A Magical Land

How a trip to Turkey led one writer to her geographic soulmate and a life-changing decision.

Do you believe in City Love at first sight? I didn’t. Until five years ago when a trip to an ancient region of Turkey uprooted my whole life. Sure, even before that I had fallen for many a city …

As an entertainment journalist, my work journey took me places I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. I had dinner overlooking misty Lake Albano in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, when my publisher sent me to Italy to interview Julia Roberts for “Eat, Pray, Love.” I watched eagles fly across the larger-than-life NASA logo at the Kennedy Space Center, while waiting to interview Neil Armstrong’s sons. I had overpriced coffee and cake at Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris, preparing questions for my interview with Meryl Streep in a suite upstairs.

All these trips were blessings but short crushes at best. I was flying in and out, experiencing these great places, but I was always happy to return to Berlin. Back into the arms of the only City Love I knew. The city I thought I would never leave. Why would I? It was home.

My love journey had other plans for me. In September of 2017, eight months after our father had unexpectedly passed away, my brother and I took a trip through the land my father had left in the 70s. Our route had us revisiting the places he took us to when we were children. Cappadocia was one of them.

We were supposed to stay there for one night and keep going. Sleep in a cave, watch the famous hot air balloons in the morning, and then hit the road again. What else was there to do in a small town in the middle of Turkey anyway? It was fall with record hot temperatures, and I couldn’t wait to continue our trip to reach the beach in the south, where my father used to take us camping.

It was dark by the time we reached Cappadocia. My brother drove down one of the many hills the car had climbed up since we entered the region of Anatolia. “I think we’re here,” he said as he made a right turn from a curvy road, and the city’s lights below confirmed his thoughts. We were there. In Göreme, the heart of Cappadocia.

The sky was pitch black, but the city lights greeted us like a welcome committee. They were illuminating the cone-shaped rock formations from the bottom, so they seemed even higher and stranger than they were. They were shining through the tiny windows of the caves that people here call Fairy Chimneys. It was as though we were entering the Land of the Hobbits.

I felt like a child looking outside of the car window while my brother navigated his way through the narrow brick roads, trying to find our hotel. I felt close to my father, imagining we had driven through these very streets decades ago. This trip was comforting for both my brother and me. I had no clue then it would turn into a one-way ticket from my hometown of Berlin a couple of years later.

Image Credit: Ozlem Aydin Evans

I slept in a Fairy Chimney that night. Like a baby. For the first time in months, I did not wake up once. There is something very eerie and at the same time soothing about sleeping in an actual cave turned hotel room. It feels like the walls of volcanic rock wrap around you like a big heavy blanket. One with a great thread count.

The next morning, I woke up to strange noises coming from outside. Like quick gusts of wind, back-to-back, and then silence. I heard the gusts coming closer, some fading away. As I opened the curtains of the small wooden window of my cave, I witnessed the most magical thing I had ever seen in my life: Dozens of hot air balloons were in the air, some so close to my hobbit cave tower, I felt like I could touch the baskets – if only I could have fit my arm through the tiny window. The sun was just rising. It was magnificent.

Something was shifting in me, and the day had barely started. We immediately decided to stay another night. There was more to discover in this strange little place in the middle of Turkey. The whole region felt like one big open-air museum. So, we hiked in the heat, fled into caves in the valleys to cool down. We ate like royalty — and then I fell in love.

Encouraged by the magic of the place, I decided to awaken the inner horse girl who had been trapped in my big-city woman’s body and take a ride through the volcanic valleys. The horses not only make for one of the many activities in Cappadocia, but they are so valued, the ancients named the region after them. Cappadocia’s old name is “Katpatuka,” which means “The Land of the Beautiful Horses.” And I met one of those horses that afternoon.

Elif is a full breed Arabian horse. She had been a racing horse once, a champion, my guide Musa told me as we began our ride. At the top of Red Valley, Musa stopped in front of me. All of Cappadocia was under our horses’ feet, and my day ended just the way it started — with me catching my breath at the sight of this otherworldly experience.

Five years later, I am writing this, sitting at my desk in Cappadocia. Yes, I live here now. I came back here six months after the trip with my brother. I decided to buy my own horse and have Musa take care of it for me along with his horse, Elif. Three years ago, the both of us opened a horse ranch together. We named it “Katpatuka.” In 2020, I spent a sabbatical year in Cappadocia, and in 2021, I quit my fulltime job and made a fulltime move.

I left my ego in Berlin and brought my leather boots here for this new chapter of my life. I believe there is a place for everyone that is their geographical soulmate. Cappadocia is mine. And I am glad we fell in love with each other.

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