Monday and Tuesday, April 6 - 7, 2015
A "Vacation from our Vacation" in Antalya
Today was a travel day, but one with an unexpected subterranean adventure - and two great meals! Following a quick breakfast in our Konya hotel, we boarded the bus and headed for the Taurus Mountain range whose high peaks were still covered with snow. It was a gorgeous warm day with blue skies and lovely views as we traveled from verdant farmland into the wooded mountains.
|Nancy and Eileen enjoy a Turkish breakfast in our Konya hotel.|
Cucumber and other vegetables were a common breakfast on this trip.
|Bus ride toward the Taurus Mountains|
In a somber bus lecture this morning, Mert discussed the Armenian relocation of 1915, exactly 100 years ago. I took copious notes because I am woefully ignorant of the history of this event. The Armenians and many others consider this event genocide, but the U.N. classified it as a “relocation” by the Turkish government (in retaliation for the killing of many Turkish soldiers during a battle of WWI) carried out at the wrong time. The winter weather was raging and about 400,000 people, especially old people and young children, died along the route. Mert says that, while it was not intended as genocide, he does believe that Turkey should offer an official apology to the Armenian community, which so far they have never done.
We stopped for lunch at a mountain park which looked very much like a campground you might find in the U.S. Rocky Mountains with pine trees shading the picnic area and high mountain peaks all around us. But unlike the Rockies, these mountains are primarily limestone, so our treat before lunch was a steep hike up the hill and into Tinaztepe Cave.
|Stopping at a campgound in the Taurus Mountains|
|This could be the American West!|
|The trail toward Tinaztepe Cave|
As we walked along the damp boardwalk trail, we were surrounded by the sounds of dripping water as the snows above trickled through the rock into the cavern. Clear pools of water lay on all sides beneath us. Almost a mile deep in the dark cavern was a large lake being filled by a wide sheet of water sliding down the white travertine walls of the cave. (Thanks to Dave, one of my fellow tour members, for the use of his photos in the cavern.)
|We enter the Tinaztepe Cave|
|Calcium deposits left much of the cave with layers of white.|
|Joan on the boardwalk over the pools of the water that drips constantly into the cave.|
|The floor of the cave was beautiful - lakes filled with clear water.|
|One of the narrow passageways between the cave walls.|
|The dripping wall at the end of the trail.|
|Rob in front of the stairway leading back out of the cave.|
As soon as we returned to the campground, we sat down at picnic tables for a delectable lunch of soup, fresh salads, trout caught and grilled just minutes before, and a chunk of honeycomb for dessert.
|Ready for lunch! |
Judie, Susan, Debra, Patty, Allen, Jean, Sally, Eileen, Matt, Cindy, and Nancy
|Jean, Sally, Lee, Ted, Pat, Eileen, and Kathy|
|Joan and Rob|
|This campground cat smelled trout and came begging.|
We returned to our bus, began our descent out of the mountains, and soon had our first glimpse of the Mediterranean coast. All along the coastal highway to Antalya, fragments of ancient Greek and Roman ruins, remnants of the ancient civilizations that colonized the Mediterranean world, poked out of the meadows.
|First view of the Mediterranean Sea|
|Quick glimpses of ancient Rome from the bus|
|More ruins in the distance|
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived in Antalya. This delightful city sits perched on bluffs above the sparkling blue Mediterranean, curving around a half-moon bay with views of the Taurus Mountains across the water. Not surprisingly, the city is now a big vacation destination for thousands of Europeans who come to enjoy its good climate. Now large and modern, the city has ancient roots. The Greeks settled here around 200 B.C. By 133 B.C., it had become an important trade post for the Roman Empire and remained an important city under the Byzantine Empire, the Seljuk Turks, and the Ottoman Empire.
|Turkish tulips lined the highway as we entered Antalya|
Our hotel sat in the heart of Old Town. The Hotel Ninova, the reincarnation of a lovely 250 year old house, had a comfortable lounge area and small but charming bedrooms overlooking the beautiful enclosed garden (complete with cats).
|Lee and Sally enjoy a cup of tea in the hotel lounge.|
|The charming gardens of our Antalya hotel.|
Mert took the group on an orientation walk through Old Town’s confusing tangle of narrow streets.
|One of the old houses of Antalya's Old Town.|
Standing guard between the Old Town and the modern city's Ataturk Street is Hadrian’s Gate, built by that Roman emperor around 120 A.D. Emperor Hadrian, one of Rome's "good emperors," certainly got around! He traveled extensively throughout the Roman Empire and left evidence of his visits everywhere he went. We still can visit Hadrian's Wall in Great Britain, Hadrian's Villa outside of Rome, various temples founded by Hadrian in Greece, and here in Antalya, the impressive Hadrian's Gate. To Rob’s delight, a local dog joined our group and followed us for quite a while, stopping to sit with us whenever Mert stopped to show us the sights.
|Hadrian's Gate in the old city's walls.|
|Mert gives our group another informative history lesson.|
|Decorative stonework on Hadrian's Gate|
|Directly across the street from Hadrian's Gate is the modern city of Antalya.|
|This dog found us a congenial group and followed us for much of our walk.|
We saw other evidence of Rome's occupation of this area in the excavated Roman streets lying far below the street-level of modern Antalya, and more recent remains from the Ottoman Empire - the Then we continued through Old Town's shop-lined streets, looking at the colorful displays of antiques, carpets, and touristy souvenirs.
|The ancient Roman city lies well below the current street level.|
|Description of the history of the Korkut Mosque shown below.|
|The broken minaret of the ancient Korkut Mosque.|
|The ruins of the Korkut Mosque|
|Spices and gifts in an Old Town shop|
|Carpets and handbags were a common sight.|
|Antiques and souvenirs|
|Floral display on Antalya streets|
We walked down the waterfront above stormy views of the Mediterranean coast with the Taurus Mountains in the background. The waterfront is dominated by the imposing Hidirlik Tower, which began life as a 1st or 2nd century mausoleum that was later used a a church and watchtower by later Romans, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, and Ottoman Turks.
|The bay of Antalya with the Taurus Mountains in the background|
|The Hidirlik Tower on the Antalya waterfront|
Our tour of Old Town ended with the second spectacular meal of the day at a local seafood restaurant. Five different mezzas, or appetizers, waited for us on the table, along with a big fresh Greek style salad. We all ordered from a variety of the fresh fish and meat dinner offerings.
|Turkish flags on Antalya street|
|Our group heads inside for a great dinner.|
|Rob finds another friend on the walk home.|
After the long but enjoyable day, Rob and I found our way, with a few missteps, back through the narrow, crooked streets and fell into bed for a good night's sleep.
Tuesday, April 7
Today was what Rick Steves calls a “vacation from our vacation,” a day with no agenda at all other than to follow the smell of the chai tea. The first benefit was the chance to sleep in a little later than usual! Rob and I decided to explore the city's Archaeological Museum, while others in the group set off hotel for a little coastal cruise. Sadly, the weather did not cooperate with the sea-going group. Our "vacation" day started out cool and drizzly, so their cruise ended early. However, it was a perfect day for exploring the excellent museum, which highlights artifacts taken from the many ancient cities that dot this country.
|Wisteria blooms above the courtyard of the Antalya Archaeological Museum|
|Peacock among the ruins!|
Turkey was an important crossroad between east and west for both the ancient and medieval world. Even more than Mesopotamia, Turkey can be considered the cradle of civilization, with some of the earliest settlements ever discovered. The Greeks and the Romans built dozens of cities on this peninsula and new discoveries are still being made. In the museum, we saw pottery and other artifacts from the early Stone Age up through the Iron Age.
|Ancient spindle wheels|
|Rob by a huge clay pot. |
(It always amazes me when they can find all the pieces and fit them back together!)
|Ancient "baby bottles" - the spouts were used for feeding infants|
|Gorgeous ancient glass items|
One display held an ancient clay burial pot. The picture below shows one of these early cemeteries.
|An ancient cemetery|
Another room held immense marble statues of the gods and Roman emperors taken from the city of Perge, a nearby ancient Roman city. I have always loved mythology and ancient history, so I particularly enjoyed these well-preserved statues. The sculptors of the ancient world captured the faces of the people of that time almost as well as we do with our photos today. If you look at various images of Hadrian, for example, they look so consistently alike that I think I would recognize him if I passed him on the street!
|The Three Graces in their traditional pose|
|Rob with Emperor Hadrian|
|A wall of Emerors|
|Alexander the Great|
|This poster showed where Alexander's statue would have stood in the Perge theater.|
A beautiful collection of sarcophagi, the highly decorated tombs of the ancient Romans, filled another huge room.
|The Hercules sarcophagus|
|Reclining woman on sarcophagus lid|
Upstairs were exhibits displaying thousands of coins, a collection of amphora pulled from the floor of the Mediterranean Sea, and a wall of icons from the Byzantine era. One room of the museum paid tribute to some of the archaeologists who have worked in Turkey, showing their photograph and a short biography, along with examples from each of their discoveries. Another cabinet displayed “rescued” artifacts, taken back from smugglers who steal them from the ruins.
|Roman coins taken from Turkish excavations|
|A stove pulled up from the deep|
|Amphora pulled up from ancient shipwrecks|
|Byzantine icons of St. Nicholas|
(Old St. Nick was a Turkish bishop!)
|Traditional Turkish clothing|
|Dr. Isik was one of several archaeologists whose work was displayed in the museum.|
|Some of Dr. Isik's discoveries|
We left the museum just in time to catch the trolley that would take us back to Hadrian’s Gate. It was grey and drizzling all the way back, and just as we arrived, it started to pour. We pulled on our rain hoods and jumped over puddles as we dashed for the market to buy new batteries for my camera and some snacks for the hotel.
|Riding back to Old Town in the rain|
Happily, the big rain storm signaled an end to the rainy day and the afternoon sun parted the clouds, gorgeous and warm. We ate lunch in one of the many restaurants on Ataturk Street, a good fresh fish sandwich and salad, then set out for an afternoon walk through Old Town. We wandered through the maze of streets, poking into the shops that caught our interest. Of course, the minute we appeared interested in a carpet, the shop owner invited us in and gave a convincing sales pitch. We actually did see a carpet we liked very well, but we decided the money would be better spent on another trip!
|We met up with Allen, Patty, Jane, and Jim while browsing through Old Town|
|Very tempted to bring this home!|
|Rob on the steps of an Antalyan street|
|Tourists and locals along the waterfront enjoy a break from the storm|
We arrived down at the waterfront, where Rob had one of many fresh pomegranate juices. We encountered these juice stands in most of the towns we have visited. The vendors use a strong press to make fresh cups of pomegranate juice, mixed with fresh squeezed orange juice if you prefer. Delicious! This vendor was hilarious, keeping up a running commentary as he worked that I should throw Rob out and go with him as he was obviously much more charming. These people know salesmanship!
|Rob places his order - pure pomegranate juice|
|Rob finds another friend|
|Joan in front of the Hidirlik Tower on Antalya's waterfront|
|Rob's father was Bob Kerr, so this sign caught our eye on our walk back to Old Town.|
|Modern and traditional locals mingle on the streets of Antalya.|
The greatest adventure of the day was saved for last - a visit to an authentic Turkish bath or hamam! (This is one of the few times on this trip that I did not take my camera, so the description will have to suffice. Check the web for photos of traditional Turkish baths!)
|This is not the haman we visited, but small local establishments |
like this could be found many places during our travels through Turkey.
The owner of the hamam picked us up in his van and drove us through the city to his establishment in nondescript old building. This was not a tourist spa, but a genuine bathhouse which the Turks use regularly. Our attendants spoke very little English, but they knew enough to say “turn over,” “sit up,” – just what they needed to take us through the experience.
The men and women entered separate areas of the bath, then the female attendants escorted us women upstairs where each pair of us shared a little changing room to prepare. We removed all of our clothes except underpants, wrapped ourselves in a big thin towel, put on the plastic slippers provided by the establishment, then followed one of the women back downstairs. She escorted us into a big, steamy room with a huge circular marble platform in the middle. She demonstrated how to lay our towels lengthwise so we would be lying on the platform with our heads in the middle and our feet aimed out, like the petals of a daisy. We climbed atop the platform and stretched out on our tummies, then the attendants threw pails of hot water all over us.
We middle-aged women giggled like school girls and chattered away for the first few minutes, excited about the experience, but finally we settled down to relax and get our bodies ready for the next step. The marble slab was HOT and we soon had to turn over to give relief to the front of our legs, which had turned bright red. Alas, we learned after the fact that we could have gotten up and poured more water from the basins around the perimeter of the room over ourselves for a little relief.
After about 20 minutes of sweating away, the attendants scoured our bodies with a loofah mitt, then they invited us into the next room for the washing. What heaven! The women scrubbed us from head to toe – twice! The first time was a gentle cleaning, but for the second scrub, the attendants covered our bodies with a thick foamy lather and kneaded it into our bodies, providing a nice mild massage with the process. They washed our hair, then we sat up and they doused us with several buckets of water until all the soap was rinsed away.
We wrapped a large dry towel around ourselves followed the staff to a large lounge where we sat in a circle in big comfy rocking chairs to dry. Those who desired it had a clay facial mask applied while the attendants served apple tea. Then the real fun began! The attendants put on Turkish music and began dancing. One of the attendants, a darling young woman in a short red dress, really go into it, gracefully waving her arms and gyrating her hips. She pulled me up to join her and soon our entire group was up and doing our best attempt at belly dancing. We ended with a “Zorba the Greek” style line dance, joining hands and dancing a big circle around the room. One of the women had an adorable baby, which she held up in the air as we danced.
The last step was best of all. The staff washed off our clay masks then took us back upstairs to the massage beds for a wonderful oil massage. Needless to say, we were thoroughly relaxed (and soft and clean!) and after a quick cup of tea and a bread roll, I fell into bed around 8:30! What an amazing cultural experience - one of the best of the trip!