Bye-Bye, Turkey – Görüşürüz!

Well, my six months of travel are almost over – one more day and then I am off back to Canada on June 20. It has been a wonderful journey!

My companions at Side Garden Residence have been the following:

Tracey, Christine and Barb, family and friends.

Elke, from Bonn, here for six months, looking for work in the tourism sector.

Family of three generations of Turkish women from Ankara and Munich, non-swimmers all. Granny, living large, wearing her string of pearls necklace and her pink crocheted cap, inches around the pool using her hands to propel herself crab-like along the edge. Her two daughters, alike in size and blonde hair, and their three daughters, all lovely dark-haired beauties, are doing their best to learn to swim. Both Elke and I attempted to show them how this morning, Elke with more success than me.

English family of five, nicknamed the Griswalds, who station themselves poolside all day and never leave the complex.

English couple who station themselves poolside and never leave the complex.

Five young English friends frolicking on inflatables.

Ann and her unnamed husband, here from the north of England for 9 months each year, who station themselves poolside and seldom leave the complex.

Many (28 apartments – of the 60 in the complex – worth) unnamed Scandinavian, German and Belgian tour company employees, mostly for Nazar and Tui.

Kaan, Gokhan and several other unnamed Turkish employees of the housing management company responsible for looking after SGR.

Yilderay and his unnamed wife, maintenance man and cleaner.

Granny, Kaan’s grandmother.

Three unnamed cats.

Several song birds.

Recap of where I have been since Dec 31, 2008:

Thailand: Koh Libong; Koh Muk: Emerald Cave; Koh Kradan; Koh Lipe; Koh Lanta; Koh Phi Phi; Phi Phi Lei; Koh Jum/Pu; Krabi; Bangkok: Arun Wat Temple, Grand Palace complex, Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha; Chinatown; many Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Malaysia: Malacca.

Singapore: Modern Art Museum; Singpore History Museum; Bukit Brown Abandoned Chinese Cemetery; several Buddhist and Hindu temples; Arab Street; Little India; Peranakan Museum; Emerald Hill.

Greece: Meis/Kastellorizo Island

Turkey: Istanbul; Princes Islands/Buyuk Ada; Nevsehir; Ibrahimpasa; Uchisar; Ortahisar; Urgup; Mustafapasa; Cemil; Sahinefendi; Goreme; Avanos; Gore; Dalyan, Ortaca; Kas; Gumusluk; Bodrum; Gumbet; Turgutreis; Torba; Side; Antalya; Manavgat; Aglasun; Burdur; Pamukkale; Ucagiz; Simena; Kadikalesi; Koycegiz; Seleukeia; Cirali and many other tiny towns and villages whose names escape me at the moment.

Ancient sites in Turkey: Blue Mosque; Hagia Sofia; Basilica Cistern; Cemberlitas Hamam; Kariye Church; Rustempasa Mosque; New Mosque; Grand Bazaar; Spice Bazaar; Topkapi Palace; Dolmabahce Palace; Sobesos; too many rock-cut churches and monasteries in Cappadocia to mention separately; Kayakapi; Kaunos; Kas/Antiphellos; Xanthos; Patara; Kekova; Simena; Bodrum Castle; Myndos; Ephesus; Hieropolis; Side; Olympos; Phaselis; Sagalassos; Karain Cave; Termessos; Perge

Museums/Galleries in Turkey: Topkapi Palace; Dolmabahce Palace; Hagia Sofia; Kariye Church; Goreme Open Air Museum; Bodrum Castle and Underwater Archeology Museum; Burdur Museum; Mosque/Gallery of contemporary art in Kaleici (Antalya)

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Things I will miss about Turkey:

Weather: wonderful, wonderful sunny hot breezy days; I especially love the mornings and evenings here.

People: the generous and hospitable people that I have met here.

Flora: the beautiful colours of the bougainvillea, hibiscus, lilies and other flowers; the grapevine arbours, the pine forests.

Animals: I have loved the Turkish cats and dogs, especially the street cats with their tiny triangular faces and piteous meowing – cagey devils; grasshoppers, crickets, birds including pelicans and storks (and the funny little bird who comes to our pool every morning and immerses its whole body in the world’s largest bird bath), lizards large and small – these guys, quite a bit like geckos and iguanas, hang out on the rocks at the ruin sites; camels; my little boyfriend Keesje, Willemijn and Paul’s grey and white cat.

Hamams: I love the tradition of the Turkish Bath and think that we should have it in Vancouver. I understand that there is one bath at home, on Granville near 6th, so I will check it out later.

Patterns/tilework: the geometric and floral patterned motifs on tiles, walls, ceilings of mosques, hamams and ceramic ware.

Water: the beautiful turquoise-blue of the Mediterranean Sea; our 25 meter pool at the SGR; the glacial green-blue water of the Manavgat waterfalls and the Koprulu canyon.

Dolmuses; the great inexpensive minibus system, where one can hop on and hop off anywhere along the route.

Things I won’t miss:

The top two are smoking by everyone everywhere all the time and the ubiquitous, pushy, annoying sales touts everywhere almost all the time.

Driving: Although I did not actually drive myself, because I can’t drive a stick shift and all the rental cars here are standard, being the navigator also entailed being alert through the chaotic traffic here. One site I was looking at in preparation for our Sagalassos road trip cautioned: “An aggressive driving style is recommended” – yah, that’s for sure! S/he who hesitates on the Turkish roads is lost.

Litter and garbage: plastic, plastic water bottles, cigarette butts, paper wrappers; people throwing their garbage out of car windows and tossing their butts everywhere; dumps, both legitimate and illegitimate.

Bare-breasted European women on the beach. While I normally have no particular problem with this practice, I think that it is highly inappropriate in this culture. Ditto the wearing of bikinis at places other than the beach or pool. News Flash: You’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy; you are in an Islamic culture – give your head a shake. I am reminded of the English woman at the Saturday market in Side with her large fake breasts popping out of her bikini top trying to negotiate a purchase from a Turkish man slavering over her boobies – blaaahhh to both of them.

Rudeness in general: While the Turks are mostly notable for their politeness and hospitality, some in the tourist sector are really rude and ignorant; ditto some of the tourists who frequent holiday resorts here.

Nescafe: I can hardly wait for decent brewed coffee and the cappuccino – best in Vancouver – at the Japanese coffee bar Ty and I frequent on Davie St.

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The most amazing aspect of my trip has been all the wonderful people I have met everywhere I have gone, both local people and travelers from other countries. I will try to list them here and hopefully I will not forget to mention someone:

Thailand: Tam and all the guys at the Tai Rai Bay Resort on Koh Jum/Pu; Roger, resident guru at Ting Rai Bay; Helena, Sofia, Elizabeth, and Monique, guests from Sweden and Holland at Ting Rai Bay; Chris and Mich from Malaysia on Koh Libong; Ingo and Simone on Koh Lanta.

Singapore: Matilda, my friend and hostess; Skye, friend from Nanaimo now living in Singapore.

Istanbul; Ahmet and Sharam, proprietors of the Ocean’s 7 hotel in Sultanahmet; Sofie from Belgium; Chrissy from the States by way of Romania.

Cappadocia: Willemijn and Paul, artists and hosts of the Babayan Culture House in Ibrahimpasa; Mehmet Ali, unofficial “mayor” of Ibrahimpasa and antique dealer; Kus (Birdie) Mehmet, toast-master extraordinaire of Ibrahimpasa; Idris, proprietor of Urgup’s candle- and world-music-house; Mehmet, Cenap, Bayram, Filiz, Hanim and Cansu in Goreme; Crazy Ali, antique dealer in Ortahisar; Almut, artist, chef and guest house proprietor, and her two sons, in Uchisar; Halil, my taxi driver; Marina, Portuguese artist in wood and stone.

Dalyan: Sonja, guide from Kaunos tours and mountain biking machine, and her husband Murat; Katie and Richard from London, my companions on the mountain bike tour; Ali and Nurmin, proprietors of the Crescent Hotel; Terry, Bob, Doug, and Bill, retired teachers from Langley, BC, Canada.

Kas: the four young guys who helped me with my mannequin installation; Marta-Sofia from Portugal and Germany; Suzi and Peter from Fiji.

Gumusluk: the gang at the Gumusluk Academy, Seray, Ilknur, Nils, Elhan, Pilin, Latife, Emre, Eyup, Mehmet, Mehmet Abi, Zubeida; Meral and Ida from Denmark; Nesa and Li Li, poets from Cyprus and Sweden respectively; Gary the Gumusluk Gambacisi and Danny, writer and proprietor of a pension in Gumusluk; Eren, pianist and Director of the Gumusluk International Classical Music Festival, and her husband Mesrut.

Bodrum: Ayla, guide and delightful companion.

Side: Elke; Yusuf, proprietor of the Vera market and all-round helpful guy; Mehmet, car rental dude and all-round helpful guy; Ahmet, antique dealer.

While I have enjoyed every bit of my time here (even the grumpy old lady bits), the most incredible part of my journey through this fascinating country was the time I spent in Cappadocia at the Babayan Culture House in Imbrahimpasa. The month spent at this artist’s residency and guest house, a centuries old renovated cave house in a tiny village of 800 persons where people live as they have lived for a thousand years, was the most unusual and farthest outside my regular frame of reference. It was magical and inspirational in every possible way. The landscape was incredible; although I had been before for a few days last June, spending a month there allowed me to visit almost every village and town and hike through many of the beautiful valleys. I also got to experience almost every kind of weather: from sunny and 20 degrees to a foot of snow and minus something, sometimes within a day of one another. Also, since it was so early in the year, I had almost every place I went to myself; that, too, was incredible, especially being able to take my time when visiting the Open Air Museum and rock cut churches. I also loved the Goreme Hamam, especially the visit that Willemijn and I made one Sunday when, after spending several hours in the warmth of the bath, we came out in early evening to a winter landscape of snow blanketing the town.

Thanks to everyone who made my journey so memorable!

Kaleici: Antalya’s Old City

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.

Ruin Road Trip: Sagalassos, Burdur, Karain, Termessos, and Perge – whewww!

Road trip! Tracey and I boarded our small silver bomb early yesterday morning and were off on our ruin road trip by 7. The traffic through Antalya was still quite busy even though it was fairly early Sunday morning and I had to keep alert to navigate us through the city, onto the city centre bypass route and up north towards Burdur. We made one false move in turning off north too soon but caught it quickly and were back on the right track within 10 minutes. Unfortunately, our driving map did not go up high enough and I was navigating according to written instructions obtained from the internet and my memory of the map we’d had in the car the other day. We stopped three times at three different gas stations to see if they sold maps but none of them did. At our second stop five guys debated in Turkish over how to get to Aglasun, the town nearest to the Sagalassos ruin site, our first destination. However, even without the map, and instructions scrawled on the back of a cookie box, we managed to find our way to the correct turnoff some 1.75 hours north of Antalya. We drove through Aglasun following the old weathered Sagalassos signs up 7 kilometers of windy hairpin turn one lane road to the ruin site.

The site occupies a mountain top position and it was slightly overcast and windy when we arrived, cool enough to wear a sweater and scarf. Only one other car and a small midi bus were in the parking lot; a Belgian tour also pulled up just as we disembarked, disgorging a small crowd of visitors, some of whom were using walkers and canes. We were not sure what part of “hill top ruin site” led them to think that they would be able to climb up to the ancient city. At the top of the site, far up the mountain, was the Hellenistic theatre, quite well preserved. We enjoyed the view from the top in almost complete seclusion and the cool breeze whistling through the grass and our hair. Making our way down again, we examined the Neon library and the fountain house, the latter providing a home for lizards, butterflies and crickets, as well as a solitary large worm in a pool of water.

The site has two agorae, the upper with a beautiful Nymphaeum (ornamental fountain), a Heroon (small temple dedicated to a deified human, likely Alexander the Great), and a Doric temple. The heroon has a beautiful frieze of 15 dancing women around the base, the originals of which we later saw in the Burdur museum. The lower agora is where the archeological team is currently working and thus we weren’t able to walk around inside it. It is here, in the bath complex, that the colossal heads of Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Faustina were found last year and the year before. The large crane in the middle of the agora, used by the archeological excavation team, seems oddly out of place in the midst of white stone monuments. When we’d completed our tour of the site, I sampled my favorite beverage, Nescafe, in a tulip shaped cup in the small outdoor café at the entrance.

Read more about the site here and here.

The setting of the ruins is beautiful and we were interested in seeing some of the artifacts excavated so we decided to drive to Burdur, where the museum housing these is located. Rather than retrace our steps, we drove along a 27 kilometer gravel road up hill and down dale through villages to reach Burdur, a medium sized town about 150 km north of Antalya. The museum is small but contains several beautiful sculptures, especially the ones taken from the upper agora’s nymphaeum. The two sculptures of Bacchus and Satyr are standouts here, as is the original frieze of the 15 dancing women from the Heroon. We also saw finds from Kremna, Kibyra, and Karacaoren, all ancient sites in the immediate area. The wealth of ancient ruins in this area is astonishing and we marveled at how the ancients were able to construct their cities in such imposing locations. After an hour or so in the small museum, we hopped back in the car and headed back down towards Antalya and the Karain Cave, the next stop on our agenda, a Paleolithic archaeological site located at Yağca village 27 km northwest of Antalya.

Karain is a prehistoric cave, situated at a height of about 370 m from the sea and about 80 m up the slope, where the Western Taurus calcareous zone borders on the travertine plain. Evidence of human habitation dating back to the early Paleolithic age (150,000-200,000) years has been discovered in this cave. We entered the site through a minimalist museum with four or five small glass cases of artifacts such as stone arrow heads and two rather dusty sets of antlers on the wall. 800 meters up the cliff along a narrow rocky path lies the entrance to the cave itself. The cavern entrance bears vestiges of the archeologists’ excavations. Beyond the entrance are several large rooms with strangely-shaped walls and ceilings, luridly lit by high-powered electric lights. Tracey and I enjoyed the coolness of the interior after the steep, hot climb, both of us having made the mistake of wearing flip-flops rather than our shoes. As we made our way down the slope again, the clouds that had been gathering as we were inside became darker and darker and just as we reached the car, the heavens opened and it began to pour rain and hail. Earlier I had called Suleiman at the Yesil Vadi pension where we were spending the night to let him know we were on our way and he came to pick us up and guide us along the shortcut to the pension through the village of Yağca.

The pension, located 9 km from Termessos on the side of a dry river bed, has 9 rooms and is run by two brothers from the local village. The two of us and a German family of three camping were the only guests. While somewhat Spartan in terms of décor, Yesil Vadi served its purpose of being very convenient for our next stop, the mountain top site of Termessos in the Gulluk Milli Park. Suleiman was also very pleasant and spoke good English. Tracey and I sampled the restaurant’s specialties of meatballs, cigar boregi, macaroni and tomato salad and were in bed by 9, exhausted.

The next morning, although I had wanted to sleep in a bit, I was awake at 6 and we were in the dining room for breakfast by 7:30. The morning was beautiful, sunny with a few drifting clouds, and windy. We headed off down the road, into the park, and up the 7 kilometer windy one lane hairpin turn road to the parking lot halfway up the mountain. From here, we took the left hand path through the forest up towards the site.

Termesssos was a Psidian city built at an altitude of more than 1000 meters at the south-west side of the mountain Solymos (modern day Güllük Dagi) in the Taurus Mountains. Unlike Sagalassos, the wealthy first city of Pamphylia which was conquered by Alexander the Great in 333, Termessos was left alone by the Macedonian conqueror. Legend has it that Termessos’ location and fierce inhabitants repelled Alexander but other modern accounts say that he simply didn’t bother to take it, possibly because it was not worth his while. Termessos is an unrestored site, concealed by a multitude of wild plants and bounded by dense pine forests, and has many tumbled-down blocks of stone and parts of columns over which a visitor must climb to ascend. We reached the theatre, located right near the top of the mountain, and was it ever fabulous. What a location! The view from there over the valley and mountains beyond was gorgeous. From there we walked through the gymnasium, the agora, of which nothing much is left except piles of stones, the benefactor’s house – ditto – and along a path with five very deep cisterns. We spent some time walking in circles around here looking for the agora before we realized that there was nothing much of it to see. Very few people were at the site; the steepness of the terrain keeps most away but we saw a few, including one British couple, the woman wearing leather dress shoes, a white skirt and carrying a white parasol – unusual dress choices for this particular venue … We then made our way back down again to the baths and took the right hand path leading down to the parking lot, the steeper and more difficult way past rock-cut cliffside tombs and sarcophagi. Near the bottom we saw Hadrian’s Gate amidst another big pile of stony rubble. Upon asking one of the ticket takers where the lion’s tomb was, he proceeded to take us on a whirlwind tour of the north east necropolis – no “yavash, yavash (slowly, slowly)” for us. The guy sped us through that necropolis as if he were being chased by wild boars. We did see the lion tomb, with relief carvings of two lions on the side of the sarcophagus, the monumental tomb, and several others with quite well-preserved relief sculptures, some of angels. The two necropolis on the site contain in total about 1,200 sarcophagi. Many of the ones we saw were completely overgrown with moss, ferns and other plants, tumbled here and there, hither and thither in the forest. My old favorites the korek were also growing here; however, while the korek in Gumusluk had been fully grown and dying off, those here were just beginning to grow. Butterflies fluttered around our heads and crickets and grasshoppers skipped across the ground as we walked; one small beast attached himself to our car windshield and had to be brushed off into the weeds before we left.

Read more about Termessos here.

After having spent about 3 hours at this wonderful hilltop site, we headed back down the road to Antalya, through the big city and got stuck in terrible traffic about 2 kilometers before the turnoff to Perge, our next stop. A construction project has closed down half the highway here and we crawled along for what seemed like hours as cars and trucks and tractors and motorbikes tried to jockey for position on the crowded tarmac in the heat. Finally, we reached the Perge turnoff and 2 kilometers from the highway, the site itself. A notable historical figure who twice visited Perge was St. Paul the Apostle and his companion St. Barnabas, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 13:13-14 and 14:25), during their first missionary journey, where they “preached the word” (Acts 14:25) before heading for and sailing from Attalia (modern-day Antalya city), 15 km to the southwest, to Antioch.

Perge is enormous, a ruin from the Roman imperial period, and has several long colonnaded streets that are very impressive. But the most impressive part of these ruins for us was the bath complex, an enormous, opulently constructed series of buildings that must have been amazing back in the day. I was quite tired and hot and we did not have much water so our progress through the site was slow and we didn’t have the energy to see it all. We did make our way through an unmarked field and torn down fence out to see the theatre, only to find that it was “closed for restoration” – ha! It looked as though no-one had been in there for at least 25 years and did not at all look as though any restoration project was happening – it is just locked up behind a tall metal fence – damn. It would have been helpful if the ticket taker had told us that the theatre was closed. And also, after paying 15 lira, more than any other site, it was disappointing that we did not even get a brochure in English. Perge would be best visited early in the morning when one is fresh – it is definitely not a heat of the day endeavour …

Once back on the highway and in the ridiculous traffic, we crawled along for another painful 2 kilometers before being able to get some speed up on our return journey. Feeling hot and tired, we pulled over at one of the many roadside gozleme (Turkish crepe) stands and feasted on gozleme cooked by granny and tomatoes and cucumber picked fresh from the garden – yummm. We arrived back at the ranch by 5:30 or so, glad to put the silver crap car to rest.

See pictures here and here.

Side Friday and Saturday

After our busy couple of days on the road, Tracey and I decided to take it easy yesterday. We spent the morning working on our respective journals, Tracey’s an actual physical book and mine electronic. Later, we spent several hours poolside lounging and swimming, watching three English kids unsupervised by their sleeping parents splash and throw things at one another. That evening, after a little nap, we headed out so that Tracey could do some shopping. We stopped at a local restaurant right on the main drag along the coast and had a spaghetti dinner in their grassy garden, watching several rabbits in a small cage munch on lettuce. A little girl was enchanted by them, reaching her fingers into the cage to stroke their furry noses. I wondered whether rabbit was on the menu and/or whether the rabbits were there to attract foreign tourists. Some of the shopkeepers here keep small dogs and cats on hand as a way to draw people in.

After a surprisingly tasty pasta dinner, we walked through the otogar, hopped on the train/bus to the town gate and headed down a back street to the antique shop that I’d seen earlier. In a town where almost all the shops and markets have exactly the same cheap tourist junk for sale this place stands out for its unique merchandise, such as camel accessories and jewellery from Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, antique prints and paintings. When we got there the door was open but the proprietor was nowhere to be seen. We walked in and suddenly he emerged from somewhere looking very spiffy in a white shirt and tie and welcomed us, wondering whether we were “travelers or tourists”. When I responded that we were travelers, he invited us to make ourselves welcome and offered us tea and orange juice. I drank my tea while watching Tracey rummage through the wares on offer. After selecting a few things, Tracey pulled out her purse whereupon Ahmet cautioned her not to open her wallet in view of the window and to conclude the transaction in the back room where passersby and other merchants could not see how much money she was paying. He explained to us that the other merchants were always watching him and his store to see how much money he was making and that they were jealous because they weren’t making any money; nothing much is selling this year. Elke had also mentioned that people she knows in tourism were also complaining that they are not making any money this year, especially people in luxury fields such as watersports. I had the impression that Ahmet was afraid of being beaten up or robbed by his neighbours.

We wandered out onto the main shopping street after completing the purchase and Tracey managed to find a few other little items that caught her eye. Tiring of shopping and all the attendant hassle, we made our way over to the Temple of Apollo and Byzantine basilica on the waterfront, beautifully illuminated at night, and took several pictures while being watched by the ubiquitous pairs of Turkish men that hang out there looking for foreign women.

Saturday morning four kittie cats were in our dumpster nibbling on discarded goodies; after cooing over them, we walked over to the Side Saturday Market located next to the big mosque in Kemer. Tracey still had a few small items to look for and we cruised around the market examining spices, clothing, and the other offered wares. One man spent a few minutes showing Tracey how something worked, and after, when she did not buy it, he got really angry and swore at her … just another day at the fair: “Yes, please …”. After dropping off the merchandise at the apartment, we walked down over the sand dunes to the beach, dropping to the sand in front of the Beach Bar and collapsing into the wavy ocean. We watched as a group of kids build an enormous sand village consisting of several castles and moats and a group of seven zoom around on a banana boat. Elke met us and we spent some time under her umbrella, then, when the clouds started moving in, we headed in to town so that I could change some Canadian cash for our road trip tomorrow. We are off to Sagalassos, an ancient Greco-Roman site an hour and a half north of Antalya currently being excavated by a Belgian University; the Karain Neolithic Cave, continuously occupied for 25,000 years; Termessos, a mountain-top ruin site northwest of Antalya famous for repelling Alexander the Great in 333 bce, and Perge, a Roman site west of Antalya through which St Paul travelled on one of his missionary journeys.

Tracey’s Herculean foot: Tracey has been plagued by mosquito bites and heat rash; as a result her left foot has blown up like a balloon and she is right now sitting at the dining table with her Herculean foot immersed in our dish washing bowl. Hopefully, it will subside by tomorrow morning.

See pictures here.

The Three Stooges in Turkey: the Continuing Adventures of Larry, Curly and Moe

Yesterday was a hot and busy day here in Turkey. The three of us decided that we would have a half day excursion because we were going to the opera in Aspendos that night. The Manavgat waterfalls seemed like a good bet, only 15 or so km from here and nice and cool on a very hot day. However, I just happened to be reading an Antalya tourism brochure in the morning and came across a ruin site that I’d not heard of before in the Side/Manavgat area named Seleucia. From the description it looked like there was quite a bit to see there and it was in the area so we added Seleucia to the agenda.

We grabbed the dolmus from the Side otogar to the Manavgat otogar, a 15 or 20 minute trip, and our driver took us to the dolmus operators driving the minibus to Seleukia, the Turkish name for the town nearest the ancient site. From an admittedly tenuous conversation with the bus driver, we were under the impression that the bus travelled up there and back every hour and that the last bus back was 4:30. Since we had a 45 minute wait at the otogar, we enjoyed a glass of Turkish tea with the drivers in their office. At the appointed time we hopped aboard and headed off north in the direction of the Manavgat waterfall, passing that place and then turning off the main road onto a back street somewhere about 10 km north of Manavgat. The dolmus dropped us off at the entrance to the tiny town and a local man, also just off the bus, walked through the village with us and pointed out the way to the ancient site.

Seleukeia is a one horse town without the horse; a couple of old gozleme stands, many ruined stone houses, a minaret without a mosque and a few tractors were pretty much it. Brown signs pointed the way to the site and we walked fairly briskly up the road, past an ancient sign in German advertising a non-existent restaurant, to arrive at a disused ticket booth with broken windows and a rusted gate marking the entrance to the ancient site.

It looked as though this place used to be on the tourist map but was no longer – we weren’t sure why – obviously, though, no-one had come this way for a very long time. We walked along a sandy road with no evidence of any ruins anywhere in the vicinity until Tracey spotted what looked like an aquaduct in a forest high on a hill very far away … damn. It became apparent to us that the ruins were not anywhere near and that to reach them would require a very long walk – no wonder the bus driver had warned us the last bus back was 4:30; he obviously thought we intended to walk all the way up there.

A bit disappointed, we turned around and headed back for the dolmus stop, only to see the man who had pointed the way out to us walking towards us while talking on the phone. He kept wanting to take our picture and gestured for us to follow him across the fields, both of which we declined to do. I thought he seemed weird and wondered if he was calling his buddies to come and meet him; however, as we reentered the town, he disappeared.

As we walked back, we noticed on the site signs stickers for the Manavgat mountain bike marathon … If we had seen them before, they should have given us a clue as to the length of time the journey required. Back again at the dolmus stand, a dirt track on the edge of town, we thought that the bus would be there in ten minutes or so … ten minutes passed with no sign of the bus, and ten more minutes … Waiting for Godot, once again.

We decided to walk down the hill in the direction of Manavgat and flag down any passing vehicle – the traffic in and out of dodge was pretty well non-existent, though. Finally, we spotted a dolmus in the distance and I flagged it down but he was not going our way. However, he dropped us at the main road where he said, in German, that we could catch a bus to the waterfall in ten minutes. A few minutes passed, we waited in the very hot sun, and a silver BMW going very fast slowed down to take a look. I immediately held up my hand, he stopped, and I asked him to take us to the waterfall, which he did, in his air-conditioned vehicle – huzzah! (Note: we later figured out that the minibus did not run up to Seleukeia every hour but only when people wanted to go there; we realized that, when the driver had explained to us that the last bus was at four thirty, he probably meant that he would go up there then expecting to pick us up)

The Manavgat waterfalls, big and small, are not really waterfalls as we know them, high and rugged. The big waterfall is wide but fairly low, and has beautiful green-blue glacial-cold water. At the edge of the river is an extensive development of terraces, restaurants, bars and the ubiquitous shopping stalls. We browsed through the shopping area and then had a light lunch at a table right by the waterfall. It was very cool and shady, delightful on what had turned out to be a very hot and sweaty day.

After a dolmus-ride back to Side, Tracey and Christine swam in the pool while I had a cold shower and lay down with a cold face cloth on my forehead – too much sun. Mehmet the car rental dude came by with the car we had arranged to rent, we had a tiny something for dinner and by seven in the evening we were sitting outside the Park Side Hotel waiting for the bus pickup for the opera at the Aspendos Amphitheatre.

The 16th International Opera and Ballet Festival at Aspendos is being held this June and we got tickets for the opening night performance of Aida by the Ankara State Opera and Ballet. Our little minibus picked up a full load of opera-lovers and we were at the theatre before 8 for the 9:30 start. All the performers were hanging around outside the venue already in Egyptian costume and makeup; begging cats emitted piteous meowing and received enormous pieces of pizza from them in return. The doors opened at 8 and we moved slowly towards the entrance. Security personnel searched all bags and people carrying glass had it confiscated. The stones benches had small slightly-padded green squares indicating the seating places so we grabbed three seats quite close to the stage left of centre and spent the time watching the crowd and taking pictures as the sun slowly set and the arcade around the top of the theatre turned more and more orange against the darkening sky.

Finally, after a clutch of dignitaries strolled in at 2 minutes to go and took the best, fully-padded seats right stage centre, the show seemed about to go on. But no … not quite. First, a speech from a young woman telling us that there would be speeches from others. My heart sank, remembering the children’s day performance in Kas ruined by too many long-winded speeches. The conductor, a professor from Ankara, made a speech about opera and ballet as international arts and invoked the memory of Ataturk and his ideas of progress – his speech was well-received and warmly applauded by the audience. But it was long and, after each paragraph in Turkish, the information was repeated in English, making every comment twice as long. By this time it was quarter to ten. Then a political hack came on stage and started talking, repeating essentially the same things that the other two had just said. The crowd had had enough and started clapping in unison to drown him out and get him off the stage. I felt torn – on the one hand, I hate it that politicians feel the need to insert themselves into things and make long, boring speeches in a language I don’t understand, on the other hand, I was embarrassed and a bit ashamed of the crowd for their rudeness. Anyway, he left the stage, and the show finally began around 10 to 10. Aida is a four act opera so we knew that we weren’t going to get home until 3 am.

The staging, costumes and lighting were amazing. A spectacular set with enormous columns and sculptures evoked ancient Egypt; the cast of thousands (or 50, at least), including three horses, had beautiful, colourful costumes and the lights bathed the stage in blue and purple and red. A small problem was the singing; the male lead’s voice was a bit weak and not big enough to fill the huge amphitheatre which seats about 20,000. The other leads were somewhat better but, to my mind, still not strong enough for the venue and they were not miked (Aspendos can have only acoustic performances so that the sound vibrations do not harm the 1,800 year old venue built in the reign of Marcus Aurelius). When the assembled company sang together, it was great. They also included ballet numbers in some of the acts, which were lovely. But, already tired from the busy and hot day, I was doing the head bob by the end of the first act. At the last intermission Christine ran out and got us some fabulous high calorie ice cream treats which helped a bit but, by the time the performance ended, and we were back on the minibus, it was about 1:45 or 2 am and I was nearly asleep. We were home in bed at 3. However, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a spectacular production in such a fantastic venue and I was glad we’d gone.

Earlier, we had planned to get up at 5 and be on the road by 6 to head off to Kekova, Myra and Demre, a four hour drive west on the coast highway, but after our very late night, we changed plans and decided to go somewhere closer. It was a choice between Termessos, a hilltop ruin site northwest of Antalya, or Olympos and Phaselis, on the coast road west of Antalya but not as far as Kekova. We opted for the latter and by 10:30 am we were on the road with Tracey driving. Amazingly, I managed to pilot us along the city centre bypass route through Antalya and, after a short pit stop for snacks along the way, we were on the beach at Olympos after three hours, the last of which was down a ten kilometer hairpin turn one lane road and unpaved pebbly track across a dry riverbed.

We walked south along the beach, the hot sand scorching even with slippers on, past the assembled throng of sun worshippers, and found the entrance to the ruin site next to a river in a gorge filled with waving bullrushes, pink oleander bushes and pine trees – spectacular!

Olympos was a Lycian city and worshipped Mithras, the original god of light. Although the city was founded earlier, the ruins that remain, hidden in the trees and bushes, date to the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Right at the entrance were two gigantic stone sarcophagi, one of which had contained the remains of a sea captain and had a beautiful carved relief of a ship beneath the inscription. We wandered through the pine forest, really enjoying the cool, green shade, examining sarcophagi, ruined houses, a temple gate with an inscription to Marcus Aurelius, and a couple of Byzantine churches.

We crossed over the dry riverbed to the ruins on the other side and walked through the south necropolis, the ruins of a small theatre with only the gate still really intact, and a large Roman bathhouse. I could hear voices coming through the trees and knew that we were somewhere near the beach, although we couldn’t see it through the forest. A small path led through the trees so I followed it to the river and called back to the others to follow me. Luckily, we were able to walk out to the sea along the river bed rather than going back through the entire ruin site because by then we were quite tired. Christine sat in the shade of gigantic oleander bushes while Tracey and I had a swim. Then we slowly made our way back along the beach to one of the two shady restaurants there for a late lunch of shepherd salad and freshly-squeezed orange juice while watching a chicken and her tiny babies scratch for food.

Later, we headed back on the highway and down to Phaselis, a ruin site on another stretch of beach about 20 km east of Olympos. Phaselis is now a state park and requires an entrance fee of 8 lira which, while parked at the gate, we briefly debated about paying and then thought, “We’ve come half way around the world to see this so of course we’re going to pay 8 lira”. Phaselis, a site about the same vintage as Olympos, is located on three small bays and was once an important commercial centre. The ruins of aquaducts, agoras, baths, a theatre, Hadrian’s gate and an acropolis remain and give a good sense of the structure of the ancient city. By the time we got there the sun was slipping in the sky and the shadows lengthening; in the late afternoon light, the site was really beautiful. Christine made friends with a tiny black and white male cat, who lay down on her clothes and started kneading them as we swam in the bay.

Managing once again to navigate our way through the maze of Antalya, we made it back to the ranch by 8:15. Tracey did a great job of driving the four seater Fiat in conditions that were not optimum. Turks don’t obey many of the rules of the road so a driver has to be constantly alert. Lanes markings are merely suggestions that most drivers don’t take, helmetless people on motorbikes weave in and out, people take two lanes, drive on the shoulder, pass on both sides, drive on the wrong side of the road or back out into the highway without looking. There are cars on the road that in Canada would long ago have been sent to the scrap yard, including ancient tractors whose wheels literally look like they could fall off any second driven by ancient wrinkled smoking men and trucks so overloaded they can’t drive more than 20 kph. By the time we returned, Tracey had gotten the hang of using the horn, the ubiquitous sound on the roads here, used to warn drivers about everything from passing to pulling out onto the highway.

Since we had the car anyway, our plan was to drive Christine to the otogar to catch her night bus to Cappadocia; by 10 pm she was ready to go, so off we went, arriving at what we thought was the otogar by about 10:15 for an 11:15 bus departure. The place was dark, with buses parked and a small clutch of men standing around one of the small buildings. Not seeing where to go, we stopped and Christine showed one of the men her ticket. They spoke no English and only a few words of German so I tried to get from them the location of the otogar. One man said, in German, “links (left)” while his hand pointed right, another said “rechts (right)” while his hand pointed left so I could see we were in trouble. All we knew was that we were in the wrong place. We headed off down the road, and seeing no bus station, pulled into a minimart where the man drew a small indecipherable map on the back of a cigarette box. Damn … we found ourselves on a busy dual carriageway and pulled in to a large garage where a man who spoke no English managed to communicate to us that the otogar was back the way we’d come about 5 kilometers on the left. By this time it was approaching 11 so I’m sure Christine was getting frantic. Anyway, we raced down the road, pulled a screeching uturn and blasted back the way we’d come. As we roared down the road we saw a couple of signs pointing the way to the otogar so we knew we were finally on the right road, finally pulling into the gigantic bus station with ten minutes to spare. Major gong show; we could laugh about it then but it was touch and go for a few moments there. After seeing Christine onto the bus, Tracey and I arrived back at Stooges Central about 11:40 and the guys from the rental agency came and picked up the car.

See more pictures here.

Side VI

Tracey’s bag was supposed to arrive Monday morning. When we phoned Monday, after it did not arrive, the woman said it would come Tuesday morning before noon. We had planned, once again, to visit the Side museum, so when noon arrived and the bag did not, I called once again to find out that the bag should arrive after three but before five … (Waiting for Godot redux). So, since I had seen the museum last year, I stayed behind poolside to wait, and Tracey, Christine and Barb went to the lovely little Side museum, a small jewel which hardly anyone visits.

Lying poolside at the SGR isn’t too hard to take; I swam laps and listened to some tunes on my ipod. As the days pass, more and more people arrive so, by late afternoon it was quite crowded around the pool. The three amigos arrived back around four, and we arranged with Mehmet, the guy who rented me my bike, to rent a car to go to Myra and Kekova on Thursday. He very kindly said, if the bag had not arrived by five, to send him a message with the tracking info and he would look into it. By six, no bag had arrived, I sent Mehmet the info, he arranged to have the delivery man meet him at the car rental place (the delivery man was lost …), and brought the man and the bag straight to our door – arrival seven pm. Tracey could now relax, and also change out of her classic black swim suit, bagging out into shapelessness, into her new two piece bought especially for the trip.

Barb was leaving for Cappadocia so the four of us, plus Elke, had a nice dinner on our terrace. We had to borrow two pots from Elke, whose place is much more well-equipped than ours, so that I could make potato salad. Along with that, and side dishes of veggies, we ordered kebaps from the Alla Turca restaurant around the corner. When the appointed time arrived, we walked with Barb down the street to the cab stand in front of the Park Side Otel and watched as she headed off for the Manavgat Otogar and her night bus to Nevsehir.

See a few pix here.

Side V

I’m typing up this report poolside at the Side Garden Residence – yippee! This place has a fabulous 25 meter swimming pool, not at all hard to take. Yesterday Christine, Barb, Elke and I spent the day at the Dolphin Beach Bar on the beautiful long sandy beach to the east of the peninsula. We were walking down the road towards the sand dunes and the minibus service from the Dolphin cruised slowly to a stop and offered us a ride. The sun loungers were free as long as we purchased food and drinks from the bar. We enjoyed sunning ourselves, frolicking in the sea and walking along the beach to the resorts at Sorgun Forest and back. Some of these are large all-inclusive resorts primarily catering to Russians and one we saw had what looked like rows of bedrooms transplanted to the beach, complete with wooden floors, beds and bedding. Lots of kids were building strange pointy sand castles and a few women were posing for cheesy photos on the sand.

Later in the afternoon we walked through the sand dunes and the ruins and back through the Side Otogar so that Barb could buy her night bus ticket to Nevsehir in Cappadoccia.

Tracey’s plane was due in at 6:50 in Antalya so I had arranged a transfer from the airport for her through the apartment housing management company. Kaan and I headed out to the airport at 5:50 and waited at the arrivals exit as plane loads of people flowed in waves through the doors. No Tracey but loads of Russians. I had arranged with her that if she missed the plane in Istanbul due to her very tight connection times, she was to call me on my cell. No phone call. So, we decided to wait for the next flight to see if perhaps she was on it. The next plane was late and once again, plane loads of Russians disembarked but no Tracey. Kaan was getting a bit agitated by this point, wondering where she was and why she had not called and why I was not able to contact her. He had two more airport pickups early in the morning and needed to return to Side to catch come sleep before returning once again to the aiport. I debated about what to do, spoke to Ty, who spoke to Darrin to see whether he’s heard anything – nada. I was going to wait for the next few flights but decided, finally, to go back with Kaan, just in case she’d had to stay overnight in Istanbul. By this time it was about 10:30. About ten minutes after we arrived back in Side, after a rather hair-raisingly fast ride as Kaan screamed down the highway, I got a phone call from Tracey who was now at the Antalya airport – damn. We should have waited for the next flight. However, although Tracey was there, her bag was not – baggage problem redux. So, Tracey made a lost baggage claim and grabbed a taxi. By this time it was 11:30 or so and I decided to wait for her at the entrance to the complex. I saw a yellow taxi cruising slowly down the road a block away and thought that it was probably hers. I jumped up and down and waved my arms as the taxi came closer and then proceeded to turn off in entirely the wrong direction and head away towards Kumkoy … damn. About half an hour later, as I was agitatedly pacing up and down on the road and looking in every direction for taxis, hers returned from the other direction – finally, arrival at 12:30 in the morning. The taxi had been lost and had stopped four times for directions and finally was able to find us. And, of course, as is always the case in these situations, the taxi driver’s cell phone was not working so he couldn’t even call me for directions. I later found out that Tracey had tried to call several times but had been unable to get through to my cell phone – who knows why … Anyway, all is good now.

Last night I slept on the living room couch to give Tracey the big bed so that she could sleep in. However, the living room was hot and I did not have the controller for the aircon so I needed to open the door to get some air. I was dying of heat prostration – it was probably 35 at 2 in the morning. As a consequence, I got bitten alive by mosquitoes and now have the always attractive Vulcan head and cheek bumps from bug bites. I lay awake scratching for about 2 hours and finally got up at 6:30. Tracey, too, had woken early and was up, unable to sleep. I’m sure she’ll crash later. Right at the moment we are sunning, swimming, floating, and snacking in the beautiful hot Turkish sunshine. In a couple of hours we will go to the lovely little Side museum and see the artifacts extracted from the ruins here over the years.

(…)

Well, it’s evening now and the Side museum was closed this afternoon because it was Monday. Instead, we walked through the agora, forum, city gate, and down to the Apollo Temple to take photos. After some time spent dancing around the columns, the four angels from the Moon headed back down to the main drag to a lovely interior courtyard restaurant and bar decorated with some interesting kitsch: reproductions of some of western art’s finest – Botticelli’s Primavera as a brownish putty statue – stuffed chickens and bears, and a really annoying waiter who kept getting in the way of my photo-taking. When taking my drink order, he kept refusing to tell me what kind of iced tea they had and making really dumb comments that started to irritate me enough to snap at him. However, the garden area was really lovely, cool and green, with beautiful flowers and an enormous lilac tree that touched the sky.

After walking back through the Otogar and getting quite hot and sweaty, we dropped into chairs at the Hawaii Bar for some Ottoman kebap, where the waiter made fun of the way I pronounced “Oddoman”. Later, after that feast, Barb and I went to the Park Side Otel for the Turkish Hamam and had a great, wet time. My masseuse was new there, a Russian woman from Georgia, who, after I had lain down on the warm marble slab, scrubbed me with a rough glove all over and massaged me with a large pillow case full of soap suds, a most luxurious experience. Next came a rest on the lounger with water and orange slices, then an oil massage, and finally a facial mud mask, no doubt with mud from either the miraculous Xanthos river or the miraculous Dalyan mud bath. I thoroughly enjoyed the session. As we exited the hotel, three of my friends from the sand dunes, Ali the orange juice seller in baggy pantaloons, and two of his camels, were stationed in front of the Hawaii Bar looking for customers for camel rides, with no takers – everyone was too mesmerized by the waiters’ disco dancing.

See some photos here.

Side IV

Barb, Christine and I at the Apollo Temple site

I spent an hour or so at the Side Saturday market looking at the usual assortment of wares for sale. This day must have been a quiet one because many men were sleeping on the job. Someone told me that tourism is down in Turkey overall by 75 percent this year – don’t know whether that’s true nor not but to me it seems quite a bit less crowded in Side this year than last.

Barb and Christine rolled in about 6:30 and after a pause to freshen up, we decided to hit the Olive Bar Saturday night bbq. Supi was at the grill and presented us with a feast of meat: lamb chops, chicken, and meatballs – and it was delicious. We wolfed down every last bit. After dinner, we walked across the dunes to the train and chugged down to old Side. Barb and Christine checked out the jewellery and the men checked them out as we made our way down the main street to the harbour. I saw a beast who could have been Brubin’s brother, slightly larger than my dog and a bit less well-cared-for. Needing some liquid refreshment after a long day of bus-riding from Pamukkale, Barb and Christine and I sat ourselves down at the Harbour Bar where B and I had raki and Christine a pina colada presented with a remarkable assortment of twizzle sticks. Barb arm wrestled with one waiter, who told her she was weak, and discussed hair products with another curly-haired guy. After giving us tickets for ten percent off at the Athena disco, the first waiter led Barb off through the dark restaurant. Christine and I looked at the time so we could see if enough time had passed that we needed to go and rescue her. However, she returned without our intervention and said that he’d taken her to see the disco which was around the corner.

After consuming our drinks, we wandered off to the Apollo temple just down the road on the water, beautifully lit up at night. The wonderful thing about ruin sites in Turkey is that mostly they contain the original artifacts, not copies, and people are allowed to wander through freely, touching anything and everything. As usual, small groups of men were hanging around the site, watching the tourists and hoping for an opportunity to pick up women, with little success this night that I could see.

Once again back on the main drag, Barb spotted a t-shirt that amused her and tried her haggling style on the vendor with no success – maybe tomorrow … Christine had a close encounter with a local cat in the agora ruins; the poor tiny beast had been in a fight and had several small cuts on his body.

See pictures here.

For all of you history buffs out there, this account is from the website All About Turkey:

The rich plain of Pamphylia curves around the top of the Gulf of Antalya between Antalya (ancient Adalia or Attaleia) in the west and Alanya (ancient Coracesium) in the east. In classical times Pamphylia’s most important cities were Adalia, Alanya, Perge, Aspendos and Side. The main period of settlement is thought to have been when Greek refugees mingled with the local peoples, having fled here following the fall of Troy around 1184 BC. The name Pamphylia is ancient Greek for “land of all tribes” and an indication of just how colorful a mixture this must have been.

Ruled in turn by the Lydians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Antigonos I, one of his successors, the Seleucids and Egypt’s Ptolimites, it enjoyed a brief period of independence until the west of the region was ceded to the King of Pergamum in 188 BC. The Romans made it the heart of the military province of Cilicia, then merged it with Lycia in the 1st century AD to form a single province which reached the height of its prosperity in the 2nd century AD. Earlier, this part of the coast had also been notorious for its pirates who were to plague the Romans until their reign of terror was ended by Pompeii. He also took the local cult of Mithraism back with him to Rome, and for a long time Mithras was the official protector of the Roman Empire and the great rival of the Christian religion. This local attachment to Mithraism made it particularly difficult for the early Christians to gain general acceptance of their new religion. As a consequence the Crusaders set up numerous small Christian enclaves, each with its castle, along the coast of Pamphylia and Cilicia.

Side minted its own coins during the 5th century BC, a sign of its strength and richness at that time. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great captured the city without a fight; this was a peaceful period for whole region. In 190 BC, Side was allied with Antiochus III, king of Syria, and his commander the Carthaginian Hannibal to fight against the Rhodian fleet, but they lost the naval battle and the city was occupied.

In the 2nd century BC Side became a rich and prosperous city of Pamphylia again thanks to its location and the trade; it was a intellectual and cultural center, too. Later, in the 1st century BC Side was controlled by pirates and turned into a slave market, but with the arrival of the Romans, these pirates fled. During Roman rule, Side was important once more with its large harbor, trade between Anatolia and other ports of the Mediterranean, its important slave trading market and so on. Under Byzantine rule, it was an important a Bishop center, as well. Arab raids in the 7th century AD destroyed Side and its inhabitants abandoned the city. Side was not a settlement during the Seljuk or Ottoman periods.

Nowadays the tourist boats offer daily pirate tours along the coast here.

Side III

Harbour bar street in Side

I love the Mediterranean climate – wow, day after day of amazing weather! Yesterday morning was spent poolside chatting with Elke, a German woman from Bonn who is staying here for six months to see if she will be able to live in Turkey permanently. She has been planning her move for the last five years; this year, the bank that she worked for offered her a small payout, so she quit and is now in Side looking for work. She has an apartment in the building next to mine. New the day before yesterday is a group of four Turkish women, obviously from Istanbul since they are wearing bikinis and smoking cigarettes, who lie poolside all day long playing Turkish pop music on their laptop. As Elke said, to young people they are the only ones in existence – they neither notice nor care whether the rest of the assembled company likes their choice of music. Luckily, I don’t mind it.

Later in the afternoon, I rode my bike down to the sand dunes again to visit my friends the four camels, resting quietly under their umbrella. I’m not sure how often these beasts actually get ridden but they are there every day. Ali the fresh orange juice dude was delighted to see me again and wanted a big hug which I declined to give him.

All around the ruins gigantic Queen Anne’s lace is blooming, as well as white flowers with enormously long stalks. One my way back, I stopped at the Steh Café German bakery and noticed a sign advertising for a “friendly girl who speaks German and English” – I passed along this information to Elke, who will check it out today.

I thought that perhaps the cancelled children’s performance might be rescheduled for tonight so Elke and I met at 8 and walked across the sand dunes, through the otogar and hopped on the miniature train which dropped us off at the entrance to the old town. The main drag was busy with shoppers – the main hot item on sale this year seems to be fake Ed Hardy apparel: hoodies, t-shirts, and hats with sparkly skulls and hearts. Hello Kitty is also greatly in evidence for the younger set. Some of the mannequins here are in pretty bad shape, with faded faces and limbs missing. After reaching the harbour and seeing that the stage had been dismantled, we made our way along the path towards the Apollo temple and sat down at one of the harbourside bars, in which there was a gigantic banyan tree that reminded me of Thailand.

We enjoyed watching the passing parade and trying to figure out which country people were from based on their dress. Elke assured me that anyone with a beer belly wearing socks and leather sandals was definitely German. Two street dogs joined us for a bit, as well as a black and white cat playing with a fish he’d caught. Elke, who has been coming here every year for the past five, explained to me that when she first started coming, most Turks hated dogs and cats and treated them very badly. But now, perhaps because they see how much most visitors love these animals, they are beginning to change their attitude and some even keep dogs as pets, which in the past would have been unheard of. However, they do not neuter their pets here and as a consequence, they proliferate and in the winter are often starving on the beaches. Elke brings food for them from Germany in her luggage.

See pictures here.

Side II

Antique Side town from the sand dunes

Today was a beautiful day; after yesterday’s white-grey cloudy mugginess, this morning was fresh and blue, with a strong wind blowing off the ocean. Big white cumulous clouds rolled across the sky from the sea, moving quickly over the beach and off to the hills in the distance. I rode my bike down the sandy track across the sand dunes, parked it next to a metal pole on the beach and walked along the edge of the water, dodging the waves kicked up by the raging wind. The surf was high and big rollers crashed into shore, much to the joy of several young guys who were frolicking in the water.

Later, I rode further down the sand track along the beach towards Side’s old town. Next to the ruins were two men with an old beat-up truck from which they were selling freshly squeezed orange juice. I stopped for a glass, next to an umbrella under which four camels sat eyeing me. Two English tourists opted for a ride and the handler helped them on and led them off through the sand dunes. Every once and a while, the two remaining camels emitted low moans and snorts at the passing crowd. I have no idea whether camels actually are quite intelligent but these certainly seemed so. I love their profiles.

After a bit of time examining the government agora ruins, I rolled into town and down some of the back streets looking at the wares for sale. I paused briefly in the Ataturk Square next to the harbour to watch the crowd drift by, then made my way back again through another series of back streets.

On my ride back to the ranch I noticed that more of the extensive ruins in Side have been uncovered and cleaned up. Sponsored by the Barut Hotel chain, people are in the process of excavating still further in and around the forum, Roman baths and theatre. The man from whom I rented my bike told me that the Fire of Anatolia show I’d seen in Side’s wonderful antique theatre two years ago no longer plays here because it’s too damaging to the structure of the building – too bad because it was a marvelous spectacle. “Fire” has been moved to the new Aspendos Arena, down the road from the ancient theatre. However, the International Opera and Ballet Festival in Aspendos Antique Theatre is still going on this year, although who knows for how much longer because the same problem exists there, of course. I hope to be able to catch either Aida or Giselle in that venue before I leave Turkey.

I went back to the beach in the afternoon and sunned myself on a lounge chair, after having enjoyed the huge waves that were still rolling into shore. I was reminded, watching people play in the big surf on beaches without lifeguards, of the number of Turks who die by drowning every year. As I lay on my lounger, I could watch gigantic cumulous clouds form, seemingly almost instantly, above my head and then disappear across the sky just about as fast. Back at the apartment once again, I did some laps in the pool before making myself an omlette for dinner. I had forgotten, because I hardly ever swim in pools anymore, that I am allergic to chlorine – it makes me congested and sneezy – so after every time I swim I take a decongestant.

Later that evening, after an omelette with my favourite green roka (Seray told me that this green plant is the secret to good health and a long life – who knew that the fountain of youth was actually a plant growing wild in Turkey) and mushrooms, I once again boarded my bicycle and rode down along the beach track to take some photos of the amazing early evening sky. An Englishman I had been chatting to on the beach earlier had told me that tonight was the last evening of the Children’s Festival and that there would be a performance on a harbourside stage at 8. So, as usual, I was early and nothing much was happening harbourside at 8, except a man in a gigantic bunny rabbit costume teasing kids. I decided to have a glass of wine at the Fiesta Tapas Bar and Turkish Restaurant (yes, an interesting culinary combination) overlooking the harbour and stage so I could catch the action on disc. Note: even though the restaurant billed itself as a tapas bar, there were no tapas on the menu, and no Mexican specialties at all that I could identify; the only evidence of something “Mexican” was a bad mural painted on the wall of a sombrero and Mayan figure. When I asked the waiter about the “daily tapas special”, he just looked at me with a black stare – no tapas to be had at the tapas restaurant. After having looked at the menu, and seen that the prices were extortionate, I had a bowl of chicken soup and a glass of wine while I watched the bunny rabbit and waited for the show to begin. The wind was whipping through the palm trees, the waves were crashing against the harbour rocks, and large dark cumulous clouds were massing in the sky above as the minutes passed. At some point, when the sky looked like it would pour, someone must have decided that the show was over before it had even begun and the children and rabbit marched away again. Maybe tonight … (Note: the chicken soup was excellent)

See pictures here.