The Kas–Konya leg of our travels was an 11 hour haul. Three and a half hours in a dolmus took us to the Antalya bus station, a vast space where it cost half a Turkish lira for a bottle of water and a whole Turkish lira for a piss. We ate, and attended to other bodily needs. The Art Student, who was under the weather, ate carefully. Then we hopped on a proper bus for close to six hours, stopping a couple of times, one of them at a town famous for its roasted chickpeas. These are said to be good for an upset stomach, so I bought a small packet. The Art Student turned up her nose at them, and when I had a nibble I turned mine up too. Once we reached Konya – the first Selçuk Turk capital and the home of Celalleddin Rumi Mevlana (in Turkey Mevlana, in the West Rumi) – it was just a quick 20 minute ride in another dolmus and we were being greeted with glasses of Turkish fizzy drink at the Mevlana Hotel. (I’m typing this on the next leg of the journey: about 20 minutes on our way, one of us realised she had left her purse back at the hotel; we turned back, but for some reason couldn’t get through; in response to a phone call a man from the hotel brought the purse to us on his bicycle. This isn’t just good service, it’s a whole ethos of hospitality.)
On our first evening, we squeezed in a visit to a felt shop before dinner. Despite my impatient stomach, I was fascinated as the Argentinian owner of the shop demonstrated her techniques. Her Turkish husband had learned the craft from his grandfather, who had learned from his father, and back for generations. The craft had been close to dying out, but they are staging a revival, partly by introducing modern designs. All the same, the most interesting part of the show was the demonstration of how to make the hats worn by dervishes. Characteristically, there was no pressure to buy, though some of us did buy a hanging or a silk and wool scarf.
The fabulous Burak explained at dinner that there are two sides to Konya, the conservative side where women have to cover their shoulders and knees, and the other side. He called them the Allah side and the yalla side, a witticism he sadly had to explain to his ignorant charges (yalla in Arabic means lets go!). We had the option of exploring the yalla side after dinner, and I believe some did, especially as it was the night of the Euro Cup final – though I wouldn’t want to assert that the Allah side of town is indifferent to football. The Art Student and I took her queasy digestive system back to the hotel where we watched some Turkish TV, and an episode or two of things from home on the iPad, including Clarke and Daweon possible solutions to Australia’s asylum seekers stalemate.
Next morning, we visited the Mevlana Museum, which as far as I understand it is the original building where Rumi established the Mevlevi dervish sect. Maybe twenty tiny rooms, perhaps once cells if the Sufis, held objects connected to the sect’s history, but the main attraction was the building itself, which contains the tomb of Rumi and a number of other leaders of the sect. We had visited a Sufi museum in Istanbul and attended a whirling ceremony in Bursa, so we had some background. The tomb is gorgeous, but the room where they whirled is sublime, with a high decorated dome that could bear being looked at for hours. Most impressive of all, though, was the crowd: school holidays are just beginning, and we were there just as the museum opened, but the press of respectfully attentive people – old and young, traditionally dressed and scarved just for the occasion, an all-women coachload, a group of teenage boys and family groups, Turks, Arabs and us – was wondrous, all the more so when the bulk of the objects on display and most of the wall decorations consisted of calligraphy in Arabic, which I’m guessing most of the people there don’t read easily. Among the tiny and enormous illuminated Qurans in the final room, there were a number of poetry books from the seventeenth century, with delicate representational illustrations.
Then we just had time for lunch and we were on our way again. As I type this we are about to stop at a caravanserai – evidently there used to be one every 40 kilometers, because that’s how far a camel can travel in a day. I’ll post again after our adventures in Kapadokya, the land of well-bred horses and fairy chimneys.