15 to 17 March 2018
From Finike we embarked on our most epic of roadtrips so far – a 1500 km round trip to the wierd and wonderful landscapes of Cappadocia. To break up the long drive for Stefan we planned two stopovers on the way there, at Antalya and Konya.
We had free tickets for the Antalya Boat Show from the marina so had an excuse for stopping in the main city of the area and in Konya we were going in search of the mysterious whirling dervishes.
Having been thoroughly underwhelmed by the boat show but having found our replacement beanbag, Clarence 2.0, in the busy streets of sprawling modern Antalya, we made our way to the old town.
We quickly found ourselves a hotel for the night in its cobbled, pedestrian only maze of streets near Hadrian’s Gate, built to celebrate the Roman emperor’s visit to the city in 130AD.
We realised quickly that we have been so spoilt by old towns that it takes a lot to live up to the likes of Alghero and Monemvasia. Many old Ottoman mansions had been rather over enthusiastically restored whilst others grew derelict but there were enough quirky corners, like this bookshop, to satisfy our curiosity.
Having been woken by the call to prayer most days since arriving in Turkey, we found the 18th century mosque Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Camii a good place to broaden our understanding of Islam. A series of information boards outside explains ithe basic tenets of this often misunderstood faith and its relationships with Christianity and Judaism. Its minaret seemed to lean a little when viewed from a distance!
Knowing we had archeological treats in store in Cappadocia and not wanting to overload Stefan with yet more ruins, I thought that the Manavgat waterfalls might be a pleasant nature stop on day 2 of our drive. Swollen with melting snow from the mountains the water was more noisy, foaming torrent than fall. The lower viewing area was completely subsumed.
We did not exactly find splendid isolation at this beauty spot. 5 coach loads of suited men taking selfies joined us and the waterfall side McDonalds somewhat ruined the scene!
We enjoyed a much more traditional Turkish lunch at a roadside café further along the way. Gözleme is a pancake sandwich filled with cheese or herbs or potato and they are the perfect vegetarian snack food.
Our journey was made smoother and quicker than we had imagined by the excellent wide Turkish roads with barely any traffic on them. I did caution Stefan about overtaking this police car but given its age we thought we would probably get away with it! The mountains we were going to have to cross to reach Konya loomed closer and closer.
At its highest the road took us up to 1825 metres and into the snow. Thankfully there was none on the roads but my footwear was a little inappropriate for our photo opportunity stop!
Dropping down to 1027 metres onto the Anatolian Plateau, the city of Konya spread out before us.
A holy city of pilgrimage for Muslims, Konya is a very conservative but beautiful place with its shrine to the philosopher, Mevlâna at its heart.
It is also a bustling and very lived in city with one of the biggest and best bazaars we have been to. Divided into areas by products, there is nothing that you cannot buy there. You can pick up a milking machine alongside some underpants, an evening outfit for her and him and some leeches for who knows what!?
There were also all kinds of edible goodies – dates, figs and nougat.
We generally avoid making tourism out of other people’s faiths and tend not to visit active places of worship but to understand a bit more about Mevlâna and the ritual dance of the whirling dervishes we decided to go into the Mevlâna Museum, a mosque housing his tomb. It was a decision we soon regretted for all the reasons we choose not to visit such places in the first place. We were joined in our visit by hundreds of mostly Turkish pilgrims, a few very devout but most selfie stick baring tourists jostling for the best view of Mevlâna’s tomb. Those devout followers trying to pray to the memory of their spiritual leader were elbowed and interrupted. Not wishing to add to this disturbance of their devotions we made our way quickly out.
We found more tranquil places to think about Mevlâna’s philosophy in the higgledy piggledy graveyard and in the tiles of another nearby mosque. We did, however, think that the tiler who made the boo boo in one of the patterns should probably get the sack!
After our experience at the Mevlâna Museum we were slightly concerned about going to see the whirling dervishes that night. This Mevlevi worship ceremony is a big tourist draw and takes place in an enormous theatre every Saturday but we were encouraged by Mevlâna’s teachings on tolerance and acceptance of others. “Come, whoever you may be. Even if you may be infidel, a pagan, or a fire worshipper, come.” So we did and again joined an audience of mainly Turkish tourists to watch. As proceedings were conducted entirely in Turkish we weren’t able to understand a lot but understand it or not, the chanting from the Koran and the hypnotic whirling of the dervishes was both beautiful and mesmerizing and kept us enthralled for an hour and a half. Dizzy with following the dervishes round and round and round for so long we left happy that we had experienced their devotions.
The following morning we got up for the last leg of our drive to a different kind of spiritual experience in Cappadocia and our date with a fairy chimney…