Wednesday, May 05, 2010

On the Silk Road

After a last breakfast at our Kapadokya hotel, we began driving southeast along the ancient Silk Road towards Antalya, a two day journey. At first we saw much more of the arid, rocky landscape we've been in for several days. Our first stop was at a big city, Konya, which is where the great poet Rumi died and is entombed in a shrine/museum devoted to him and his works. It was one of the most stunning spots we have seen, under a turquoise dome. We looked at relics, illuminated manuscripts, frescos, artifacts, and historical artifacts relating to Rumi and his followers, the Whirling Dervishes of Sufism. Crowds of Muslim pilgrims were there, and the women stood in line to kiss the glass case holding the 'holy beard of Muhammed'.

Our guide then took us up into the hills above Konya, to a 300 year old village inn for a wonderful lunch. In the last several days we have eaten a lot of yogurt rice soup, stuffed grape leaves, stuffed eggplant, rice pilaf, and rice pudding. It has been delicious, and varied in the way it has been cooked and presented, but getting a little familiar!After lunch, more driving, and a stop at a small farmers market. Some of the many things we observed were: numerous caravanserai, the ancient Silk Road stopover places, in various stages of repair or disrepair; shepherds everywhere, herding goats, cows, sheep; tractors pulling wagon loads of women going out to work in the fields; snow-covered volcanos; mosques everywhere, from grandiose to mini. The most beautiful mosque was one with a cedar wood interior, and mosaic tile entry, surrounded by stone walls. It was the Esrefoglu mosque in Beysehir. The most humble mosque I saw was attached to a gas station, out in the middle of nowhere. The city of Konya, when seen from the hills above it, was a sea of minarets.

As we drove across the wide Anatolian plain (a bit reminiscent of Nevada), our erudite guide spanned 1,000 years of Turkish history. He gave us the origin of place names and words, how the language works, the marriage and courtship customs, and so much more. Every day he takes us deep into his culture and Turkish history and regional politics. What an amazing guy!

The promise of the day was "a day in the life of a Turkish village". Indeed we arrived at a very small village in the lake district, called Budak, where our home-stay began. We stayed in a large family compound, of several houses and barns owned by Suleyman and his wife Nigar, their two sons and wives, several small grandchildren (one little boy just a month older than Desmond), and the ancient and wizened grandparents. They organized 8 bedrooms for us all, giving up their own rooms to go sleep at the Grands house. Our room was whistle clean, had two futons on the floor, with clean bathrooms nearby. Our window looked out at the lake and a snow- covered mountain, across the fields of opium poppy plants grown by the family, with state approval, to sell to Big Pharma.We had a charming evening with them. The women served us a great meal ( see above for standard menu)! With our guide as interpreter we chatted into the night with them about their lives, work, crops, frustrations, dreams (go to Hollywood)! One of our group is a farmer, and he and Suleyman had a lot to talk about, like tractors, fertilizer, etc. Finally we went off for a comfortable night's sleep.
-- Posted from my iPad

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