Home Of The Whirling Dervish

Konya Travel Blog

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Trudging through the snowy mountains (taken through a wet window)

The bus ride from Antalya was a wake up call that it was still winter. It wasn't too long after departing the bus station when we hit rain, which turned to sleet and then snow. At the top of the mountains, we passed cars, trucks and buses that had skidded into snowbanks or otherwise were incapacitated, but we trudged on. In some places I would guess the snowfall measured 10 centimeters or more, and the road signs even had horizontal accumulation to a couple inches. The surrounding forests were carpeted with a thick, beautiful snow cover, but it made for treacherous driving. After four hours without stopping, we finally made it through the snow and down the mountain to the uninspring city of Seydişehir for a much needed pit stop.

Downtown Konya

I arrived in Konya earlier than expected and waited at the bus station for Hakan to get off work and meet me. I took advantage of the tıime to have a bowl of soup and some tea. Konya is most famous as the final resting place for Celaleddin Rumi, better known in Turkey as Mevlâna, a Sufi scholar whose followers created the order of the whirling dervish and its famous semâ dance. Perhaps as a result, Konya is widely known to be one of the most conservative cities in Turkey. However, the new Konya is growing exponentially as a major manufacturing center in Turkey and as such is attracting many people from all over Turkey.

The Alaaddin Mosque
It's a mixture of old meets new and I ended up really liking the city. Conveniently enough, Hakan's family lives about 10 minutes from the bus station, which is about 15 kilometers from the center of the city. Konya is one of the most spread-out cities in Turkey but is served by an efficient and frequent tramway system.

Hakan's family prepared another good meal with new foods for me and we ended up just hanging out all evening. Hakan's work schedule had changed and he had to go back to work at 10pm to work the night shift. He was in for a long night! After he left, his parents watched television while I checked email and everyone was in bed by midnight. The next morning the parents left early and I slept until about 8:30. Hakan came home at 9am and we had breakfast together. He was a little zombified from the all-nighter and decided to go to bed while I went downtown and did my sightseeing, which was fine with me.

Spiritually satisfied at the Mevlâna Museum/Mausoleum
It was super easy to take the tram directly to Alaaddin Hill, the site of an ancient mosque and the ruins of an old Seljuk tower. From there I walked down the main street, past mosques and shops directly to the Mevlâna mausoleum and museum. The unique conical blue dome continued to capture my attention, again complementing the memories of all the Timurid architecture I'd seen in Central Asia.

The visit to the mausoleum was like another pilgrimage, especially having visited the Naqshbandi mausoleum in Uzbekistan, another Sufi connection. This connected the beginning and ending of my travels, and was very meaningful. In addition the mausoleum was beautiful, and it contained several tombs of various dervishes. In the background, soft ney (flute) music was playing and really set the atmosphere.

Fountain at Mevlâna museum
Most of the tombs contained an ornamental turban at the head of the tomb. The building containing the mausoleum was like a mosque and served as the museum itself, containing many artifacts from the dervishes such as clothing, musical instruments and several stylized Qur'ans. Actually the Qur'ans were amazingly detailed and beautiful, some with gilded lettering, on parchment paper, and of varying sizes. There were also small agate stones with Qur'anic verses carved into them. Also on display were hand-woven prayer rugs and carpets, and an ornamental box containing fragments of the Prophet Muhammed's beard. There were several Turkish tourists and other Mevlâna devotees at the museum, and it was inspiring to watch their reactions at seeing the artifacts. They were clearly amazed and happy to be able to see them. I couldn't take photographs but instead purchased a booklet about the museum, life and works of Mevlâna.
The bad boys of Sille
 He was a man of strong spirituality and believed in the unity of people, regardless of beliefs. My favorite of his sayings, I think, sums up the philosophy of his movement:

     "Come, come, whoever you are, come! Heathen, fire-worshipper or idolator, come! Come even if you have broken your penitence hundred times. Ours is the door of hope, come as you are."

So I am not converting to Sufism but I really respect the philosophy. I wish world leaders would consider this saying before entering into senseless wars. After the Mevlâna visit, I ate lunch at a restaurant downtown that advertised the local favorite food, etliekmek, which was a type of Turkish pizza and very good.

Rock houses in Sille village
I got a tip from my friends to visit the nearby village of Sille so I decided to do that rather than walk around Konya more, since I'd already seen the best thing in town.

It was a short bus ride to a sleepy village 10 kilometers outside of town. As I walked up the hill from the bus stop in Sille, a group of boys followed me. They could have been up to some mischief but I think they just got bored with me after awhile. The weather had turned cloudy and the village was coated with a gray and white from the snow. It was as quiet as a mouse, with hardly anyone stirring except for the kids. I walked around the silent streets, soaking up the atmosphere and rustic façades of the houses. Overlooking the village were hills with carved windows and doors, a good prelude to what I would see in Cappadocia.

Smiling in Sille
I climbed up and inside a few of them before returning to Konya before nightfall. I had to dodge some snowballs a couple other bored boys were throwing at me, but it was certainly worth a detour to the peaceful little town. Thanks, Berengère, for the recommendation!

In the meantime Hakan called to tell me he was going with his folks to visit some relatives in a nearby village if I wanted to come, so I met them near a tram stop and we drove to the outskirts of Konya. The house was very cold but the family and the room we retreated to were warm! We sat around watching television and Hakan's little cousin, Beyaza, who was at first shy and then pranced around the room with her new shawl to get attention. Little did I know that what was next would be my favorite meal in Turkey and for sure the best in the last three months. It was a multi-course meal consisting of mixed green salad, lentil and bean soup, pickled vegetables, spicy vegetable mix, something like swiss steak and potatoes (but better) and a chicken and mushroom dish that was so good. Of course there was yogurt and a fresh bread that I hadn't seen before. For dessert, we had halva, Turkish tira misu and aşure, a traditional fruit soup that is prepared during Bayram and usually given to the poor or shared with neighbors. Everything was full of unique flavors and I had to stop myself from licking the plates clean and begging to stay. After the feast we relaxed with tea and then went back to Konya around 10pm.

We chatted more when we got back and Hakan's mother brought out fresh fruit (apples, pears, persimmons, mandarin oranges and Turkish kiwifruit) and nuts (pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds). Hakan and I stayed up watching cheezy videos on Turkish MTV and I must have fallen asleep dreaming of the scrumptious meal we'd had. That combined with the Mevlâna mausoleum ranks Konya pretty high on my list of favorite places visited.

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Trudging through the snowy mountai…
Trudging through the snowy mounta…
Downtown Konya
Downtown Konya
The Alaaddin Mosque
The Alaaddin Mosque
Spiritually satisfied at the Mevl…
Spiritually satisfied at the Mevl…
Fountain at Mevlâna museum
Fountain at Mevlâna museum
The bad boys of Sille
The bad boys of Sille
Rock houses in Sille village
Rock houses in Sille village
Smiling in Sille
Smiling in Sille
Konya
photo by: herman_munster