Phallus Shaped Stones & Hot Air Ballons - Volunteering at a Horse Ranch in Cappadocia

Hitchhiking from Antalya to Cappadocia, Turkey

Viviane trying to find a ride near Antalya, Turkey
Viviane trying to find a ride near Antalya, Turkey

Even with a little headache from yesterday’s night out, we went for a run to get our feet tired. That day we would spend a lot of time in the car. Our goal was to reach Cappadocia on the same day. After breakfast with our couchsurfing host Emilia we left Antalya.


We were back on the road for hitchhiking. It took us five minutes until a car stopped. Not exactly what we were looking for; A minibus. We had this situation before and knew that they would ask for money. But we got surprised. Not this time.


The Mini Bus was empty. "My name is Irfan but you can call me Eddy", the driver said. He works usually with tourists, but since there are none, he just uses the car as his private vehicle. Even better, as he found out that we are Germans, he suddently started talking German to us. He used to be a German tour guide and learned German within three years. 

Viviane and Eddy at the Drop off place near Antalya.
Viviane and Eddy at the Drop off place near Antalya.

He still reads and watches movies in German to not forget the language. How impressive! He spoke German with a slight accent, but we enjoyed to have a full conversations in our mother language. It has been a while J


He told us that we were lucky, because he only takes international hitchhikers. No Turkish strangers any more. We were curious about the story for this restriction. He told us that he once got robbed by a Turkish man. And the problem was that he even knew the person.


When he saw that man with his thumb up he stopped because he thought he knows that person anyway. Of course he would help. When the stranger was sitting behind him he suddenly grabbed his hidden knife and hold the sharp blade on Eddie’s throat.


He robbed Eddy and took all his belongings. Eddy still has a scar at his throat that we could see. Also a numb finger is bothering him from trying to pull the knife away from his throat. The bandit has been sentenced to jail for 5 years.


Eddy forgave him. After forgiveness prisoners are allowed to get released in Turkey. The freedom didn’t last very long though. He has been sentenced back to jail since he did another crime. Apparently, for robbing you can get a higher penalty than for murder. That's how Turkey tries to keep the crimes at a low rate. Scary story!

Yasin coming back from the restaurant with nuts for us
Yasin coming back from the restaurant with nuts for us

We were really hungry and weren’t excited about icecream and chips at the gasstation, but better than nothing. Unfortunately we didnt know that our next hitchhiking opportunity would be that generous.


First it seemed that Yasin would not stop for us. But even though he already passed us by 400m, he just backed up all the way. Backwards on a highway J


We jumped in and talked a lot to Yasin through Google translate. He told us that he manages fruit exports and that his brother is in jail. "He got involved in too many fights" , Yasin said. You could see that talking about his brother made Yarsin sad.


Otherwise Yarsin was fun and enjoyed spending time with us. He stopped at a restaurant along the road to eat with us. We had "Corba" (soup) and "Köfte" (meatpaddies) with Ayran, tomatoes and much more. We just wanted to share one plate of each but he just kept ordering for us. We were full full full after that meal. No chance to pay afterwards.


Back in the car we drove for about one hour until we were at the junction where our ways would go in different directions. It was already late and we had to hurry to get to Cappadocia before darkness. But Yasin asked us to come with him for tea. For a quick one, we agreed.


As we sat down, not just tea came to our table, also ricepudding for each of us. He really wanted us to try. Good that Bastian and me just have endless room in our stomach J We thanked him a lot and were sad to go different ways. Before we left he gave us "nuts to go". This kind of hospitality is sometimes hard to accept, but we anyway were very thankful. 


It took us 9 different hitchhikes to get from Antalya to Cappadocia. Unfortunately we cant tell every single story but at least show the faces of the generours people who gave us a ride.

The farm and our adventurous cave

When we got closer to Cappadocia we had a stunnishing view on Cappadocian stone houses. Many caves, some oft them had opinings like windows. We felt like in farytale when we finally got dropped off at the farm. 


The farm is a beautiful spot hidden far from any other houses. 25 Arabic horses, 15 goats, 18 chickens, 5 cats, 2 dogs and a garden full of vegetables are creating a wonderful atmosphere, but also a lot of work J


The owner Helene and Nico told us that we would sleep in a small cave. It was a cave in one of those sugar cone formed stones. Helene and Nico carved it out themselves, put a bed inside, a shower and a toilet... that’s where we should stay!


Not a toilet as you would expect, this one is called a dry toilet. That means there is only a bucket and you cover your business with sand. Whenever the bucket is full you empty it somewhere far away from the farm.


There is no window in the cave, just the little cracks in the wooden door give some light in the morning. It is always nice and cool and you are never alone because of all the little spiders and insects. But at night it is dark and without contacts I didn't see anything... so the insects didn't bother me ;-)


The cats and dogs always followed us in the evening to our cave but they knew not to come inside. So they slept all night in front of the door. I got shocked the first night when I had to go outside to my business (we didn't want to overload the bucket). With no glasses I stepped outside and all the sudden a black creature just ran towards me. I ran inside, screemed and smashed the door... just after thinking for a minute I figured, it was the black dog Tintin :-)

A regular day at the farm in Cappadocia

Bastian milking the goats in the morning
Bastian milking the goats in the morning

Opening the wooden door of our cave, letting the sun beams into our cave and getting attacked by two excited dogs: That was our usual start into a busy day at the farm.


After a morning run along the dirt road towards Orthahisar, we took care of the animals and fed them around 7:30 am. The most exciting routine for us was to milk the goats.


We have never done this before, but after two days we finally learned the right technique. The goats were patient with us since it took us double as long as Helene just by herself ;-)  We furthermore learned how to make goat cheese. You can find the recipe further down if you also would like homemade goat cheese.


At 8.30 am it was breakfast time. The meals were always a highlight, since all vegetables were fresh from the garden. The milk and eggs were from the farms animals and homemade products (bread, jelly, tahin cream, cheese) were absolutly tasty.

Viviane being proud about the potatoe harvest
Viviane being proud about the potatoe harvest

After breakfast the hard work started. Either garden work, like picking potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and peppers or cleaning animals shelters. If we were not tired yet, we could fill barley into bags and move them into a hut as winter storage (40-45 kg).


In between we played with Helenes and Nicos son Pablo and talked English to him. Also some website and online marketing was needed. Helping to prepare meals and cleaning up after wasn't even a question to do or not. We enjoyed being involved in all their daily chores.


After lunch we took some relaxing time to write the blog and study. In the afternoon we usually had time to explore Cappadocia! Nico and Helene gave us perfect advices where to hike in the best valleys. A different one almost every day. Dinner was prepared late when everything else on the farm was done and we were back from our hikes.

Hiking Gomeda valley

Caves in sandstone near Gomeda valley
Caves in sandstone near Gomeda valley

This valley starts with an ancient city including an old church. But not how we would have expected. 2800 years ago people built all these caves and small tunnels to connect the rooms.


Nico told us in the Bronze Age for sure there were people, maybe even before. In the church (catholic time in Turkey) we could still see paintings of prophets and holy men. But all their faces and bibles in their hands are destroyed with scratches.


In Islam it is forbidden to paint holy people and their faces. You won’t find any mosque with paintings of humans. It was hard to believe that people actually lived in the cave. We explored as much as possible, but some areas were just too dark or to narrow.


To hike the trail we just followed the stream. It was a very green valley with those sugar hut stones on both sides. In some of theme there are windows, so we knew people used to live there a long time ago. Now the pigeons took over the caves as living space. Years ago people used the pigeons poop for fertilization and gun powder. People that time actually wanted the pigeons to live there. 

Green Valley and Göreme

Göreme has many hotels and guesthouses located in sandstone caves
Göreme has many hotels and guesthouses located in sandstone caves

This valley is leading all the way towards the most touristic town here in Cappadocia. Walking through this valley we saw more caves and figured where it got the name from. A sandy and partly muddy trail leads through green, fresh plants with apples and berries, pine trees, high grass up to our shoulders and bambus.


We reached Göreme when the sun was about to go down. Göreme has many hotels which look like little castles built in the stone to attract tourists. For the sunset viewpoint we would have to pay.


Since we didn’t want to support the government making money with a natural existing view, we looked for a way to get around. We found a way, but you cannot imagine how steep it was. Even with using our hands it was almost impossible to get up there.


At some point we just couldn't go back and had to find a way to get up. All trees, bushes and even the grass had spikes. But there was no other option than grabbing them every once in a while to not fall backwards.


We almost reached the top when Bastian slipped and for a second I thought he would fall. My breath stopped, but he found one of the spiky bushes to hug. I felt very released when we were finally up there. While I tried to relief all the spikes from Bastian’s hands and chest we realized how dangerous and scary that moment was. 

White Valley and Love Valley

Penis shape sand stones in Love valley of Cappadocia
Penis shape sand stones in Love valley of Cappadocia

We drove to Ürgüp with Helene to finally send my package back home. It was for my nephew and a friend. Let's see when it will arrive. From Ürgüp we hitchhiked towards Göreme and on the way there was the next entrance for the two valleys today.


It is hard to describe but the shape of the sandstone was different again. In the love valley the stones looked like big a big penis ;-) that's probably why they gave it that name. That valley leaded into the white valley. Of course the stones and the trail were especially bright and white.


The valley leaded to Uçhisar where we would meet Helene, Nico and Pablo at their friends’ house for a barbecue. We were expecting kind of the same surounding like at the farm. But the address confused us. We opened the door of a modern stonecastle with perfect classic decoration style. 

Ürgüp at night
Ürgüp at night

We quietly closed the door again because we were sure to be at the wrong address. Bastian double-checked, there was no other optional door. When we opened again we recognized Nico.


Alright, we felt a little dirty and underdressed for this but what could we do. We stepped into this amazing luxury location. We were super hungry and couldn't believe where we were.


The hosts offered us beer, wine, mochito... and we should help ourself with food from the buffet and more drinks in the fridge. Nothing else we could ask for!


Apparrently they bought that house eight years ago and didn't do much construction work. It is just a dream, but for sure not a cheap invest. They use it as their holiday house and come here mostly twice a year. We already met a few people who have their second house here. Foreigners don't have to pay any taxes and it is a very easy process to buy a house. On the papers the owners name will be changed and the new owner pays and signs. This is the whole process.

Red Valley and Hot Air Balloon Sunrise

Viviane in the morning near our campsite at Red Valley Cappadocia
Viviane in the morning near our campsite at Red Valley Cappadocia

This time we planned an overnight on the rim of the red valley to see the balloons in the sunrise the next morning. The afternoon we used for some hiking along the rims to look down into the small valleys which are all kind of red.


I would say this valley has the most impressive and biggest churches carved in those massive stones. One of them had three levels. We spent a lot of time exploring the churches and hiking up and down the valleys.


Like Simba and Nala at Lion King: while playing around and exploring we lost track about the trail we wanted to go. One trail that we decided for turned into a dead end. We anyway continued.


Every single plant scrached our skin with their thorns while we tried to squeeze through the bushes along the streams. I was just waiting for stepping on a snake, but we were lucky. We somehow made it to our overnight spot on a plateau, enjoyed our packed dinner and went to sleep early.


At 5.45 am we woke up by the sun and the sound of the fire they shoot in the hot air balloons. Just by opening the tent’s zipper we saw all these massive hot-air ballons starting. Rising up out of the valleys over the rims until they were very high up in the air. It looked like a show of colours up in the sky.


We got the chance to see them that day, which was great, because they weren’t allowed to fly for many weeks. Even though there are still restrictions about the maximum number of passenger, we saw about 30 ballons that morning.

Helene, Nico and Pablo

Pablo, Nico and Helene with one of their horses plus dog
Pablo, Nico and Helene with one of their horses plus dog

The story about building up this farm was already a pretty uneuropean way of starting a business. Nico came to Cappadocia with the idea to offer horseback riding but couldn't afford to have his own horses. So he started with renting them whenever people made a booking.


He was constantly looking for a place where he would like to live and to start building a farm with his own animals and agriculture.


But none of the available properties fulfilled his expectations. So he decided to start it illegally on a place away from any city where no one can see or lives nearby.


He started carving a cave into a massive stone and bought Arabic horses. The police of course somehow found out that there was a farm without registration. But so far Nico figured out ways to agree with them on different deals.


Helene and Nico are still in fear that someday the police doesn't allow them to live there anymore. That makes it a little tricky to invest since you never know what will be tomorrow. Since 17 years Nico managed to stay here. Not being registered also means no one is picking up their garbage and they don’t have an official address.


Nico was very quiet, but the few sentences he said were straight forward. It took us two days to understand that this was not meant to be mean ;-) He met Helene when she stopped by with her horse at his farm many years ago. That time she crossing Turkey by horse. That's how they got to know each other. Now they live together with their five year old son Pablo.

Helene and her son Pablo playing in the water
Helene and her son Pablo playing in the water

Pablo is an only child and is having a hard time to loose. When we played football all together and it turned out to be 3-3, woman against men, he was really unhappy.


Crying a lot even though Helene tried everything to calm him down. A lesson he had to learn, no one likes to loose. But this tie was unacceptable for him that evening.


He needed a lot of attention, also because besides no siblings they also have no neighbors.


Pablo often had friends over to play. In Turkey kids start school with the age of five or six. With french speaking parents and growing up in Turkey, Pablo speaks English, turkish and French.

Helene and Viviane riding in Cappadocia
Helene and Viviane riding in Cappadocia

Helene is a very hard working woman. She is busy all day also because she tries to do everything homemade. It is a lot of work to take care of the animals, the garden, the products and of her son J But she always had a good humor.


Helene is also very brave. She used to travel and hitchhike a lot on her own through all those "dangerous" countries. Afghanistan, Mongolia, Iran... and she survived a lot of tricky situations.


She lived in Afghanistan for 6 years and worked on many different projects and non-profit organisations.



Horse Riding Adventures

Viviane and Helene riding together near the Horse Ranch
Viviane and Helene riding together near the Horse Ranch

First night already Nico, Helene and Pablo took us on a trail with the horses. Not sitting on a horse for many years Bastian did a great job on riding a horse. Riding through this landscape while the sun was going down... no need to explain what we felt ;-)


The sun was about to go down another day when Helene and me took the two female horses with their two foals. Both are still black but will turn white. The younger one is only two month, the older one a year.


We rode just straight through the sharp grass and the two babies were following or sometimes leading us. They were really excited for a little adventure. They ran around their mums, speeding forward and backwards, kicked against each other and were obviously happy. I was too. Such an amazing athmosphere sitting on a horse. 

Viviane riding and swimming with the horses.
Viviane riding and swimming with the horses.

With Helene I trained a young horse to put the saddle on and to ride on it the first time. All the preparation she did before was something new for me.


I didn't know even though I rode horses for many years. Before they saddle a horse the horse needed to understand a way of communicating and listening to the rider.


When the horse was calm enough that Helene could throw the saddle on his back, jump around it without even holding the leach, she started to climb up and down on it’s back.


No fear in the horses eyes, no uncomfortable feeling moment for it: that's how it should be. On a long leache with no stress she could start riding him slowly. The horse trusted her 100%. Nice to see this calm way to "break" a horse.


At our last day I could take a white Arabic horse even in the lake nearby. Riding on a horse in the water is very soft and the steps or jumps they make are like slow motion. But their fert is very slippery so I had to really squeeze my legs because there was no saddle. We all had so much fun including the horses. All wet from their splashing and full of adrenalin we went back home.


It was our last evening in Cappadocia. As always the day of leaving a place means closing one door which is sad but also opening a new one which is exciting. This time it will be the door towards the east near the Syrian border. 

Bring some farm feeling into your house and make your own goat cheese?

There you go:

     Heating up your goat milk to 34 degree

     Mix 1 teaspoon of milk-water per liter slowly (miklwater: you put yeast in milk after a day water will seperate. You always keep some of the water as a bacteria culture)

     Let the milk sit with 34 degrees for 30 min

     You add 3 dropps yeast per litre and mix it slowly

     40 min same temperature

     With a knife you make a cross so the water can come up

     Let it sit for another 10 min

     Cut it in small pieces, on 38 degree you mix it 10 min with your hands and separate the big pieces into small ones

     take off the milk-water (you can use it for the next cheese), squeeze the harder part together in a form as you like it. The cheese is still formable all day.

     The next day you put a lot of salt all around the cheese and leave it in the fridge for 1 day

     after that you let it dry in a cool spot (about 18-20 degree) and eat it whenever it has your favorite consistency


Enjoy ;-)

Write a comment

Comments: 2
  • #1

    Dietmar (Sunday, 08 November 2020 22:50)

    So, jetzt hat es ja geklappt: Nach Japan zu reiten.
    Gruß Dietmar

  • #2

    Sandra (Saturday, 14 November 2020 13:08)

    It looks amazing! Great pictures and as always nice written. �