A Turkish Ranch Holiday.
For a riding holiday with hotel type service this one takes some beating. The owner of the Berke Ranch first contacted me by e-mail as I sat at my computer sheltering from a bitter Scottish Winter wind. As you might imagine, I needed no second invitation to take a Winter break to inspect his centre as a possible candidate for inclusion with those that Equiworld feels happy to recommend.
In Summer it is easy to fly direct to the town of Antalya which is almost direct, but in Winter I had to fly to and change at Istanbul. Haluk Ergin met me at the airport and during the 40 minute drive to his ranch, he proved to be a charming chap with a good command of English, not to mention German, Russian and of course Turkish. As we drove along the coast I got my first view of this ancient land. There is no doubt that if you like neat tidy countries where everything is as orderly as toy-town, then Turkey is probably not for you. By the end of my stay it was to be those very contrasts that were to provide me with rich fond memories that I would take home and cherish. The smells, the noises, sights and tastes, combined with the sun, the horses, and the naturally hospitable Turkish people.
Near the seaside town of Keymer we turned off to travel inland for the last few kilometres up a rough and bumpy road to our final destination, The Berke Ranch. A rough road maybe, but what a setting, and what a powerful view with the mountains backdrop and two huge magnificent rocks standing like ancient and silent sentinels guarding the valley entrance for all time. This was truly an impressive setting where the very mountains seemed to marry with the skies. After being well received into my apartment, my further investigation proved the ranch to be well built, well kept, clean and orderly.
Hospitality and service.
Again, they scored a good eight if not ten, I suppose it depends what you are used to, but I found everyone keen to help me and easy but not over familiar in their manner. This was true from the hotel and restaurant staff to those who attended rooms or in the stables.
This ran from very simple twin rooms with showers, built close to the swimming pool, to larger rooms and finally to the apartment with it's own kitchen which I stayed in. All were well appointed and there was a good supply of hot water, fluffy towels and equally fluffy blankets. In short, not palatial but all in all, very comfortable.
Stable staff and Horses.
It was therefore no surprise to me that Marcus an English speaking German (thank god) who was in charge of the yard was a caring horseman who also expected his staff to care well for his horses. The tack was well fitted and serviceable for the purpose and I rode every horse in turn. Of course, the same horses may not be there when you go but here are details of the ones I rode.
Cakide (pronounced Ja-keeday)
A nice quiet 15 hand grey mare with a narrow grip, a nice canter if a little stiff behind.
Akide. (Pronounced A-keeday)
A youngish 5 year old, keen but had good potential.
Strong 5 year old Hafflinger mare. 14.1 but strong and keen.
Skewbald mare 13.3- 14.hands. 6 years old but can be lively.
6 year old Arab mare. Doesn't like working in the paddock but good outside.
14 hand, 6 year old chestnut mare. Clean, fresh, goes in outline. Good lifting canter.
Very quiet and slow enough to suit the most nervous beginner (still asleep;-)
15.2 black mare typical thoroughbred racehorse type. Strong and likes to go but not a hothead would suit an experienced rider.
15 hands dark bay. Nice ride and again of the thoroughbred type.
The riding and instruction.
The first bit of the ride away from the stables reminds you (and your nose) that this is still a wild country and the forest tracks vary from rough and stony to good to canter and gallop on. On your rides you may do as we did and call in at another stable midway and have a cool drink. The horses are shod with wide bar shoes which helps to protect the soles of their feet from bruising on the hard surfaces and the forest canopy gives some shade from the strength of the sun. If you are not used to mountains, you will be amazed by these rides.
Other things to do
There is much for a family to do with the swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball or mountain bikes for the more active and billiards cards or sunbathing for those who need a rest. A short trip into Keymer brings you to a busy seaside town where there are a million things to buy. The leatherwork is fantastic! And not only cheap by most standards but much of it worked in a most sensitive way to create garments of style and quality. Suitcases and everything made from leather abound as do carpets of every description. In short there is every kind of shop you might want. As to bargaining, well I would say that the Turkish people are less aggressive than many, but you can still bet your socks that there will be 20, 30 or even 40% off the price to be bargained for.
This part of Turkey has a lot to offer for those who are interested in history, as it has been the border between the cultures of East and West for centuries. Many remains from the Roman period of Pax Romanus still stand in surprisingly good condition although a car would be needed to visit most of them. Or if you prefer you could take a sailing boat trip from Keymer around the coast to see Mount Olympus where there are Roman remains and fire flares eternally from the very earth. Of course if not all the family ride, there is fishing and scuba diving as well or you might simply want to take a 4 x 4 safari high up into the mountains where the views are simply breathtaking.
Funny little things caught my attention, such as the sounds of the mosques at prayer time and the fine gay songs of the little birds as we rode through the dappled sunlight in the mountain woods.
On the riding side, it will suit very well unless you are looking for big horses or jumping or instruction at a higher level. For a holiday where the whole family want to just ride out for pleasure, be well fed and accommodated and mix it with shopping and other activities and adventures it would be absolutely great, in fact you might even meet me there.
Find out about Holidays at Berke Ranch in 2001!
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