Tracey and I had one more destination that we wanted to get in before we leave Side, the historical centre of Antalya, the capital city of this area. After having rented the car and driven for the last few days, we decided just to take public transit this time, presuming that it should be quite do-able. Since we were feeling pretty good this morning, after an early night and a good sleep, today was the day. After a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, cheese, bread and fruit, we headed off to the taxi stand just down the road. This place doesn’t get too much action, and when we asked how much for a ride to the buyuk otogar, the first response was 20 lira, at which we snorted. We finally settled on 14, the driver grumbling to his mates, no doubt about how cheap we were.
After he dropped us at the Manavgat bus station, we walked up to the long counter, at which employees of the 57 different bus companies that operate in this area were sitting. The company of the woman I spoke to didn’t go to Antalya, but she directed us to Manavgat Seyahat which did, and the next bus was leaving in 2 minutes – huzzah! We bought our tickets, hopped on the bus and off it went, travelling first to the kucuk otogar (minibus station), then slowly through Manavgat and environs picking up passengers until the bus was full. We then picked up some speed as we headed down the highway towards Antalya.
After a journey of about an hour and a half, we arrived at the Antalya otogar, quite far from the historical centre, on the edge of town. I asked a guy seated in front of us how to get to the historic centre and he walked with us to the city bus going directly there; it left in two minutes – huzzah, once again! By noon we were in Kaleici, exchanging money at the bank.
The following info is drawn from Turkey Travel Planner and All About Turkey:
Also known as Old Antalya, the small historic section called Kaleiçi at the center of the sprawling modern city was the Roman town, then the Byzantine, then the Seljuk Turkish, and finally the Ottoman Turkish town. The huge, modern city of Antalya didn’t really start to appear until after World War II. Until then, Kaleiçi was Antalya, with its massive stone walls, meandering streets, and picturesque old houses built so close they often overshadow the narrow lanes.
In this picturesque old quarter, narrow winding streets and old wooden houses abut the ancient city walls. Since its founding in the second century B.C. by Attalus II, a king of Pergamon, who named the city Attaleai after himself, Antalya has been continuously inhabited. The Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks in turn occupied the city before it came under Ottoman rule. The elegant fluted minaret of the Yivli Minareli Mosque in the center of the city built by the Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the 13th century has become the Antalya’s symbol. The Karatay Medrese (theological college) in the Kaleici district, from the same period, exemplifies the best of Seljuk stone carvings. The two most important Ottoman mosques in the city are the 16th century Murat Pasa Mosque, remarkable for its tile decoration, and the 18th century Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Mosque. Neighboring the marina, the attractive late 19th century Iskele Mosque is built of cut stone and set on four pillars over a natural spring. The Hidirlik Kulesi (tower) was probably originally constructed as a lighthouse in the second century. Today a church, the Kesik Minaret Mosque attests to the city’s long history in its succession of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman renovations. When Emperor Hadrian visited Antalya in 130 A.D. a beautifully decorated three arched gate was built into the city walls in his honor.
Tracey and I wandered down the narrow and almost deserted streets of Kaleici, looking at the beautiful Ottoman houses, some of which were abandoned and ruined. Rugs, wall hangings and other goodies for sale were hung on the walls and looked very attractive in the hot sun. We stopped for an iced tea at a grape vine clad tea garden on the way down to the harbour, where my small attempts to order in Turkish seemed greatly to amuse the waiter. The ancient city walls flanking the marina are high and quite beautiful with many colourful flowers covering them. We walked down the stairs to the marina, passing a busker playing his accordion who demanded money – I did not appreciate his demands, since we hadn’t even had time to listen to his music, and declined to give him anything. The harbour itself is small and beautiful, with many small wooden gullet yachts and fishing boats. Several people were swimming in the clear turquoise blue water just outside the stone walls encircling the harbour. Strolling along the harbour walk, we were accosted by the usual vendors trying to sell us ice cream, boat tours, textiles, etc., some of whom were quite aggressive. We climbed up a few steep streets and plopped ourselves down in the Municipal Tea Garden with a fantastic view overlooking the harbour, sampling some gozleme and chips with our cay. After lunch, we wandered through the historical centre, visiting the following sites:
Yivli Minaret Complex, built in the 13th century, with a beautiful fluted minaret
Kesik Minaret complex
Murat Pasa Mosque (16th century)
Karatay Medrese (theological college)
Mausoleum of Zincir Kiran Mehmet Bey with three sarcophagi
Mosque that used to be a whirling dervish house now converted into an art gallery displaying contemporary Turkish art
We also saw the exceptionally kitsch Ataturk Monument on Cumhurriyet Square. This enormous bronze sculpture depicts the Turkish leader riding on a horse with a vast flowing cape sailing out behind him, and several semi-nude figures looking up at him adoringly. Although Antalya is an old town, not much really remains from the early periods; several of the monuments at which we looked were either closed, ruined or converted into shops or restaurants. While the area is really quite pleasant, it seems a shame to me that the historical buildings are exploited for commerce rather than being preserved as they were. There are enough shops already in Turkey …
Along the main tram street running along the harbour area are several contemporary bronze sculptures of pairs of children playing which are really quite beautiful, as well as a grouping of purple and blue sculptures of large chickens in a fountain. It was very hot, and almost windless, so after about three hours, we’d both had enough. Making our way back to the main drag to take the bus back to the otogar, we came upon a cab stand and took a taxi instead. Arriving at the Otogar, we were directed to the correct terminal for Manavgat Seyahat (Antalya’s bus station is bigger than many airports) and were on the bus for Manavgat within ten minutes – huzzah three! We arrived at the turnoff to Side within an hour or so and several minibuses were waiting to whisk passengers to Side – on we hopped, and we were back at SGR in a total of an hour and a half, all our connections being made with speed … amazing.
Note on trucks and buses: Many of these have the inscription “Allah Korusun” or “Masallah” on the front and/or back … this means something like “God save me”; given the way many Turks drive, an apt prayer …
See pictures here.