A very Average Hotel
I do not feel I could sincerely recommend anyone to stay at this hotel. I had read the reviews on this and other recommendation sites before booking, and in hindsight, I should have taken more notice of the ‘negative’ reports than I did. Instead I preferred to gloss over them and accept on face value the ‘positive’ reports.
This is a hotel with a great deal of facilities, but very average standards, and fairly poor attitudes when anything is challenged. I would not class this hotel as either 5 star or even 4 star. I have stayed in 3 star hotels that had better customer service and quality.
Firstly, it is a very large complex, so there is absolutely no peace at all. The pools are noisy, the bars are crowded, and all areas are usually exceptionally busy, even the beach. If you like restful quiet whilst away, this is not the place for you. Even when the people start to disappear late at night, you still can’t get away from the intense rattling of the insects, mostly crickets I think, (the site is built around and within fir trees). The music that is piped most places, especially around the pool, is primarily Ibiza-style thumping party music.
There are some hygiene issues. There were many English holiday makers chatting about infections of the throat and ears, some had children who had gotten very ill. Some were speculating about it being the pools. Personally, I thought it was the bar cups. Nearly all the bars serve drinks in plastic beakers. I watched one night as the beakers were quickly gathered up from tables, rinsed under a cold running tap, and put back into circulation. The opportunity for cross infection there is immense. From then on we either used straws, or visited the Lobby Lounge, which was the only place that served drinks in clean glasses. I actually had to argue with the barman at the Lobby one night because he served two cokes in small disposable plastic cups (the type you get out of a vending machine!). I explained I wanted a glass and that the drinks were for adults. He told me I couldn’t have a glass unless it was alcohol. I stood my ground, and eventually got the glasses. But it doesn’t make for a happy atmosphere does it?.
Expect to walk a lot – there is considerable distance around the resort between rooms and all the facilities.
The in-house entertainment team are the most amateur I have ever seen. Certain individuals have some talent, but as a group, they are generally unwatchable. Nearly all the entertainment is versions of poor dancers miming to songs. Or it is quiz shows like Mr and Mrs, which is bizarre when listened to in five languages. This hotel is very international, with the majority of guests being Russian (or former Russian states), or German. In addition, there are Dutch, English, Turkish and Spanish. Listening to every phrase in five different languages is a huge switch off. If you are English, expect to find only a rare occasion when you hear another English voice – you will have to seek them out.
In addition, the staff speak very poor quality English, including the guest relations, which makes it very difficult if you do have to report something or complain. One morning I reported animal faeces in one of the swimming pools. It took two trips to reception to report, and then they confirmed they would leave it until the evening when the pool cleaners arrived to put chemicals in! There was also an awful incident of me nearly falling over the balcony when the safety railing gave way. We were on the third floor, and luckily my son caught me, and the bar, before we fell completely over. The safety railing was corroded, all the hinges and connections were rusted. I called the duty manager, he saw the situation, and trying to explain to him was ridiculous – he just did not understand English. Upon departure two days later, we were charged on the bill for the repairs to the railing! Obviously, I didn’t pay it, but the argument required to clear the matter left a bitter taste to the whole of the holiday.
This part of Turkey is very lovely, the beaches are nice, and we had some nice trips out. Visit the Duden Falls, it's very lovely.
Someone mentioned to us (I was unable to verify if it is so), that the Limak group had just opened a new hotel a few kilometres up the coast, and that they had taken the cream of the staff from the Atlantis to serve at the new Hotel. This would account for a lot of the poor standards if it is true.
If you are a large party, ensure you get to dinner early. There are very few tables to seat more than four, and entry to the dining room for evening dinner is a free-for-all to get a table. So the couples and pairs take the 4 seat tables, the Fours take up the few 6 seat tables. And if you're a larger party than that - good luck!! I have never been to a hotel before where the evening meal was not directed and seated by a staff member. Most strange.
Obviously, any holiday is always what you choose to make it. And we will all, in some way or other, have our gripes about things. But it is true to say that the environment of the hotel and it’s services are paramount in making or breaking the success of our vacations. Consider very very carefully, if this is the place you are going to choose.
nordheis's new Turkey page
After a tiring overnight flight and a nerve-jangling just-made-it-by-a-hair connection in Frankfurt, we arrived in exotic Istanbul only to be promptly escorted to a Turkish prison, where we cooled our heels the next 3 nights wondering what we’d done to deserve this. This luxury, that is. OK, so it was a Four Seasons hotel converted from a former prison, located in Sultanahmet, within gimp-walking distance to over half of the city’s most important sites. The hotel is lovely - it’s outside walls glowing in warm ochre, the guard towers now merely decorative, and the exercise yard well landscaped with a flurry of flowers and a solarium-style restaurant in its midst. Above it all is a rooftop outdoor bar with spectacular nighttime views of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. The rooms are large and comfortable, tastefully outfitted in a modern, but very Turkish, style. Every afternoon a bottle of carbonated water and a different delicacy is discreetly left in the room - a bowl of cherries and apricots, a dish of Turkish delights, figs and nuts, etc. The staff is delightful and helpful. When we returned to Istanbul for our last night in country, the doorman and concierge welcomed us back warmly and inquired about our travels. So now you know that our opening shocker was just cheap theatrics, not unlike those greeting cards that say “SEX” in big, bold letters on the outside, and on the inside say, “Now that I’ve gotten your attention….”
Upon arrival we settled into our room then walked about two blocks to Topkapi palace (guarded by tough looking soldiers armed well enough to make NRA President Charlton Heston climax). We decided to save the palace for another day to be sure we had enough time, and went straight to the archaeological museum on the palace grounds - a veritable treasure trove. In addition to magnificent sculptures unearthed throughout the country from several centuries BC to a few centuries AD, our favorite items were intricately carved sarcophagi from the tomb of Sidon dating from the 5th to 4th C BC. Two rolls of film later (you have to see the sarcophagi shots), we exited and strolled over to the Blue Mosque, built between 1603 and 1617 AD, where we marveled at the brightly painted interior and spacious domes. It is the only mosque in the world with six minarets (Small mosques have one minaret. Big fancy ones have perhaps four.) All minarets are wired with PA systems so that the wailing call to the devout can be broadcast several times a day – sometimes dueling banjo style — and most annoyingly between 4:30 and 5:00 AM. We still had some time and energy to spend and Hagia Sophia was just closing, so we walked across to the eerily beautiful Basilica cisterns. In their heyday, these cisterns supplied water to the Topkapi palace. Now, fish idly swim in shallow pools glowing with colored lights that extend several city blocks beneath vaulted ceilings. Barbara’s watch had died on the trip over, so our concierge directed us to a bustling commercial area near the ferry terminals where we readily found a replacement and enjoyed milling around with the locals.
We freshened up and took a taxi to Ulus 29, a fine restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus straits. The view and ambience were terrific. The food, though good, was not equal to the simple, traditional dinner the following night at Develi, a popular family restaurant where we were the only apparent tourists, or the fancier one the night after that at Divan, a hotel restaurant with live, if not lively, music. Turkey is a terrific, relatively inexpensive, destination. Generally, as with Greece, the local dishes are the best. Turkish food is just about universally good to excellent with lots of fresh, flavorful vegetables and tomatoes, and savory grilled meats and fish. Foreign food is usually mediocre and over priced at best. But we did find some excellent Continental-style food in Istanbul, Goreme and Bodrum for a change now and then.
Warning! Taxi drivers in Istanbul are masters at taking the longest possible route to inflate fares, or at charging night rates in the evening. The frustrating part is knowing that they are taking you out of the way but being unable to communicate because they claim not to understand English. But at least the taxis are very cheap by our standards, costing a half million to a few million lira per ride. In case you hadn’t gathered, the exchange rate is better than a quarter of a million giblets – our pet name for Turkish lira—for a dollar. So if you’ve been putting off that purchase of a Ferrari because its price has too many zeros, go to Turkey for a couple of weeks and, after tipping in the millions for several days, the Ferrari zeros will look much less significant.
Early the next morning we headed straight around the corner to Hagia Sophia (pronounced EYE-A Sophia), a huge church built between 532 and 537 AD, which was subsequently converted to a mosque and is now the city’s most popular museum. After admiring the lovely architecture and mosaics, we spent the rest of the morning in the Topkapi palace and museums (1461 AD).
We saw the ornately jeweled dagger that Melina Mercouri and Peter Ustinov tried to nick in the 1964 film “Topkapi”, among a treasury of other precious artifacts, and toured the huge harem complex (“harem” translates to “forbidden.”) The reason that the harems were always staffed with African eunuchs was in case the guard’s operation was not wholly successful. If a harem guard impregnated a wife, the sultan would recognize immediately that the baby was not from his loins. The palace kitchen was converted into a museum showcasing an extensive collection of Asian porcelain. Other rooms house priceless Islamic artifacts and relics, including hair from the Prophet’s beard.
After lunch at Topkapi, we motored to the northern end of the Bosphorus (the straits that connect the Black Sea to the north with the Sea of Marmara to the south, splitting Europe from Asia) and ferried back. Most of Turkey is in Asia Minor, a term we hadn’t heard since elementary school, and one still filled with intrigue. Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia on either side of the Bosphorus. At the northern end of the straits we visited a fish market in Sariyer with flounder so huge that they must have been extras in one of the 1950s films about nuclear testing experiments gone wrong. This was one of the least interesting things we did in Istanbul, but it was still nice. Afterwards, we wandered in the Sultanahmet area some more, stopping near the site of the old Hippodrome to see the Egyptian obelisk, which looks brand new, but dates back to 1500 BC. After a busy day of touring, Stu read while Barbara experienced the sybaritic delights of an authentic Turkish bath. There are different levels of treatment that you can order, but the full treatment is worth every cent. After depositing your clothes in a small dressing room with a cot, you are lead to a steamy octagonal room completely sheathed in marble with a large circular center platform. Faint light streams through small star-shaped windows in the dome overhead. You sit next to an overflowing sink along the perimeter of the room, and ladle warm water on yourself with a tin bowl while sipping sweet apple tea. Once you are well marinated, your masseuse leads you to the center platform where you lie down and submit to a vigorous scrub with a loofah followed by a soap down and rinse off. Next is the best - the soap massage. You are swabbed from head to toe with a very soft mop dripping with an extremely creamy and luxurious-feeling soap, then gently massaged. After rinsing off at your sink, you sit between the knees of the masseuse, who washes your hair and massages your face, scalp and neck. You rinse and towel off and follow the masseuse to your dressing room where the experience ends with a full body cream massage, after which you get dressed and ooze back onto the street. By the next day you begin to perceive your bones again.
Up early the next morning we took a long cab ride to the Kariye Museum, an 11th century church turned museum with the most exquisite mosaics and frescoes on its interior walls, vaulted arches and domes. (Stu’s skillful pictures almost do them justice). From there we went to the spice bazaar, which is a cornucopia of exotic fragrances and brightly colored spices among the varied goods for sale. Nearby is the Rustem Pasa Mosque, built in 1560 AD. While much less grandiose than the Blue Mosque or Suleymaniye, it’s just breathtaking - a fantasy of blue and white tile. After recatching our breath, we walked across a bridge over the Golden Horn (an offshoot of the Bosphorus) and ascended the Galata Tower (built in 528AD by Justinian) to enjoy the lovely view. We grabbed another taxi to the little village of Ortakoy on the Bosphorus and strolled along the waterfront and through its charming alleys. We were within walking distance of the famous Ciragan Palace hotel, so we had to check it out, and ended up having a terrific buffet lunch there. This is the hotel that JFK, Jr. and his bride stayed at during their honeymoon. It’s quite opulent, but in a much showier, this-could-be-anywhere-in-the-world way than the Four Seasons. Also, though it’s nice to be right on the Bosphorus, it is quite far away from most of the major sights and requires lots of cabbing, boating or busing to get around.
Returning to Sultanahmet, we wandered along the old city wall (originally 130 KM long) and Sea of Marmara coast, just taking in the sights, which included some solid people watching, and enjoying the sweet springtime sun. After relaxing in a seaside park spying on boat traffic, fishermen and young lovers, we took a taxi via Switzerland (one of the times with a driver claiming lack of English) to the Suleymaniye, an enormous mosque built by the famous architect, Sinan, with a beautifully decorated interior. Outside of all the mosques there is a bank of faucets in a narrow trench with stone benches where the worshippers stop to scrub their feet (you remove your shoes before entering a mosque).
General Observations one through three: 1. We saw NO abject poverty throughout our travels, and only saw 2 beggars in 15 days. 2. Turks are quite friendly and helpful. They gladly try to communicate with you even if they don’t have English or French (or, on the coast, don’t have German, not that that would have helped us). 3. We always felt safe in Turkey, except when passing rug merchants, at which time we feared being hard-sold to death. However, this was less of a problem in smaller population centers.
The next morning we caught an early plane to Kayseri, a city in central Anatolia in a region called Cappadoccia. We picked up our rental car at the airport, and began a tour of some of the most fascinating geology (and human use of it) that we’ve seen anywhere. Three million years to the day before we arrived, a neighborhood volcano erupted violently, covering much of the region with a thick blanket of volcanic ash. Over the eons sediment formed on top and the ash compressed into a soft rock (soft like sandstone and limestone) called tufa. Much of it eroded into fabulous, whimsical shapes. Beginning with the Hittites around 1500 BC, some of the tufa was hollowed out into cave dwellings and storage areas. It’s reminiscent of the Anasazi cliff dwellings of the U.S. Southwest, yet unique.
Later, early Christians hid from the Romans in expanded underground villages, and many peoples carved homes, places of worship, and the like into the above-ground cones of tufa. In the case of churches, they even carved vaulted ceilings and columns, and painted the walls and ceilings with religious icons or vivid tableaux of the life of Christ. Many have survived to this day, in various states of preservation, some dating back to the 8th or 9th C AD. Many of the homes have been expanded or updated, have had doors, windows, plumbing and electricity added, and people still live in them.
The Ataman in Goreme first opened as a restaurant in 1992, and expanded into a hotel, and much of it is inside the hollowed tufa. It is one of the most charismatic hotels that we’ve ever stayed in, plus the food is the best in the region. The steak flambe was not only fun to watch in preparation but mouthwatering to eat. Our room was spacious and pretty decorated with Turkish antiques, and we had an extensive view of the odd landscape of the Goreme valley. We initially chose this hotel, but the agency that booked our trip - Pacha Tours - told us it wasn’t a good place to stay and suggested the Ev Esbelli - a 6 room inn which is also carved into the landscape. We agreed with this. A week before we left, they told us that the Ev would not work with travel agents anymore. Of course, by this time when we contacted them directly, they were already booked during our stay. Pacha booked us into a tour bus-serving, sterile Turkish equivalent of Holiday Inn, much to our disappointment. Based on the legions of Pacha tour buses in the parking lot, we suspect Pacha at least partially owns this Tour Bus Hell Hotel. We went to dinner at the Ataman the first evening and were favorably impressed by the lovely dining room and friendly staff. On a whim we asked the desk clerk if there were any available rooms. He showed us 6 of ‘em, and they were all terrific. We checked out of TBHH and within 20 minutes had checked into the Ataman, breakfast and fabulous dinner included. It lacked a few minor amenities (such as no Kleenex in the rooms), and the tufa walls and ceilings would periodically precipitate bits of tufa, but it was wonderful!
Our first stop in Cappadoccia, after checking into the hotel we would shortly check out of, was the Goreme Open Air Museum, an above-ground village of homes, churches and other buildings carved into the tufa. While nosing around in a beautiful old church, we couldn’t help eavesdropping on an English-speaking guide who was explaining the iconography to a young Swiss couple who had hired him. His narrative added real value (sometimes guides impart no more wisdom than you can pick up from guide books or printed text at the site), so when they invited us to join them, we agreed, and enjoyed the tour and the company. The best-preserved church in the region is in this museum with magnificent murals of the Christ saga dating back to the 9th or 10th Century. Afterwards we drove to the Devrent Valley, which has pink tufa cones charmingly referred to as “fairy chimneys;” then to Catalkayan Valley with “mushroom” chimneys (sedimentary rocks naturally and precariously balanced on the tips of tufa cones), and Zelve, which boasts three valleys peppered with troglodyte dwellings. Though this may sound rushed on paper, we took our time, walked around the sites, stopping often for views and photos. Wandering from there, we discovered a “sunset” viewing location that was lovely. Dramatic, distant storms blocked hope of a viewable sunset that evening, so we decided to hunt up dinner. On the way, we drove through Ortahisar, a fortress city built into a huge tufa cone. Outside the village, in a remote area, our rental car refused to start, but Stu was able to isolate and fix the problem, which is good since it looked as though the herd of goats surrounding the car was more likely to be able to speak English and offer assistance than the very off-the-tourist-path natives. We then went to another tufa fortress city, adjacent to Goreme, called Uchisar to find a restaurant in our notes. We never found the restaurant that we were looking for, but the quiet village streets, buildings and the castle themselves were all stunning in the golden glow of the late afternoon light, as was the view from the top of the castle, which we decided to climb since we were there. We finally went to the Ataman for dinner and we’re very glad we did.
General Observation Four: We’re convinced that if you step off the pavement anyplace in Turkey and you kick a stone, you will unearth a new archaeological dig. This feeling increases in direct proportion to how much of the country you see.
Energized by our surroundings, we rose early the next day and drove a bit farther afield. The morning was drizzly so we headed first to Kaymakli, one of the underground villages where early Christians hid out. It was fascinating to see how they dealt with ventilation, storage, and the like, but we wouldn’t want to be there in high season. As it was we had to move very slowly through narrow winding passages, sandwiched between an Italian and a Japanese tour group. Afterwards, we drove to the Soganli valley. This is a bucolic valley dotted with sheep and goat farms and home to some very interesting rock churches. One of the finest, Kubbeli Kaddesi (Domed Church), contains an extensive warren of rooms winding down the side of a cliff, capped with a fairly complex series of domed chambers where the chapel, tombs and other storage areas are located. The murals are faded to mere suggestions of color, but there are other churches in the surrounding hills with well-preserved paintings.
While we explored, the sun came out and the damp valley glistened beneath its touch. On the drive back to Goreme, we took our time stopping along the way in little villages and scenic areas. We dropped some things off at the Ataman, and noticed a trail head into the Goreme Valley a couple of hundred feet from the door of the hotel. We were up for a hike, so we set out down the trail. Except for running into a small group of local women on their way home through the valley, we saw no one else during our ramblings. The women were clearly surprised to see us and asked where we were going - we chatted a little while before they continued on their way. The valley is gorgeous in springtime with marvelous rock formations, a profusion of flowers in full bloom, and birds and butterflies winging through the crisp, clean air.
We spent most of the next day in the Ihlara valley, though we did enjoy the scenery and other sights along the way. The Ihlara valley is a deep, wide gorge cut by a moderate to swiftly moving river. One descends a couple of hundred feet into the gorge and then walks a couple of miles downstream to the picturesque village of Bellisirma. Several ancient churches are hewn into the cliffs on both sides of the gorge, all of which merited a visit. Near the beginning of the hike we ran into a group of British tourists in their early 20s who just seemed to be out for the walk with a guide too disinterested to show them what they should look for. They only visited one of the churches. Their loss. We were all by ourselves climbing the cliff and wandering among the churches strung along the cliff face. We crossed the bridge at Bellisirma and walked around in the village, observing the everyday goings on (milking of goats, herding, baby rearing, agriculture). We then tried to find the Kilise Kubbeli (Snake Church), which ironically is the most accessible of the churches - we just overlooked the path initially due to a poorly drawn map. A 15 year old boy responded to our request for directions by leading us on a challenging hike up the cliff face, along with his 12 year old pal. It was worth the climb (and the tip we gave the boys) even if it wasn’t the church we were looking for. This was the church of St. George, decorated with a wide array of colorful and expressive murals. Unlike many of the others, this church was very open and well lit so the murals were easy to see and admire. The boys gathered large snails on the way down to cook for dinner. Hiking back up the valley we finally found where we should cross the river to see the Snake church. There, an adorable 9 year old boy took us under his tiny wing, and used his handy flashlight to illuminate important wall paintings that we probably would have missed since it was so dark in this church and we had only an itsy-bitsy little penlight. Afterwards we were heading up to another church (Church with Balcony) on the other side of the river when our young guide offered to show us the way. Though we could easily have found it on our own, we let him take us and gave him another tip. On our way out, he approached us in the parking lot about a ride home and we gladly took him. It was a very nice, large house less than a kilometer away. We had time to read and relax in our cheery room before dinner.
The open road beckoned, so we bid a fond farewell to Cappadoccia and took the long route south-southwest through Konya to the Mediterranean coast, aiming for the city of Antalya. Along the way we marveled at the beauty of the changing countryside and visited some archaeological sites. We stopped for lunch in an attractive river town called Manavgat, and had some of the best lamb chops of our lives at an outdoor restaurant on the bank of the river. The quality of the food surprised us because the place looked like such a tourist trap. A young waiter was anxious to practice his English and spent some time conversing with us and giving us directions to the waterfall. Not a tall dramatic one, but a lovely, low and wide, smooth-flowing waterfall.
After lunch and the waterfall, we continued on to Side, with its nicely preserved theater and Roman baths overlooking the sea. It is also a major tourist beach town, with hordes of pre-season visitors wandering the ruins looking like drowned rats. The “drowned rats” looked as though they had just completed a tough workout and were sweating, instead of just having come from the sea. The area was too crowded for us with wall-to-wall souvenir stands. Apart from the ruins, it could pass for a glitzy, commercialized beach town in any of dozens of countries.
Our next stop was a very special place – Aspendos. The highlight of this site is a second century AD Roman theater that is reportedly the best preserved ancient theater in existence. It is truly glorious – a step back into the past, which maintains its foothold in the present. The acoustics are still so renowned that concerts are held during the dry summer season. Had we visited a week and a half later, we could have enjoyed a performance of classical music, though it would make sense to bring cushions to pad the unadorned stone seats. We also enjoyed hiking in the surrounding ruins, taking in the baths, Basilica and aqueduct. We had a brief conversation with a group of young jandarma (National Guard type soldiers) who were walking in the hills above the theater, and admiring the young local women who were picnicking among the ruins.
We continued into Antalya, a sprawling and graceless city, and spent the next two or three hours trying to find our hotel. After asking for directions at least a half dozen times (few people spoke more than rudimentary English or French), and after getting no useful help from the local Pacha office that we found by accident, we eventually convinced a taxi driver to drive Barbara to the hotel while Stu followed in the car (we paid of course). The driver was concerned and sweet, and got us there in just a few minutes, while pointing out sites of interest along the way. We never could have found it ourselves since so few streets had street signs, and the hotel was located in a maze of tiny streets in the “old city” section. There is only one 1-way street that leads up to the old stone gate entrance (Hadrian’s gate), and that resembles the entry to a castle, not a through street. During our circular explorations we had, in fact, happened right upon it once and never recognized it. Once we were parked, we considered leaving the car there, never moving it, and taking taxis to sites rather than try to find our way out and back. The old city section, built on a hill overlooking a small harbor, has lost much of its old-world charm to an overabundance of tourist kitsch, however, there is a lovely red brick fluted minaret near the entrance (the 13th C Yivli Minaret).
As a general rule, Barbara chooses our accommodations, and in the instances when we were booked at hotels that we’d chosen, we were very pleased. The hotel in Antalya, a Pacha suggestion, was better than their other choices when they did not honor our selections, but it was still not exactly what we would have preferred. Though, we have to concede that it made a more convenient base for our explorations in the area since all roads along that section of the coast seem to converge in Antalya (our choice was more remote, in a very quiet and scenic area near the Chimaera - natural gas outlets that burn a perpetual flame on the mountainside). We ate dinner the first night outside at a restaurant by the marina. Food was okay, and the location was very nice. On the second night, tired from the day of climbing and walking, we made the mistake of eating in the hotel restaurant. It was the worst, and second most expensive, meal of the trip – pretentiously fancy and improperly executed slop. We greatly preferred the scrumptious souvlaki (they call it sis kebap) sandwiches we got for about a buck from a stall at the Grand Bazaar on our return to Instanbul.
The next morning, we screwed up our courage, abandoned our safe parking spot next to the hotel, and drove north out of the city and up into the mountains to visit Termessos, secluded site of an ancient mountaintop city. Since it was in a national park and well out of the standard tourist trail, there were no stands or vendors at its entrance, which was all too rare throughout the trip. At the park entrance a delightful, older park ranger asked us if he could ride with us up to the entrance of the site. We drove 9 KM up the mountain, the road bordered with wildflowers, flowering wild shrubs and trees, and impressive views of the valley (one of the advantages of going in late May is that wildflowers bloom in full force virtually everywhere in Turkey at that time of year). During the drive we learned that the ranger taught himself English by speaking with park visitors. After parking, he offered to guide us through the site, but we preferred to explore at our own pace. On the way to an observation station at the summit, we passed temples, baths, and an extensive, fascinating necropolis with a jumble of above-ground stone sarcophagi. The sarcophagi were all opened or overturned in a first millennium earthquake, which archaeologists believe caused the city’s inhabitants to flee the site forever. We took a less-traveled path and discovered the Tomb of Alcetas, a monument to a fallen general, with a wonderful bas-relief of a nearly life-sized warrior on his noble steed carved into the cave wall. By the time we got to the very top of the mountain, the fabulous view that we expected was obscured by a quickly moving cloud bank a few hundred feet below us. On our way down, the clouds had parted and we stopped to enjoy a picturesque little theater with a commanding view of the region. That’s one of the few locations at Termessos where we encountered other tourists: a gaggle of Americans guided by a seemingly bored young woman who didn’t really like the limitations of guiding slow and unfit groups. She was pleased that we were traveling independently and was envious of our unhampered mobility. At the bottom we said our good-byes to the old ranger, who was impressed that we had found the general’s tomb on our own. He encouraged us to visit one more nearby necropolis since we enjoyed the other so much, and we’re glad he did.
We traversed Antalya and headed east along the coast to the extraordinary site at Perge. Extant remains include a stadium overgrown with weeds, a large theater, and the ruins of an ancient city with towers, temples, acropolis, baths and an agora (market place) that retains some of its original mosaic flooring. The crown jewel of this site is the Nymphaeum - the diminished remnant of a once monumental fountain. It resides at the base of the steep hill leading to the acropolis. The water flowed beneath a reclining life size sculpture, now seriously eroded, cascading into a long, narrow, stepped pool that extended the length of the main street to the imposing city gate adorned with 2 circular stone towers. At this site, it was easy to get a glimpse of what life might have been like for its early inhabitants. Among the ubiquitous birds and lizards inhabiting the ruins, a number of goats were resting high up on various perches, and munching on plants that had taken hold in the crevices.
Much of Turkish land is devoted to agriculture, and as Stu lined up a shot of the crumbling palace of Gaius Julius, a tiny boy hauling a tawny sheaf of straw on his back suddenly appeared in the narrow passageway between high stands of wild grass. He was abruptly joined by two women in traditional garb (billowing harem pants, brightly patterned cotton shirts and modest head scarves) bent beneath heavy sheaves. They were clearly dismayed at the sight of Stu with his camera aimed in their direction, though he shot over their heads in consideration of their feelings. Throughout our travels, hardworking farmers bent over in the fields like Millet’s lyrical laborers were a common sight - usually women though, as the men drove the tractors. On the roads, tractors were as frequently encountered as automobiles, as were horse drawn wagons. They would considerately pull over onto the shoulder to allow cars to pass on the narrow two lane roads.
Luckily, we found the hotel again quickly, parked in front of it, and had a leisurely lunch at a cafe overlooking the water. We decided to walk to the archaeological museum, farther than we anticipated because of our inadequate map. As with all other museums we visited in Turkey, the collection was superb, well catalogued and intelligently laid out, with precious artifacts ranging from the Bronze age to the 6th C AD. This is clearly the most compelling attraction in Antalya.
We hit the road early the next morning to enjoy the sights along the way to our next stop, Kalkan. Not long after leaving Antalya we found ourselves winding along a coastal cliff overlooking azure waters, dramatic drop-offs and pristine little coves. There was surprisingly light traffic, so we could dawdle at will.
Our first planned stop was the remote fishing village of Ucagiz (improbably pronounced OO-CHA-EES). We wound for miles down a rough dirt road to the sea, amazed by how inaccessible the place was, before we intersected with the paved road that we should have taken - apparently we took the goat-herders’ turnoff. Approaching town, we gave a lift to a local restaurant owner who guided us to a parking spot at the water’s edge, ‘coincidentally’ in front of his establishment. In retrospect he probably waits on the road to lure tourists to his restaurant and his buddy boat operators. But it turned out fine. He set us up with a grizzled boat skipper whose leathery skin had been deeply creased by decades of squinting into the sun. The boat was rather basic and the large, single cylinder engine tuh-puck-uhed us about loudly and with quite some vibration as we peered through the crystalline water at the submerged ruins of an ancient city around Kekova island. Some claim that the legend of Atlantis was conceived here. Captain Leather Skin didn’t speak much English and mainly pointed at the most important sights. He did manage to communicate to Barbara, via enthusiastic gestures, that it was perfectly okay with him if she wanted to remove her top. Barbara thanked him as best she could, but failed to make his day. The weather was perfect and it felt great to motor around for a couple of hours in such an idyllic setting. During our voyage, we put in at an island dock directly below a hilltop castle. The walk up to the fortress yielded a good opportunity to view locals engaged in their everyday activities as we passed by people’s houses and observed their gardens and small menageries. It wasn’t altogether primitive though, one small thatched house had a satellite dish prominently installed in the backyard. We explored the castle, savoring the sea views through its battlements, and marveling at a small theater within the castle walls. After docking in the village harbor, we selected fresh fish and grilled vegetables from the display case in our hitchhiker’s outdoor restaurant and watched as the waiter cleaned the fish in the sea two meters away before grilling them to perfection. These were the types of meals we enjoyed the most.
We took the paved route back to the main road this time, and continued to Kas, another photogenic fishing village. Just after parking on the pier, we spied a young fisherman in a nearby boat stretching his net with his bare foot while assiduously mending a tear.