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CAPPADOCIA DAWNING

By Sergey Kamenev, Regional H.O.G.® and Consumer Experience Manager

In the 2/2016 edition of H.O.G.® magazine (Europe edition), Sergey Kamenev shared photos and a story about his solo ride through Turkey. His intention, he wrote, was to dispel the common perception of a Turkish vacation as “a couch-potato stay in a hotel, endless food and drink, and lounging by the pool in the proximity of inebriated holidaymakers.”

He succeeded, chronicling an amazing adventure, through this diverse and beautiful country.

For many readers, one Turkish region in particular stood out: Cappadocia. Here H.O.G.® is proud to share more details about this part of Sergey’s Turkish adventure, along with more of his beautiful photos.

Full of Hot Air

The words of American author Stephen King – as delivered by the Russian voice of an audiobook reader – ran through my head as I reached the town of Urgup in Cappadocia. This region is famous for its unusual landscape; in particular, the spear-shaped pillars reaching into the sky.

The history of Cappadocia goes back to around 2000 B.C. Many peoples of many different religions have lived here over the millennia, and they’ve left behind an incredible legacy of rock dwellings, built entirely inside the mountains. The stones here are made of “tuff,” a compressed volcanic ash material that’s easy to work, making it relatively simple to build homes in the rocks, using wood only to make doors. They didn’t have much choice, really, as the lack of forests in the area gave them few other building options.

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“To anyone traveling in the area, I highly recommend staying in one of the many “rock hotels.” Just one night will give you a real sense of connection with the culture and life of these places. The one I chose had been built to ancient construction standards, with all its rooms furnished in a classic medieval style. I promise you won’t find anything like it anywhere else.

Besides the amazing landscape, one of the top attractions in Cappadocia is a pre-dawn balloon ride through the valley. It creates quite a spectacle as hundreds of hot-air balloons greet the dawn in multicolored splendor. Most hotels offer a package, which includes a ride to the launch site along, with other amenities. This was my first experience riding in a hot-air balloon, and it was quite amazing. Even the launch was spectacular.

During the two-hour flight, the balloon rises to a height of between 500-800 meters (1,640-2,624 feet). The most mesmerizing sight is all the other multicolored balloons floating in a sky that turns brighter and pinker by the minute as the sun breaks the horizon and rises ever higher. At the end of the flight, each passenger received a celebratory glass of champagne and a special certificate to remember the occasion. It was probably the first sightseeing trip in my life that was worth every cent I paid!

After all that, I still got a relatively early start on my day. After breakfast, I explored more of the rock formations and checked out area attractions. There’s so much there, I probably couldn’t have seen it all in a week! I didn’t have nearly that much time, so I picked out just a few of the highlights to explore. After visiting a few historic spots – such as the rock castle of Uchisar, the highest point in Cappadocia – I decided to try something a little different. A popular way to see the beautiful valleys is by taking a tour on an ATV; I decided to travel these roads on my Harley,® motorcycle instead. Riding carefully on the “off-road” environment, I enjoyed seeing the sights while kicking up big clouds of dust behind me.

That was all the time I had for Cappadocia, but the next day’s adventure (which was not included in the original H.O.G.® magazine article) is also worth recounting.

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Mount Nemrut After Dark

After getting back on the main road (with asphalt!), I rode toward the southeast part of Turkey. My plan was to capture the sunset on Mount Nemrut. At a gas station about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, I met two fellow motorcyclists from Italy. After talking for a few minutes, they told me about a short and beautiful road to Mount Nemrut. Since they were not in a hurry they offered to accompany me. Of course, I readily agreed.

For the next 90 minutes, I was convinced this was the most beautiful motorcycle road I’d ever been on. The twists and turns kept our bikes leaning one way and the other while we danced along beautiful mountain streams. Eventually, however, the road narrowed dramatically. My maneuverability was tested as I found myself narrowly avoiding cars on tight, tiny village roads. Not nearly as much fun!

Before long we realized that daylight was getting very short. Our navigator said there was a hostel nearby, but as we rode toward it the light became even dimmer – and my rat-infested fantasy loomed more real in my imagination. Sure enough, the GPS had failed us, as there was no hostel to be found – only the crooked gates of a private home. After a moment, a wary-looking man appeared in our headlights.

 

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My new friends had been to Turkey before and managed to speak a few words in Turkish to the man at the gate. After brief negotiations, he apparently decided to take pity on us. He disappeared for a few moments, then reappeared behind the wheel of a pickup truck. Humbly surrendering ourselves to Providence, we followed the truck and, as if by magic, suddenly found ourselves in front of a fine hotel. Turns out the man, who first eyed us with suspicion, had a change of heart when he saw the names Harley and Davidson on the tank of my motorcycle.

After thanking the kind stranger and negotiating a safe parking place at the front of the hotel, we enjoyed a fine meal in the hotel restaurant, sharing stories of previous travels. I would have liked to have ridden farther with my new friends, but when they told me they don’t usually wake up before 11AM, I knew I’d be riding alone again the next day.

Which was fine with me. I prefer to get a much earlier start – and I still had so much more to see and do in this amazing, underappreciated country.