Our bus trip from Goreme to Konya is comfortable and nothing untoward happens except that the sky clouds over and rain begins just before we arrive in Konya. The bus station is on the outskirts but near a tram station so we brave crossing two major roads and get to the tram station unscathed. It seems very odd that there are no pedestrian under or overpasses as numerous people are doing the same thing as us. The tram ride into town takes some time as there are multiple stops. We alight at the stop nearest our hotel and hurry through a deluge for the last few blocks. We drip in the door onto a fine antique Turkish carpet. The housekeeper rushes up from somewhere and insists we remove our boots and put on the supplied slippers. Looking around we see we are in a fine renovated Ottoman mansion.
Needing a meal, we ask for the nearest restaurant and the hotel owner walks through the rain with us for a few blocks to a pleasant establishment. We order our meal with sparkling water – no alcohol served here or in most places in Konya. This is an ultra conservative town. Most women are wearing hijab (scarf covering head, hair and shoulders) we also see many wearing burka (loose garment covering head and body) and some with niqaab (veil covering full face except for eyes) as well.
We slosh back to our hotel and pop into the owner’s carpet shop next door for a promised cup of tea. He regales us with carpet making tales and explains much about natural, chemical, organic and mineral dyes. He’s a wool dyer and his passion is carpets. Knotted carpets, kilims, modern, antique, regional patterns, Indian and Chinese copies – marvellous stuff. At one point he mentions an unhappy time at school and being beaten by the imam. I wonder if he might sway a little from the path of conservative Islam.
“Do you drink beer?” I ask.
“Yes, I do.”
“Where can we buy some?”
“Come, I will show you.”
We set off into the dark rainy streets and we follow him into a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop with darkened windows. We pick three beers and they are each carefully wrapped in news paper and put in a nondescript bag. There’s some jocularity between our host and the salesman. They seem to think it quite odd that these old foreign ladies are sneaking about buying clandestine beers.
Once back at the hotel we leave our host with one and hop onto our beds – in dry clothes – to enjoy ours with a snack and BBC world news in English. All sorts of interesting things going on in the world.
The next morning is sunny and the city’s puddles glisten as they dry.
We visit the museum mosque, see Rumi’s tomb and learn a bit about Sufism. Then after exploring the nearby pedestrian shopping streets, it’s time to go back out to the bus station. This time we take a local mini bus and the ladies on the bus ensure we get off at the right stop.
Soon we are on the bus headed over the mountains to the coast and Antalya.
We have spent more than a little time wondering about the routes taken by Syrian refugees across Turkey. Geographically and climactically it seems it would be a difficult country to transverse.
Could they just buy a bus ticket and ride like us? We have always had to show our passports to buy tickets. Today, as our bus approaches the coast, there is a road block with a soldier and several police. Our passports are collected and taken for checking. Everyone on the bus has their ID checked. This answers one question for us. Without proper identification and visa, travelling across Turkey by bus is unlikely. So we continue to wonder how the refugees manage to make their perilous journey.