We had about 350 kilometers to travel and a couple of things I was keen to see on the way. Luckily they were well spaced so that we could combine morning tea and lunch breaks.
The countryside was wheat, sugar beat and distant mountains as we drove towards Sultanhami for morning tea. It was not actually the town we wanted to see, but their old caravanseri, regarded as one of the largest and best preserved in Turkey.
A caravanseri was like a motel for camel trains. They were evenly spaced across the countryside providing accommodation and food for the camel trains and were also market places where goods were bought and sold. In the ‘Stans and Iran we had not seen any. I think most of them had been either demolished by Ghengis Khan, Tamerlain or as many seemed to have been built of mud brick, they fell down in earthquakes and succumbed to the ravages of time. The Turkish ones on the other hand seemed to have been built of stone, and usually just had one open market place surrounded with rooms for accommodation. The Sultanhami caravanseri was also a bit unusual as it had both covered and uncovered market places so that trade could continue in both summer and winter.
We had no longer arrived when were met by the mayor of the town who invited us back to his council chambers for tea. A garrulous character who had run a carpet repair business prior to entering politics. He had left school at 14 to learn the trade. He informed us that Sultanhami is the rug repair capital of Turkey and that Prince Charles sends his carpets there when they need mending.
Our plans of a running a tight schedule for the day were dashed as he related to us his life story, small town politics and the economy of countryside Turkey.
Photos for the mayor’s Facebook page and we were off to Konya, and the 13th century Mausoleum of Rumi, the third of the five great Persian poet philosophers we had come across on our travels. Konya is a city of 1.5 million people and the Mausoleum is in the centre of the old town. I was dreading that we would get bogged down in blind alleyways and one way streets with no parking when we got there. We were surprised.
Wide tree lined boulevards reminiscent of Europe paved our way to a large car park a short walk from our destination. The Mausoleum of Mevlana, as Rumi is also known, is one of the most holly sites in Turkey attracting millions of pilgrims each year. The guide books said it was conservative and to dress accordingly – read: no shorts and covered heads for the women. The site was also a big part of the local economy. In addition to making some significant additions to Persian literature and poetry, Mevlana also started the Whirling Dervish faction of the Moslem faith.
From here it was a 100k to our destination for the evening, Beysehir on the shores of a large lake by the same name and part of what is considered as the lakes district of Turkey.