Kas and Back to DoraMac

  This is the final chapter of our motorbike journey.  I have certainly learned more writing it up.  Somehow when we’re there, it’s the doing more than the knowing that seems enough.  You really have to slow things down to do both at the same time.  I’ll have to work on that.



ps  Just followed the Sox who made two dumb mistakes in the 12th inning and then lost the game in the 14th.  Not a good baseball day.


Our last night on the road, Ani’s Pension. Our first night had been in Ali’s Pension.


We got the last available room on the ground floor room with no view; but it was very clean, had this lovely drawing, wifi and AC.


The owner kept telling us that we had the only key to the room. It was one of those doors that you could lock from the inside and then pull shut. But if you did that with the key hanging inside there would be a problem. I heard something about a prior guest but can’t recall if the guest left with the key or left the key in the room and a window had to be broken to get the key out. I don’t know why they don’t have a second key or get one made: seems the logical thing to do.


Clean but tiny.

The shower is over the toilet so you have to move everything from the shelf behind the toilet or it would get soaked. Most of the smaller pensions have combined shower/toilet areas. The problem is that it soaks the toilet seat and the floor so everything is wet and slippery and you’re always having to dry your feet. The sink was at the very edge of the bathroom and a notch had to be cut into the door so it could pass by the sink to close.


We biked over and down from those mountains into Kas. This might be the 1650 ft mountain

nick-named Yantan Adam, “Sleeping Man.”


Kas was a pretty place.

Kas (pronounced Kahsh because the s has a little hook attached to its bottom) has a small commercial harbor and a brand new marina within walking distance from town. We’d visited the marina in June but the rate for the single month of July was 3 times more than we’re paying here at Yacht Marina so didn’t move the boat. However water and electricity are included in the berth fee and when we get our electric bill here we might be horribly surprised to find that the rates comparable.


Most of Kas seemed to be made up of small businesses to support the tourist industry and lots of places to sleep. Lonely Planet lists the population as about 6,000.


We arrived in Kas late afternoon, found a pension, and went for a walk into town. Smiley’s had cold beer, raki and wifi. You can look around the restaurant and see where everyone is from because they put your flag on your table.


We returned later for dinner. I had fish soup that was almost as good as my friend Martha’s.

After dinner we walked a bit and then headed back to our pension tired after our long day.

We left Ani’s early the next morning having breakfasted on cake and coffee in our room. We had a long day’s ride back to DoraMac and I wanted to stop in Xanthos to see the ruins. We’d bypassed Xanthos on a previous trip along the coast so I didn’t want to miss them this time. We got to Xanthos at 8:30 am and it wouldn’t officially open until 9 am. We didn’t take the time to wait to see it, so apparently missed the rock tombs and more, but we were in “get home” mode by that point. I have come to accept that if you miss something somewhere you’ll see something else somewhere else so it’s ok.


The town of Kinik and its myriad of greenhouses surround Xanthos.


Lots of World Heritage sites in Turkey.

I forgot to mention in the Dervish email that according to Lonely Planet, the Dervishes Whirling Ceremony appears on Unesco’s third Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


“Xanthos was the capital city of the Lycian Federation and its greatest city for most of Lycian history. It was made famous to the Western world in the 19th century by its British discoverer Charles Fellows. It is very old – finds date back to the 8th century BC, but it is possible that the site may have existed during the Bronze Age or during the first centuries of the Iron Age “http://www.lycianturkey.com/lycian_sites/xanthos.htm   Apparently Mr. Fellows carted off lots of the ruins to the British Museum where it remains today.  Thankfully he didn’t unearth it all so there are still some artifacts left for the Turks.


Ruins of the amphitheater and the agora.

There were more ruins just up the way, but we were facing several more hours of riding and my stomach was starting to rebel from the giant plate of salad I’d eaten the night before along with my fish soup. It actually took me about 3 days to get over that gastronomic mistake.


Rebellious stomach and all, we still needed to eat so stopped and shared a spinach cheese pancake and some Coke Light.

A few more hours and we were back on Doramac. We’d had a great trip and have officially become “biker people” as opposed to cyclists though when I see folks on bicycles I miss mine. To cover 900 miles on our bicycles would have taken over a month if we had averaged 30 miles each day and on some days over the mountains that would have been tough. Of course with the little riding we’ve done over the past years it would have taken me two months if not more.

We have just about 5 more days here in Marmaris. We have to do some provisioning, go through the check-out process and reload the motorbike onto the boat. Then we’re heading to Karpaz Gate Marina in North Cyprus, the part of Cyprus that belongs to Turkey. I’ll keep you posted.

Myra Ruins

  All in all, we liked our time in the mountains more than down by the coast.  But there were bright spots too.



We left Seydisehir before 8 am since it would be at least a 6 hour ride to Antalya on the coast. I always start out wearing my jacket but Randal doesn’t usually feel the need. We had only gone a short way when Randal decided he also needed to put on his jacket since the early morning air was chilly and we were still in the mountains. In no time we wished for warmer jackets and long pants and gloves! We were high in the mountains and riding mostly in the shade. I was freezing and I had Randal as a shield. It was the first time Randal said he was cold, especially his legs since he was wearing only shorts. I was too cold to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery. It just was no fun and we just wanted it to be over. We had no long sleeved shirts or long pants because everyone back at the marina had told us we’d be warmer away from the coast so only needed hot weather clothing. It was actually just the opposite! As the sun rose over the mountains we began to warm up. Eventually we stopped for fuel, tea and coffee. We should have skipped the tea and coffee, or picked a different place to get it. We had just about run out of fuel so needed to stop at the first station we saw. (We do carry some in a container but prefer to save that for real emergencies.) Next door was a “tourist restaurant” where buses stop with the unsuspecting who don’t know 4 TL is an outrageous fee for tea and coffee. Though we should have known better we went in and got tea and coffee. Afterwards I bought a bottle of water at the gas station and a Korean woman from one of the buses was in there also. I was totally surprised when she paid with American dollars and they took it though they gave her change in Turkish Lira. We got back on the bike and soon were on the coast and soon were way too hot. Off came the jackets. On came the increased traffic and the heat generated from too many cars along with the sun beating down. It didn’t take me long to start longing for the mountains and that whole other world away from the busy, coastal highway. Thankfully, though the traffic got heavy, it didn’t make me feel unsafe. According to the Antalya.org website, 6 to 7 million tourists visit Antalya and I think most of them were there that day. We biked past car dealerships, shops selling furs and jewels; lots of high end consumer goods. Apparently Antalya is a shopping destination. When we finally entered the city limits we were made to follow a detour with not much signage that helped us. We hadn’t really anticipated the size of or traffic in Antalya and without a “biker guide” we took a wrong turn and then took a complete pass on Antalya. I’d love to see it sometime but not in July; too hot and too crowded. October through March is the low season so maybe when we’re here again that’s when we’ll see Antalya. I think at this point we’d also developed an “on the way home” mindset so weren’t looking for reasons to spend several days exploring our overnight destinations. So, after being detoured past where we needed to be, we stopped for a late lunch and decided we go on to small Kemer rather than back into Antalya and the crowds of cars and traffic.

Seydisehir was a good place to spend a night and relax. Kemer wasn’t. Our pension was clean and had a great balcony for hanging hand laundry and for sitting enjoying tea. It had AC which you definitely needed. But there was no wifi and there was no breakfast. Kemer struck us as an upscale smaller, newer version of Marmaris. It was too hot and not terribly appealing. We did find a friendly bar/restaurant with wifi and after a quick walk down to the harbour (past all of the same souvenir/clothing shops you see in Marmaris) we settled in at the bar for a cold drink and wifi time. We went back for dinner later that night though earlier than everyone else. It was a quiet night and with no pension breakfast and no cafes open early that I could find, we ate some yogurt and simit from a small shop and cookies, tea and coffee we had. Then we quickly packed up and left for Kas, our next stop. We could have made it all way back to Marmaris if we had wanted to bike all day but there were ruins I wanted to see and we weren’t absolutely ready to be end our travels.

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The entrance to our pension on a quiet side street away from the beachside resorts. Randal had to call the number on the sign to get someone’s attention. Here he is sitting on our balcony the next morning. We paid 60 TL for our night there. These are my only photos of Kemer so you can see it wasn’t our favorite place. Kemer also has an upscale marina we won’t be visiting with Doramac.

Between Kemer and Kas, our next stop, is Demre home to the Myra ruins and the original burial place of St. Nicholas. We stopped to see both. We saw some interesting road art along the way.


Roadside art. Turkey is the land of vegetables. They should have monuments to bread too.


We stopped for fuel just outside Demre in Beymelek.

I’ve added this photo because I want to say again how wonderful all of the petrol station guys are. I think you have to pass some kind of “nice guy” test before you’re hired. Everywhere we went all over Turkey, the petrol station guys were friendly and helpful and always pleased to meet Americans. I think I mentioned similar sentiments in our Konya story comparing the Tourism staff to petrol station workers and wishing the tourist workers were as friendly and helpful. The tourism office exceptions were the offices in Fineke with its helpful English speaking staff woman and in Egirdir where they had great brochures and though the man working there spoke no English, he seemed sorry and was always happy to see us. Perhaps Isparta had a great tourism office too, but we didn’t go there since Bulent had already arranged our tour of Guneykent. The Marmaris tourism office has a pretty good map of Marmaris but that’s it and the staff, not helpful.

Next to the Opet Petrol station was a small restaurant with wifi so we stopped in for an early lunch. Café Mola Restaurant www.facebook.com/molarestaurant had a friendly helpful staff, wifi and good food. Randal and I split a chicken pita and some salad which we were told was on the house. There were families with kids. One kid had a crying fit and another was just “not in the mood.” We had some yellow rubber balls with black happy faces on them and gave one to each kid. The crying boy, who had stopped crying and was actually quite happy played with his yellow ball. The little “not in the mood” girl didn’t seem to care for hers.


Turkish tea: heater, boiling water and hot tea on top.

You pour some of the very strong tea from the top pot into your glass and then add some boiling water from the lower pot into your glass to dilute it. I had seen one of the diners do that so I knew what to do when I wanted more tea. While we stayed in the Dost Hotel back in April I’d helped myself to tea not realizing I was to add hot water from the lower pot. I’d thought it was like a double boiler and the hot water was just for heating what was above it, not for adding to the tea. Now I know.

After lunch we went on to see the Myra ruins. There were lots of tourists there and the fee was 10 TL per person. It was worth the Lira.

“If you only have time to see one striking honeycomb of rock-hewn Lycian tombs, then choose the memorable ruins of Myra. ….they are among Turkey’s finest and also feature a well-preserved Greco-Roman theater, which includes several carved theatrical masks lying in the nearby area. St. Nicholas was one of Myra’s early bishops and after his death became a popular place of pilgrimage.” Lonely Planet

According to a brochure we picked up in Egirdir about Antalya, Myra was first inhabited in 500 BC. The rock tombs date from the 4th century BC. St. Nicholas was bishop of Myra in the 4th century AD and died there in 345 AD.


The carved theatrical masks greet you.


It was quite impressive and we weren’t sorry to have made the effort to see Myra.


“Rock-Cut Tombs – The famous rock-tombs of Myra are in two main groups, one above the theater and the other in a place called the river necropolis on the east side. Although most of the tombs are plain today, Charles Fellows tells that upon his discovery of the city in 1840 he found the tombs colourfully painted red, yellow and blue. The entire cliff face must have once been a bright riot of colour.

If you obeyed the signs you couldn’t get much closer though some folks climbed over railings past the signs but not us.” http://www.lycianturkey.com/lycian_sites/myra.htm


You could walk up behind the amphitheater.


Lots of reconstruction was being done here.


Looking back at the amphitheater


Looking down from the amphitheater


Like walking through the concession area to get into the actual ballpark.


Standing at the top at the back of the amphitheater in the “nosebleed” section


Nice photo of Randal


Today’s Myra (Demre) is mostly about vegetables with greenhouses filling the countryside right up to the Myra ruins.

http://www.lycianturkey.com/lycian_sites/myra.htm Is a really good website telling about the history of Myra (short but concise.)

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xgu4f4_visit-myra-ruins-in-turkey_travel is a short video clip showing the tombs.

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Statue of St Nicholas. Baba is father in Turkish

The Church of St. Nicholas is in Demre, but we didn’t stop there: not enough energy left. St. Nicholas had been buried there originally, but according to Lonely Planet In 1087 Italian merchants smashed open the sarcophagus and took his bones back to Bari,Italy. We just quickly took photos of the statue and then headed off for Kas where we would spend our last night.

Seydisehir Rest Day

  Not every stop on our motorbike trip was eventful.  Seydisehir fits into that category but I won’t say anything negative about it, because there was not a thing wrong with Seydisehir.  We were just too tired to make any effort to make much of our stop there.



We’d started our motorbike trip July 4th. By July 10th we were tired! I was tired when we left Konya and I didn’t have to drive, I just had to sit. I had planned for us to stop in Seydisehir for three reasons. I thought Antalya, our next stop was too far to ride in a day, there were caves near Seydisehir that looked pretty interesting, and I also thought it would be interesting to stop in a “small town” not really famous for anything. Seydisehir receives no mention in Lonely Planet. Unfortunately we arrived on a Sunday and most of the shops were closed. We managed to find the hotel recommended by our Konya Hotel manager, but, amazing to us, it was fully booked. That hotel sent us down the street and we did find another which seemed clean and quiet. Turns out we spent most of our time in Seydisehir in the hotel resting and sleeping. After 6 really full days of traveling, we were truly too tired to make an effort to do much else.



There was no AC and the pillows were really too hard to use.

But we had wifi in the room, the windows let in enough air, the streets were quiet enough with our windows open, there was hot water and the small fruit, veggie, cheese, bread, etc. shop on the next corner across from the hotel had Coke Zero and potato chips. There were lots of blankets so we folded some up and covered them with our pillow cases and that made a good enough pillow. We paid very little for the room, 50 TL ( less than $33) and they even provided breakfast.

On our way into town we had passed several large industrial looking buildings. I’d read somewhere that Seydisehir was a major producer of aluminum and one should visit a plant. It probably would have been interesting but since and invitation didn’t fall into our laps, we didn’t visit.

“Eti Aluminyum is the only producer of liquid aluminium operating in Turkey and also one of the few integrated aluminium producers in the world to have its own reserve of bauxite, which is, in fact, one of the highest quality reserves in the country….

Eti Aluminyum’s main facility is located in Seydisehir; a district of Konya, in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. Eti Aluminyum has 7 mines/reserves, which are located 25 kilometres away from the factory. There are still approximately 35,773 million tonnes of reserve available to be treated in these mines. In addition, the company’s network extended significantly when the Antalya Import-Export facility joined the company in 1999, and when the Oymapınar Hydro Electric Power Plant joined the group in 2003 following its privatization. The aluminium facility, which is located to the north of Seydisehir, consists of 24 auxiliaries including the main facilities of the mines, aluminium and aluminium factories, as well as the casting and rolling departments.” http://www.euroasiaindustry.com/page/412/Choosing-Quality-over-Quantity


While we were unloading our motorbike, (the two minutes that takes) this balloon covered wedding car pulled up to the small shop next door. Young boys ran up to the windows and were given coins. We saw a few other wedding cars so maybe that’s why the hotel was booked.


A trio of storks on top of the nearby mosque.


We’ve realized our motorbike is too small for the traveling we want to do so every time we pass a bike shop, we stop to look.


Hanging carpets to air.


Randal is fascinated by these “dog biscuit” shaped bricks. And you can see lots of tall apartment buildings.

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More views of the town.

About 50,000 people live in Seydisehir so it’s not a small place. We walked around for a bit and then stopped for some lunch. Sometimes picking from a picture in the menu works and sometimes it doesn’t. We hadn’t planned to order a meat pide ( a cross between a pizza and a French bread with filling.)but that’s what we got and some tomatoes and cucumber. It was tasty but too much so we walked around some more after lunch. There wasn’t much to see in town especially with all of the shops closed. At least during the week there would be the hustle and bustle of people which is always interesting. Some people ignored us, but several we did pass said hello and were curious about us. One man invited us to his home for lunch! At that point we still had thoughts of biking the 15 miles to the caves so declined. We were really just feeling too tired to encourage much interactions with people.

We got back to the hotel and lay down for “a few minutes” which turned into a few hours. Both of us were out cold instantly. We were tired; it was really hot; sleeping seemed like a good activity. Around 3 ish we went looking for an Internet Café. We hadn’t been able to connect our computer through the hotel wifi and we needed a walk again, so off we went. The Internet Café was filled with young teenage boys playing video games just like our library at home. While walking back to the hotel we found an open building with books and computers and it seemed like a library of some kind. Sadly it was empty. We stopped in a small grocery store to buy more coffee packets and the staff welcomed us like guests. I was given tea and everyone tried to think of anything they could say in English. They seemed amazed that we’d come from America and were very glad to meet us. A bit later as we walked along we collected a trio of teenage boys. One really wanted to talk with us though he knew no English and as I have to keep saying we don’t know any Turkish. Actually, I have learned a bit and can understand a bit but my pronunciation confuses people. I often have to spell it for them and then they know what I mean.

We stopped next door at the veggie stand and bought more Coke Zero and some chips and headed back to our room. I had done some hand laundry and it was drying nicely. Randal tried the computer again and realized he’d misread a number in the password so now the computer worked. We read, rested and slept some more.

About 7 or so I went next door for some dinner food. We weren’t really hungry and we just needed more quite time away from everyone. I bought some bread and cheese and bananas and more Coke Zero. We travel with a small electric kettle and tea and coffee so we were all set. The town outside our open windows was quiet and we had a nice night of good sleep. We woke early in the morning and finished off the bread and bananas not expecting any breakfast from the hotel so early in the morning. But our young hotel manager had seen Randal bring down our panniers so had taken out the bread, cheese and olives. We really weren’t hungry at that point but to be polite sat and ate a bit. Then we were off in the cool of the early morning.

Whirling Dervishes

  My final story about Konya; the Whirling Dervish performance.



Whirling Dervishes of Konya


Konya Saturday night

It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel to the Mevlana Culture Center where the whirling dervish performance would take place at 9pm so we left in plenty of time to get there to get good seats. Because the Saturday night performances are free our hotel guy had told us there might be a crowd.

The Martyrdom Monument of the Independence War

The monument honors the memory of soldiers killed at Gallipoli, the Turkish War of Independence, the Korean War, and the Cyprus War. Turkey was neutral during most of WW 2 joining the side of the Allies in February 1945, 2 months before the war ended in Europe.


Mevlana Cultural Center…photo from Wikipedia because I didn’t have one.

The center was opened in December 2004. There is a closed Sema (hall where dervishes whirl) with 3500 seats and an open sema hall with 3220 seats. We sat in the open sema hall under a clear night sky for the performance. I’d say there were about 1,000 people there when the performance started.


The sema hall resembles an ancient amphitheater and the seats are just as hard: plastic on concrete.

“The ceremony begins when the hafiz, a scholar who has committed the entire Quran to memory intones a prayer for Mevlana and a verse from the Quran. A kettledrum booms out followed by the plaintive sound of the ney (reed flute.) Then the Seyh (master) bows and leads the dervishes in a circle around the hall. After three circuits, the dervishes drop their black cloaks to symbolize their deliverance from worldly attachments.“ Lonely Planet

The first 30 minutes were taken up by the recitations (all in Turkish) and the introductory music. Not understanding any of it I became really impatient for the whirling to begin.


The black-robed dervishes enter the sema with the musicians in the background.

“The dervishes dress in long white robes with full skirts that represent their shrouds. Their voluminous black cloaks symbolize their worldly tombs, their conical hats, their tombstones.” Lonely Planet


Seyh (spiritual leader) seated in the spotlight.


The dervishes slowly walk around and greet each other; this is done three times ….very slowly.


At this point they have dropped their black cloaks. The dervish remaining in black cloak seems also to be a master, but I’m not sure.


One by one the dervishes stepped forward and bowed to the master. “Then, one by one, arms folded on their breasts, they spin out onto the floor as they relinquish the earthly life to be reborn in mystical union with God.” Lonely Planet


You can see the dervish on the far left with his arms folded across his chest, touching his shoulder. The next step is bowing to the master and then the dervish begins to very slowly spin, moving his arms and hands into other positions.


The dervish masters walk among the dervishes to make sure their arm positions are correct.

“By holding their right arms up they receive the blessings of heaven which are communicated to earth by holding their left arms down. As they whirl they form a constellation of revolving bodies which itself slowly rotates.” Lonely Planet


There were two groups of dervishes: one remained sitting in the original line while the others performed. It’s hard to tell from my photos but the dervishes had their heads tilted and one hand was pointed up while the other pointed down.


After about 10 minutes the dervishes began to stop twirling.


They regrouped and it was at this point we left.

We had been enchanted by the whirling and it was hard to tare ourselves away, but we’d had a long day and the next morning we were leaving early from Konya on our way to either Seydisehir or Antalya. According to Lonely Planet the whirling was repeated over and over and then prayers were read to close the performance.

These photos don’t come close to capturing the experience. I think it’s one of those things, you just have to see it live. That said, I did find a pretty interesting video about Turkey with a tiny blip about the dervishes that do show you how the whirling is done.


Journeyman.tv This is a 10 minute tour of Turkey, worth watching even though the bit about dervishes is so short. I really didn’t find a great YouTube video and I can’t seem to send my video clip.

Next email Seydisehir

Konya: St Paul Church and the Mevlana Museum

  I got so caught up in trying to explain my photos that I hope I’m not confusing things with too many facts.  Do look at the 3D tour of the Mevlana Museum; you feel as if you are there.  My next email after this will show the photos of the dervishes actually whirling..



St Paul Church, Mevlana Museum, and Whirling Dervishes

Randal’s brother-in-law administrates a retirement community in Lynchburg, but Ken is also a minister and all around great guy. I include visits to churches not just because they are interesting to me, but because I want especially to share them with Ken. So one of our stops in Konya was St. Paul’s Church, built in 1910

Our prior stop had been the Ataturk “closed for renovation” Museum so when we got to St. Paul Church and the gate was locked, I was none too happy. But as our mostly good luck would have it a “tour group” showed up and the gates were opened. Randal and I had no tour tag and we spoke an entirely different language but no one said not to, so we went in along with everyone else. And it wasn’t an official tour with a speaker (we wouldn’t have understood anyway,) but just a “wander around and take photos” stop for them. It’s a small, quiet church, not  opulent and I don’t know why I picked it other than St Paul spent a good deal of time in Turkey and there is a long distance trekking trail that follows his path. And Reverend Ken.


Though described by Lonely Planet as the conservative “Bible Belt” (though it should be “Quran Belt”) here is a “non-conservative” ad across from a well cared for Catholic Church.


The gate was locked and the stone fence went all away around with no opening.

There is a sign on the door explaining something but it’s in Turkish so did us no good. When we are next in Turkey I will learn days of the week and hours of the day so we can figure out what signs are trying to tell us. (In August we’re moving to Northern Cyprus, then going home for about 3 months, and then back to Northern Cyprus for a few months and then probably to Israel so it will be a bit before we will need to know Turkish days of the week and hours of the day.)

About St. Paul

"During his first missionary journey across Anatolia, St. Paul came to Iconium (Konya), after having been chased away from Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:51). Its geographical position as a crossroads for major trade routes as well as its abundant water supply made Iconium the capital city for this region.

Here, St. Paul proclaimed the Gospel and a fervent Christian community was born. The Jews became divided over this message so St. Paul stayed some time, with the result that many believed. Eventually, under threat of his life he left the city but later returned on several occasions to encourage and exhort the people (Acts 14:1-6, 21).

The memory of St. Paul is still alive in Konya, thanks to a small church dedicated to him. This church was constructed in 1910 by priests "de l’Assomption" who came here to spiritually assist the families of the French community working in the region. St. Paul’s Konya Church is unique to this region as it is still standing after the passage of time, during which a large number of churches were demolished or turned into mosques when numbers of Christians decreased.

joined St. Paul as a companion during his journeys and later was made Bishop of Ephesus. Two of St. Paul’s letters to St. Timothy are included in the New Testament.

Now this small church, with its French Gothic facade, offers hospitality to groups of pilgrims travelling the paths of St. Paul in Anatolia, thanks to the concern and oversight of the Bishop of Izmir/ Konya and to the presence of two resident Sisters from the "Fraternity Resurrected Jesus" in Tavodo, Trento, Italy. Today’s small community of Catholic Christians gathers here once a week to pray….."http://www.cinquepani.it/Casa_frat/Konya/inglese.htm

(I have no idea how accurate this is, but hopefully most of it is.)

http://www.lycianway.com/StPaulContent/aboutthewalk.html A website describing the St. Paul Trail in Turkey and a brief survey of Paul’s history in Turkey.

Religious tourism is a growing industry in Turkey. When we thought about walking part of the St. Paul Trail while in Egirdir, I looked up info on the web and saw lots of tours offering people the chance to follow Paul’s walk in Turkey.

http://www.traildino.com/trace/continents-Europe/countries-Turkey/trails-St_Paul_Trail This seemed a really interesting web site for people who like to hike or “trek” as it’s called around the world.

The Church interior was simple.

I think the tour group members were German or Dutch and they pretty much ignored us. We stayed for a bit, then walked out into the small garden and finally let ourselves out of the gate and went off to find lunch.

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We visited St Paul Church in the afternoon. That morning we had been to see the Mevlana Museum.

Melvana Museum

Konya is most famous for being the home of the Whirling Dervish Order. I had gotten really interested in dervishes while in India, but Turkey, and Konya specifically, is where it all began. We hadn’t planned to be in Konya on a Saturday, but luckily were and every Saturday night there is a free dervish performance at the Mevlana Cultural Center. So we started the day and ended it with the Whirling Dervishes. Mevlana means “Our Guide” and was the name given to the 13th century poet/mystic philosopher Rumi (1207-1273) whose followers made up the order of dervishes. (Rumi’s birth name was Mohammed Jalaladdin. The name Rumi, meaning Anatolian, was also given to him by followers.) Rumi’s son, Sultan Veled, organized Rumi’s followers into the brotherhood called Mevlevi, or whirling dervishes. Believing dervish philosophy too conservative, superstitious and an obstacle to modern advancements, Ataturk banned them in 1925. “The Konya lodge was revived in 1957 as a ‘cultural association’ intended to preserve an historical tradition.” Lonely Planet

“The earthen graves of Mevlana and his father were covered soon after with a lavish shrine, and a takiyya was built around the tombs to house the Mawlawi brotherhood. Rebuilt and enlarged over the Karamanid and Ottoman periods, the takiyya (dergah or tekke) in Konya functioned as the center of Mawlawi teaching until 1927, when it was closed down by a new Turkish law banning the operation of takiyya and zawiyas. It was re-opened two years later as the Konya Museum of Antiquities, and renamed Mevlana Museum in 1964 with the introduction of new exhibits conveying the daily life of dervishes. The historic neighborhood around the complex, including wooden mansions of the Çelebi (leaders of the convent) to the north of the convent, was demolished in the mid-twentieth century to create parklands around the museum and the adjoining Selimiye Mosque (1566). The complex was extensively restored between 1983 and 1987” http://archnet.org/library/sites/one-site.jsp?site_id=7563

ArchNet is supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network and is currently based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In January 2012, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture will take over responsibility of the site, with the exception of the Digital Library, which will be curated by the MIT Libraries.

The museum opened at 9 am so we got there a bit before and first got into the wrong ticket line so had to start over. (My wrong line was for renting audio cassettes which we didn’t want but you couldn’t buy general admission tickets in that line so I had to move to the end of the other line.) Admission was 3 TL per person, Turk or tourist so quite reasonable and much less than comparable sites in Istanbul. With today’s exchange rate that’s a bit less than $2 per ticket. The huge tour bus groups hadn’t arrived yet but there were still several hundred people there. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the tomb. On the plus side plastic shoe covers were provided so you could wear your shoes inside.

http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/mevlana-museum.html is a great website that lets walk through the museum (really mostly a tomb) for Mevlana, his father and some followers. I found it quite beautiful with all of the colorful tiles. There was soft music playing. Many people stopped to pray at the tomb. You felt as if you needed to speak in soft whispers ….and move along…which was too bad because it was something I could have looked at for a while.


Outside the museum/tomb is an “ablution fountain” for washing before praying.  Originally built in 1502, the fountain’s roof was demolished in 1932 and reconstructed in 1990.


The “Green Dome”

“Today the Tomb rests on arches supported by four pillars, and is 25 m. in height. From the outside the body of the tomb is cylindrical in shape with 16 sections. It ends at the top with stone cornices, above which is a 16-sectioned conical spire. The whole tomb including the spire is covered with turquoise colored tiles. The tiles were replaced from time to time. For this reason it was called the Green Dome. On the side of the Dome in dark blue script are inscribed the Besmele and Ayet-ul-Kursi. On the top of the spire is a gold moon and star symbol.” http://www.istanbulportal.com/istanbulportal/Konya1.aspx


The row of dervish cells.

“There are 17 small cells, each with a small dome and chimney around the west and north sides of the front court of the Mevlana Lodge. These cells were built by Sultan Murat III to house the dervishes in 1584. At the end of the row to the left of the photo is a huge painting of a dervish and dervish master. I really liked it but gave up trying to get a clear photo because everyone wanted to pose in front of it. Interestingly we saw that interaction of master and dervish at the performance later that evening.


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Wax recreations inside the dervish cells.

We also saw the musicians at the evening performance.


Mevlevi (Mawlawi) gravestones: there were several variations on the spelling of Mevlana.


Gardens surrounded the complex.

Most women, though they covered hair, arms, and legs didn’t dress this conservatively. And shops all around town sold sundresses, shorts, bathing suits, etc.

Next email "the whirling dervishes."

Konya part 1

“Turkey’s equivalent of the “Bible Belt,” Konya treads a delicate path between its historical significance as the home town of the whirling dervish orders and a bastion of Seljuk culture on the one hand, and its modern importance as an economic boom town on the other.

The city derives considerable charm from this juxtaposition of old and new. Ancient mosques and the mazy market district rub up against contemporary Konya around Alaaddin Tepesi, where hip-looking university students talk religion and politics in the tea garden.”

From about 1150 to 1300 Konya was capital of Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, which encompassed much of Anatolia*. The Seljuk sultans endowed Konya with dozens of fine buildings in an architectural style that was decidedly Turkish but had its roots in Persia and Byzantium.”

Lonely Planet 2009

I’ve just spent the past hour trying to come up with some easy explanation for the term Anatolia in today’s usage. I have heard cruisers refer to Turkey as Anatolia. Lonely Planet doesn’t include all of Turkey in the areas it describes as Western, Central, Northeastern and Southeastern Anatolia. I think Anatolia was once larger than modern Turkey but did it include all of what is now modern Turkey? As for the Seljuks, I think they are the ancestors of the people who are now modern Turks.

*Anatolia is roughly contiguous with the Asian portion of the modern Republic of Turkey. http://www.anatolia.com/anatolia/

*Anatolia (from Greek Ἀνατολή Anatolē — "east" or "(sun)rise"; also Asia Minor, from Greek: Μικρὰ Ἀσία Mikrá Asía "small Asia"; in modern Turkish: Anadolu) is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatolia

http://eudo-citizenship.eu/docs/CountryReports/Turkey.pdf seems to be a pretty interesting explanation of Turkish ethnography for those really interested.


Our motorbiking guide Ibrahim Eauzun who took the time to lead us to our hotel through the traffic of Konya.

Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her companions look off into the distance and there’s Oz. We’ll that’s what Konya looked like to us coming down from the country road that we’d followed from Beysehir to the huge city of close to 1,000,000. It was nice to have a guide.


Looking over “Ottoman Konya” at dusk.


Our first night we ate dinner in a hotel restaurant overlooking Konya.

The red oblongs on the roof of the building are Turkish carpets. I read that sunlight can kill certain “dark and damp” loving bugs. You see carpets out being aired everywhere and no one seems to worry about fading. From these two photos it’s obvious that minarets dominate the skyline.


Yuksel Arslan


Though his goal was to sell us carpets, Yuksel took us under his wing and walked us through “mazy” Konya to a motorbike repair shop so Randal could ask about having the oil changed on our motorbike. Randal was told to return after prayers so he and Yuksel made a plan to meet at 2pm and return to the shop. Yuksel would go along to act as interpreter since no one in the shop spoke English. I stayed in our hotel room reading up about Konya, doing lots of hand laundry and relaxing. As a thank you, Randal invited Yuksel to dinner with us, and though he did join us and drank a couple of beers, it wasn’t his dinner time. (We met him at 6:30 but many people eat later after the heat of the day.) Yuksel directed us to a hotel restaurant where we had those lovely views overlooking the city, great meze, perfectly cooked fish and while the guys had beer, I had my small glass of raki. You can order it in 3 different amounts and I always order the smallest and that’s enough.

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Small neighborhoods within the big city where you can buy your fruit and veggies or my favorite, cotton candy though I resisted.


Enjoying a simit.

More women wore head scarves here than I’d seen around the coastal areas and Istanbul. All 4 women I caught in this photo have their heads covered and also their arms covered. I wore my longest mid-shin pants and a shirt with puffy sleeves that at least covered my shoulders and I always carried a shawl.

I have also grown addicted to simit, a less doughy, soft but crusty sesame seed covered bagel/unsalted real ball game pretzel.” I eat them plain, not warmed, toasted or covered with or stuffed with anything. I eat them just the way this woman is eating hers. I’m having one with some white Turkish wine as I type this now. They are so good!


A close up of the fountain which looks a bit like a representation of Konya.


The small octagonal building next door to the stone mosque is a WC (public toilet.) The toilets are below ground with a sitting area and sinks above for washing before prayers. Most charge 1 TL but are kept clean. As we traveled inland I found mostly squat toilets which I can deal with but aren’t my first choice. I have learned to open each of the stall doors because often hidden behind one is a sit down toilet.


Electrical boxes have been turned into works of art.

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“On the western side of the Alaaddin Tepesi ring road is the İnce Minare Medresesi (Seminary of the Slender Minaret), now the Museum of Wooden Artefacts & Stone Carving. This religious school was built in 1264 for Sahip Ata, a powerful Seljuk vizier, who may have been trying to outdo the patron of the Karatay Medresesi, built only seven years earlier.

The extraordinarily elaborate doorway, with bands of Arabic inscription running all round it, is far more impressive than the small building behind it. The octagonal minaret in turquoise relief is over 600 years old and gave the seminary its popular name. If it looks a bit short, this is because the top was sliced off by lightning in 1901.”


We didn’t go into the museum because we were on our way to the Ataturk Museum. We were planning to attend the 9 pm dervish performance that evening and didn’t want to be too tired from trying to do too much during the day.


But we did stop next door: Burger, fries and a Coke cost 7.45 TL about $4.50

Randal had a lemon milkshake and I had Coke light. We had visited the Mevlana Museum and walked over Alaaddin Hill and were on our way to the Ataturk House Museum when we stopped for a snack. The McDonald’s manager was very helpful telling us about the building next door and translating the milkshake flavors for Randal. He chose lemon anyway. We finally got to the Museum and it was closed for renovation something the Konya Tourist Office had failed to mention. I hadn’t specifically asked but you’d think they would have pointed that out, Ataturk being the national hero and all. And it wasn’t as if it had just closed that morning. It looked like it had been closed for a while. The man who had finally come out from the museum to see who was trying to break in spoke little English and was mostly interested in making us go away. Ataturk is a very important part of modern Turkey and I had really wanted to visit the museum. Bulent and Mayor Gozgun would have let us in or made some effort or at least have acted sorry at our disappointment. I guess we were surprised that everyone didn’t treat us that way, though most people did so that’s why we were surprised when some people weren’t helpful.


A modern sculpture that I like but can’t remember what it was all about. I just liked the horses. It was down the street from the “closed for renovation” Ataturk Museum. This street also had lots of high end clothing shops and computer and appliance shops.

We arrived in Konya on Friday and were in our room at the Otel Derya when I noticed men gathering just outside our window. Our hotel room overlooked a Friday mosque (I think that’s what it was,) where men gather to pray. This was the scene before the prayers began and again after prayers.


Cardboard is placed to protect the prayer rugs.


Some men put down large carpets to share and others had individual prayer rugs.


Those in the sun must have been quite hot.

These photos were taken on Friday, the day we arrived and Saturday during the day.  We attended the free Whirling Dervish performance Saturday evening.  Photos from that performance and our visit to St. Paul Church Saturday afternoon will be the next email.



Beysehir "Ottoman Heart"

  "The main town on this region’s third major lake, fast growing Beysehir has preserved its Ottoman heart against  the waves of modernity, and is home to one of Anatolia’s best medieval mosques.  Founded around the 6th century BC, Beysehir has changed hands innumerable times in the course of its history (including 20 times between 1374 and 1467) but was most favored under the 13th century Seljuks, who considered it a second capital."  Lonely Planet


Esrefoglu Mosque

“The Esrefoglu Mosque is the biggest and the most original wooden-columned mosque in Anatolia (Turkey.) It is located in Beysehir district, Icerisehir quarter. It was built between 1296 and 1299…..In winter times, the snow on the roof falls off to the pool in the middle from the hole on the roof and melts, therefore, with the humidity, the wooden columns do not dry and crack. The hole on the roof is closed and has no function since 1965.” …..It has been repaired from time to time after 1934. As a result of those repairments, the soil roof has been covered first with clay roofing tiles, then with copper.”

From the booklet Konya Mawlana published by Cetiner

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The carved wood door and tiled entrance.


There are 42 wooden pillars: the former pool in surrounded by the low wood fence.


A better picture of the former roof opening now clear glass with the pool beneath. Pretty ingenious system. Many parts of Turkey get snow, not just on the tallest mountains. We biked past poles along mountain roads to let you know where the road is buried under the snow.


The 6 meter high mihrab covered with blue tile mosaics

Dictionary of Islamic Architecture


Niche or marker used to indicate the direction of prayer usually in a mosque.


A mihrab is usually a niche set into the middle of the qibla wall of a building in order to indicate the direction of Mecca. The earliest mosques do not appear to have had mihrabs and instead the whole qibla wall {the wall of the mosque that faces Mecca,} was used to indicate the direction of Mecca. http://archnet.org/library/dictionary/entry.jsp?entry_id=DIA0470&mode=full

The shape seems to be the same pattern that was on the carpet of the new mosque and you see woven into small prayer rugs….with the pointed part pointing towards Mecca. I certainly learn a lot writing up these emails so I can explain the photos to all of you! When I’m actually there, just seeing them seems to be enough without an explanation. But if you just have photos information is more important.

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I found this mosque more beautiful than the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Maybe the smaller size and the fact that I was one of the only people there so you could see. And none of the interior was roped off. My eyes, and so the camera, were drawn to the wood pillars and the blue Mihrab and the worry beads scattered around the pillars. I didn’t photograph upwards as I did at the Blue Mosque. I guess the camera doesn’t capture the world as it is, but rather what seems important to me!


Prayer Beads

“The History and Meaning of Prayer Beads

Over two-thirds of the world’s population employ prayer beads as part of their religious practices. Prayer beads have a variety of forms and meanings, but the basic purpose is the same: to assist the worshiper in reciting and counting specific prayers or incantations. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are the major religions that use prayer beads in important ritualistic roles.

Beads have long been linked with the act of prayer. The English word bead is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words bidden ("to pray") and bede ("prayer"). The use of beads in prayer appears to have originated with Hindu religious practices in India , possibly around the 8th century B.C.E. Buddhism, which developed from a sect of Hinduism, retained the use of prayer beads as it became established in China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet. It is thought that Islam adopted prayer beads through contact with Buddhism and Hinduism. Prayer beads, in the form of the Catholic rosary, were common throughout Europe by the late Middle Ages.

Muslim Subha

It is not clear exactly when Muslims adopted the use of prayer beads. Known as subha ("to exalt"), Muslim prayer beads usually occur in sets of 99 counting beads and an elongated terminal bead. The counting beads are used to recite the 99 attributes of God, with the terminal bead reserved for reciting the name of Allah. Though the number of beads is important, the type of beads used does not hold the importance it does in Hinduism and Buddhism.” http://anthromuseum.missouri.edu/minigalleries/prayerbeads/intro.shtml


The time clock and I think a clock telling the 5 times of prayers… The first time is the time for the first prayer before sunrise and the second time is sunrise when the pre-sunrise prayer ends. The other times are when prayers are offered. So prayers are offered 5 times each day.

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Not a great look for me, but it was how I needed to be dressed to enter the mosque.

I returned the scarf which I could have bought for 5 Euro, about $7.50 which was way more than it was worth…to me anyway. I just gave her 3 TL for her time.


Dokumacilar Hani which was the cloth hall and now seems to be used for storage.


Homes across the huge square.


An antique shop.

Real antiques are strictly regulated and need batches of paperwork for export; not that we were in the market. No room on a motorbike for souvenirs.


Some kind or grain was put out to dry.


I wonder how many homes are actually occupied in the old section of town; we saw very few people out and about, but it was very hot.


There were no signs explaining what was being unearthed, but this was still old town so you never know.


An intriguing old town structure…..


And a hanging rug.

We were up early the next day and set off for Konya, home of the Whirling Dervishes and subject of the next few emails.



Beysehir part 1

We were enjoying the Lake District so much we decided to stop at Lake Beysehir instead of going directly to Konya. In hindsight I wish we would have either stayed one night longer in Egirdir to explore Isparta or gone directly to Konya. Beysehir has an interesting old section that deserved more time than we gave it. And the rural part of the lake that we biked past is beautiful. Lots of ruins to see in the area too. However, had we not planned to stop in Beysehir we might not have taken the slower, very beautiful mountain roads.


We quickly left the Egirdir behind. 

We had two maps with us and between the two maps and the two of us, we managed to get ourselves from Egirdir to Beysehir.


It was just stunning.  (This is a real photo; just the part closest to us was cropped a bit.)

I wish I could take photos over Randal’s shoulder, while we ride along but the movement makes the pictures blurry.  We could have stopped dozens of times along the way to take photos, but our goal was to get to Beysehir…..Wish we had stopped more along the way.  We were at a high enough elevation that Randal needed his jacket and I added a layer underneath mine. But this was not the coldest ride we experienced.


Thursday Market day

We left the tall mountains behind and began making our way to Lake Beysehir. We passed through a few tiny towns with road signs that challenged our map skills and Turkish language skills. This town was a bit larger so the location of a Thursday Market. We stopped and walked around a bit to rest our seats and stretch our legs. At first everyone was really shy, but then some moms encouraged their children to practice speaking English saying “hello” and “where are you from?” Then Randal bought some olives and I bought a mix of raisins and some kind of nutty tasting small puffy things. Randal didn’t have enough small change to pay for his olives so motioned for the seller to hold the bag and he would come back. The seller motioned to Randal to take the olives and then come back later with the 1 TL that was still owed. It was also market day back in Egirdir and as we biked away we saw the vendors setting up their stalls. Thursday is also market day in Marmaris, Mugla and Icemeler too. I don’t know why Thursday is chosen other than Friday is the Muslim holy day so maybe provisions had to be bought the day before. Now Sunday is the “closing” day though many shops remain open.


Burro parking.

I went over to rub his ears and neck and he seemed to enjoy it.

We have seen burro carts other places. And we saw two “cowboys” riding along the road on horses earlier that day. We saw shepherds with their flocks and women herding their cows through the town. Turkey is definitely a mix of the old and new.


It goes “BOOM!”

That’s all we know. I made a sound like “boom” and then pretended to be a bird and flapped my wings. The men sitting around the display agreed with the “boom” part but I’m not sure about the birds. Somehow the idea of fish came across I’m not sure if the boom scares birds out of the fields or attracts fish.


The market town.

Where is everyone? Maybe at the market. This road had actually been blocked off but we were motioned through. We passed an empty lot where men were dancing and music was playing, but we just waved and kept going. It looked like a scene from Zorba the Greek…


The “bad road” part.

It really wasn’t so bad. In rain, that would be a different story. We just went slowly. I grip Randal with my legs and hold on. It is a bit like riding a horse. Randal has to do the tricky driving to keep us out of holes and away from bigger rocks. Now we want a bigger bike so this kind of “off-road” riding, and the steep mountain climbs will be easier and safer. We really are hooked on motorbike travel.


A traffic jam with the only 3 motorized vehicles for miles around.

This truck was coming one way and there was a car behind us. Both stopped and we scooted between the two. The drivers of the vehicles rolled down their windows and had a chat. This actually was a pretty active road construction site and there were several yellow earth movers working to build the new road.


The dirt road was “the village road” and here we have rejoined the main road that takes you to Lake Beysehir. These cows knew where they were going. They were big and had horns but just ignored us as we went by.

It seemed forever before we actually saw the lake making me wonder if we’d taken a wrong turn on the unmarked dirt roads. But there had been no other choices really.


The lakeshore was rugged and lovely and it would have been easy to spend the day walking along through the fields surrounding the lake. But we’d brought no picnic so had to keep going along to Beysehir.


Beyaz Park Hotel

It was “the” listing from Lonely Planet. When we arrived in Beysehir, it was about 2 pm and we were hungry. Randal wanted a beer with lunch to wash away the dirt road, so we walked around until we found a restaurant that served beer. (Easy to find beer on the coast, but harder inland where religion has more importance.) I noticed the restaurant was located in Beyaz Park. I asked our waiter about the hotel and turns out we were sitting right next to it! We ate a huge lunch because we didn’t know how to order. I ordered some yogurt not realizing that it was also served with some of the vegetables we had ordered. And I heard eggplant when they meant egg so we had a sort of crustless quiche instead of aubergine which is what eggplant is always called and Randal had ordered beans and then a meat dish…Way, way too much food. We skipped dinner altogether and just had some tea and cookies in our room.

In the photo of our hotel you can see a row of solar panels and hot water tanks on the roof. Solar panels heating the water of the roof tanks are seen everywhere in Turkey. We did have plenty of hot water so it was a “hair washing” afternoon for me while Randal used the computer in the hotel lobby. Eventually the wifi worked in the room too.

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We had no AC, but we did have a balcony and lots of windows and the nights were cool enough to need a blanket.

The hotel is old and in need of a face lift, but it was clean enough and cheap enough and it had wifi…. Breakfast wasn’t so great, the first time that has happened in Turkey. And after skipping dinner that was too bad!

We did seem some of Beysehir during our afternoon walk.


Historic water regulator taken from the canal side.

When the water was rushing through we could hear it in our hotel room which overlooked the canal.

Beysehir Lake is 1015 meters above sea level. Water is drained from the lake and used to irrigate the Konya Plain, Turkey’s “Bread Basket.” This is the canal side of the lake.

“Konya Governor Ferid Pasa of Alonya had this bridge built to Anatolia-Ottoman consortium between 1908 and 1914. The bridge is built in regulator-dam system. The length of it is 40.70 meters and 6.35 meters. There are fifteen arches over bridge located on fourteen columns on its Westside. The bridge is one of the symbols of the city with its monumental beauty.” From information on a huge billboard in the old part of town.


The lake side…not little and cute like Egirdir.


Agriculture is a main industry in Turkey.


This mosque was in the center of the new part of town.

I love the black and white design and the Turkish carpet over the door. I’ll have to find out why that is done. It was the first time we saw that, though we saw it again in Konya. I think, from what I have learned about the prayer ritual, that each red section of the carpet is a “prayer carpet” for the men who come to pray.

Next email, Old Beysehir and the Esrefoglu Camii.



Visit to a Guneykent Family

The last 2 Boston Red Sox games have been pretty wild: 1-0 in 16 innings against the Rays and 15-10 the next day against the Orioles. As long as they keep winning I don’t care. The 16 inning game lasted so long, it was still going on when I checked the score in the morning (we’re 7 hours ahead of the east coast.) So I was able to "watch" it and was relieved at the final score. Go Sox!

Our time in Marmaris is growing short. At the end of the month we’ll head off to North Cyprus to the Karpaz Gate Marina. Before we leave I am trying to complete all of the emails about our motorbike ride around Turkey. This email is about our visit to a family in Guneykent.



Visit to a Guneykent Family

After visiting the rose fields, we were taken to visit a Guneykent family with a small distillation operation. Because the rose oil and water producing season was over, the equipment had been stored away but it was brought out from the house and set up just so we could see how it all worked.


Ahmet and a family member set up the big still



If I’m correct, the rose petals and water are put into the big still and heated. Evaporation and cooling takes place between the still and the final collection point. Depending on the process the final product is either rose water or the more time consuming and more valuable rose oil.


The product comes out here.



The vapor leaves the still and is cooled in the pipe submerged in water after it leaves the still.


I think we asked if they were part of the Gulbirlik cooperative, and they were not.




Rose petal waste; but not wasted.


The “waste” is shaped into bricks and burned probably smelling wonderful.


My attempts to pat the family cows just annoyed the cows so I gave up.


Randal, Ahmet, “our gracious host,” Emre, and the young family member.

We were given a small bottle of rose water to drink and a large one to take with us as a gift. 

What a wonderful treat! That smile stayed on Randal’s face our whole ride back to Egirdir.

We were driven back to the town center to meet again with Mayor Gozgun who gave us rose calendars as reminders of our visit. Then we went off for lunch. While we ate I asked Emre if I should have gone to say hello to the women of the family we’d visited since they, from custom or comfort level, didn’t come to join us. Emre’s answer was sort of vague, but I do know he is too polite to imply I’d done something wrong, but next time I will think to go visit the women.

When I’d planned our stop in Isparta, I had done it because of Randal’s interest in roses. He’s been a member of the Rose Society in Roanoke for years and had planted 16 climbing rose bushes around the fence at our house on Bridle Lane and dozens of bushes at his Roanoke businesses. Our visit to Guneykent was really a very special treat for both of us and we thank everyone who made it possible for us

Guneykent roses part 1

  If some of you didn’t get the photos from my last email, check the website and they will be there.  Not sure what happened.  This email starts the story of our visit to the town of Guneykent. 

I hope it comes across how much we enjoyed our visit and really appreciate everyone who made it possible.  Emre and Ahmet took us to visit a family in Guneykent who had a small distillation operation and I’ll write about that next email. 



Guneykent part 1

During the months of May and June there are official organized tours of rose fields and rose petal processing plants. But arriving in Isparta in July, we were too late for that. Lonely Planet mentions the Gulbirlik Company as an option for tours that you might arrange on your own. I emailed them and was told that the season had ended but if we came to the cosmetics factory in Isparta they could possibly arrange something. I pretty much said that we had only the one day and had come so far because of the roses so we’d show up and take what we could get. The email from Gulbirlik’s Ahmet Doganer (from his Turkcell Blackberry) had included the address and with just a little help from some local Ispartans, we arrived on time, 10 am. We were ushered upstairs to a set of offices and told to wait, that Ahmet was expecting us and would be there shortly. Ahmet was very welcoming, but also very apologetic that there was not much to see. We went outside where there were examples of distillation equipment and he explained them and gave us some statistics but really couldn’t do more than that.

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The outside of the Gulbirlik building where Ahmet is explaining the distillation process to Randal.

Gul means rose and according to the Google translator birlik means unity or alliance. “Established in 1954, Gulbirlik is now made up of 6 separate cooperatives with 8,000 producer partners, 4 rose oil plants at 4 different locations and 2 rose oil solid plants. It processes 320 tons of rose flowers per day during the season….” www.gulbirlik.com/eng/aboutus.asp


The “stills” reminded me of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz and Franklin County, VA with its history of moonshine!

We were appreciative that the Gulbirlik Company made any time for us at all, but disappointed because we thought we’d be shown the factory at work. We had stayed an extra day in Egirdir just for this “tour.” But Isparta is also known for carpets so we biked into the city center and saw a side of Isparta we’d missed during our late afternoon bike through two days earlier. It looked quite appealing and interesting so our mood changed pretty quickly. We had a listing of tourism offices in cities throughout Turkey and showed the Isparta listing to people on the street who directed us along until we finally found the location that matched the address. Lucky for us the address was for government offices and not tourism offices. You can get the best help and friendly welcome at any gas station in Turkey: you just can’t get that kind of reception at the tourism offices. That’s why I say we were lucky we got to the wrong place. The office address actually belonged to Bulent Akbas, Traffic Regulation Branch Police Department Deputy. Bulent spoke fluent English and he was truly interested in helping us. First he was going to tell us how to get to the tourism office. Then he was going to take us..and then he asked why we were going, what did we want to know? When we told him of our interest in the rose field and industry, he went into action. He told us to sit, offered us tea or water. Next he called his friend, the Mayor of Guneykent to arrange a tour of the rose fields for us. It took a few minutes and a call back as I remember, but in less time than it would have taken us to find the actual Isparta Tourism Office, Bulent had arranged our rose field tour in the small town of Guneykent! We thanked him with all our hearts, what else could you do in a situation like that. Bulent had told us that during his time as a UN Peacekeeper (gave me chills just to hear him say that) he had met Americans who had become friends. Thanks to his caring enough to help us, Randal and I had the best day of our motorbike trip and one of our best days in Turkey.


Bulent Akbas explaining to Randal how to get from Isparta to Guneykent.

Bulent had said we could get to Guneykent in 30 minutes, but speeding would take 20 minutes. ( I guess he was kidding.) At any rate, at our speed it took nearly an hour. When we arrived it seemed as if the entire town had been waiting for us! I wish I could replay exactly what happened but I can’t, just that there was a welcoming committee and soon we were sitting under a shady tree drinking tea and eating cookies with the Mayor and our guides Emre and Ahmet.


Mayor Fahretdin Gozgun at his desk.

I managed not to get any of my own photos of the Mayor. I’d thought we’d see him later in the afternoon at lunch, but unfortunately we didn’t so I “borrowed” this one from the Guneykent website.

The Mayor was a very charming man and maybe one day his picture will be hanging up next to Ataturk’s all over Turkey. Mayor Gozgun is also a petroleum and natural gas engineer. He sat with us while we drank several cups of refreshing Turkish tea and then he handed us off to our guides Emre and Ahmet.


We also met these young men who gave us a brochure about Bediuzzaman Said Nursi which will teach us about modern Turkish history as well as increase our knowledge about Islamic thought (of which we have very little.)


Guneykent center.


Yunus Emre: Poet, Sufi, Dervish 1240? to 1221? Statue was in the small town park where we had tea.

“His beliefs were rooted in religion, and he was undeniably an Islamic Sufi, but his philosophy was independent and he taught that every belief and every idea, religious or otherwise, that leads to the creator is sacred.” http://adnantuncel.com/yunus.html

For those who truly love God and his ways

All the people of the world are brothers.

We regard no one’s religion as contrary to ours,

True love is born when all faiths are united as a whole.

True faith is in the head, not in the headgear.

You better seek God right in your own heart

He is neither in the Holy Land nor in Mecca


Our guide Emre Yalcinkaya

(Without a Turkish keyboard I’m not actually spelling his last name correctly but that’s the best I can do. Bulent’s name and the Mayor’s have also been Anglicized by my keyboard.)

Emre’s family was originally from Guneykent but had moved to Isparta when Emre was a young boy. Lucky for us he was on summer holiday from university in Istanbul where he is studying industrial engineering and even luckier for us he was in Guneykent to visit his aunt and have some of her “famous soup” which she had made that day.


We left our motorbike in town and hopped into an official Guneykent vehicle to be driven to the rose fields.


Both Emre (1,000 sq meters) and Ahmet (1,005 sq meters) own rose fields and here give Randal some facts and figures about the industry. Emre said that he worked picking petals as a young boy. I made some comment that it was the reason he wanted to be an industrial engineer and get out of the fields. He told me just the opposite, that rose fields earn good money!


Ahmet worked for the town of Guneykent and was our driver.


Once I got started I didn’t want to stop.

These roses are after the season and we were told we could pick as many as we wanted!


After our day in the rose fields, we were treated to lunch. On the way to the restaurant we stopped to visit Emre’s family’s cherry orchard. We tasted the sour cherries and the sweet cherries. They also had peach trees. Emre’s dad teaches elementary school in Isparta. His mom takes care of his dad and him when he’s home. His older sister is working on her Ph.D. in industrial engineering but now is on maternity leave.

Emre also taught me about Turkish hugging. When it was time for Randal and me to head on back to Egirdir, a handshake and thanks didn’t seem enough. I asked Emre if I could give him a big hug. He said yes and I hugged him and then stepped away. But he taught me that two hugs are given in Turkey, the way the Europeans kiss on both cheeks. Two hugs are good! I promised to remember that but haven’t met anyone else yet who inspires any from me.

While in Guneykent we visited a local family to see their rose petal processing operation, but that’s for part 2.

These websites will give you more information about Isparta, Guneykent and the rose industry. On my computer Google automatically translates the pages from Turkish if that’s their original language.

http://www.ispartahem.gov.tr/english/isparta_city.htm Information about Isparta

http://www.gulbirlik.com/ One of the main producers of rose water and rose oil products

http://www.guneykent.bel.tr/ The official website of Guneykent

http://gular.sdu.edu.tr/index_en.php Great site to learn about rose industry

http://gular.sdu.edu.tr/index_en.php?dosya=roseoil&tur=2 Explains the distillation process

"Gülbirlik, founded as a union of cooperatives in 1954 in the ‘world of roses’ of Isparta, operates with some 8,000 producer-partners in Turkey. The union has come to control 40 percent of the world’s rose oil market since overtaking Bulgaria in rose oil exports in 2004 and 2005……



The rose blossoms are picked from very early in the morning (when they open) until 10-11 a.m. Later in the day the oil contained in the rose petals loses its delicate aroma. The amount of rose blossoms collected daily by one worker is about 20-25 kg, 30 kg may only be picked by a very skilled hand. The flowers are gathered by holding the petals with three fingers and gently lifting up the blossom before picking it off. A Put in sacks and stored in a shady place, the blossoms are transported to the rose distilleries as quickly as possible in order to obtain a maximum quantity of essential a oil

The distilling installation consists of a still, a steam-leading pipe, a cooling container and vessels for collecting the produce – rose oil and rose water. The overall distillation process takes about two hours. On the average, 3.5 tons of rose blossoms are needed to produce 1 kg of rose oil. Depending on the quality of flowers and the method of distillation, however, yields can vary between 3.0 and 5.0 tons (which equals more than one million flowers) to produce just 1 kg of rose oil. Following the distillation, the droplets of pure rose oil left floating on the surface of the condensed liquid are separated from the rose water using special equipment.

Oil rose is the main source of the rose oil and other materials including concrete, absolute and rose water, the most important commercial products especially in the flavour and fragrance industry. Rose oil is produced by water steam distillation of fresh rose flowers. Concrete is a waxy product extracted from fresh rose flowers with volatile solvents. Absolute and bioabsolute are alcohol extracts of the concretes from fresh and residue flowers, respectively. Rose water is a byproduct obtained during the distillation of rose flowers.

Rose Oil and Rose Oil By-Products

Rose oil is extracted from rose blossoms of Rosa Damascena through water distillation. Its fragrance is extremely potent.

Rose concrete is obtained from the fresh flowers of the Bulgarian oil-bearing rose (Rosa damascena) through petroleum-ether extraction.

Rose absolute is extracted from rose concrete. It is a red liquid mainly used in perfumery.

Rose water is a by-product obtained during the distillation process of attar of roses, this is why it contains 0.04 up to 0.05 per cent of pure rose oil.

Rose water concentrate is a by-product of rose oil distillation containing 0.08 per cent of the precious essence.

Rose essence is the "progenitor’s genome" of any top perfume. It has no other fragrances. The aroma is unique – one of roses. Genuine roses. For it contains natural rose oil