Konya is known for its pious inhabitants and strong Islamic leanings. Celaleddin Rumi, also known as Mevlana, was the founder of the Mevlevi dervish sect – better known as the whirling dervishes. Rumi developed a philosophy of spiritual union and universal love, and is regarded as one of the Islamic world’s greatest mystics. The Gaya Travellers had the opportunity to visit the Mevlana Museum, where the tomb of Rumi was located. The Mevlana’s memorabilia and manuscripts are also up on display. We were very lucky to catch the whirling dervishes in action, to witness how the men used chants, music and dance to induce an ecstatic state of universal love, with the ultimate goal of perfect union with God.
Ankara is the bustling capital of Turkey appears to be very modern, compared to other cities we visited. When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk chose Ankara as his capital in the 1920s, he was determined for the city to adopt a more westernised look and commissioned a German architect to construct an entirely new city. There are many attractions in Ankara, but the one that is must visited is the Ataturk Mausoleum.
Located on an imposing hill in the Anittepe quarter of the city, stands the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. There is a museum housing a superior wax statue of Ataturk, writings, letters and personal items belonging to Ataturk, including a gallery of photographs depicting important moments in his life and in the establishment of the Republic. There was a very long queue to enter the premise and the majority of the crowd were Turks. Ataturk is indeed a respected and well-loved leader up this day. This mausoleum is the most interesting and extensive that Gaya Travellers have ever visited and we recommend all history lovers and museum-goers never to give this attraction a miss when being in Ankara!
Cappadocia, which means Land of Beautiful Horses, is indeed a sight to behold. Its unique landscape is like a page out of a fantasy novel, or maybe even a scene where Star Wars Episode 1 could have taken place. Millions of years ago, the volcanoes of Erciyes, Hasandag and Melendiz mountains erupted and covered Cappadocia with a layer of tuff. Over the years, this layer of tuff eroded, thus produced unique earth formations. As wind and rainwater flow down the sides of valleys eroding the tuff structure, they sculpted the natural formations known as ‘fairy chimneys’.
GOREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM
It has been claimed that there were more than one thousand chapels and monasteries in Cappadocia. Generally dating since the 9th century onwards, the churches were created by cutting rooms out of the soft volcanic tuff. We can still see the drawings on the (cave) church walls which incessantly intrigued us.
HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
Given its unique landscape, the Gaya Travellers jumped at the opportunity to ride the hot air balloon over Cappadocia to take in the extraordinarily out-of-this-world landscape. It cost us US$250 per person for a half an hour ride and it was money well spent. There were six of us in the balloon, including the pilot. We were given a certificate after we have safely landed.
KAYMAKLI UNDERGROUND CITY
This underground city is believed to have housed thousands of people from the 6th to 9th centuries. Five levels are open to visitors, but it is believed that there are actually eight levels. It was suggested that the underground city was built as a refuge from external threats and attacks. It is unlikely that the city was ever intended as permanent or long stay settlements. It is complete with wells, chimneys for air circulation, niches for oil lamps, stores, water tanks, stables and areas where the dead could be placed until such a time as conditions on the surface would allow them to re-emerge.
TUZ GOLU (SALT LAKE)
The Gaya Travellers have always been curious about salt lakes and we were elated to have the chance to visit one during our visit to Turkey. Tuz Golu is the second largest salt lake in Turkey. It is an enclosed lake with no way out, surrounded by plateaus on all four sides. It possesses a high salinity of 33%. Due to this high rate of salt, it is impossible to grow crops around the lake. Tuz Golu is one of the richest salt beds in the world; the amount of salt obtained here is 300,000 tons per year. This is 60% of the total salt production in Turkey. Salt is harvested from the lake only between July and August.
Turkey is indeed a wonderfully enigmatic destination, where there is so much to see and so much to experience. In each city that we visited, we were met with amazingly different and unique attractions. The country is huge, being the only country in the world that straddles on two continents. We thought that we had travelled the country from one end to the other due to the long hours spent on the bus. Upon looking at the map, we found out that our journey had only covered one third of the country!
Without doubt, Turkey indeed has something for everyone and we really mean it! We would definitely come back in a heartbeat!
Part 1 : Istanbul, Bursa & Pamukalle.