A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Monday, July 13, 2009

Konya, Turkey

We took our first overnight bus ride from Bodrum to Konya. It was a pretty nice deluxe bus and should be considering it was as expensive as a room for the night. I was ultra prepared with neck rest, earplugs, and eye mask. Poor Ron didn’t wear pants and was freezing, using my sweater as a tiny insufficient blanket. They aren’t kidding about the air conditioning. We stopped at a rest stop around 3am and I got to experience my first squatty potty which cost one lira for the privilege and was thankfully uneventful, a good idea I wore a skirt.

We were exhausted when we arrived and had an incorrect map of the city so thought we could walk but got directed by a Konyan student to a dolmus which is a local bus that is so named like the stuffed grape leaves because they wait until they are filled up to leave and stuff em full inside.

We road it all the way to the only landmark we knew of in the city and the reason for our stopover, the Mevlana museum and burial place of Jelaleddin Rumi.

As he is founder of the Mevlevi, or order of the Whirling Dervishes, it is an important site for Muslims, and many pilgrims from all over Turkey come to visit. I even got to smell a box that contained the prophet Mohammed’s beard hair. Mmmm. Rumi has been my favorite poet since discovering him in college, so it was an important visit for me as well.

These words I’m saying so much begin to lose meaning:

existence, emptiness, mountain, straw: words

and what they try to say swept

out the window, down the slant of the roof.

We decided to stay in a cheap place for the night nearby the museum and had our first zero-star accommodation. Lots of firsts in Turkey! The hotel, if you can stretch to even use the word in the same sentence, was run by a beaming older gentlemen, as smelly and dusty as the carpets run absentmindedly up the stairs and hiding centuries of god-knows-what underneath. The only room we could stomach didn’t smell like an ashtray and had a scary little bathroom ensuite with a metal door you roll shut and a bare metal bulb you pray wouldn’t flicker out on you. I would call it insane asylum chic. Unfortunately the photos don’t convey quite the griminess of the place where neither of us would walk barefoot, use the shower, or climb under the covers. It did cross my mind that our good deal of 15 bucks would have “made Jonathan proud” but that may have been the only redeeming factor along with as much free cay we could drink.

Konya is the most conservative and devout Muslim city in Turkey so the prayers blare out of the mosques 5 times a day like clockwork. This video was taken outside of Serefeddin Mosque and Ron actually jumped a little when the singing starts, its that loud.

There are a lot of women in head to toe covering and its absolutely astounding their resolve to wear a heavy jacket over pants, a headscarf, and sometimes even gloves in the suffocating hot weather. Being a women here I do feel a little less important. With the men shaking only Ron’s hand, talking to him instead of to both of us, and if I’m without my headscarf (like when I was “just off the bus”) feeling the stares. But I have never felt disrespected. This is just how it is here.

One of my biggest preconceived notions was the attitudes of the Turkish people I thought slightly hostile mainly due to the sentiments of other people in the region. Boy was I wrong. Turks are some of the most welcoming, hospitable people I have ever met. Unexpectedly helpful, unfailingly sincere, and curious about strangers from strange lands. Americans rarely interact with strangers unless it’s the barista at Starbucks, but to the Turks a visitor is a guest to offer help, a cup of tea, or simply some conversation. The people here make the country special, and have made the travels worth it so far.


Rocky & Suzette July 19, 2009 at 6:20 PM  

Hello Folks,
checking out leap is like watching my favorite reality show that has actors that I Know and love. (a lot)
Not only is the writing great but the pictures look like they came from National Geographic!
I'm glad the turks are treating you so well. I bet they are just as interested in learning about you and your culture.
I kind of like the Squatty Potty, do you think they sell them in the states?

Alison July 22, 2009 at 6:53 PM  

You may say that Rocky, but I bet not Sue!

I would also stick with your chic and hygienic bidet you have over the bucket of questionable water you get beside this hole in the ground...

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