Wow! I had never really taken the time to realize the size of Turkey. It is huge. I signed up for a two-week driving tour, and we hardly scratched the surface of Western Turkey. After touring Istanbul on my own for five days, I joined G Adventures for an itinerary which included stays in Bolu, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Kekova, Selcuk and Canakkale with additional stops in Ankara, Kas, Pamukkale, Ayvalik, and Gallipoli.
Aside from Cappadocia and Pamukkale, I hadn’t even heard of most of the places, of which most were sizeable cities or towns. We spent more hours in the van that I would have preferred, but along the way we took breaks and stretched our legs at some historic sites.
Below are some places in the Turkish countryside between Ankara (the capital of Turkey) and Konya which break up the drive.
Anitkabir literally is the memorial tomb for the highly revered Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk was the Commander-in-Chief of the War of Independence as well as the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic. Not only was he a remarkable commander, he is credited for many reforms he made to Turkey. He changed the once historic, Islamic country into a strong, secular modern state.
As a result of his tremendous accomplishments, he has an enormous memorial in Ankara. After Atatürk’s death in 1938, the government selected a location and then held an international architectural design competition in 1941.
The project was awarded to two Turkish architects, and the construction began in 1944. The memorial took nine years to build in four stages. It was 15 years later before Atatürk’s body was moved to Anitkabir.
Visitors enter Anitkabir between the Tower of Independence and the Tower of Liberty, with guards standing at attention. The Lion’s path, lined by 24 lion statues, leads visitors to the Ceremonial Ground, about 800 feet away.
The Ceremonial Ground has the capacity to hold 15,000 and on Independence Day it is full. The mausoleum is on the Ceremonial Ground’s eastern side. This is where Atatürk’s body lies. Surrounding the Ceremonial Grounds is the Atatürk and the War of Independence Museum. It is split into four sections which house a variety of art and artifacts.
The first section features many of Atatürk’s personal items including different swords, guns, riding crops and military medals. The second section displays three war panoramas as well as a gallery of oil paintings. The third section includes vault galleries while the fourth section features Atatürk’s private library.
The site, which is free to enter, takes an hour or two to visit at a stroll. It also has bathrooms and a café downstairs beneath the flagpole for anyone who needs a break.
Ankara is about 1.5 hours by car away from Tuz Gölü, the second biggest lake in Turkey and one of the largest hypersaline lakes in the world. It is a protected area due to the flamingos and white-footed geese who breed here.
While the lake was full when we visited in March, by August it is dry, and its three salt mines produce over 60% of the salt used in Turkey.
While the above two attractions are closest to Ankara, the following are closest to Konya. About 1.5 hours northeast of Konya is Sultan Han. Sultan Han is the largest caravanserai in Turkey located in Sultanhani, so named for the structure. A caravanserai is a roadside inn.
Sultan Han was constructed during the Seljuk dynasty in the 13th century. Many travelers on the trade route from Konya to Aksaray to Persia rested and recovered here. Fittingly, there is a modern rest stop across from it!
About 45 minutes southeast of Konya is Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement that dates back to 7,100 BC. Çatalhöyük includes examples of the domestic buildings and murals found on the premises, a museum, and the excavation site. The grassy mound next to the covered excavation, has yet to be dug out. Though spread out, Çatalhöyük does not take long to visit.
Mevlâna Museum, located in Konya, is the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammed Rumi (better known as Rumi or Mevlâna), and was also a dervish lodge.
Rumi was a poet, theologian, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic. He spent 1,001 days in spiritual training which is called “suffering”, and taught that oneness with God may be reached through love.
He used music, dance, and poetry as a pathway to God. The music and dance turned sacred, and the semas became a ritual. The semas are performed by whirling dervishes.
Mevlâna, which means master, gained a large following and after his death in 1273, his son organized the Mevlevi Order. In addition, Rumi’s successor, Hüsamettin Çelebi, built a mausoleum over his master’s grave which was financed by the wife of the Seljuk Emir Suleyman Pervane.
Different sections, including a small mosque, a kitchen, a fountain and Dedegan cells were added to the mausoleum over time, creating the Dervish lodge. Much of the additions were ordered by Süleyman the Magnificent in the 1500’s.
The kitchen is where the dervishes practiced the sema ritual while the cells were where followers completed their 1,001 days of suffering.
Worshiping continued at the Mevlâna Lodge until Atatürk banned Sufism in 1925. The lodge closed and became a museum in 1954.
Just a few blocks away from the Mevlâna Museum is Sifa Restaurant. It serves excellent food at a reasonable price. Sifa Restaurant is best known for its okra soup and dishes local to Konya. It is a good place for a hearty meal after learning about the Mevlevi Order.
While this post is about places between Ankara and Konya, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Cappadocia. The three regions form a triangle, but Cappadocia warrants a post of its own. To be continued…ETB
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