A Travellerspoint blog

March 2013

New Frontiers: Konya and Turkey's Interior

by Ben

overcast 17 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Fruit Sellers Along the Highway to Konya

Fruit Sellers Along the Highway to Konya

We got a nutritious start to the day with a full Turkish breakfast. Today it consisted of sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and oranges, olives, a slice of very young cheese, another packaged slice of prepared cheese, a few different cookies, and a chocolate. This was accompanied by a loaf of sliced bread and a large omelette that we shared between us. Of course this whole assortment of eats was washed down with as much Nescafe or tea as we liked. If you can believe it this was a slightly smaller breakfast than we were served yesterday. We sure didn’t need to stop for an early lunch.
We drove for an hour paralleling the coast (but not in sight of it) and found this section to be very densely populated with all sundry in terms of vehicles. As we made our turn northwards towards Turkey’s interior the population density and traffic became quite sparse. The mountains and hills of Turkey seem like a pretty tough place to eke out a living. From what we witnessed, goat herding is a common occupation in this area along with some logging of pine and some quarrying of stone and marble. As we left the coast we ran a short gauntlet of roadside fruit sellers about half way up the first set of mountains. We were surprised to see so many bananas for sale along with the many oranges. With so little traffic and so many competitors it did not seem a profitable occupation. We stopped to pick up a few oranges but were disappointed that they fell far short of the sweet ones we had come to enjoy in Kas.

Driving through the Mountains on our trip from Antalya to Konya

Driving through the Mountains on our trip from Antalya to Konya

As we neared the highest summit in our drive to Konya (1800 meters) we encountered a blanket of snow on the mountains and some even along the road. We were certainly leaving the Mediterranean behind us. Yet, even though the mountains were white, one still couldn’t shake the mental image of an arid, grey and pine-dotted landscape landscape beneath it. You could just tell that in a few short months the heat would be insufferable here. Whenever we saw a small town or settlement we were mystified as to how such a rocky landscape could support people.

About 75 kilometers before Konya, the landscape gave way to stony rolling hills which slowly lost their amplitude, yielding to some slightly more fertile but lightly cultivated land. The pine trees gave way to patches of deciduous trees. After 40 kilometers of unvarying terrain Konya just suddenly appeared before us with nothing really indicating why it should be located here rather than somewhere else in the flat expanse.
The outlying area seems fairly new and consists of some fairly large single and multifamily dwellings –some of them upscale. This quickly changed to a uniform landscape of 4 to 6 story apartment buildings with the vast majority in excellent repair. As with the newer parts of Antalya, the city of Konya seems geared for a lot of car traffic. The road ways are incredibly wide and traffic flows pretty freely. In some ways the town reminded us of Edmonton.

Our hotel is located near the historic quarter of town where the traffic is more chaotic so some of the buildings are older and bit dilapidated although our hotel is quite well-kept, modern and expensive by Turkish standards. Unfortunately, we could not find any deals on the Internet when we looked for a place to stay. So we are paying something approaching prices in Europe (about 100 hundred dollars) which is an adjustment for us. Tonight we are paying for a single hotel room the same amount we paid to have a four bedroom, three bathroom villa with a pool right on the ocean.

The hotel staff speaks little to no English but the front desk manager is pretty resourceful. Muriel went down to ask about how to get some heat in our hotel room. He invited Muriel behind the desk and asked her to type her questions into Google translate. Muriel also got some information about having breakfast in the morning. To explain the times that breakfast was served he used his desk calculator to show the times. Technology really breaks down barriers. By the way, the heat is centralized boiler heat, so they don’t turn it on until the evening. We have just gone from slightly cool to very hot in a matter of minutes (Muriel and Abby are happy while Hannah and I are fanning ourselves in our shorts). We think we should take our showers this evening as it seems we may only have hot water when the heat is on.

Konya

Konya

We have not explored much of Konya yet. We are close to an incredible historic square where the poet Rumi is interred but I will leave details about this area until tomorrow. In our wanderings we have noticed that the population here is far more conservative than the coast. The number of women wearing head scarves outnumbers those not wearing scarves by at least 10 to 1. Many more women here are wearing coats and dresses that come down to their ankles unlike the wide variety of western fashion we found on the coast.

The Konyans seem to love their sugar as our neighbourhood abounds with sweet shops. They sell candy that looks like very large peppermint balls but the white ones are flavoured with bergamot instead of mint. They come in a wide variety of flavours and colours and the shops are ready to sell them by the bushel. From what we have experienced thus far some prices are a bit lower than the coast. We had a large and late lunch since we did not get into Konya until 2 pm. So for dinner we were looking for just a small snack. We ate at a very popular doner restaurant. Hannah wasn’t hungry so just the three of us went. We each had a hot doner submarine sandwich and a bottle of water. The price was a mere four dollars Canadian (not each but for ALL of our meals).

We are winding it up early tonight and look forward to seeing some historic sites tomorrow.

Posted by KZFamily 08:48 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey konya Comments (1)

Antalya

By Hannah

overcast 13 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Miniature Dolmabache Mosque

Miniature Dolmabache Mosque

Since we have less than two weeks left in Turkey, and only one day in Antalya, we decided to visit a sight that would let us see as much as possible. Antalya's Minicity does sound a bit kitschy, but it seemed like a good way to get an idea of Turkey's architecture, as well as a means of seeing some of the mosques and monuments we would be missing. We decided we would walk the five and a half kilometres to the site, which shouldn't have taken much more than an hour. But it did. It took asking a cab driver and a lot of wandering and rubbernecking to get where we were going. Two hours later, we discovered the well hidden entrance to the miniatures. At least we got some exercise.

There were eighty models in the park, all scaled down to one 25th the size of their real-life counterparts. They were all meticulously detailed and interesting to look at, especially the mosques. Some of the models were massive, like Anitkabir, Ataturk's mausoleum. There was the mountain Pamukkale in the middle of the site, though it had a number of different tombs and such from around Turkey carved into it. My parents noticed the ruins that they'd tried and failed to find in Myra, as well as The Church of St. Nicholas, which was apparently in a much better state than the actual church. We also saw Konya's Sultan Selim mosque, famous for its whirling dervishes. We'll be staying very close to it when we travel to Konya tomorrow.

Spice Arrangement

Spice Arrangement

As my dad's back was acting up again, and Abby was dragging her feet with each step, we decided to take a taxi back to the hotel. Unfortunately, our cab ride was a little shorter than we'd expected (not a sentence one writes often). Our instructions to the taxi driver ended up placing a little further from our destination than we would've liked, and he seemed pretty dead set on having us out of his car then and there, for some reason. So we walked.

Snuggling in Antalya pension

Snuggling in Antalya pension

When we made it back to our hotel, Mom, Dad, and Abby all collapsed onto various beds. It was a little after three by now, and though they said that we would go out to get some lunch soon but we just need to close our eyes for like five minutes and then we'll be ready to go... they inevitably fell asleep. They woke up about an hour later, and we finally went out. Abby decided to stay in, so we promised her we'd pick her up a simit ring (a chewy bread ring covered in sesame seeds). Wandering around town, we came across a large bazaar, packed with clothes and spices and sweets. It was a riot of colour. There were artistic arrangements of multi-coloured herbs and row upon row of Turkish delight rolls and squares. We ended up buying two rolls of the vanilla/chocolate/almond variety, which came to much more than my parents had thought. I heard him say four euros per 100 grams, but Mom and Dad just didn't take him seriously. They ended up talking him down a little, which he was definitely not happy about. Afterwards, we spent about an hour looking for a restaurant where we wouldn't be harassed by the waiters. It seemed that the lack of tourists during the off season made us a hot commodity. They also seemed to think we were German, which is understandable as nearly all of the tours we've seen have been made up of Germans. Finally, we found a place with a less zealous waiter. I found the typical Turkish food to be especially good, probably due to the fact that I hadn't eaten since nine o'clock that morning.

On our way home, we stopped at a bakery to get some little baklavas and cookies that looked like turnovers. Unfortunately, all the simit salesman had packed up their wares and headed home, so we bought Abby six little rings resembling miniature simit. The rest of our evening was full of Turkish sweets and The West Wing. The little simits turned out to be crumbly biscuits that tasted as thought the baker had forgot to add the sugar (Dad liked them), but the baklava was delicious, and the turnover cookies weren't bad either. We had some of our expensive Turkish delight, too, which we told ourselves was definitely better than the convenience store stuff.

Posted by KZFamily 08:29 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey turkish antalya delight miniature Comments (1)

Turkish Car Rentals

By Muriel

sunny 18 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

It was such a tough day for us: we had to get up at 7:15, if you can believe it! That’s 7:15 IN THE MORNING! Well, enough of the holiday life, I guess; it’s back to work for us. After a month of resting on our laurels (and our butts), we are once again travelling folk. We said goodbye to the very familiar surroundings of Kas and set off for Antalya. On the outskirts of the city, we bypassed the beach-front restaurants in favour of a gozleme (Turkish pancake) eatery. Three of us ordered various types of gozleme while Hannah decided to try a different type of Turkish fare, manti, which is a Turkish dumpling. While we were bemoaning the fact that Ben and Abby’s gozlemes were meant to be meat and mushroom but came with squash and zucchini filling instead, all thoughts of the error were chased away when Hannah’s dish arrived. The little dumplings came served in a soup bowl with warm watery yogurt and garlic, drizzled with meat drippings and topped with red pepper powder. On the side to be added by the consumer is ground sumac and dried mint. Surprisingly, to me, Hannah as well as Abby actually enjoyed them. I have to say it wasn’t my favorite Turkish food. An interesting side bit which I’ll share with you is that when a couple is to be married, the mother of the groom visits the bride's house and during this visit, the bride prepares manti for her prospective mother-in-law. The smaller the manti dumplings are, the more the bride is considered to be skillful in the kitchen. Traditionally, the dumplings prepared for the prospective mother-in law are supposed to be so small that 40 of them can be scooped up with one spoon. (Is any mother-in-law worth that effort?)

Manti: Turkish dumplings in warm yoghurt

Manti: Turkish dumplings in warm yoghurt

We had arranged to drop off the rental car at the airport despite not having to catch a flight. The airport is a common place for car rental pick ups and drop offs and is often easier for us to drive to rather than a city-bound location. Now, if you rent through one of the cheaper Turkey-based automobile operations, the usual bells and whistles aren’t really included. We are happy enough to forgo those if we can save a few euros. Therefore, when dropping off the car at the airport, one doesn’t go to any actual booth. You are waved down by a non-uniformed guy brandishing a clipboard, which is the only clue that he may be someone you actually want to pay attention to. He saw us driving through the hoards and somehow managed to catch my eye, indicating we were to stop at our earliest convenience but, preferably, right away. We pulled over and he popped his head in the car, asking if Ben was ‘Bernard Koning.’ That is indeed Ben’s alter ego and the name he goes by when travelling (since it matches his passport). We jumped out and retrieved our bags from the trunk. The nameless man checked over the car quickly, signed a paper seemingly indicating we had returned the vehicle in satisfactory condition, hopped in and drove off. It all happened so quickly, literally in less than two minutes, that I was left wondering whether he was indeed someone who worked for the rental company or an opportunistic scam artist. At any rate, the car is gone, we have no proof that we returned it but we don’t have too great a worry since it seems to align with how they do things in Turkey.

Ben’s notes about the subsequent car pick up stated that we were to receive the new car half an hour later from a different rental company. They were to show up at the airport’s arrivals area with a sign sporting the company name. This is the common way to receive a new car in Turkey, especially with those aforementioned car rental companies who decide not to spend money on extraneous items like stalls or service. The only kink in the arrangements is that there are two arrivals areas, one for domestic flights and one for international traffic. Ben and I separated and hovered between the two, hoping for success. After half an hour, we determined we would try to phone the company to see what was up. We approached the pay phones and after a great deal of stumbling around with our credit card, even enlisting the help of a friendly Turkish stranger, we achieved nothing. Thinking that there might be an information booth of some kind, the next plan involved approaching someone in the airport. We spoke to a Turkish security guard, hoping to find out where we might buy a phone card. After some spliced conversation attempts, she obviously felt it was going to be quicker to be rid of us if she just made the call herself on her own cell phone. When I made contact with the agency, they said ‘a friend’ would be there momentarily. We tried to give her a Canadian pin to show our undying gratitude (it’s what Canadians do after all, give out pins) but she declined it, likely because she’s trained not to take anything from passengers, lest they be contraband

.Antalya pension

Antalya pension

Giddy with success, we walked back to where the kids had been abandoned and told them our knight in shining armour would be there soon to pick us up. The man who arrived looked as if he had just rolled out of bed. Again, no uniform or identifying cards. Hair going in all directions. With a sketchy kind of look. (Hannah used the words ‘he looked a bit rough.’) Exchanging not more than two words with us (exhausting all of our Turkish in the process), he helped squish our bags into the small trunk – that’s going to be a challenge for the next ten days – and drove us to the agency office, some kilometers offsite. The check out process took a few minutes and we were on the road again, briefly stopping to pay for gas. Did you know Turkey has the highest gas prices in the world? And with the currency being lire, it’s a bit mind-numbing to pay 195 of anything for a tank of gas (the conversion results in $122 for 45 L of diesel). Remembering all too well that the last time we were in Antalya a month ago, we spent the better part of three hours trying to detour around, and through, the construction to our hotel, we faced the next leg of the drive with some trepidation. However, that proved unnecessary as we located the hotel in twenty minutes this time. And although we hadn’t done much at all today, we were all exhausted. Supper was quick and bedtime even quicker.

Posted by KZFamily 10:32 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey car_rental Comments (1)

Shaven and Shorn Turkish Style

by Ben

overcast 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Abby Getting Haircut

Abby Getting Haircut

Abby, Hannah and I were able to check off a very important item on our to-do list today. We all went for haircuts. Muriel had gone to a hairdresser in town last week, which paved the way to the girls getting theirs done this morning. A nice perk for all of us waiting or observing is the inevitable offer of chai (tea). The tea is not made in the shop but delivered as fast as lightning by a cafe nearby.

By my uneducated eye, the woman’s hair salon was not much different than one you would find in Canada, but the kids say the hairdresser had fewer fancy tools of the trade. Another interesting perk was the fact that Abby was given her own specially formulated hair treatment product to take home with her. It was mixed right in the shop by the hairdresser assistant according to the specific instructions of the hairdresser and put in an empty water bottle. I think the only downside was total cost of the experience. The price for a woman’s cut and shampoo although lower than in Canada is not a true bargain.

After we were done with the girls, we headed over to a barbershop I have had my eye on for the last few weeks. It has a steady flow of customers, and looked very well maintained. The clients seemed in the 20 to 50 year range. The pictures on display and the clients seemed to have haircuts very much like in North America and Europe which is what I am most comfortable with. Your more traditional Turkish haircut seems to be a brush cut. As the average male Turk is blessed with a very thick head of hair and I am not I thought it best to seek out a barber who favours a more North American style.

What can I say about a man’s haircut and shave in Turkey? Let me start by an observation I have about women and hairdressers in Canada. There seems to be the need for a certain bond or chemistry between client and hairdresser. After all a woman’s hair is a very personal and precious thing. It seems for many Canadian women, getting their hair done is quite an occasion. It is anticipated much like a social event and can be a highlight on their calendar that might equal a coffee date with a dear friend. For others, I gather it is valued nearly as much as a holiday celebration such as Christmas. In contrast, for most Canadian men the classic era of the old-fashioned barbershop where the boys seek each other out to shoot the breeze is mostly long gone. Nowadays, getting a haircut is something you quickly fit in between a trip to the recycling depot and mowing the lawn and it may often be done reluctantly. In Turkey, I would venture to say the tables are completely turned.

One of my most vivid memories of my previous visit to Turkey over 20 years ago, was a haircut I had in Bursa. I can report that things have not changed one iota over the years. It is an experience that takes time and is far more intimate than any relationship a woman may profess to have with her hairdresser in Canada. Let me just say it can be a bit of an adjustment for a more stand-offish guy from British Columbia.

Abby, Hannah and Muriel are not ones to miss out on a cultural experience. As a reult, my barber visit is well-documented. Muriel took pictures and video clips of the process which was a brave thing to do in the male sanctum of the Turkish barbershop. When you view the video montage that Hannah made from Muriel’s handiwork, you may notice some pretty serious facial expressions on my part. I think they deserve some explanation before you view it and begin your snickering at my expense. I also hope you will bear in mind the sacrifices I made to make this cultural experience available not only to my kids but dozens of people safely ensconced in the comfort of their armchairs back in Canada.

Turkish Straight Razor Shave

Turkish Straight Razor Shave

In the few lazy weeks before my barbershop experience I grew a beard. This was the first item I wanted to be rid of, followed by losing over three months of hair growth from the top of my head. I have heard it said, "The only proper shave is the one done with a straight razor." All I can say, is that you only really understand the definition of vulnerable after you had a complete stranger hold a knife to your throat and singe your ear hairs with a flaming cotton swab. The application of the warm shaving cream is quite a pleasant start, save for the cream on the lips and the barber running his fingers along them to clear up the overflow. The actual shave was deftly done. I obeyed the unspoken command not to move a face muscle lest I wish to be make an unscheduled blood donation. After the shaving was done I let my my mind wander and tried to joke with my fairly silent family behind me (none of which was caught on camera). It was just after this that the alcohol was liberally rubbed onto my newly shaven face. I know my male readers might be able to appreciate what a really close shave does to the sensitivity of the skin on one’s face. Women, well what can I say, it is not quite on the level of child birth but there is some significant discomfort involved. As I was coping with this new development (hence serious expression in video) a little pain chaser was served up with a flaming cotton swab on the end of stick that was brushed along my ears to deal with any peach fuzz or hair that may be trying to gain a footing. A problem I didn’t think I was suffering from. By the time this all had transpired my barber really had my full and serious attention once again.

Upon my entrance into the barber shop, I had clearly and earnestly explained what I wanted in terms of a shave and a haircut. My barber had some grasp of English which was quite a relief. So the first instructions of getting rid of the beard were flawlessly, albeit not painlessly, executed. The second set of instructions was about the haircut. I had combed my hair in my normal fashion and indicated that I was looking for an overall cut that would follow the lines of my normal haircut. The barber got out his fresh pair of scissors and comb along with an electric razor.
The razor brought back a memory of a trip to Morocco with a friend of mine from college. He was in bad need of a haircut. He had brashly, if not rashly, sat in a barber chair and just said cut. In a twinkle of an eye the barber had run an electric razor over the top of his head, it was too late for him to ask for a different less utilitarian style. It was a haircut that took his wife more than a few days to accept.

Unlike my friend Phil, I had taken pains to make a snipping motion with my fingers while explaining the hair cut. The razor was for my neck and for a final trim around my temples, I erroneously thought. Quite to the opposite of the Moroccan barber the first cut took place well out of view on the very back of my head but the rest of the execution was about the same. This was of course in prime view of my spectating family. Hannah made an inaudible gasp and told me later she was going to yell stop but was too late. In the mirror, I could see both Abby and Muriel’s eyes noticeably widen. It was too late to work on a better translation of my instructions now. I lost hair at an alarming rate once my barber got moving with the razor. There was no indication that scissors were going to make an appearance anytime soon. Mercifully he did finally slow to a stop as he started to get closer to the top of my head. At this point he let fly with his scissors. In the pictures and video I can report that I look a bit more closely shorn than I indeed am. This is in large part due to my scalp having been hidden from the sun all these months. The sickly white palour seems to overtake the thin layer of hair that in fact remains. The whole effect is magnified by the fact that my neck and face are a quite contrasting shade of golden brown.

A Massage After Shave and Haircut

A Massage After Shave and Haircut

By the time the cut was done, I thought I was on the home stretch. Little did I know the best was yet to come. I was now ready for my hair and face wash. I am put face first into a sink and have copious amounts of water and soap put on my hair and face. I was quite glad that I had some prior experience with this or else the risk of drowning is not quite out of the realm of the probable. When I finally was allowed to come up for air, the course of my shave and cut experience took a radical turn. I think earlier in this post I used the very unmasculine term, “intimate” to describe the relationship between Turkish barber and client. A facial massage with copious amount of lotion and a whole upper body massage are where the bonding experience begins. Perhaps he is trying to calm me down after nearly lighting my ears on fire or he is making up for rubbing pure alcohol into the cuts he made on my face. I have to admit the video is quite hilarious especially with Hannah’s added captions. I certainly have been stripped of any pride by Hannah’s video handiwork. The whole situation of not knowing what will happen next is probably one of the reasons for my serious expression as well as the somber, if not disinterested nature of my barber. I have to admit the cracking of my fingers by the barber was one of the quirky highlights of the massage. Perhaps, I could grow to like this whole ritual. But was this barber really the one for me? Alas, I will never know. I digress.

The haircut was looking not quite as bad as I first feared, but my face was looking pretty red and irritated by this time. Fortunately, this was quickly addressed by a liberal application of baby powder and another facial massage as my barber consulted with his partner about the state of my neck. The treatment really seemed to do the trick. I thought I was home free but I had to experience a few more procedures. First was a lightning quick and completely unexpected foray in search of nose hairs (sometimes it’s just better not knowing what is going to come next) and an equally speedy trim of my eyebrows. This was all followed by a hair gelling with quantities of product that rivals that used by some teenagers to maintain their punk rocker look.

Yes, I was finally done! The damage to the pocket book was much less than my daughter’s haircut and cheaper than a basic haircut by a Canadian barber. As for the hair, it will eventually grow back. The damage to my self-respect and pride as a result of the video, may take a good deal longer to fix and the memory of the experience will never go away.

Now that you have read my take on the shave and cut you can watch the video and make your own observations. You can even do a Google search of Turkish haircuts and shaves to see the use of the flaming Q-tip to singe ear hairs and witness other versions of facial massages.

Posted by KZFamily 06:57 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey kas Comments (9)

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