Aug 26, 2010

Antalya is the Turkish Rivera

Antalya is the hub of the Turkish Rivera. John and I flew from Istanbul to Antalya where we checked into the Divan Hotel. The view from our balcony was breathtaking. Across the large blue bay of the Mediterranean the Taurus Mountains were snow capped. The locals like to say, “Here in Antalya you can go skiing in the morning and swimming in the afternoon.” We didn’t do that but instead walked into the historic center where we entered through Hadrian’s Gate built in 130 AD to commemorate the Roman emperor’s visit to the city. Incredible that so much of the walls are still standing.

The city’s Archeological Museum is one of the best in Turkey which gives a glimpse into the many groups who lived in the area and especially the Greeks and Romans who build temples and amphitheaters. I am always amazed and impressed with all the stonework the people of 2000 years ago did – building forts, castles and carving mammoth statutes. John and I also visited the smaller but also interesting Kaleici Museum which shows the lifestyle of 1800s. Especially fascinating were scenes of a couple getting ready for their wedding and the traditions associated with the ceremony such as the traditional shaving of the groom.

From Antayla we took a bus to Kas, a lovely little port town. The views along the rugged coast were beautiful with hidden bays, fishing villages and many islands. Our hotel, the Hideway, was just steps from a Roman amphitheater and on the short walk into town we passed a Greek temple. In town there were two Lycian Tombs, which predate the Roman and Greek periods. History is everywhere. Amazing.

The bus system in Turkey is excellent with large buses connecting cities and mini vans connecting to the villages. The prices are low with the larger buses having on-board attendants who provide drinks and sometimes a snack. The connections were incredibly seamless. We seldom waited more than 10 minutes for an on-going connection.

Continuing northward along the coast we spent five nights in Turkbuku near Bodrum. We loved the beautiful Divan Palmira Hotel where we were the only guests a couple of nights. We could tell from the number of hotels, restaurants, and tour offices that during high season the coast of Turkey is extremely busy. The tourist season starts in April in Antalya and May in the Bodrum area. Since lazing on the beach was not our intent we really enjoyed the off-season when there were virtually no tourists and we had time to talk to the locals and visit the historical sites that were nearly deserted. It was just the way we liked plus it was warm and sunny – light jacket weather.

In Turkbuku the bus stop was right next to the Divan Palmira Hotel so we could hop on the bus to Bodrum where we toured the castle. Looking out from the castle the scene was so beautiful and peaceful and in the inner courtyard there were strutting peacocks. It was hard to reconcile our views with the descriptions of the horrific battles that took place trying to defend the area from attacks. The castle has a good museum of artifacts removed from the sea.

One afternoon we went to the Komodor Evi Restaurant where Manolya showed us how to make a couple traditional dishes namely Irmik Helvas and Cuttlefish in Ink. Slow travel is good.