Travertines, Turkish Baths, and Whirling Dirvishes

Trip Start Apr 23, 2009
1
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17
Trip End Jun 23, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  ,
Monday, June 1, 2009

Pamukkale (cotton castle) is famous for its two-kilometre long mineral springs
of calcium carbonate spilling over the top of the cliff to form pools
and shelves. The Romans established a large spa city above the cliff
called Hierapolis, to take advantage of the healing mineral waters.
The centre of Hierapolis may have been the sacred pool which is now
the antique swimming pool with old columns and bits of marble resting
on the bottom. It is a popular stop for tourists.


Hierapolis was founded around 190 BC by Eumenes II, king of Pergamum, as a cure
centre, and prospered until 1334 , when it was toppled by an
earthquake. The whole area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and
offers some wonderful glimpses into the lives of these ancient
people. Only about 5% of the ruins have been excavated since the
1970s, so the city must have been massive! We spent several hours
wandering through the ruins with very few other tourists, so the
opportunities for unobstructed photos was great.


After visiting the museum near the site, we walked back down to the village
and had a good Turkish meal at a small cafe run by a family. The
husband sat with us after our meal and chatted about life in the
community, Turkey, and tourism. They have not had huge benefits from
tourism in the town, as most visitors come on tour buses and are only
there for the day. Once his three girls have finished university, he
wants to go back to being a sheep farmer in the hills. One of the
things we most enjoy about travelling on our own, rather than part of
a tour group, is that you can meet local people and come and go as
you wish.

Another bus trip took us further east to the beautiful lake setting of
Egirdir (eh-YEER-deer). It is nestled at the bottom of a small
mountain that extends into a causeway joining two islands, so we had
a lovely view of Lake Egirdir from our Lale Pension window. After
arriving, we walked up the peninsula, where most hotels are situated,
and stopped for Turkish tea in the garden of Canada! It is the name
given to the former Soul Island, so we felt quite at home!

The next day, Matt, Gail and David rented mountain bikes from the pension
and spent the day peddling a 55 km return bike trip to Lake Kovada
National Park. (Judy doesn't ride bikes.) It was a pleasant, easy
ride through the many apple, cherry, and peach orchards along the
way. Egirdir is famous for its apples. We stopped at a small gas
station along the way to see about more water, when a young man came
from the front, welcomed us in English and invited us for tea. Of
course, we couldn't refuse, so spent 30 minutes drinking tea and
chatting with Hakki Akin about life's experiences!  Very nice

After a small walk along a trail in the park, we headed back, looking for a
place to grab some lunch. Five minutes down the road, we saw a sign
with pictures of food so stopped and gestured to a man cutting his
grass with a short-handled scythe. He immediately stopped and
invited us in to the garden table, and then the fun began. He spoke
little English,so we weren't sure he understood that we only wanted a
small bite to eat. At one point, he phoned a friend in Seattle and
handed the phone to Gail! Even after that exchange, we became
concerned when our food took about 30 minutes to prepare.

What arrived was a huge feast! We had salad, eggplant, a gigantic pan of
tomato bulgar wheat, and cold buttermilk (an acquired taste, we
think!). The three of us decided that it was just going to be our
big meal of the day! He was very friendly and we learned that he had
once been a caretaker in the park, giving many hours to its
maintenance and upgrading until a careless smoker caused a fire that
destroyed his wooden house. We were surprised no other people were
in the park, even though it was Saturday. Apparently, tourism has
really taken a plunge since 9-11, which is really unfortunate, as it
is a beautiful area with man opportunities for hiking, biking, and
water sports.

Judy had expressed an interest in visiting the Hamam, or Turkish Bath, so,
surprisingly, the guys agreed to join us! It is one of those
experiences you should have when the opportunity presents itself.
Ours was in an old, original building with tiled floors and walls,
and a domed ceiling with round vent holes. The men were in one side,
and women in the other. A tiny, cute, old woman in traditional dress
guided us women down the stairs into a dark, tiled, barrel-roofed
area, indicating we should remove our clothes. Somehow, I think she
enjoyed our discomfort in not knowing what to expect, as she kept
looking at us and smiling!

We were ushered into the domed room and instructed to lie down on the
warm marble slab. After several minutes, a woman entered, wearing
red briefs and motioned for us to sit up so she could douse us with
warm water. One at a time, she shampooed our hair, rubbed our whole
bodies down with a loofa mitt, then filled a cloth bag with soap,and
air, squeezing bubbles all over us and giving us a bit of a massage
while washing us off. After the final rinse with warm water, we felt
all fluffy and new! The treatment cost us $20 each! Now, that's an
experience we won't forget

We spent 5 hours on the bus from Egirdir to Konya, which is a prime
agricultural area. Although the land is very arid, drip irrigation
allows small plots of farmland to be cultivated with various grains,
poppies, and vegetables. There were also areas planted with
evergreens. Farmers were out working in the fields , bent over with
small tools, working the ground. Women wore traditional clothes
consisting of the low-crotched, baggy bloomer-pants, blouses,
sweaters, and scarves. We thought they must have been terribly hot
in the noon-day sun! Many farmers had small tractors, but some still
used a little cart and donkey to get to their fields. David noticed
that the plots of land went high up the side of the foothills. Crete
had sheep and goats; here, we saw cattle.

Konya is a huge, metropolitan, modern city in the middle of this dry area.
We passed a small dam on the way to the city, but its reservoir
didn't seem adequate for a city of 800,000 and all the farmland!
Konya is the home of the famous Whirling Dirvishes, so retains much
tradition and culture. Its Mevlana Museum is the former lodge of the
Dirvishes and the inside has a fantastic display of Persian
calligraphy! The walls and ceilings are covered with script in gold,
blue and black and house the tombs of 75 former Sultans.


Another room contains numerous display cases with ancient books of Koran,
text and other forms of beautiful, illuminated calligraphy. It was
spectacular! Gail was desperately wanting to take photos of so many
pieces, but photography was forbidden. Ouch! Here are a couple of
links we found on the web, that will give you some idea of the beauty
we saw, but no pictures can really do it.


On our second day, we took a taxi, local area bus, and another taxi to
get out of town to visit the 9000 year-old neolithic village of
Catalhoyuk (chat-a-lew-yewk). This 20 metre high mound on the plain
is one of the largest neolithic villages in the world, and comprises
13 levels of buildings, each containing 1000 structures. It was
discovered in 1961 and continues to be excavated. Most of the finds
are in the museum in Ankara, but, a small museum, video, an
reconstructed house gave a good example of what the lifestyle was at
that time.

The people of Konya are extremely out-going, friendly, and helpful. Most
tourists are part of a tour, though we saw very few, so we tended to
stand out as we walked around. Judy, who was born in Canada, but had
Chinese parents, received the most interest, but calls of, "Hello!",
were heard over and over. Frequently, people would approach us and
start speaking English, just for the opportunity to chat. We felt
very welcomed here.


One young man, Osman, saw us on a couple of our trips up and down the
street, and was eager to help and offer information. He did have a
small carpet shop, but didn't push them when he found out we didn't
need/want one. Instead, he took us around the corner to see a
felting shop, where workers were creating large mats of felt, cutting
pieces and using them to create scarves, runners and hangings. It is
an old, traditional art form, from this area.

When Osman discovered we hadn't seen the Dirvishes because our hotel told
us we missed their Saturday performance, he took us to a friend's
travel agency, where we were able to purchase tickets for a private
showing! (about $20 each) We were thrilled to have the opportunity
to witness such a moving and amazing display. Now, the Dirvishes are
part of a group to maintain the culture, not the spiritual group they
had once been. There were only 20 of us in the basement of a
restaurant, so the live musicians and four performers provided an
intimate experience.


We were amazed by their Whirling Dirvishes and their abilities. As Gail
watched, she could only think about how amazed her mom would have
been to know she was actually in Turkey watching the Dirvishes whirl
before her eyes! As a young girl, she heard her mom complain that
she and her sisters were racing around the place like Whirling
Dirvishes, not knowing what they were! What a wonderful remembrance
of Konya!

A long, eight-hour bus ride took us to Bursa, where we found a budget
hotel next to the one suggested in our Lonely Planet guide, that
didn't have any rooms. We did meet a friend of the hotel owner, who
was a vice-principal. Amhe is a great promoter of his city and
invited us to join a group from his friend's hotel who were going to
see the Whirling Dirvishes at a 800-year-old, recently-refurbished
Cultural Centre. There was no cost, as it is the city's way of
promoting cultural.


It was a treat to hear the three strong singers, five talented
musicians, and five skilled dancers in such a beautiful old building,
even if the women had to sit upstairs! (It was quite nice to see the
dancers from above, with their flowing skirts in a circle.) How
fortunate to be able to see them two nights in a row! As they say in
Vietnam, "Same, same, only different!".

On the way back to the hotel, Ahmed showed us some of the buildings that
were being refurbished in the Ottoman style. Then, he took us down
to the basement workshop where another friend spends the night hours
creating beautiful, traditional, five-stringed Sas instruments. He
is a well-known craftsman who designs unusual instruments from his
imagination, and will soon be joined by his daughter who just
completed university.

CONTEST QUESTION!!

11. Why did/do the Dirvishes whirl?

(We picked up something in the Konya market for another prize, so keep looking for those
answers!)

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Comments

cindyr
cindyr on

Twirling Dervishes
Hi Gail,
Wow, great description of your travels. It's fantastic that you're getting to meet and get to know some locals, it makes a real difference in the experience.

I think the dervishes twirling and spinning represents man's spiritual journey.

Have a great time and thanks for sending your travel journal.

Cindy

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