In truth, it was an absolutely crazy idea. And it was my crazy idea, so I was fully responsible for the consequences. But let me start from the very beginning.
I have a best friend, a person I’ve known for almost two-thirds of my life. It’s probably not a big surprise that we befriended each other because of horses. We were these weird horse girls (WHG), who you can probably find in any class and who are unpopular because the only thing they can talk about is horses, and tack and more horses. It’s quite miserable being the only WHG in the class, but when you have 2 it changes everything. You never feel alone and, frankly-speaking, all the non-horse people are just plain boring to you. So we very much enjoyed our friendship and our hours-long talks about horses. We skipped classes to go to the hippodrome, made horse-themed exhibitions in our rooms, read endless number of horse-related books and even translated ‘Black Beauty’, by Ann Sewell, into Russian one summer. Neither our friendship nor our love of horses faded with years. In fact, we even had a tiny wedding tradition: we went riding the day before our weddings, much to the disapproval of our mothers.
So now, living in different countries, we have fewer opportunities to meet in person, but we really do try hard. That year we decided to celebrate our wedding anniversaries in charming Istanbul.
All went according to plan: all the standard places of interest visited, all types of local food tried… Just a normal trip of normal tourists…
Until one morning… When we had only 3 days of vacation left, I saw a ‘trail ride’ ad in the window of Kirkit travel agency.
It was a great experience to add to my around-the-world-on-horseback collection. My friend, and even (surprisingly) our husbands, were very supportive of the idea, but… (As usual, there were some buts.) The advertised day-long trail ride was in Cappadocia, over 800 km South-west from Istanbul, and all the nearest buses were fully booked, and flying there was not an option as it cost a fortune.
But it’s not that easy to stop me if I’m determined (or stubborn, or pig-headed… Underline the correct word), so we decided to rent a car. (I know… People collecting something are way closer to mental institutions than the rest of us.) And seeing as I was the most experienced driver in our team (a full 16 months of experience by the way) I drove all the way to Cappadocia: 10 hours in the middle of an unknown land, in a car full of sleeping people, supported only by the GPS and 3 cans of Red Bull.
Needless to say, I was very proud of myself when we arrived in Cappadocia early the next morning. :-) Sleepy, hungry and deadly tired, we didn’t even have a time to fully appreciate the fact that the following night we were supposed to stay in a 2000-year-old hotel, carved in the rock face and packed with antique handmade stuff.
We didn’t have time for breakfast as we were already late for the ride, so we dropped our backpacks and went directly to the stables to take the whole day-long ride to the beautiful rocks of Cappadocia.
By the way, did you know that the word ‘Cappadocia’ literally means ‘a place of beautiful horses’?
Lots of stables have some kind of systems for naming their horses: cartoon characters, British and Arabic human names… This place was not an exception. All the horses we got were named after fruits, berries and spices. Meet the almost identical Ingi (Fig), Izum (Raisin), Safran (Saffron) and Kamsiz (some kind of specific Turkish spice).
All horses were very lovely and well-behaved, which was very important for us because our husbands had less riding experience than we did.
There are no words to explain how extra-terrestrially beautiful and extremely impressive this place is, so I’d better stop typing and put more pictures here. And I would recommend it to everybody. You will never regret going there.
We rode for about 7 hours in total with short lunch and photo-shoot breaks in between. By the end of our trip, I realised that long uninterrupted riding is the best way to learn how to sit properly. Your body naturally takes the correct position as you get more and more tired :-)
It was very difficult to part with our equine companions, but we had to rush to the hotel to attend an amazing traditional dinner.
That was a scent of the real vibrant Turkey, which you cannot get at the overly-popular touristic places, let alone at the all-inclusive 5-star hotels.
Some would think that after 30+ hours without rest we would fall asleep at the table, but food and live music, and the other people around, and the place’s ancient energy worked their magic, and we danced and sang along to unfamiliar songs and laughed and tried all the dishes available.
We went to bed long after midnight and I slept 10 hours straight, a long-deserved rest before the travel back to Istanbul. Of course, on the way back, we couldn’t miss Kaymakli (an underground city) and Uchisar Castle, meaning that we had to significantly deviate from the main road.
Another sleepless night and 3 more cans of Red Bull later, we hit the narrow streets of Istanbul’s old town. It was 5 AM. No amount of thick Turkish coffee could rouse us after such a trip. We had half a day for more museum visiting and sightseeing…
At that moment we didn’t know that there were 30 more restless hours ahead of us. Our flight from Istanbul was 2 hours late, so we missed our connection to Bahrain and spent almost 15 hours in the not-very-welcoming Sharjah airport.
But you know what? All of these are the parts of a great travel story which I treasure.
P.S. Sometimes I think that we normally have the kind of vacations that require few more vacation days after them.:-)
Kirkit agency site: http://www.kirkit.com/
Link to Kirkit Pension on Booking.com: http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/kirkit-pension.ru.html?aid=318615;label=New_English_EN_ALL-GBIECAUS_5226333385-zrfE0CU6K_HWeoloJw%2APrQS73336492345%3Apl%3Ata%3Ap1%3Ap2%3Aac%3Aap1t1%3Aneg;sid=aeac24f32629ad75d2a1beb4fddf5cf3;dcid=4;dist=0;srfid=ad4f052747794383f64bbb382d4578eefcb4af25X1;type=total;ucfs=1&