Traveling Turkey: Karaman's wild horses

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series of spots of interest in the area. For information on various trips offered on Incirlik AB visit 39FSS.com.

Sometimes the best journeys are off the beaten path and away from the main sites.

While those main sites are definitely worth seeing, you can see real culture and national treasures by taking that road less traveled.

My latest trip with Outdoor Recreation showed that.

The main destination for this trip was to the Karaman Province of Turkey and to see the wild horses that roam the mountains and valleys there.

But before seeing the horses, we made several stops along the way.

We departed from base early in the morning and journeyed northwest into the mountains. Along the way, we noticed a towering cliff with holes in it and a steep path leading up to the cliff. So we pulled the van over to the side of the road.

Our group began to make the trek up to the cliff to check out its cave. Once we climbed up into it, we discovered it was not only someone's old home, it was also a labyrinth. Rooms and doorways were interconnected and there were several floors. A few of us climbed a ladder and explored by flashlight beam.

The view from the cave was outstanding. The rocky entrance overlooked a valley with a small river that weaved between foothills.

Once each room and crevice of the cave was investigated, we ventured down the road until we came to a small town boasting a mosque and storage rooms built into a cliff. It was a quaint little town and gave the feeling you had journeyed back in time to another century.

After this brief stop, we headed back down the path until we came to the town of Karaman, the capital of the Karaman Province. Our first stop in the city was to see a castle in the center of the metropolis.

From the top of the castle wall, you could see across the vast valley to the mountains surrounding the city. It was truly a breathtaking site and a beautiful city.

Once the castle had been adequately stormed, we drove to our hotel. After settling in, we decided to check out a 5-star hotel across town to take advantage of their amenities.

When we arrived, our options were to receive a full spa treatment, swim in the pool and have the hotel's buffet for dinner, or explore nearby and find our own place to eat.

Most chose to receive the spa and buffet. However, myself and another group member decided to check out the local town.

As we wandered around, we came across a giant flea market and decided to meander in. There were all kinds of random goods from kitchen utensils and clothes, to fruits and vegetables. Whatever you could think of, you could find there. I picked out a Turkish soccer jersey and a Turkish tea pot as well as some local fruit from the market.

After dropping off our purchases we headed out on the next adventure - finding a place to eat.

Along the way, we found several little snack stops, ice cream places and even the city museum.

The city of Karaman turned out to be a very beautiful and clean city, perhaps one of the nicest I've been to in Turkey, but we were having trouble finding a restaurant.

After our somewhat unintentional, self-guided tour of Karaman, I spotted a sign that read "lokanta," which means restaurant in Turkish.

So we sauntered over to the lokanta and to the people sitting in front of it. In broken Turkish I asked if they were open. They brought me inside and showed me what they had to eat for the night. It was a giant tray of baked chicken and a pot of something that I couldn't see inside of.

One of the workers then took us outside. I thought he was taking us to one of the tables there, but instead he opened up a side door and pointed up a narrow stairway with no lights.

We hesitantly walked up the stairs and turned the corner. We entered into a room with a few chairs and tables, but the main area had low to the ground tables with a carpeted floor and cushions. I had never seen a Turkish restaurant set up like this. We sat down on the ground and he brought us vegetables, bread and drinks. After a bit, he brought us baked chicken and rice. That chicken was the best I had ever eaten.

After dinner we headed back into town. Since it was later in the evening, crowds were starting to form. Families were walking up and down the city sidewalks and every other shop was a dondurma, Turkish ice-cream, shop. Naturally, I had to grab a scoop as we made our way back to the hotel.

Morning came early as we checked out of our hotel and hit the road. Our first stop was the Region of 1001 Churches. The whole village was built out of ancient city ruins. Some buildings were still used for homes and others used as makeshift pens for the village's many goats. It was easily one of the coolest locations I've seen.

The village mayor met with us and explained that Apostle Paul from the Bible actually visited this area a couple of times during his missionary journeys.

Once we finished traipsing around and enjoying the scenery from the height of the mountain, we headed down the road to see if we could find the legendary wild horses.

It wasn't long before we spotted a herd just above the road on the slope of the hill. We piled out of the van and started snapping photos. We then piled into the van and found a better spot.

Now we could see more horses; however, we were still a good distance away. We slowly snuck down the hill, trying to avoid causing them to run off.

A couple of times as we were crawling down the mountain, we stopped and watched as two horses started brawling. They would kick at each other with their hind legs and stand up to face off like Golden Glove boxers.

Once they settled down, we began to slink down to the horses again. We continued this way until we were about 50 meters away. Eventually, some of them ran off and as we got even closer the remaining left too.

After we made it to where the horses had been, we turned around and hiked back to the van.

Next, we were guided by the mayor to his home in the middle of the valley. There, we were treated to a home-cooked meal. The mayor and his family then took us to their orchard where we were allowed to pick through their trees of apples, red, yellow and sour cherries, peaches and plums to take home.

When we had taken our pick of the finest village fruit, we said our farewells and made our way back.

This trip was one of my most memorable and I attribute that to venturing out. Whether it's a trip to see wild horses or some other trip, taking the road less travelled could make all the difference, it did for me.