Day 10: Sultanhani, Mevlana Museum, Karatay Museum, Catalhoyuk, Konya

This was to be another eventful day with lots to see and do. We left Urgup after our final large buffet breakfast at the hotel. I missed those breakfasts on the rest of the tour. We drove away, leaving Urgup and heading for Konya.

Sultanhani

[Sultanhani Front View]

We travelled along one of the major trade routes of history on the way to Konya, across the Anatolian grasslands, the steppe. Along the way are a number of caravanserai, or han. We stopped at the Sultanhani caravenserai which is the largest in Turkey. You can see that it's pretty huge from the photo, and you can see how thoroughly it dwarfs the bus. A building this size can house quite a few caravans, and a lot of people. It was built in 1229, then restored in 1278 after a fire. This restoration made it the biggest han in Turkey. It was restored again and re-roofed in 1298.

This is a close up of the entranceway to the caravanserai. It's tall enough to allow fully laden camels inside. The carving above the door is pretty impressive, and is one of the main features of this building. At the bottom right, there is a bicycle which you can just barely see. That helps to put the size of the building in perspective. [Entrance to Sultanhani]

Inside the caravanserai, there was a set of steps that go right up to the top of the walls. It looks silly at first - steps that go nowhere - until you realise how high the walls are, and what a great lookout it would be. The view up there is pretty far-reaching and would allow caravans to be spotted from afar and prepared for. And danger. [Inner walls of Sultanhani]

In the middle of the caravanserai is a small mosque. There are steps inside so you can climb up to the top. Some of us climbed up to the top of the mosque for a look round.
[Mosque inside Sultanhani] [Top of the mosque]

Across the road from Sultanhani was the Sultan Restaurant and Kafeterya. We headed across there for a glass of apple tea and to see what souvenirs we could buy. It was more a mini museum than a shop. The guy behind the counter had great fierce moustaches, but was very friendly and very knowledgeable. He sold stamps and he knew the correct rate for postcards to Australia. It was not what the Post Office had told us, but even so, all the postcards that we mailed with insufficient postage still got home. As well as refreshments and stamps, he changed money, sold books, gave advice and was a great trader. You could easily imagine him 400 years earlier, doing exactly the same thing with the same elan. One of the books that Jenny had shown us was Sexual Life of the Ottoman Empire. He had it for sale, so I bought my copy there.

Further along the road to Konya, we stopped at another caravanserai for lunch. This one was smaller, covered and had been made into a restaurant. There were a large number of busloads of tourists all dining there, so it was pretty busy. It was a set menu lunch, and fairly formal.

[Ticket to Sultanhani]

Mevlana Museum

After a longish bus ride, we arrived in Konya. Our first stop was the Mevlana Museum. This is a fully functioning mosque as well as a museum. Konya is the centre of the Sufic mystical practice of the Whirling Dervishes. The Mevlana Museum is the former monastery of the Whirling Dervishes. Now it's a place of pilgrimmage of pious Turks, and about one million Turks a year visit it. [Main building at Mevlana Museum]

We lined up outside, Sebnem bought our tickets and we all trooped inside. As Sebnem was going in, a young Turkish man deliberately bumbed her. She spun around and gave him a mouthful. When you get inside the courtyard, there is a small ablutions fountain, and a couple of tombs. You have to take your shoes off for this visit. We did so, and went through the mosque. The place was full of really fascinating stuff. There were several sarcophagi, covered in gold-embroidered velvet shrouds. There's all sorts of stuff relating to the Dervishes - musical instruments, vestments, prayer mats, books, so much to see. We spent a fair bit of time looking through all this, and then came back outside to the courtyard. [Centre of courtyard at Mevlana Museum]

I desperately needed to visit the toilet, so I rushed off in a hurry while the others looked around the courtyard. The only toilets around were outside the mosque. They were real Turkish style only, and I had forgotten to take toilet paper off the bus. Oh dear. This is where I learnt to do it real Turkish style, cleaning myself with water. It comes to us all, I suppose. This is what I class as really communing with nature, when you have to investigate areas best left undiscovered. Oh well. I rushed back into the courtyard and found that Anne was worrying about me for taking so long. Learning new techniques takes time. She and the others had discovered a kiosk in the courtyard where they were selling all sorts of books. Most of the books were sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and were very cheap. We bought a huge book about decorated pages of the Koran and the calligraphy used, and it only cost $15 US. [Side of Mevlana Museum]

[Ticket to Mevlana Museum] [Ticket to Mevlana Museum]

Karatay Museum

Back into the bus, and we drove to the Karatay Museum. This little museum is part of a Seljuk theological seminary. It houses a beautiful collection of ceramics and tiles. When you're inside, you look up at the top of the dome and see beautiful tiles. It's got lots of little nooks and crannies, all stuffed with beautiful examples of plates and tiles, and blue figured very prominently. Afterwards, we walked across the road and there on the corner was a crushed ruin. I don't know what it was a ruin of, but it was just a tossed away ruin on a corner that no-one cared about it. [Karatay Museum]

Catalhoyuk

On the bus over the last few days, we had been discussing if there was anything extra anyone wanted to see. Chris had mentioned Catalhoyuk several times and we had some time to spare, so we went to Catalhoyuk. This was outside Konya, so we had to leave the city. Mustafa wasn't sure where it was, but we followed directions and got lost. The road had been dug up for a new irrigation system and all the landmarks were gone. Eventually Mustafa found Catalhoyuk, but he wasn't a very happy man. We had to travel over a lot of dusty unsealed roads, and the bus had suffered. It needed a new oil filter and few other repairs. He wasn't happy because he had to pay for the repairs. Later that day we took up a collection and raised about $150 US, enough to pay for the filter and the repairs. That cheered Mustafa up a bit.

[Sign at entrance to
Catalhoyuk]

Catalhoyuk is the site of a Neolithic town. It is the oldest town excavated, dating from around 6000 BC. It's a town that's almost 8,000 years old. The walls of the houses were all connected. There were no streets in the town. if you wanted to move around, you walked over the flat tops of the houses. There were no city walls, and it's presumed the walls of the outermost houses served as city walls. A fair bit of excavation has been done, and we had already seen some of the artifacts from Catalhoyuk at the Anatolian Civilisations Museum in Ankara.

We had missed the archaeologists by a week, and the season was over. The site was deserted except for the caretaker and a very lonely cat. We walked around the open dig, then went inside a large tent and looked at the dig inside there. After a quick look at that, we were shown inside the main building, which served as a mini-museum as well as the scientific centre of the dig. [Outside dig at Catalhoyuk]

The mini-museum was well organised and it had maps and reconstructions of the town, the history of the dig, and photos of the items found. There were a number of statuettes of the Neolithic Mother Goddess. [Carving found at Catalhoyuk]

Unknown Village

We left Catalhoyuk and drove back to Konya. On the way, we stopped at a little village for drinks. It was small and rural and quiet and way off the beaten tourist track. On top of many of the houses were huge storks nests. Shortly after we arrived, schoolm was let out and we were rushed by a mob of schoolchildren. They wanted to talk and exercise their small English, and they were so bright and happy and cheerful and enthusiastic. We chatted a little with them as wel walked around.

[Kids at small village on
way back to Konya]

Konya

Finally, late in the afternoon, we got back to Konya and we had the chance to book into our hotel. Mustafa drove us to a very busy roundabout and then stopped. Our hotel was on the roundabout in the centre of Konya. Anne and I got a corner room overlooking the street, and I'll say it again, that street was busy. The room was a bit old-fashioned, and the bathroom had a strange hip-bath type of arrangement. Anne was overjoyed with this and said she had used them before in Greece and they were great. I tried it out but couldn't get low enough to get comfortable. It gave my legs and hips a good soak though.

We washed up and came downstairs for another communal dinner. The hotel was old but large. It was very formal with lots of heavy dark ornately carved wood. The dining room was a very large one, with long tables. We sat at ours and chatted until all of us dribbled in. Richard and Sebnem were last, and arrived together. They sat right down the end. Richard decided to employ the divide and conquer tactic. He sat beside Anne with Sebnem next to him. He swung towards Sebnem, showed his back to the rest of the table, rejected his travelling companions and devoted his complete attention to Sebnem all meal. It was so obvious what his intention was that it drew ribald comments all up and down the table but he was oblivious to anything we said.

After dinner, Caroline needed to get some money and a few of us felt like a walk, so we headed outside. Outside the hotel, the police had set up a roadblock and were stopping and checking cars. Apparently Konya was notorious for violent activity, and the police regularly stopped and checked cars for weapons. We walked past them, watching curiously. We drew their attention and two came our way. Jenny spoke to them cheerfully and chattily and they politely directed us to the nearest ATM. We walked down dark and deserted streets and found the ATM at the Yapi Kredi bank, our favourite. Caroline got her money, and then we walked back a different way, through well-lit streets and past open stores. The stores were mostly tourist places, antiques and carpets. Even at that time of night, most of them were open for business, and the merchants would rush out to the door and try and entice us in as soon as they saw us walking past or looking in the window. One shop had a nomad tent erected inside it, with a nomad camp bath for sale. It looked really interesting, but I couldn't see us carrying it home. I didn't even know where we could erect it. Hell, I didn't even know how we could afford it. One young guy was really anxious to talk to us and he he kept following us, leaving his shop. He seemed very lonely, and wanted to talk, not to sell. We walked back to the hotel and I settled down to some more bloody washing.

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