Friday, September 28, 2012
Thursday, September 27, 2012
One member of our group, David has read poems and studied writings of Rumi every day for the past 30 years so traveling through this bastion of Islam region where Sufism and whirling dervish orders flourished and Selcuk culture was centered was especially a highlight for him. If you have any interest in Rumi, Sufiism and Whirling Dervish, it's worth reading up a bit before arriving here about Rumi's life and teachings, but if not it's such a great opportunity to learn more especially the way we do it on this trip. Konya is not just a bus stop to see the Mevlana Museum ("Mevlana" is another name for "Rumi") and his mausoleum. Visiting the mosque in Konya and where Rumi is buried along with the displays of beautiful Korans and many objects of life used by mystic Meveli Sufis, some of whom were also Ottoman Sultans are impressive, but what's even more moving here are the 1.5 million Muslims who come here to worship and pray for Rumi's help.
But our 'Wild style' of understanding Islam and Sufism is as much experiential as it is intellectual, beyond just visiting the Mevlana Museum and Mausoleum. For example, we visit an intimate Whirling Dervish sema (ceremony) in a very atmospheric refurbished caravanseri just outside of Urgup near our hotel. When we went to the early sema (5:30 PM, instead of the other one at 9 PM) our guide arranged a private sitting with one of the dervishes. We all had questions and enjoyed an open and revealing conversation about his life, personal practice and questions many of us had of the symbolism, orchestration, chanting and music of the ceremony we had just seen. Catherine is a practicing minister for whom we have already arranged a private luncheon with a historian when they return to Istanbul, and this was just one of the unique insights we don't write into our itineraries but that our guides here arrange for Wildland travelers whenever possible.
One other personal experience of Islam that we don't mention in itineraries because we prefer to make it a surprise, and it cannot be guaranteed, is a personal "concert" of sorts with the Imam at a beautiful mosque on our road trip through Anatolia. Alper has a personal relationship with him and calls ahead to let him know when our travelers will be passing by so he tries to be available for a private sitting with us. He's amazing and brings tears to some of us as he demonstrates inside his beautiful wooden structure mosque with blue tiles his sing-song call the prayer for which he won the equivalent of the national "Imam Idol" competition in Turkey! Like the private session with the sufi mystic, our Imam answered questions about Islam, shared his path to becoming an Imam, and for those who wish, including Catherine our traveling minister, he will demonstrate and pray together as Muslims do.
It's moments like these that make us so proud and appreciative after 25 years of the deep understanding and sometimes even a personal spiritual consciousness we gain on a Wildland Adventure as a result of the exceptional guides who truly enjoy sharing more meaningful and personal dimensions of their country and culture with our type of travelers who are truly seekers.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
There is an unwritten rule among travel companies to limit long drives, but we like to include at least one "road trip" that takes us overland traveling among local people through small towns, diverse landscapes and rural environs. Although we are moving 30 times faster than ancient camel caravans in Anatolia, we are traveling precisely along the same routes used by traders and travelers of ancient times. Along this route we take from Cappadocia across the Anatolian plateau where Christians dug underground cities for refuge from marauding thieves and infidels through Konya, over the pine-forested Taurus Mountains and on to Antalya on the Mediterranean, we pass by and stop to see numerous caravanserai, the road houses built by the Ottomans to protect travelers from marauding Arabs and foster trade in the empire. Konya was at the center of trade connecting east and west along the Silk Road, but also connecting travel and trade from Africa north across the Mediterranean to Asia and the west.
In the spring, people are plowing and planting their fields and this time of year we found them harvesting crops everywhere. One of the things I enjoy most, wherever in the world I'm traveling, is when our guides make impromptu stops along the roadside to engage local farmers which is exactly what we did this day: we stopped to lend a hand picking up potatoes that had been plowed up for harvest. It turns out the migrate field workers that move around Turkey this time of year had not arrived yet to these fields so we actually lent a hand to the local women whose families farmed these stark fields and had to do the harvest themselves to get their potatoes to market. Although we were all laughing and smiling, some members of our group took the work pretty seriously and tried to move as fast at the locals sorting among sizes, filling up buckets, and then depositing them into potato sacks. Of course, we took lots of pictures and were delighted when the local Turkish women pulled cell phone cameras out of their blouses to take pictures of the crazy westerners who surprised them this day innocently just trying to lend a hand and get a better sense of local life in Anatolia!
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
It was 22 years ago here in Turkey when my local guide, Alper Ertubey, and I declared we would establish a partnership to bring Wildland travelers closer to the people and the places of Turkey. I wanted our travelers to experience Turkiye like I remember it when I came here in the late 60's to stay with my aunts and uncles who lived on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Dad was born in Istanbul in 1922 into the generation of "Young Turks" when Attaturk established the new parliamentary democracy after the Ottoman Empire. Although I was raised in Los Angeles, we came here several times when I was in high school to stay with relatives in their apartment at a time with Turkey was still closed to much of the world to protect its fledgling economy. Oh how it has changed today!
Today, Alper is not only our in-country trip manager and a lead Wildland guide, he's also a brother ("…from another mother…"); he's as much a member of our own family. You know you'll be treated like family when you go on a Wildland Adventure to Turkey too!
So, it's fitting one of our last Wildland Anniversary Adventures celebrating the 25th anniversary of Wildland Adventures is currently under way in Turkey, and Alper and I are back at it: taking our guests through the narrow alleyways of Istanbul, exploring underground churches and hiking the canyon lands of Cappadocia, and voyaging along the blue Mediterranean in a gulet on our Turquoise Coast Odyssey leading hikes to ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins only accessible on foot from the sea. I invite you to follow along our journey by subscribing to my blog A Life In Travel, or you cna "Like" our Wildland Facebook page and you'll receive my posts from the beautiful places we explore and stories about the local Turkish people we meet along the way.