A few weeks ago our Albanian friend Rezart saw a Facebook post of ours from Greece and suggested we come up to Albania to see him. When we explained that we really wanted to explore Greece and Turkey he said “OK, why don’t I come down to Turkey then?” So, two years after we spent time with him in Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro, we spent a short week with him in Turkey.From Kalkan, then, we caught a long bus to Antalya, a largish city on the eastern end of the Turquoise Coast. After a couple days there we went back west a bit to the tiny town of Çirali, and then came back to Antalya for a couple days as Rezart flew back to Tirana. All else being equal we would have worked our way east along the Turquoise Coast a little slower instead of making quick time to Antalya and then doubling back, but that’s where Rezart was flying into, so that’s where we went.
The first challenge was just getting to Antalya. Earlier I wrote that we were really enjoying the bus system of Turkey, but sometimes it’s a little challenging. Like when for all intents and purposes there is no AC, in 90-degree-plus weather, which is most of the time. Or when the bus just breaks down en route, as it did on this occasion. Eventually a new bus came along and we were back on the road.
Antalya itself is an interesting city, and a major international tourist destination. In fact, a market research firm called Euromonitor International claims it is the 10th largest international tourist destination in the world, ahead of even Istanbul; I find that hard to believe, but there are a lot of tourists in the city. You might hear about it a bit in November, when the G-20 meets here.
At any rate, when we were headed out to the bus station to go to Çirali I was struck by how little of the city we actually saw. It’s a city of a little over 1 million people, but we pretty much just stayed in Kaleiçi, the small, historic old city. Entering the old town is the fabulous Gate of Hadrian, constructed in the first century AD to honor his visit. (As an aside, I’m intrigued by how many places we’ve been he got to first….) That and of course the beach, right next to the old Roman port. And the food, and lots of cats.
Çirali was a lot more low key. It’s a quiet, tiny little village next to a long beach. I started to say that there’s really not a lot to do there, but then I realized I should say that except for the beach we didn’t do much. In fact, there are some intriguing tourist sites there – ruins from the ancient city of Olympos and Mt. Chimaera, where escaping natural gas burns and is thought to be the source of the myth of the monster Chimera – but we were really bad tourists and didn’t go go to them. We enjoyed the beach, though. Our hotel, Villa Lukka, was a little Garden of Eden, delightfully quiet, beautiful grounds, nice little cabins to sleep in. The only downside was that breakfast was in their restaurant down on the beach and while the food was good – really good – the flies were enough to drive us crazy. Dinner was fine, but breakfast and lunch ended up being torturous.
One Turkish peculiarity worth mentioning. I’ve had two haircuts here now and Mark’s had one. Good haircuts, accompanied by a nice massage – shoulders, arms, hands, head … pretty nice. The weird part, though, is when they light a piece of cotton or something and apply the burning substance to your ears, presumably to burn off the little hairs that grow there. Very strange. And not at all pleasant. Oh yeah, and when they wash your hair? They have you bend over forwards into the sink so the water is running over your face and you feel like your drowning. Someday some Turkish barber is going to travel in the U.S., have his hair washed there, and say “Hey, if we have them lean backwards over the sink we can wash their hair without water-boarding them!”
Thus we discover cultural differences. From here we’re leaving the coast to go north to a big lake, as we work our way to Cappadocia.