1990 with Barbara

Maps of Turkey and Istanbul

Ever since 1954 I had dreamt of eastern Anatolia. In the fifties and sixties one had to have a special permit to travel to these parts, the Soviet Union loomed too large on Turkey's eastern border - and the "Turkish Mountain Tribes" - as a Turkish friend called those whom we know as Kurds - were as restless as today. 1990 was a lucky year. A few months after our visit the American Gulf War and the Kurds made travelling in Eastern Anatolia inadvisable again. We flew to Antalya and from there traveled on comfortable and safe local buses east and further east to the very end of the western world. An unforgettable experience.

Behind the Taurus range, a few miles from the Blue Coast of Antalya where all the tourists stay, begins the high plateau of Anatolia. Vast empty spaces of unimagined beauty: may it be a single tree in the Emali Valley....

 ... or a single man working in the fields near Malatya. From here Anatolia stretches east to the borders of Iran, Syria, and Armenia ...

.... where Mount Ararat reminds one of the civilizations which lie buried in this land: Çatalhöyük, the Neolithic city of 7500 BC, Hattusa the capital of the Hittites, innumerous Greek settlements which gave their names to Anatolia's modern towns, Urartians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines... the Selçuk-, Ottoman-, and modern Turks are only the last, very recent wave of conquerors of Anatolia.


The Mediterranean South Coast

We flew from Istanbul to Antalya in 1990, it was cheap and convenient. There is not much to keep one in Antalya, scores of tourist, expensive hotels on the southern beaches, aggressive carpet sellers - and a wonderful archeological museum with all the Greek, Roman, and Hellenistic treasures from the cities along the coast. We rented a car for a few days and fled, first west along the Lycian coast and later east to Pamphilia and into the wild Taurus Mountains.


 Phaselis was an important strategic harbor along the steep mountainous coast of Lycia. Greek settlers from Rhodes founded it in the 7th century BC, the Persians took it and Alexander the Great took it back on his way to the East. Later it its three sheltered harbors became the hiding place of pirates. It declined as Antalya grew, there is little left, a few ruins, but it is the most romantic place along the coast, pure Greece.

 Remnants of the town, the small perfectly round "military" harbor in the distance.


Reeds and the mountains.  



Every of the old Greek towns has a late Hellenistic theater even the smallest and remotest. Arykanda's theater, hidden high in a mountain valley on the way to Emali - the Apple Valley - is the most intimate and perfect. While bus loads of tourists descend on the theater at Aspendos, hardly anyone ever comes here.

A wonderful place for a rest.



Sillyon in Pamphilia

 Sillyon's theater has the exact opposite location from Arykanda: a few kilometers from Aspendos it occupies a mighty rock with a spectacular view across the flat coastal country east of Antalya. One has to climb the rock on foot on overgrown paths - and there are snakes and cisterns to fall into. When we parked the car a group of children led by exuberant Sherifa surrounded us offering to be our guides.  

 She brought her two brothers along who helped us to escape the snake pits and avoid the cisterns.



Exuberant Sherifa and Barbara became quick friends. We had just come from our Bursa encounter at the Beyazit Mausoleums with a school group of young girls wrapped in purdah, and mused how soon this girl would be mummified by Islamic codes...



On our return to the children's village - or was it before we climbed the rock - Sherifa invited us to her home. Barbara showed the pictures of our children and grandchildren, and eventually their shyness went away.  

 It is always a surprise to find a blue-eyed child in Turkey, there are quite a number. I have never found out whether they are the progeny of an occasional visitor or the descendents of previous civilizations....



A virtually unknown Greek town, Selge, lies fifty-five kilometers into the wild Taurus mountains. Possibly founded by people from Sparta it was famous for its fearless warriors who couldn't live in peace.

 The road to Selge was steep and so bad that we feared for our rental car, but the views were spectacular.


 We parked in a field of ancient ruins and goats and were immediately surrounded by a horde of children - who spoke amazingly good German....

 Here? How was that possible? The girls giggled but the boy explained the miracle: their teacher had been born in Germany. He had returned to his home town with the idea to teach the next generation German. They led us through the village (Zerk) to its attraction a huge Hellenistic theater - of course. Soon the girl with the spoons would persuade Barbara to buy one of her yellow scarves.

 The Selge theater, a huge ruin - and what a view! - has not yet been restored. This is how our romantic great-grandfathers must have seen the Greek towns - but the farm houses were roofed with new red tiles....


 Barbara, now properly covered with her new kerchief and telling the children stories in German, leads the youngest back to our car to give them each a tangerine instead of the "Bonbons" - sweets they had begged for.


East towards Konya

 A long day on the bus passing some very unfriendly towns on the way brought us to Konya. This picture was taken from the moving bus.




 In the summer of 1955 Gerhard visited Christine who by then cared for the only child of Mrs. Burda, a Lebanese-Jewish family in Istanbul. Together they went to Konya and Cappadocia. This and the following picture fueled my imagination for 35 years. Who can ever forget the green türbe over Mevlana's tomb? 

 Christine in Mrs. Burda's yellow skirt with an unidentified friend at the entrance to the Mevlana tekke-Sufi monastery.

 And this is how the Mevlana tekke looked when we arrived at night in 1990.


 The Green Türbe had been completely renovated and a people's park been planted outside the walls of the tekke.


The tomb of Rumi Djeladdin Mevlana, who, although he wrote in Persian and was born in what is Afghanistan today, is arguably the classical Turkish poet and the founder of the Mavlevi Sufi Brotherhood of the Dancing Derwishes.

This grave is the destination of many a devout pilgrim. We spent a good time offering our reverences and then moved on to the tomb of Shams, Rumi's radical teacher, in another part of town. Later that night we were accosted by a young Turk who spoke fluent, educated German with a Bavarian accent. He had been born in Augsburg. In search of an Islamic teacher he had come back to Konya and was now enrolled with some Mavlevi sheik. Knowing that after the demise of Communism many young Turks were searching for another controversial philosophy to express their disillusionment, I startled him by challenging the flowery message of love of Rumi with the radical overtones of Shams' teaching. He had never seen it this way. He took us to his brother's carpet warehouse where we sat for a couple of hours at night discussing Rumi and Shams - until his brother appeared, who took the young man to task that he was talking, talking, talking instead of selling us a rug.... The brother quickly became quite unpleasantly cheeky (in English) to Barbara, and we left the place in protest. Next day our young friend was waiting for us in front of our hotel wanting to continue our religious discourse.... To this day I feel guilty that I sent him away.

 The Yesil Türbe over Rumi's tomb.


Another architectural gem in Konya is the dome of the Büjük Karatay Medrese further into town.