SOUTH of ANKARA


Konya,one of Turkey's oldest continuously inhabited cities was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries, it ranks as one of the great cultural centers of Turkey. During that period of cultural, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya's most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum housing manuscripts of Mevlana's works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect. Every year, in the first half of December, this still-active religious order holds a ceremony commemorating the Whirling Dervishes. The controlled, almost trance-like turning or sema of the white-robed men creates a mystical experience for the viewer.

Alaeddin Mosque, built on the site of the ancient Konya citadel in 1220, during the reign of the great Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat, commands Konya's skyline. To one side of the mosque are the remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bold and striking Seljuk ceramics. On the other side of the mosque, the Ince Minareli Medrese of 1258 is remarkable for its marvellous baroque Seljuk portal. Other Seljuk works include the Sircali Medrese and the Sahip Ata Complex. Visitors find Konya's Archaeological Museum of exceptional interest. The collection of the Koyunoglu Museum is a varied one; among its displays one is devoted to natural history and another to old kilims. Within the museum complex, the restored Izzettin Koyunoglu house illustrates the way of life of a prosperous Konya family.

Sille, 10 km north of Konya, has the Byzantine Aya Eleni church and several rock chapels with frescoes. Aksehir, to the northwest, is known throughout Turkey as the birthplace of the 13th-century humorist Nasrettin Hoca, whose mausoleum stands in the town. The 13th-century Ulu Mosque and the Altinkale Mescidi are other monuments worth seeing; the Sahip Ata Mausoleum has been converted into the town's museum.

On the way south to Beysehir stop at Eflatun Pinar next to the lake to see this unusual Hittite monumental fountain. Several interesting Seljuk buildings are scattered around lovely Beysehir, on the shores of Turkey's third largest lake, Beysehir Lake. Among the monuments are the Esrefoglu Mosque and Medrese, and the Kubad-Abad Summer Palace across the lake. Another medieval palace stands on Kizkalesi Island, opposite the Kubad-Abad palace. Haci Akif Island also offers relaxation and recreation to visitors.

Catalhoyuk, 45 km south of Konya, is a fascinating Neolithic site dating from the eight millennium B.C., which makes it one of the world's oldest towns. Archaeologists have determined that holes in the roofs of the mud houses were the entrance doors. Ankara's Museum of Anatolian Civilizations houses the famous temple (re-constructed), along with mother-goddess figures and Neolithic frescoes from the original site.

Surrounding Karapinar, 96 km east of Konya, are numerous crater lakes; the most famous is the lovely Meke Crater Lake, 7 km southeast of Karapinar. On the north side of the road to Eregli, 8 km from Karapinar, lies Act Crater Lake.

At Ivriz, a Hittite site 168 km east of Konya, you can see one of Turkey's finest neo- Hittite reliefs of a king and fertility god. Karaman, once the capital of the Karamanid Emirate, was the first Turkish state to use Turkish instead of Persian as its official language. Fittingly, Yunus Emre, the first great poet to write in Turkish, lived here in the 13th century. The surrounding fortresses date from Seljuk times, although the town's most significant buildings, the Araboglu, Yunus Emre and Aktekke Mosques and the Hatuniye Medrese, were all built during the Karamanid reign.

Derbe, 30 km north of Karaman, at the foot of the extinct volcano Mt. Karadag (2288 m), was an important early Christian settlement; St. Paul came here to preach.

Visitors can still see the remains of churches and chapels at Madensehir, 45 km from Karaman, on the northern slope of Mt. Karadag. Church remains and Hittite inscriptions have been discovered on the top of the mountain.

Near Taskale, 48 km east of Karaman, on the rocky northern slope of Yesildere Valley, are the remains of the fascinating historical city of Manazan. Built during Byzantine times, the entire city of narrow lanes, houses, squares, storage facilities, chapels and cemeteries (occupying an area approximately three kilometers long and five stories high) was carved into the rocky hillside of the valley. Today, parts of the city are still used for wheat storage.

South of Karaman up a steep narrow road are the remains of a beautiful Byzantine monastery, Alahan. Much still stands, and there is some fine stone carving to admire. This magnificent location offers a breathtaking view.



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