|Wake up call at 5:00, eat breakfast, and on the road at 7:00. This is our long travel day – over 250 miles as the crow flies, probably 300 plus on the road. We initially travelled along the Mediterranean coast and made our first comfort stop in Manavgat near the ruins of an old aqueduct and a Roman bridge that was still in use. Most rest rooms (WCs) cost 1 lira but this one was free! They had a phone charging station – first I had seen. Since this is a fruit growing region we passed numerous fruit stands with quite a wide variety of fruits.
Then we turned north and drove through the Taurus mountains – dry and sparsely populated. We passed several nomad camps – mostly folks going to the central plateau for seasonal farm work. They used to herd animals but not so much anymore. Instead of tents they use tarps. We did have a close encounter with a donkey as a truck carrying one in the back passed us on the wrong side of the road. Throughout the mountains we passed honey and olive oil stands – many also selling stew.
The mountains soon gave way to the central plateau. We had lunch at a small rest stop just outside of Konya where we had a grilled flat bread with a feta cheese or potato mixture in the middle. Very tasty. That was followed by a soda water and yogurt drink which was quite sour but OK after the first five or six sips. The place was associate with a huge gift store and they were selling, along with the evil eye protectors and Turkish Delight statues of Kobe Bryant and several other Lakers. There was also an elephant in the rest stop.
The plateau was very flat – like North Dakota flat – completely level. Pretty dry (less than 12 inches of rain a year) and used to grow cereals and potatoes and squash. They only use the squash for the seeds, cooking and salting them as a snack. The meat is fed to the animals. They also grow, under government control, opium poppies. The US is the largest importer. Several stands passed selling potatoes as well as other stuff – and stew. We passed by the military airfield and they were putting on an air show – not sure if it was for us but neat to see. We also passed numerous gangs of farm laborers – mostly women in baggy “seven day” pants bent over doing work with hoes.
In mid afternoon we stopped in Sultanhani and visited one of the Caravansaries that serviced the Silk Road. This one was built in 1229. It had a stalagmite entrance that was elaborately carved. After the entrance there was an elevated mosque in the courtyard. To one side were the shops and service areas that were needed for the caravans (food, repair, etc.), to the other side were the lodging rooms, and to the back was where the camels were kept. Since the caravans paid a toll to use the road, these were places where the goods were guaranteed safe by the sultan. They were located each about a day’s journey apart.
We got to explore the place quite thoroughly (I got to climb up to the top of the mosque) then spent some time exploring the town. I found a local grocery store and bought some water, then in the main tourist trap across the street bought a couple other items – some silk as, after all, it was the Silk Road.
Back on the road again across the very flat plateau with a couple rest stops – all of which started to look alike with bathrooms, places to get some snacks, and souvenirs – lots of them. All the same, almost all with no marked prices and almost all where you had to bargain for almost pennies. Very wearing.
We finally arrived at Urgup in Cappadocia – and come to one of the amazing volcanic ash formations called father, mother, child – an amazing formation of erosion over many years. Quite an amazing sight of which we would have many more on the next day. At the hotel we checked into our rooms and went to a very elaborate dinner – buffet of course. Quite the rang of things but very crowded.
At 8:30 we goy back on the bus and went to Saruhan (1249) another caravanserai that has been changed into a cultural center for a Whirling Dervish performance. The Dervishes are a mystical sect of the Sunni branch of Islam based on the teachings of Rumi. The whirling is to try to connect with the circle of life. One hand faces up to heaven, the other down to earth. The performance was actually a religious ceremony and was quite solemn. They entered in black robes, one man sand some verses from the Koran, then the bankers removed their robes to their white gowns. They twirled for about 10 minutes with their eyes (usually) closed, then stopped, then did it again for four rounds. Then more singing of the Koran, and then it was over.
At that point we took a bunch of pictures, then had some cinnamon tea and watched an interesting show projected onto the wall of the central plaza about the history of the area – from its start as a sea bed to volcanoes and then the contemporary times. Then back to the hotel after an exhausting day.
Tomorrow half the group is going on early morning balloon rides. We’re waiting for the full day tour that starts at 9:00 – the latest we’ve been able to sleep the whole trip!