Mind-blowing Cappadocia | We cycled 4 months to see this!
Going a very long distance by bicycle is a fairly distinct way of travelling. Sometimes we feel like turtles: we carry our home with us and are fairly slow. We are out there in the big wide and at least to us, unknown world, with everything we own, fairly vulnerable and naturally there are some setbacks occasionally. It is a very windy day. Big trucks are passing us sometimes really close and very fast. And they make an intense wind whirl. First they push you away and then they suck you back in behind them. And, yes, Arev just fell.
We cleaned the wound as well as we could, disinfected it and put a big plaster on it. Hello officer! There has been an accident. He doesn't care! Fortunately this time Arev only sustained some bruises and abrasions. So far it took us a little over 4 months to cycle through Germany, France, Monaco, Italy, Greece and we are about to reach a major milestone - the middle of Turkey. In this episode of our Amazing World Bike Tour series we leave the religious centre of Konya behind us and cycle to the world famous and magical Cappadocia.
Eventually we end up in Malatya another 400 kms further east, but one thing at a time. We just asked some people in the local mosque in the village behind us if we could stay there, but one of the guys suggested that in Sultanhani there is an old caravanserai. So even though we are at 105 kms already for the day, we’ll add another 8kms to sleep in this old, old, hundreds of years old caravanserai. After mobilising the last traces of energy in our legs and reaching a new daily record of over 110 kilometres, we reach Sultanhani. Unfortunately there we learn that “sleeping in a caravanserai” only meant a campground that goes by the name “Kervansaray”.
Please, please! This is our tent! No! Stop him! Eventually, despite this adorable little fella’s best efforts we manage to pitch our tent and a restful night later we get up early to visit the caravanserai before everyone else. Well, the second flat tire on Arev's bicycle took care of that brilliant plan. As we eventually make it inside - it's time to learn something. The caravanserai of Sultanhani, or rather the Sultan han, is one of over 40 caravanserais built during the rule of the Seljuk in the middle ages. Think of it as the interstate truck stop of the time, just without the gasoline and camels for trucks.
This specific one is considered among the prime examples of Seljuk architecture in all of Turkey. It provided services to travellers and caravans along the Uzun Yolu trade route leading from Konya to Aksaray and continuing into Persia, as part of the Silk Road. It’s very comfortable here, because it’s not so hot. This huge building gives a lot of shade. The walls are very thick, so it’s like a natural air conditioner. The han is entered through a pishtaq, a representative gate made from marble decorated with muqarnas, both typical for Islamic architecture. The main gate leads into a big courtyard and a similarly decorated second archway on the far side leads to the iwan, a covered courtyard for winter use.
A square stone kiosk-mosque, the oldest example in Turkey, is located in the middle of the open courtyard. So, just like in a modern day motel, you could park your camel directly next to your room. We finally reached Aksaray with only one flat tire and one damaged Arev.
Great day! And fantastic headwinds. The last 20 kms or so I’m like: “why is it not going forward?”. We’re doing less than 10 km/h in the total flat. That’s so frustrating! Good morning. We’re about to leave Aksaray, but first we go through the centre. We spent two nights with our lovely host Sebnem.
She was so kind to host us another night and to help us with a lot of things. So now we have a logo, we have stickers, everybody knows who we are. We are very happy and continue our trip. So why is Cappadocia one of the most famous destinations in Turkey? The first picture that probably comes to mind is hundreds of hot air balloons. While we find the amount of people at, and the vibe around major attractions exhausting, we got to see this one. I guess that is what makes a place a major attraction: its major attractiveness.
Anyways, Sebnem suggested we first visit a lesser known village just 25 kms east of Aksaray, at the end of the Ihlara valley. It has everything that Cappadocia is famous for, except hordes of tourists and hot air balloons. What you see here is a small part of the Miocene Cappadocian ignimbrites sequence' which features 'voluminous eruption deposits in a fluvio-lacustrine sequence with 'fairy-chimney' development produced by uplift and erosion'.
Or it looks good because of volcanoes. It has been settled by humans for at least 3000 years, and in that time they carved not just some caves but houses, temples and churches, actually entire cities into the rocks, many of them underground. Here at the periphery of this impressive landscape we only met this one dog strolling around. Yeah! There you go! Super enthusiastic Mathias here right now. It’s not hot, I’m not sweating, no! I’m sweating a little bit. So, 5000 km Amazing World Bike Tour, that is really just a number. Of course it gets meaning
for us through the countless little stories we can attach to it, the things we learned, the people we met. If you’ve watched our series from the start you might be able to grasp it, the impact this experience has already had on us so far. It took us roughly 4 and a half months of cycling in total to get here. We are excited, but unfortunately, like in most places in the world, where there are many tourists, there are also many problems, like this poor camel. We quickly decide to cycle past Uchisar and find a quiet camp spot in the gorgeous hills behind Göreme.
Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Holy smokes! It’s not even 5 o’clock in the morning. Everybody is awake because of the hot air balloons. The place here is of course very impressive with all rock formations and the caves. The landscape is just incredible. And now we’re really excited to see how this magic happens today. While there has been commercial hot air ballooning in Göreme since the 1960s it really blew up when a video went viral some years ago. Nowadays about 200 balloons take to the sky every morning if the weather allows. It’s a huge business and people fly here for a couple of days from all over the world. Tickets start at around 150$ per person and can easily go into the hundreds for a longer and or less crowded experience.
While that is too expensive for us, we got ourselves some front row seats for the spectacle for free. Also, I am a little bit afraid of heights. Oh my God! This is crazy! They will fly over our tent! Oh my God! Look at this! Arev?! What the hell… They fly some hot air balloons here. It’s pretty impressive! Some of them flew really close, like literally 2m above us and then down into the valley. Some of the pilots are giving their customers a hell of a ride.
Time to leave Göreme. Oh, there is a group of people riding horses, ATV passing behind me. They are driving around here with literally thousands of little offroad vehicles. Racing them through those rock formations, destroying them in time. So, obviously many problems are created through tourism here. We got invited by the only local Warmshowers host, Arif and we almost couldn't believe our luck.
He is getting several requests a day and has hosted countless people, which is a lot of effort, so we, like in the both of us, gladly offer to help him in the garden, together! That is just pigeon shit. Organic! It’s from Cappadocia. This is brutal. Cappadocian pigeons?! Yes, it is actually typical here. Already the first people here, the Christians thought - Pigeon shit is very good. Ugh, the smell is horrible.
Stop! Mathias, woah! We’re heading out of Cappadocia towards Kayseri. Cappadocia was great, but it’s always a little bit tough for us, because tourism creates so many problems. Little bit happy to get out, cycle through the countryside. With normal regular people, where you really get to feel the culture.
This is day 117 since we left Freiburg, Germany. And yesterday was kind of a funny, little bit crazy day. We were headed for Kayseri expecting a somewhat harder day. But then we got picked up by a guy named Isa with his truck, who took us for about 25 kms of our way. Wow, how nice. It’s actually going to rain in half an hour. The driver stopped and asked if we’re heading to Kayseri, and we said yes.
Woohoo, okay. What’s your name? Isa. Mathias. Arev. Alef? Arev! Thank you! It’s the first time that someone offered us a lift. We didn't really think about it, if we would do it more often, but - why not? It’s the first time, so we see what happens. We can get to Kayseri quicker. We can check at the train station if it’s possible to take the train to Malatya with the bicycles, so we could get to Malatya faster and then do the Mt. Nemrut. So, yes, this is great!
Because of tourism everything is so expensive, especially in Cappadocia, which is a touristic hotspot, so that they can’t go there except for work, but they can’t go there for fun because it’s just too expensive. Around Göreme there are the most balloon starting and landing areas, and there is not much forming going on anymore. Also there are a lot of people. The balloon companies bring in people in and out every day, so there is no point in planting stuff, because people will run over it.
About a week earlier, having our daily lunch and heat break at a gas station, we were approached by Deniz, a medical professor travelling home to Kayseri. Our fully loaded bicycles made him remember his dream to cycle Turkey after school. His dad had not allowed him, so he was very curious to learn about our journey once we would arrive in Kayseri. We’re riding in the rain, we’re cycling in the rain… It turns out the trains are fully booked. He literally said the trains would be as full as in India.
We have to go through the city centre of Kayseri, which is apparently also a million people city, that I didn't know before. Rossmann? WTF? Oh my god. A German drugstore. Globalisation. Yeah, we were headed to get to Deniz place, who was still working, but he gave us his address. And on the way to his place we were stopped again by two men.
They were curious where we were coming from and where we’re headed and immediately asked where we were staying. We should be their guests. As we didn’t know if Deniz would be comfortable with us staying at his place. We had just met him for 5 minutes at a gas station 2 or 300 km away. So, we followed Bayram and his friend. Then they brought us here, which is their old family house that they really don’t use right now.
Even though we said we’re not hungry they brought us some food, gave us coffee, tea and the key for the house. He even wrote a message this morning asking if we're fine, if we need anything, even money, whatever. We replied, wow thank you, but a roof, a bed and a shower was already plenty for us. Yeah, that was our day yesterday. Oh, and obviously we later visited Deniz, had dinner with him and had a great time. So, what we’ll actually do now: hop on a bus to Malatya, save a week's worth of time, to struggle up 3000 metres of elevation, and climb Mt. Nemrut, which will be great, we hope.
Everybody is fighting to sell their tickets. He’s trying to figure out if we can take our bicycles on the next bus. Thank you.
See you! This company does not have enough space for our bicycles, but he said that other companies can help us. Hopefully! Okay, he says no problem. How much? 500! 500, that’s the normal price. I checked on the internet before,
so it is 250 per person. Very nice! Let’s go to Malatya! One of the great things about slow travel is the intense contact with locals. Being on the road as open as we are on our bicycles, people invite us into their homes which makes our experience way more interesting. As we peek into their lives we get so much information, which of course can be challenging at times.
We are not only very visible, we are also very approachable, and there is no metal shell around us. Well, except when there is, like right now. But, Arev usually feels sick a lot in ships, cars and buses. She did her fair share of throwing up, so this is really not her preferred mode of transport, no matter how comfortable or luxurious it is.
I feel a little sick, but we’ve saved many days. In any case, by now we can probably say that we are travellers rather than tourists. So far we covered roughly 1000 kms per month on the bicycle. We like this pace, but there are limitations.
The visa free scheme in Turkey allows us a stay of 3 months, but it is a huge country. This time we decided to skip 400 kms of riding to have enough time for our biggest physical challenge yet. So join us again next time when we take on the legendary Mt. Nemrut. If you enjoyed this episode please be so kind and give it a thumbs up. It makes a huge difference for us to get noticed by a bigger audience.
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