I may have appeared a bit negative in my last entry. I feel anything but negative about my decision to travel for 12 months, however, I also knew that there were going to be times when I would find it difficult. It is par of the course. It’s interesting that I felt a bit down in a resort where I was actually having a rest. However, for all the benefits of staying in Antalya I think lying around a lot doing nothing was actually difficult for me because as soon as I was on the road again, I felt so much better. I’m not really sure what that is about, however it was a temporary lapse of reason. The day before moving on to the next place I also tend to feel a little anxious. Not including the first 10 days when I was in a group I have now moved to 9 different areas in 3 countries and slept in 16 different beds in just over 3 months. One would think that I’d be used to it by now! Ironically, the last day I was in Antalya, a man working at the lift to the ‘beach’ said to me “You are perfect. You smile all the time. Don’t ever change” (he was not hitting on me). This is someone who deals with tourists every single day. So I will continue to smile and be friendly as this is who I am (when I’m not stressy, or grumpy, or sulking, or angry or feeling down! 😆).
So I arrive in Konya bus terminal after a 7 hour bus ride with no food or pee breaks and get a taxi to my hotel. My hotel was about a minute walk from the famous Mevlana Mosque and Museum. I ended up upgrading to a better room as the room I booked was slightly bigger than a king single bed! The guy gave me a pretty good deal so I’m ok with that however I think my desire to sleep cheap and rough has been eradicated by being spoilt in Antalya! Adaptation is an interesting, and very quick, process! I head off for something to eat as I hadn’t eaten since an early breakfast to find that it is still Ramadan (which I thought had finished!) so I had to wait until 8.20pm (or thereabouts) to enjoy a set menu (soup, Turkish pizza and rice pudding – all local food) overlooking the Mevlana Mosque amongst locals breaking their fast. It was pretty cool. A guy stopped me in the street when I was returning to my hotel and asked where I was from and then told me about the free Whirling Dervishes show at the cultural centre (which I had read about but then forgot about…as I do!). So off I go to watch. The Whirling Dervish is an Islamic tradition where the Sufi men perform a religious dance called the Sema and is iconic to Konya. It was pretty interesting and I’m glad that I was able to see it as it is only performed on Saturday nights. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity and very grateful to that man.
The section of Konya that I was in (as there are a number of sections) is obviously more conservative than Istanbul and Antalya, however, I didn’t feel any discomfort walking the streets and smiling at people. There were a lot of reactions to my presence as I am rather obvious and there didn’t appear to be a lot of tourists around. Many people smiled at me when I smiled at them. There was also a lot of staring, however, I’m now used to this (it was common in India and Nepal) so I just smile and say hello which usually gets a positive response. Breakfast was provided by the hotel and I attempted to chat the the guys working in the kitchen. The cook, who didn’t speak English showed me his phone with a translated message which said… “you are a very sweet lady”… awww. It was so sweet! He then said that I had positive energy. So in this very conservative city my behaviour was not seen as inappropriate but as positive so I’m going with that!
The owner of the hotel invited me to sit with him for Turkish coffee a couple of times. We talked about a number of things and his political views were obviously more right wing than mine however it was nice to chat. I asked him about the hotel which specified that non-married couples could not stay in the same room. He told me that he requests proof of marriage as well because when the names are put in the computer it goes to the police and they check. I’m not sure if there are legal reasons however from what he said, it can cause trouble for the hotels. It’s a bit too big brotherish for me! However it doesn’t appear to apply to international tourists.
The lack of tourists was obvious. A man I met on the street who wanted to show me around told me that tourism in Konya decreased dramatically after the bombings a few years ago. That is why he said he wanted to show me around (until we ended up at his carpet shop of course!). There has been a lot of unrest and even deaths since 2015 when the capital of Turkey, Ankara, was bombed, and there have been some arrests in Konya of alleged terrorists. It’s a pity that tourists are not going to Konya as Konya is a beautiful, clean city with some amazing Mosques (there are so many of them!) and a lot of parks and beautiful gardens. When I was doing my wandering (as I do) I came upon a market where the guys were so excited to see a tourist! They didn’t even try and sell me anything. I think they saw it as an indication that tourists are coming back. Tourism is so important to this city.
The foremost tourist attraction for me was the tomb of Mevlana Rumi, the Sufi poet which was in the Mevlana Museum. I think most people are aware of who Rumi is. His poetry is iconic. I love Rumi poetry so it was definitely interesting for me to be in Konya. It is interesting that although Rumi was a Muslim totally dedicated to his Islamic believe, his poetry, which is an expression of his spiritual insights and growth, is loved across the globe. Rumi was born in Afghanistan in 1207 and moved to Konya where he became a Sufi teacher and then started writing his poetry. He died in Konya in 1273 and his memory and legacy lives on there.
I was in Konya during an interesting time in the Islamic calendar. It was the last few days of Ramadan and then the celebration. There is a holiday period after Ramadan finishes which lasts for 3 days. On the first day people spend time with their families celebrating and eating. I’ve been told that it is like our Christmas. The market area was very busy for the first 2 days I was there, as although no one was eating, they were preparing for the end of Ramadan. When Ramadan finished, the shops were all closed and the streets were very quiet (like Christmas) and only a few corner shops and a couple of restaurants were open. I enjoyed Konya and it’s beauty however was happy to move onto my next adventure in the Cappadocia region which, as adversed to Konya, is supposed to be incredibly touristy but absolutely amazing.