A continuation of my TopDeck Turkey diary. If you haven’t read the first post in the series yet go and start here.
There were a number of people who’d been out with us last night who had sore heads this morning. Not drinking alcohol definitely has its advantages sometimes! Although I was also very tired; yesterday (check out the amazing day I had in Cappadocia) was a long and busy day in the sunshine and I was grateful for the later-than-normal start to our day. I admit I was more than a little disappointed that the hotel decided not to put on the fresh omelettes at breakfast like the previous day. I’d been looking forward to it! Ah well, little things.
The first stop on our journey today was a traditional Cappadocian pottery where we had a demonstration from a master potter. He showed us how the Hittites would make their pots, using a kick wheel which looked very tiring. He made a small pot and a lid, separately, which fitted perfectly when he put them together. We were all suitably impressed. They might use electric wheels these days but everything here is still hand made, and the potters are masters at their craft. Then there were the painters, using the teeniest of brushes to give each piece such fine detail in amazing colours. Very skilled.
Such delicate work.
The owner explained the pottery itself comes from local mines and caves, and is mixed with Quartz which is where the quality comes from. The pottery is dried for two weeks in a cave before being baked, painted, glazed and baked again. It’s all completely food safe and very difficult to break (I made sure I kept my hands to myself anyway!). We watched the painters do the designs and they were true artists, it was beautiful work. Then of course there was a shop where I was very tempted but if I bought something it would just be a thing and I’m trying to get rid of things, so I resisted. It was expensive but the pieces were artwork and I don’t think they were overpriced. I’d have bought a necklace but they were 675 Lira, which was a bit much for my budget in reality. Some of the girls had a little henna tattoo done there, turns out it was just an employee of the pottery practising for an upcoming event, so they were in luck there.
The pottery shop. A dangerous place for someone as clumsy as me to be!
Once we left Cappadocia we were in for a long drive, which was broken up with a couple of stops for lunch (I admit I chose a MacDonald’s burger today, sometimes you just need rubbish!) and sightseeing, the shortest of which was at Sultan Han which is an old Silk Road Caravan House. Alex continued to teach us more about Turkey and its politics and culture. This is the true benefit of a group tour like the ones TopDeck run; the guide knows the area and can talk (at length), providing real insight rather than just pointing and giving names of places.
Sultan Han, a stop on the old Silk Road. These big doors were locked overnight, and if anything “went missing” overnight no-one would be allowed to leave to continue their journey until it was found.
Eventually we made it to Konya, a planned city – a bit like Milton Keynes I guess, but on a much larger scale. It’s huge, situated on plains surrounded by mountains. It’s one of the most conservative cities in Turkey, and is a dry city (with an alcohol ban). We were told to make sure we were dressed conservatively, and that even with our skin covered we would be looked at; Alex wasn’t over playing it either, we were the centre of attention, being starred at as we walked down the street. It was noticeable to me that we never saw a woman on her own, only with a man or with a family group. The shop window displays all showed very modest clothing, full length dresses, and the mannequins all had head scarves on – it wasn’t like that even in Istanbul.
Our hotel was right in the centre of Konya, a 4.5 star split across two sites, and the best we had stayed in so far. It was new and modern and had good wifi and a great shower – two very important features if you ask me! We arrived in the late-afternoon and so had a quick change and freshen up before meeting Alex to go to the Dervish museum. We walked down the main street and watched as people rushed around with huge shopping bags, they were getting ready for Eid. We saw some men put a (live) sheep into a truck and there were people with trolleys full of sweets and meat. We could feel eyes follow us everywhere, it wasn’t threatening but very odd, not very nice really, I was glad I was in a group as it all made me feel rather anxious. Unfortunately, when we got to the museum we discovered it had been closed as the prime minister was visiting, and despite Alex’s best effort we couldn’t get in. So he took us around the outside of the very impressive building and told us the stories of the Dervish and their whirling. We then had a wander around the market before going back to the hotel to relax before dinner.
Our TopDeck tour leader Alex speaking about the Dervish people.
We met up with the group and headed to a local restaurant to try some Konya area specialties. I had a pitta pizza with cubed beef and some veg, which was really tasty and something I might try to recreate back home. We were right by the main mosque in the centre of town, and at sunset the Imam sang the call to prayer as normal. Being in a country where there are mosques on every street we have got used to hearing the call to prayer. Mostly the Imam have been quite melodious and their song just act as background music to me, but this time it was so grating and hard to avoid, disagreeing with my desire for perfect pitch and rhythm. Then another started joining in from a different mosque – like they were having some kind of battle via their speaker systems. So strange.
The view from our open air restaurant.
The food was good and we chatted about Language differences in our various countries, it was fun hearing which stereotypes the Aussies and Kiwis who’ve lived in London have picked up on. For example, it amuses them that Brits tut a lot, and say sorry constantly. Yup, we do that. It was good to hear that roast dinners and proper tea get big ticks! We also chatted about the different words we use for the same things – you know, pants and trousers, zucchini and courgette, that sort of thing. Did you know “lollies” are what we’d call “sweets” and the Americans call “candy” – no little white sticks required!
Turnip juice, anyone? No, I wasn’t brave enough.
With it being Eid tomorrow we headed for the supermarket on our way back to the hotel as we knew most things would be closed for the public holiday. It was absolutely rammed with people buying shares in boiled sweets and other treats; they’re going to have some great parties tomorrow!
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Thank you SO MUCH to TopDeck for inviting me to join them on the tour. TopDeck covered my flights and the tour itself in return for coverage here on Splodz Blogz, and I covered all other expenses (including food, entrance fees and excursions) myself. I definitely recommend this kind of travel to anyone who wants to explore somewhere new without any hassle. Take a look at the TopDeck website for the full range of tours available.