Traveling in Turkey

IMG_2507After a short day in Konya today we were on the road again. We headed towards Kapadokya where we will be for the next couple of days. I am excited to go back to Ürgüp because it was the first place I saw in Turkey other than Istanbul. I was there in February as part of an excursion with my fellow Duke in Istanbul classmates. (Fun fact: on our plane I sat behind Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, who was then one of the last remaining reputable members of the AKP government (before the Syria tapes came out)). Going back to Ürgüp I had all these memories fresh in my mind and was ready to see what else was in store.

As we drove in the car I came to the realization that my first travels in Anatolia mimicked the structure of our trip except I before I had traveled in the opposite direction, starting in Kapadokya and ending on the Aegean coast. As we drove I reflected on how my perspective of the places we visited has changed from the first time I went there to now as I revisited them with the Field School.

I had been to the area around Ayvalık before, but hadn’t realized how deeply linked this location was to the population exchange after WWI. As we walked around the town we saw the shells of the Greek houses and saw the traces of the Greek culture scattered around in the form of churches and greek lettering on some building . Also previously in Küçükkuyu, near Dedetepe, we had seen a statue commemorating the population exchange in both Turkish and Greek, demonstrating the depth of the impact this event had on the population living on the Aegean coastline.  We also had the opportunity to see the incredible city renewal that had taken place in this area, as Attila was amazed to see a church in Cunda completely renovated, which he had photographed ten years ago in ruins. I had also been in the area in mid May and was able to see the change in the church as it went from being under renovation until now when it is open to visitors.

When I visited Konya I had not particularly seen as a birthplace for innovation, but this time around I realized that political and religious conservatism does necessarily stifle social innovation. I had been introduced to Konya with it being one of the most conservative places in Anatolia, as well as a religious center because of its Sufi heritage in the form of the Mevlana Museum and the legacy of Rumi. This time around I was able to see its Hittite heritage as well as to visit the DownCafe, a very prosperous social venture.

Finally visiting Kapadokya again I learned more about the region in terms of how it depends on the lemon trade and how seasonal migration plays a role in the area’s economic activities. When I had come before I had been more entranced by the history of the region and the history of the Rum and Christian populations in the area. Thought to be amongst the first Christian converts in the world the people who lived in this area created ornate churches in caves all around the region.

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Revisiting parts of Turkey has allowed me to understand that going to one place does not mean you have really understood every facet of it. Going to these places again allowed me to view them in a different light, different than what I had seen in them as a tourist before.  I feel like what I have gained by revisiting these places has been a closer understanding of the people who live there now, how they make a living, which problems they face and how they deal with these problems.

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