Sunday 28 September 2014

Turkish Delight: Konyaaa


A Miniature depicting Konya
Statue of a Whirling Dervish

After spending a boring day in Ankara, which consisted of lazing around in the apartment all day and visiting Golbasi park in the evening, I was ready to visit Konya. The only saving grace of the Boring day was my Turkish Friend Yiğit, who showed up after his work at the airport traffic control. Yiğit was a volunteer for the program that brought me to Ankara last year. He was one of the most interesting people from my trip. He has majored in Political Science and tried three times to land a job at the Turkish Foreign Ministry.The exam has multiple steps and one has to pass written exams as well as multiple interviews to be finally selected. Yiğit was terribly unlucky as he had once reached the final interview but was deemed unsuccessful by the interviewer. To quote Yiğit, They are not looking for just any diplomats, they are looking for Henry Kissingers.
Among the many gems shared by Yiğit that night, a few are worth mentioning.
On the topic of Turkish foreign policy and ambitions towards a local hegemony
“We [Turkey] cannot actually become a superpower, despite our apparent attempts to do so, we are just too lazy to be a superpower”.
On the topic of Turkish people trying other languages, “Turkish people don’t usually know how to appropriately express themselves in English, which is why they flail and swing their arms like a shadow boxer when speaking English”.

He had participated in Anti-AK party protests after Gezi and SOMA and he regaled us with stories of how Beşiktaş fans trolled the Riot police and how a Tennis Player in Ankara used to to hurl the Tear Gas canisters back at the police using his racquet. I asked him about CHP, the main opposition party in Turkey. He was of the view that CHP felt content with their role as opposition. They are rich, have a support and patronage network and are not too bothered with the nuisance of governing. In 2014, mayoral elections,a CHP candidate lost in Ankara due to massive rigging but the party didn’t capitalize on this issue and chose to remain inside their cocoon.

We discussed my plan to get back to Istanbul and then to take a plane to Cappadokia. He advised me to book a plane ticket, instead of taking the bus, as the price-difference wasn’t too huge and it would save me time as well. As he left, I looked up websites of different local airlines on the inter-web and chose Pegasus’s flight. The only issue was that my credit card was not valid for online transactions and I had to get that authorized by the bank in Pakistan. It was time for Suhoor in Pakistan, so I called my parents in Pakistan who got the card activated for online transactions and the deed was done. I was supposed to fly at 9.20 am to Istanbul, the caveat being that the flight was to land at Sabiha Gokcan airport while my Cappadokia flight was to leave from Ataturk Airport at 1:20 pm. I left the details to the future and took a good nights’ sleep.

My Pakistani friend and I left for Ankara-gar an hour before our train was scheduled to leave for Konya. I discovered that Ankara’s train station was established in 1937 and it connected Ankara with Antalya, Eskisehir, Konya and Sivas in the eastern part of Turkey. As we embarked upon the train, it was the first time outside of an airport that our luggage was scanned by a machine. In Pakistan, every major government/private building has scanners and people who pat you down for security purposes. The train journey was smooth and without incident. I discovered that speed on the screens was shown as Kilometers/s. I initially thought it was Kilometer/second, but my friend corrected me that the “s” denoted “Saat” (which means hour in Türkçe). I spent the two-hour journey reading Elif Shafak’s ‘Forty Rules of Love’ (Its Türkçe version is called ‘Aşk’) while my friend dozed off.    

From Konya-gar, we took the tram to reach Mevlana, the site of Mevlana Rumi’s shrine. I must confess that I am not a very spiritual person and I was not exactly moved by the experience at Mevlana. I went there as a curious tourist and was delighted to see history and historical items being preserved in the leafy Anatolian town of Konya.I was disappointed when my friend informed me that Whirling Dervishes only performed on Saturdays and we won’t be able to witness a live performance during our short visit. Following the visit to Mevlana, we walked to the nearby Bazaar and looked for a good place to eat some Etli Ekmek(Pizza-like dish which originated in Konya). Despite being a vegetarian, I indulged in the ritual to mark the occasion. The Ekmek felt bland as we were not given any sauces with it, and I improvised by using some lemon juice and spices as a spread for the Ekmek.

Our train was supposed to leave at 6 pm and we were done with Mevlana by 2 pm. There were four hours to kill, so we walked across town, found a green spot to rest and saw some old mosques. From the Bazaar, I got some Pişmanye, a sweet which is similar to “Pateesa” in Pakistan. We found a graveyard of Indian soldiers who were part of British Army in WWI but switched sides and fought alongside the Turks. I discovered that parking at Mevlana was free for the first one hour and one had to pay certain amount afterwards. Konya is a small city and we walked across the city center to reach Konya-gar by 4 pm. My friend dozed off again while I busied myself with reading some articles off the internet. On the return-leg of our journey, my friend, who is doing his Masters Degree in Soil Sciences, talked about difference in agricultural practices between Pakistan and Turkey. He comes from a land-owning family and has studied agriculture in Pakistan so it was an enriching experience listening to him.
We were really tired by the time we reached the apartment but it was a day well-spent.   

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting account. What did you see at Mevlana? Sad that you couldn't watch the whirling dervish's performance. I have read 'Fourty Rules of Love' by Elif Shafak recently and that's when I explored all that I could about Sema. How did you find the book btw?