry.
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