After a week in Antalya, it was time for me to move to Konya, the next destination during my travel across Turkey in July and August 2019. I was a bit sad to leave Antalya, because I enjoyed my time on the beach there. The inland places that I was going to visit during the next leg of my journey had neither a beach nor a swimming pool, where I could cool down during very hot summer days. But, that didn’t bother me too much because, after Turkey, I was going to Italy and then to Portugal where I would spend more time by the sea. By the time I left Antalya, it was very hot in Turkey!
I don’t know anyone who has been to Konya. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has ever mentioned that they would like to go to Konya. But, I know a lot of people interested in philosophy, mysticism, Buddhism, yoga and meditation. People interested in spirituality, self-discovery and in search of inner-peace and love. Although they readily travel, looking for sanctuaries and sacred places to fulfil their dreams, none of them considers going to Konya. And, that’s very strange because Konya is possibly one of the most spiritual places that you can find. It is a birthplace of the Mevlevi order and Whirling Dervishes and a resting place of one of the greatest philosophers, mystics and poets – Rumi.
It could be that people in the west do not know very much about Rumi, because, frankly speaking, I did not know anything about him before I went to Konya. But in other parts of the world, especially in Turkey and Iran, Rumi is well known, celebrated and honoured.
Konya has several other important aspects. It was a capital city of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and it was also an important Ottoman city. This means that on top of a vast Seljuk heritage, there is an Ottoman heritage. The same as Istanbul and Bursa, Konya is an open air museum and it’s fascinating! It is included in the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage Sites!
MY HOTEL IN KONYA
I stayed in a fabulous 4-star Bera Hotel. When you move deeper into Turkey, away from usual touristic hot spots, it’s a different game. I’ve experienced the same in Bursa and Aydin, where I also stayed in excellent hotels. But in Konya and later in Ankara, hotels were much better and much cheaper. As a matter of fact, the hotel in Konya was probably the best of all places where I stayed and at the same time it was the cheapest. Perhaps, I was lucky because I was there in August when most people choose to go to sea-side summer resorts.
Bera Hotel is not in the centre, but at the same time it’s not far from there. It took approximately 15 minutes walk for me to reach the most central part of Konya, so I’d say that the location was pretty good. If I ever go back to Konya, I would choose this same hotel again. It was really excellent.
WHAT TO SEE IN KONYA?
There are several layers of history in Konya. When I decided to include Konya in my travel itinerary, I knew that it was an important Ottoman city. But, I certainly did not think that it was that important. I did not expect to find two monumental imperial mosques there, on top of all other Ottoman heritage. Then, I discovered that it was a capital city of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. That threw me a bit off balance, because I did not know anything about the Seljuk Empire. Finally, I also found out about Rumi and the Mevlana Museum.
In other words, there are three major aspects through which Konya can be explored. So, in order to properly understand and appreciate what I was going to see, I read and learnt about it all.
Indeed, there is a lot to see in Konya and all that that there is there would be too much for one post. So, I will write this post as a general overview of the city. In my following posts, I will write a bit more in detail about each of Konya’s three fascinating aspects.
HACI VEYISZADE MOSQUE (1996)
I first saw the Haci Veyiszade Mosque when I arrived to Konya. I took a tram from the bus station and got off at the stop right in front of this mosque. But, at that time I didn’t pay much attention as I was carrying my luggage and had to find my hotel.
But, I noticed that it was a big mosque and it somehow looked slightly different, although I couldn’t say why. I assumed that it was an Ottoman mosque.
Certainly, the Haci Veyiszade Mosque dominates Konya’s skyline with its impressive size. It is located in Kultur Park, in the central part of the city, although slightly away from the most central area where everything else that you want to see in Konya is.
I decided to go back to this mosque the first thing after I had left my hotel the following day and then I would continue to explore the city.
This is a new mosque. It looks like Ottoman era mosques, but this is in fact the neo-classical Ottoman architecture. An interesting point is that the architect chose the Ottoman rather than the Seljuk style for this new construction. But, that’s understandable. Ottoman era mosques, built after the conquest of Istanbul, are visually much more attractive as they are modelled on magnificent Haghia Sophia. This mosque follows the same pattern.
Seljuk and early Ottoman era mosques are more modest in their architectural expression, although in my opinion they are equally impressive. A good example is the monumental Grand Mosque in Bursa, a magnificent structure built in the days that mark the beginning of the rise of the Ottoman Empire.
The construction of this mosque started in 1986 and it lasted for 10 years. The mosque opened for prayers in 1996.
One more interesting observation about this mosque is that it has the longest minarets of all mosques in the Konya region, they are 78m tall. That’s why you see it, or at least its minarets, from many different parts of the city. Certainly, there is a little historical value in this mosque, especially in a city rich in history and with historical monuments so densely packed close to each other. Nevertheless, it is very interesting to visit.
Kultur Park is right behind the Haci Veyiszade mosque. There is a big fountain, with swans, in the middle of the park. There are also some stunning views of the mosque.
On the other side of the park, I came across the Ottoman Fountain that looks the same as the Saraybosna Kardeşlik Fountain in Bursa. Unfortunately, I did not see any inscription on this fountain and could not find any information about it. It’s interesting that in Bursa exactly the same fountain is well marked and it takes a prominent place, in an important square. In Konya, it’s almost insignificant. Perhaps, that’s because there are many other far more important historical sites and fountains like this one go almost unnoticed.
KENT MEYDANI (OLD TOWN SQUARE)
The Seljuk Civilisation Monument is in the middle of the the Old Town Square. Apparently, this square was completely restored in 2013. However, what you can’t see in a photo below are several Seljuk era constructions scattered around the square, that I will mention in my next post.
The Alaeddin Hill is directly opposite the Old Town Square. This is where the most central part of Konya starts and where everything that you want to see is. The Alaeddin Hill, which in fact is a park, is possibly one of the most important places in Konya.
That’s where the magnificient Alaeddin Mosque complex is. It was built in 1235 and it served as the “Mosque of the Throne” for Seljuk sultans. Apart from the mosque, the complex also consists of a mausoleum that houses eight Seljuk Sultans of Rum.
From the mosque, you come across a monument with the following inscription: TÜRK çocuğu – Senin ve Yurdun için can veren ULU ŞEHİTLERİNİ unutma. It means: TURKISH children – dying for you and your homeland, GREAT MARTYRS remember!
A beautiful staircase, with a fountain in between two flies of stairs, brings you to Mevlana Street.
Mevlana Street is Konya’s main street. It runs from the Alaeddin Hill on one side, to the big square on the other side, with two of Konya’s most magnificent historical structures.
Almost all most important historical buildings are either on this street or close-by.
The first historical structure was the İplikçi Mosque. It’s difficult for me to describe the feeling I had when I saw the inscription at the entrance of the mosque stating the construction date as 1202. What was I supposed to think when I saw this more than 800 years old Seljuk era religious temple? It’s hard to comprehend the time scale when something is so old and it’s equally hard to put it in its proper historical context.
The Şerafettin Mosque is almost directly opposite the İplikçi Mosque, but on the other side of Mevlana Street. Unfortunately, this was also one of many historical structures under renovation, only a very small part of the mosque was open for prayers, with scaffolding both outside and inside.
The Konya Valiliği building is directly opposite the Şerafettin Mosque. This building is the Town Hall.
The colourful historical Bedesten Çarşı starts at this point. The Ottoman era bazaar is the same as in other Turkish cities that I visited, with numerous shops and an abundance of goods on offer. The whole area is well kept and there you get that special oriental Ottoman feel. There are several important historical structures in this area.
One of them is the Ottoman era Kapi Mosque, built in 1658.
The other one is one of two magnificent Ottoman imperial mosques in Konya – the Aziziye Mosque, built in 1874. This 19th century structure was the most recent historical building that I saw in the city.
Otherwise, the whole area is full of character and charm despite the fact that, at times, it also seems a bit neglected. But, that very unique atmosphere is so appropriate as a perfect setting for such magnificent historical structures.
SELIMIYE MOSQUE & MEVLANA MUSEUM
At the other end of Mevlana Street, you come across a big square with two of Konya’s most magnificent buildings – Selimiye Mosque and Mevlana Museum, next to each other. I was taken aback when I saw these two buildings for the first time. I certainly did not expect to see such an impressive Ottoman imperial mosque, especially after I had already seen the Aziziye Mosque. As for the Mevlana Museum, I expected a small modern day building and certainly not this magnificent 13th century structure, with the green dome.
At that point, I connected famous Whirling Dervishes with Mevlana and Konya, especially as I had already visited the Mevlana Museum in Istanbul.
One more interesting place to see in Konya is the Martyrs Museum. This museum is close to the Mevlana Museum.
THE REST OF KONYA
Outside of the historical area, Konya is a modern city. It is interesting and it definitely has its own identity. Kazim Karabekir street is where you should go, it is a pedestrian street with shops, coffee shops and restaurants.
Every day, after an exhaustive walk, I used to sit in Çamlıca Pastanesi. It is an excellent cafeteria where I had much needed rest from oppressive heat.
But, there are many other similar places in this street, so you should explore it. There are some interesting shops too.
Otherwise, it’s nice to just sit aimlessly and watch people and the world around you.
I remember talking with a receptionist in my hotel in Kusadasi. I mentioned to him that I was planning to visit Konya. He immediately said that it was very different, very traditional. I did not quite comprehend what he meant, but when I came to Konya, it was clear to me. Konya is a very pious city. Unlike in Izmir and Antalya, almost all women wore traditional religious attire. I can’t recall seeing a single girl or a woman without, at least, a head scarf. Mosques were very busy at prayer times, although it was the same in Bursa.
I walked a lot and passed by a lot of restaurants and bars. It was in the middle of summer and everyone was outside. But, not once I have seen anyone drinking any alcoholic drink. Not a single beer! You would think that men like to drink beer, especially when it’s so hot outside.
I fancied a drink in the evening, but I couldn’t find a single place with alcohol on the menu. I have however managed to find one shop in the whole city where I bought two cans of beer for my hotel room. This Tekel Shop is in Atatürk steet, that runs parallel with Kazim Karabekir street. I believe it is the only shop in the centre of Konya, where you can buy alcohol.
There is so much to see in Konya and, now that I’ve been there, I am surprised that it is not more popular and visited by people from Western Europe. I refer to my statement at the beginning of this post when I said no one I know has been to Konya or has ever mentioned it as a potential destination.
In my next posts, I will delve into both the Seljuk and the Ottoman aspects of Konya and the magnificent Mevlana Museum.
Finally, I hope that this and my next posts will perhaps inspire some people to visit this fascinating place!