April 1 - May 24, 2002
Antalya (April 1-8; 12-15)
East of Antalya (8-12)
Datça Peninsula (25-2)
Greek Cities (May 2-18)
Ataturk Country (17-24)
Turkish Delight: A Paradise of Poppies
We came to Turkey having done no research on the country, without a decent guidebook, and with little real idea of what we would find. We knew that Don and Sandra, Janís brother and his wife, vacationed here almost every year, and we had made a friend in Laos, Jennifer, who was lavish in her praise of the place, but still we had no clear image of what the country was and what its people were like. But once here we fell in love with the place. Perhaps that is mostly due to the time of year we chose for our visit.
Turkey is physically quite the most beautiful place, with an endless coast, lots of high mountains, and areas of rolling countryside. But in spring, it becomes literally a riot of wildflowers. It is hard to convey the stunning nature of the landscapes. No-one we had talked to had given us any inkling of the stark beauty of the geography: snow-capped mountains dropping down almost unbroken to turquoise waters; dazzling sunshine and cool breezes; friendly people and fascinating art and architecture left by a rich history. Knowing our predilections, how could we fail to be entranced by it all?
First Day at Ani Pension
Back to the beginning. While in Israel we looked in the newspapers for last minute travel deals and finally found one for "Antalya, Turkey". At that time we were pretty naive, not having ever heard of it and not knowing that it was a major center for package tours. We got on the web and found the map above, courtesy of the Antalya web site.
Instead we relied upon luck and our two year old " Let's Go Mideast", which gave some basic info about Antalya and listed a few hotels and pensions. While on the plane we choose the Ani Pension, one that seemed to be in the heart of things, in the old city, or "Kalechi".
We arrived by air mid-afternoon in Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast. We had to ask several people for directions to the bus into town and werenít really sure it existed until the moment it arrived, about an hour later than first reported. We made friends while waiting for the bus with a Chinese Christian doing missionary work here, of all places. Turkey is a largely Muslim country. She was both helpful in translating for us and encouraging about Turkey in general.
With her help, we got off the bus hoping to find our way to Ani Pansion. The only map we had was very poor and didnít seem to correspond to the one in our guide book. It was beginning to get dark and we were anxious to find our way before then. To our rescue came a young Turkish high school girl, who over the space of half an hour, helped us find a telephone, made a phone call for us to the pension, and waited with us until the pension owner came to meet us. The school girl topped off her courtesies to us by presenting Jan with a large sunflower she was carrying before saying goodbye. In our conversation with her, we learned that she had stood up a boyfriend to stay with us. There are probably some unfriendly people in Turkey, but they are sure hard to find.
Off we went with Emine, the owner of the Ani Pension. She hereself, had arrived by long distance bus from Istanbul, only an hour or so before our phone call. She had been planning to in a leisurely fashion re-open her pension for the coming season. Now, happily for us, she explained in her very charming and fashion, we would be pre-opening guests at previous season prices. The walk to her place was twice what was anticipated and tired us, dragging our bags, but it did give us a good chance to get the flavor of the place and we liked what we saw. At the pension we had the pick of the house and chose a simple but we hoped quiet room, with good light. (As it turned out the light — especially the street light at night — was too good.) Somewhat settled, we sat down in the reception cum hallway of the house and talked with her, learning her history as an architect, and the history of the house that was now a pension. We ate a sort of picnic left over from our travels very agreeably supplemented by her tea and Turkish goodies.
The highlights of our stay are hard to pick from two months worth of travel. Perhaps the coastal views are the first and a close second the wildflowers, especially those that we walked knee-deep through and sat among in the necropolis of the roman/byzantine town of Annamurium on the south coast east of Alanya. The Roman/Greek ruins rank up there too, of course: Ephesus, Pergamon, Aspendos, Termessos, Phaselis, to name but a few. Pergamon was special because of course we had seen the Pergamon Museum in then East Berlin back in 1974. Another highlight must be Cannakale and the battlefield sights of Gallipoli. In typical Chandler fashion, we visited the battlefields without benefit of a tour and because of that got a real sense of the distances the troops travelled and the heights they had to climb, because we walked and climbed in their footsteps. Of particular interest to Jan was just seeing the Dardanelle Straits and visualising the British fleet trying to force them. If only she had been here when she read Manchesterís biography of Churchill.
You will note, perhaps, the absence from this list of beaches. Sadly, we were just a little too early and the water a little cold for beaches to be a pleasant past time. We did swim a couple of times, but honestly for only minutes at a time and more for the pleasure of saying that we swam in the Mediterranean or the Aegean than for the pleasure of swimming. The water always looked inviting of course and the spring sunshine was plenty warm enough for us, but at 16C/60F it was just too blooming cold.
Places to Stay
We stayed in some very nice little pensions in Turkey, but didnít find anywhere to match the romance of the Boat-Landing Guesthouse in Luang Nam Tha, Northern Laos. We both liked the ambiance of the old city (Kalechi) of Antalya. We also liked the small hotel Essos in Tekirova where we were the only customers before their season opened. We tried but quickly gave up on a 4-star all-inclusive hotel with beach-front pool. The food was less than mediocre and the pool was too cold to swim in! Next time, we think weíll try renting a small apartment in Kas like our friends Cynthia and Malc are planning to do this fall.
The one regret of our stay is that we didnít have a full library of history and other reference books with us. Even our CD-ROM encyclopaedias were not available for most of our visit, making us more reliant than ever on guidebooks — and we didnít buy an up-to-date one until we were six weeks into our stay!