Day 31 - Antalya to Konya
For lunch, we have many options for mountainside restaurants populated by no one. I call the row "Mountain Killer Alley". They are huge, al fresco, log cabin-type things. Sort of a Turkish Bavaria. Our instinct for self-preservation is too strong. I don't personally wish to star in my own personal horror movie a la Hostel.
To get us to Deepo Outlet, I use my superpower of being able to find the nearest department store with only my five senses and no electronic devices. Ever since we left Power 100 FM behind in Fethiye, the radio stations have gotten worse and worse. We look for blank CDs, actual CDs, or an FM transmitter. We fail. The Deepo Outlet at opening time is large, empty, and there's pre-recorded sounds of crickets echoing through the halls. The staff at LC Waikiki are still huddled in a circle for their team meeting. LC Waikiki is super, super popular cheap clothing store in Turkey. I find the stock distinctly demure, floral, high-necked, and bedazzled with unnecessary sparkles.
The drive from Antalya to Konya is around 4 hours. You wind up and up and up the mountains, coasting down steep highways, bordered on all sides by enormous and imposing cliff faces. Rob refuses to be impressed and grasps at straws. "We have this in New Zealand. Maybe Otago," he says. The roads are new, smooth, and there's a lot of road signs everywhere.
We hold on for a few hours until the turn off on the D695 to Aseki. There's a huge petrol station, a supermarket, and a plumb choice of eateries. There's plenty of minivans and cars in the parking lot. Say what you like about tourists, but sometimes, I feel relief when I find myself back amongst the fold. Lonely Planet researcher I most probably am not.
We bring it home at the self-service buffet. There's no prices on anything but there's English translation and a lot of yummy food. We plow through rice, beans, lamb, kofte with potato, eggplants rolled around tender bits of chicken stewed in tomatoes, and firin sutlac (Turkish rice pudding). Shockingly, we spend 90 lira (around NZD$45). That's one of our more expensive meals enjoyed in a cafeteria hall next to the spacious courtyard of a gas station. In the middle of nowhere. Seydisehir is on the way to Konya. It's the chickpea capital of Turkey. We shoot straight through, chickpea capital or not.
Lonely Planet describes Konya as the bible belt of Turkey. It's a place of pilgrimage, namely because of the Mevlana Museum where Rumi is buried. It's also the whirling dervish capital of the world. What that means is ladies, get your veils and long-sleeved blouses out, and also, good luck trying to find a drink at your hotel. For Rob behind the wheel, it means white-knuckled city driving in "clown town" to quote our favourite driver, Osama. Rob says some, frankly, irreverent things about the Quran and the drivers of Konya which I won't repeat.
Having been through Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, I am well-versed in conservative cities. Inside the Mevlana Museum, I'm buttoned up tight and wound into my head scarf like a good little ambassador for New Zealand. We are thrilled to find Konya's very creative workaround the "take your shoes off in holy places" rule that makes the said-holy place stink like a thousand and one sweaty, un-socked tourist feet (I'm looking at you, Stinky Feet Mosque). Instead of taking your shoes off, you pick plastic shoe covers from a barrel at the front door! Like a very important surgeon about to go into the operating theatre. Brilliant!
Rob gets the creeps in front of Rumi's tomb. That's understandable. That deliciously unsettling religious fervour that pilgrims bring is in the air. They're crowded in front of coffins shrouded in cloth, topped with little turbaned hats. The niche that houses Rumi's tomb is elaborately and finely painted and decorated. No photos are allowed. Behind you, there's a small wooden casket inlaid with mother of pearl that contains a snip of Mohammed's beard. People pray around that too. There's a dinky, brilliantly detailed, tiny Qu'ran that Lonely Planet tells me, is the smallest version of the Qu'ran ever and its author went blind writing it. We exit and I take photos of one stone tomb because I was denied my photo of the big poppa tomb. I say thanks to the owner and make a hasty exit.
We're staying for one night in the Hich Hotel. It is unexpectedly flash. The manager greats us and informs us with a big smile that it is a "design hotel". "For example," he says, holding up our room key that's been tethered to a huge skeleton key, "Your room key is new key, paired with old room key." He pauses as if waiting for our appreciation. We give it to him. Ooooo. Aaaaaaa. In the room, I absent-mindedly open up a bedside table drawer and inadvertently find the direction to Mecca and who to call for a prayer rug.