Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Turkey


In Konya we stayed in the three star Hotel Rumi. This was the biggest place we stayed in on the trip, and the only one with staff in uniform, but not the most expensive (Istanbul and Ankara were more expensive). Strangely, it was the only place I had trouble getting the wireless Internet access to work, though after some fiddling with the DHCP settings it did.

Konya old and new, from Alaadin's Hill: a 25 year old protective shield over Byzantine walls, the Karakoy Tile Museum (a Seljuk medrese), and Konya's one real skyscraper
In the evening we wandered down Mevlana Caddesi to Alaadin's Hill. Outside the mosque at the top we met Sabri, a retired government economic/commercial director who spends his days talking to tourists. We had tea with him and then he took us somewhere Gabi and he could have a beer. This is not so easy in Konya, where the local government is anti-alcohol — our hotel "mini-bar" has nothing stronger than coca-cola in it! He gave us good advice on what to see and was fun to talk to, so we arranged to meet up with him again the next day for a trip out to Sille.

On the way back to the hotel we ran into a rug salesman, who spoke good English and managed to get us into his shop and Gabi as far as asking how much a small rug was... But we managed to escape with just his business card. He also pointed us towards a good place to get dinner, where I had one of the local specialities, firin kebap, which consists of very soft, nicely fatty lamb with a kind of local bread.

Wednesday 26th May

the Mevlana Museum, from the Rumi Hotel
We started the morning visiting the Mevlana Museum, which is where Mevlana Rumi is buried. This is the biggest attraction in Konya, bringing both tourists and worshippers, and it was quite crowded. There are displays of artifacts related to Rumi and the Mevlevi dervish order he founded, but these seem to have been bulked out by fairly random donations, with a lot of rugs and illustrated Korans.

After that we walked down Mevlana Caddesi to the Karatay Tile Museum, which is small but has a nice display of Seljuk ceramics and tiles in a restored building which is itself lovely (it was one of the medrese in which Rumi taught). We did a quick pass by the lovely carvings on the front of the Ince Minaret Medrese, and then climbed up to the Alaadin Mosque to meet Sabri.

The three of us caught a bus up to Selle, a village up in the hills which used to be Greek. There's a lovely little Byzantine church here, supposedly built in the 4th century by Constantine's mother Helena. It was closed for renovations, unfortunately, but the outside was quite striking and not like any other church I've seen. There are also some old cave houses in Sille, and it's quite a pretty village. (There are newer buildings down the hill, including a posh private English-medium high school.)

Sille Church

Gabi in the rug shop
Back in Konya, Sabri took us to a rug shop, which turned out to be the same one we'd visited the previous night. There the rug Gabi had decided to buy turned into three rugs, with an adroit sales pitch from Nazif, and I picked up one myself. This ended up involving a taxi trip with all four of us out to a little TNT office in the suburbs to post our purchases to the UK.

a small mosque
Sabri then took us a to a quiet kebap place where we got to try the other Konya speciality, etli ekmet. This is very similar to kiymali pide, but done on a flat and slightly crunchy bread rather than on pide. Then we did the tour of the assorted museums south of Alaadin's Hill, which have some interesting items but aren't particularly notable. (We skipped the Archaeology Museum, since everything of note is apparently in the museum in Ankara, if not in Berlin, Paris, or London.)

Then I had a shave in a barber shop — a full-on experience! — while Gabi went to the rug shop to listen to Nazif's father playing music. When I met Nazif on the street outside I asked him if Gabi had bought any more rugs, and he said "no, but I think she will buy one more", and lo and behold he managed to sell her another one while I looked on and admired his technique.

Konya is supposed to be Turkey's most conservative city, but the town centre in the evening was one of the more fashionable places we saw in Turkey. There were certainly more women wearing headscarves than in Selcuk or Bergama, but full burkas were less common than they are in East Oxford. The headscarves are brightly coloured and while the older women favour the long shapeless "manteau" the younger ones tend to fitted jackets, dresses, jeans, heels, and even makeup.

There were also plenty of women without any kind of headcovering, some of them dressed quite nicely. I even saw one woman in something approaching a minidress — though I also noticed that she was literally turning heads, with the men walking past swivelling to follow her. It was more conservative when we went out of the centre, but overall Konya seemed less religious than the Old City area of Istanbul we were in at the beginning of the trip. In any event, if this is Turkey's "Koran Belt", it's more like Sydney having a "Bible Belt", not anything remotely like Iran or Saudi Arabia. (I think eastern Turkey is actually the most conservative part of the country.)

Sabri was a CHD supporter - a party activist as a student - so pretty scathing about the wearing of headscarves. He was a mine of information about Konya and Turkey and the details of his own life were fascinating. (He had worked as some kind of director of commercial enterprise, who was rotated between provinces every three years to try to reduce corruption.) If you're ever visiting Konya and want a guide, just visit Alaadin's Mosque and look out for a friendly older man with a few missing teeth.

Thursday 27th May

We had booked an 11 o'clock bus to Goreme, so we had an hour or more after breakfast to wander the streets before catching a taxi to the bus station.

feeding the pigeons
a family group, sitting

One of the men at reception quite openly moonlights as a private taxi driver — he told us that he only earns 600 lira a month at the hotel and that with two children, one of them starting primary school, that wasn't enough.

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