Thumbing for 2646 kilometers
17.08.2012 - 31.08.2012 38 °C
The first stop of my 2646-km hitching trip was Konya. It is a large city in Central Anatolia region of Turkey and is famous for its whirling dervishes and for its spectacular Seljuk architecture. Since my father was going to Ankara, he gave me a ride from Bodrum to Konya. So the first 637 km of my trip was quite easy. I arrived in Konya in the evening at around 7 pm. The first thing to do was to satisfy my hunger so I directly went to Meram district to try one of the famous kebabs of the city. Since it was one of the last days of Ramadan, the city was pretty quiet and calm. Everyone was preparing to break their fast in a corner.
After dining I went to meet my host from couchsurfing. He gave me a couch in his small art studio. Because I was pretty tired, I directly went to bed right after he left.
I started my second day in Konya pretty early in the morning. Grabbing my breakfast (an apple) I headed towards the city center. Of course the first stop was Rumi’s mausoleum/museum. You don’t need a map to get there because there are numerous signs that show how to get there. After walking a while I saw the cloture of the museum. Because it was the holiday (bairam) eve there were a lot of people walking, shopping around. Some of them were visiting the museum and some others were praying outside it. I felt quite differently when I saw the electric toll gates of this mystic wise’s monastery. This is a place which is visited by millions who really don’t even know anything about his teachings. Despite the fact that this commercialism made me lose my interest a bit, I kept walking thru that mystical atmosphere. When I was looking around I caught sight of ‘no photography’ signs. It was a very good example of how things have changed through years at a Sufi’s final resting place who once said ‘Come, come, whoever you are.’
Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving — it doesn't matter,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times,
Come, come again, come.
After getting out of the museum, I went to a tourist information office to grab a city map. As I was taking the map, I was thinking to myself ‘I wish I could watch a sema show’. Just as I was thinking one of the guys over there, as if he’d heard me, asked if I would like to watch a sema show that night? I excitedly said yes. He said the show would start at 9 pm and it’s free! I thanked him and left for the tomb of Shams Tabrizi. He’s considered to be the man who had changed Rumi’s life. ‘Though many people visit this place every year, they don’t visit Shams’ tomb’ this was what I was told by the warden at his tomb. His tomb was pretty unadorned compared to Rumi’s. In fact, since Rumi’s tomb was built after his death, his followers and some Ottoman sultans who admired him built a sumptuous tomb for him. It’s known that Rumi once said ‘the most beautiful tomb is the vault of heaven’.
Having visited Sham’s tomb, I went to Alaaddin hill to see the remnants of Seljuk palace. There’s only one pillar standing left and it’s now protected from the elements with a concrete umbrella. However, Alaaddin mosque behind it, built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat, has been preserved very well. Even though the palace and the mosque were built in the same period, it’s obvious that houses of prayer still stay intact.
My next stop was Ince Minare which used to be a 13th century madrasah. Now it’s used as a museum which displays artifacts from the Seljuk and Ottoman eras. It’s possible to see Konya symbol double-headed eagle there.
After visiting this old school I decided that I had walked enough so in order to get some rest and wait for the Sema show, I climbed up to the park at the top of Alaaddin hill. After chilling about 1.5 hours at the park, I headed towards Mevlana Cultural Center. This is a convention center located 20 minutes away from the center.
By following the signs in the huge cultural center, I ended up in front up Sema hall. This is a very big sema show stage. It started with a lecture about Mevlana and whirling dervishes. Flash photography was not allowed during the show so as not to disturb the dervishes but soon after it started flashes started to illuminate the hall. I know it’s almost impossible to watch a real sema show in 2012 but people say that this is the closest to a real one. Nevertheless, the most attractive part of it was 2 10-year old dervishes whirling with older ones.
It was time to set off on my third day in Konya. I got to Ankara road by getting a free bus (busses are free during the bairam). After waiting a little while a newspaper delivery guy gave me a ride. However, saying that he’s dozing of he pulled over to a gas station. So I had to hitch again. Within 10 minutes, I caught another ride to Ankara.
Tuz Golu (Salt Lake)
I stayed in Ankara for two days to spend bairam with my family and then I started hitching again. I caught my first ride after waiting around 15 minutes. It was a Turkish-Austrian family. Father was driving all the way from Wien. I got off this lovely family’s car by Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake). He insisted on giving me some pastries saying that I’d be hungry even if I was not at that moment. I didn’t want to break his heart and accepted a bag of bagels and pastries and a bottle of soda. I waved them and walk down to the lake which I had seen only in my geography classes. This amazingly vast whiteness is the second biggest lake of Turkey. And since it was the driest season it was transformed into a salt flat which is possible to walk on.
After the lake I caught three rides to Urgup. In Urgup I met couchsurfer Bruno at whose house I was going to stay. He’s a Frenchman who spends 4 months of the year in Turkey. Though I don’t plan my trips, his invaluable tips were so much useful. He knows the area very well. I went to Zelve open air museum though I was a bit tired. This is a place where you can see unusual rock formation created as a result of the eroding rains and winds of thousands of years. I hiked there for 2 hours and picked up fresh apples. There are lots of apple trees around in Cappadocia which I personally benefited from. After Zelve I made my way to Devrent Valley; it’s also known as imagination valley. It does not have cave churches like the other valleys of Cappadocia. There are no Roman castles or Roman tombs in Devrent Valley, either. Actually it was never inhabited. Many formations have animal shape looks. Having spent amazing 45 minutes in this valley, I went to Bruno’s place since it was getting dark.
We were totally 9 people at his place. He says his places has always been this crowded. He hosts almost 50 people each summer. After eating his mille-feuille pizzas and apple pies, it was time to hit the hay.
I started hitching very early in the morning on my second day in Cappadocia. My first stop was the famous underground city Derinkuyu. It’s a multilevel underground city which was built to shelter Phrygians. But this info is not certain. Since I am a bit claustrophobic, I cut my underground village tour as short as possible. Tunnels and stairs made me feel suffocated at some moments. I started hitching towards Ihlara valley after Derinkuyu. At first, I could catch a few rides that took me only the first 10 kilometers of the 55-km long road so I had to wait in a middle of nowhere for a while. However, I saw a minivan rising clouds of dust. So I caught my ride! He was a German guy named Ulrich. When we arrived in Ihlara, we decided to hike in Belisirma canyon, because as I was told by Bruno that part of the canyon has the best preserved churches and caves. After walking up in the mountains and chilling by the river for about 4 hours. We decided to go back to the city. On the way back to the city Ulrich offered me a ride to south/Antalya where he had to return the car. At that moment I made my mind to head south. We said goodbye to each other and agreed on meeting in Aksaray in the following morning.
In the third morning, I set off to meet my driver in Aksaray. I grabbed a couple of apples and a sandwich and started hitching across Bruno’s place. Approximately one hour later we met in Aksaray and headed towards Lake Eğirdir. We arrived in Eğirdir in the evening by passing through Konya and some small villages. We had a dinner by the lake watching its amazing view. Then we hit the road again. We passed through a very bad road to Antalya. When we got to Antalya, I thanked him for all his help and started looking for a place to pitch my tent. Finally, I decided to pitch my tent at a park and spent the night there.
In the following morning I went to Kemer and had a bowl of soup at a restaurant. This kind of restaurants are called craftsman restaurant in Turkish because they are the cheapest ones but in my opinion are the ones where you could get the most delicious homemade food. After Kemer my next destination was Phaselis ancient city. It’s an ancient city located on the Lycian road. This magnificent cove once harbored Alexander the Great’s ships. I spent approximately 1 hour swimming there. Three small bays around it that served as harbors in the past now form excellent swimming spots.
After Phaselis I decided to go to Olympos Ancient city to spend the night. Before pitching my tent, I hiked in the ancient city and then had dinner by the sea. Having had my dinner, I pitched my tent at an orange grove. Then I went to a little pub where I listened to very good reggae music and had the chance to try the only local beer of Turkey, Perge Pilsner. After a couple of beers, I grabbed one more and walked to the beach to watch the spectacular view of the sky. Even though there were almost 100 people at the beach at that moment, I felt as if no one was there except me. It felt like an eternal tranquility. But of course, at around 12 we were ‘asked’ to leave the beach by the military police since the area is considered to be a vulnerable cultural heritage site and a spot for carettas’ egg laying place.
On the other day I caught a ride till Kas. But on the way to Kas in Demre, the driver was nice enough to wait for me for 30 minutes because I wanted to have a short break to see the Church of St. Nicholas. In fact, the driver wanted to see what there was inside but when he heard the price of entrance, he decided to wait for me outside while sipping his tea at a local coffee house. After Demre, I gave a short break to get a cup of coffee at a gas station. Having rested enough, I started thumbing again and soon I got my ride to Kalkan which is a touristy, little town. It’s a picturesque town by the Mediterranean coast and mainly inhabited by British people. I spent the night there at a park.
In the morning I started hitching again and caught three different rides till my place in Bodrum. Though it had been a long and tiring trip with all those rides and sleeping at parks, I was feeling extremely happy because I had emptied my mind.