Religion · Travel

Day Three: A Field of Sunflowers

Disclaimer: I thought I should mention that I am writing these posts late at night with my grandmother watching tv and/or snoring beside me, on my iPad’s screen-touch keyboard, with limited (and expensive) Internet. If there are typos, I will edit them when I get onto an actual computer back home. -fs.

Today was not very exciting in some regards, but was indeed exciting in others (S, you’re going to hate me. But you can’t, because I took ridiculous numbers of photos for you. Happy Birthday).
We began our day at 8am, when we pulled out of the hotel parking lot. We chatted with the bus driver (“Mr Happy”, though unfortunately I am totally blanking on what his name is. It means “happy” in Turkish) who spoke to my grandmother in Turkish, and commented on how Turkish I look. Her running joke this trip – how none of her children or grandchildren look like her. We jumped on the bus, and left Bursa and began our drive to Cumalikizik Village, which is known for houses built with wet mud cement, cobblestones, and timelessness. They used to be famous for walnuts, but one day all the trees got canker, and they suffered until there was a soap opera shot there, when tourists began to come. I mostly kept up with the tour guide, Dahun, and meandered around. We only had around 45 minutes there. It was very quaint and pretty, and there were a few houses being built – again, in the same traditionally built houses. They’re quite interesting, and Dahun pulled a white mulberry off of a tree for us (he’s like 6’4″), which was nice.
We stopped at a gas station for a pitstop where I had a pomegranate mineral water, which was lovely.
My only gripe with this tour is how much sitting there is in relation to the walking around. Granted, it is a trip for mostly older people (I was wrong, by the way. The next oldest couple from me is a younger couple, mid to late 20s I think, who are on their honeymoon), but still. I was hoping for a bit more walking around.
Anyways, after the pitstop, there was lunch at a Turkish shopping mall. Had a lovely hot pepper chicken dish (yes, I had hot. It was amazing) with a yogurt drink called Ayran, which my grandmother has made for me before. And then back on the bus for some more driving. Basically today was mostly driving from Bursa to Ankara. It was cool, however, that while eating lunch in the mall, we could look over the city and see a half dozen minarets.
Now comes the interesting part, which I took tons of photos of for S: we visited the burial mound of who was thought to be the Phrygian King Midas.
Yeah, that Midas.
Basically, the people of Gordion consulted an oracle, who told them the next king was going to arrive into the city on a mule or some such, and one day P an old man in a cart arrived and they chose him as their king. That was Midas’ father. Then, much later when Midas was king, he came across a group of satyrs and Dionysius. He saved them somehow, and to reward him, Dionysius gave him a wish. Midas wished that all he touched would turn to gold. Dionysius granted his wish, and when Midas returned home, he went to hug his wife, but his daughter got in the way. She was turned to gold. He then realized everything he touched -food, people, everything – turned to gold. He returned to Dionysius and begged the curse be removed. Midas was told that if he touched his hands to the waters of a river, he would be cured. He did so. Fun fact: the same place as Midas supposedly touched the river is the same place the first gold coin was minted.
Anyways, so this mound we visited was discovered in the late 1800s, and excavated by the Nazis in the early 1900s. The bones were carbon dated recently, and they realized they were around 60 years too old to be Midas, so they figured they are his father’s.
The interior of the mound (which is essentially a giant pile of dirt and rock atop a grand wooden structure) was quite spectacular. It was made of giant juniper trees which were too big to be carried, but there aren’t juniper trees anywhere close by nowadays, suggesting the area must have been much more leafy at some point. It was very basic, of course; all of the artifacts found (mostly clay and copper) have been removed to museums around the world, and across the street, which I visited, from which a few of the photos below originate.
After the museum, back on the bus for our drive (sigh) to Ankara, from whence the title of this post comes – all over the countryside is fields upon fields of sunflowers in bloom.
Turkey is a great exporter of sunflowers. We were traveling through the more mountainous area of central Turkey and all over the hills are big blocks of green and yellow amongst the beige of wheat. I’m not sure why I found it so inspiring, but I did.
We arrived in Ankara, which is a busy city centre. Fun fact: there is an engineering school here that the Americans built in an attempt to fight communism. It is in the shape of a gun pointed towards Russia. Now, though, if there are ever any problems with communists, they come from this Univeristy.
Oh, irony.
So, that is about it. As for today’s personal note, I’m feeling pretty good still. I will admit that I am having my moments of annoyance with grandma’s need to talk to everyone – it means we loiter places where I would rather move on, she talks about me in Turkish and I need to stand there and smile, etcetera – and, although I know she can’t help it, it is getting hard for me to hold back going ahead or waking quickly. I’m usually the person at the front of the line with the guide, but grandma being, I think, the eldest of all the people here, is rather slow, and I don’t want to leave her behind. What I’ve been doing is walking ahead, listening to Dahan’s talks, and then heading back to grandma. I do laps, basically, which helps me expel energy, but I still feel restless.
That said, I am VERY excited for the next leg of our trip.
Tomorrow is the Museum if Anatolian Civilizations and Anit Kabir; the Mausoleum of Ataturk, father of modern Turkey; the tomb of Moslem Sufi philosopher Haci Bektas, and then in the evening, we are going to watch a whirling dervishes ceremony.
Then, the next day, we have a full day in Cappadocia full of adventues, and then on Friday – wait for it – A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE. I am SO excited. Like, so excited.
It is going to be over Göreme’s rock-carved churches. Like, honestly. How much more awesome can you get?!
Also, Turkish bath and massage. But that isn’t nearly as exciting as a freakin’ HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE.
Also, a few women have not only complimented me on my ability to tie a hijab scarf properly, but my shopping ability in finding and purchasing beautiful scarves. One said, “the scarves look beautiful on; but perhaps that is because you are wearing them.” I was like awww. One of the upsides I guess to being surrounded by older people – lots of compliments! But seriously, I was quite flattered.
Apparently I have a knack for finding and acquiring beautiful things.

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