Todd Culpepper is executive director of the International Affairs Council, a Raleigh-based nonprofit focused on international exchange and education. Culpepper was invited by the Turkish Cultural Foundation to participate in a 15-day educational and cultural tour of Turkey, with stops in Istanbul, Edirne, Canakkale, Bursa, Iznik, Ankara, Amasya, Tokat, Sivas, Kayseri, Cappadocia, and Konya. He is traveling with a small group of business, government, and education leaders from across the U.S.
Our final stop on this wonderful, whirlwind trip was the city of Konya, a somewhat modern and economically strong city of 800,000. In route we stopped at another kervansaray (where trade caravans would stay the night in ancient times). This kervansaray is architecturally beautiful, with both covered and uncovered areas and a section where the animals were kept. It is all empty now, of course, but shadows danced through the rooms and pigeons flew gracefully in the rafters. If you were quiet enough, you could almost here the bustle of donkeys and carts and the chatter of men discussing theirs trades so many centuries ago.
Once in Konya, we visited the mausoleum of Mevlana Celaledin Rumi, who began the theological school that was home to the Whirling Dervishes. No dervishes were in sight that day but there were throngs of Mevlavi followers both inside and outside the mausoleum paying their respects.
To close out my time with you, let me say that this was an amazing...
On our first morning in Cappadocia I awoke to find two dozen hot air balloons floating over the valley outside my window like lamp shades suspended by invisible strings. This is a surreal place; like a dream, but not an earthly one. It’s a moon dream made real.
Driving in the day before, as we got closer to the Cappadocia region, we saw the landscape change dramatically. The colors of the hills ran the gamut from brown to terracotta to mustard yellow. The unusual formations here are hundreds of thousands years old and the result of two nearby volcanoes, Mt. Erciyes and Mt. Hasan, with the assistance of water and erosion, which helped form their very different shapes. The region is full of large rocks, caves, and “fairy chimneys.” I am quite sure Tinkerbell spends her summers here.
We visited the Goreme Open Air Museum (along with hundreds of other tourists) and saw the homes and churches of the early Christians (4th – 11th centuries), where...
Like so many cities and towns in Turkey, Kayseri has a deep and varying history. It was once capital of the Hittite empire, and was later renamed Caesarea under the Romans. It came under Arab rule, then Mongol, and ultimately was taken over by the Ottomans. That kind of past is the reason you’re never quite sure what you’re looking at, and so must lean on your friendly tour guide for information. Our guide’s name is Semih (Sammy).
The citadel walls of this city are beautiful – made of black volcanic stone at the order of Emperor Justinian – and are largely intact, having withstood the elements for centuries (volcanic stone house, anyone?).
We walked around to admire these walls and eventually found ourselves inside the bazaar. We had been told Kayseri is the place in Turkey to buy carpets. Personally I was in no market for carpets, so had chosen to wander through the meandering halls of the bazaar when I heard my name being called...
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