Turkey has always been one of my favorite destinations to visit and somehow over the last couple of years , we never got around to going to Turkey.Rather there are so many beautiful places to visit and little time and of course our ‘ money tree’ harvests notes and coins but it also gets over in due course of time like everyone else ! Anyway all of it worked out and we wanted to take a short vacation to a place close to the Netherlands.The vibrant colours, the mersmering landscape and the fact that we have Turkish friends who spoke so much about the place pushed us to the idea of finally going to our dream destination ! Turkey is a bigger country compared to the Netherlands , so the next question was where should we go? Of course one can ask around and there are thousands of sites online to chose from. However this time , we just went with a tinge of attraction. A friend of mine was just back from Antalya and somehow the name got stuck in my brains! So I suggested Antalya to my husband and he was also very enthusiastic with the thought. We looked for some places to stay , filtered our choice and eventually found a beautiful heritage hotel – Alp Pasa in Kaleici which is the older part of Antalya situated in the southern west part of Turkey.
For the first time in years, we didn’t plan things to do in and places to visit during our holiday. We decided to go with the flow, as long as we had a roof over our head, food to eat & enjoyed the culture and soaked in every ray of sunshine, the rest would follow.A day of two before our travel , the research bug in me kept pushing me to do some preparation. So I checked with my friend on things to do and she was kind enough to give some interesting tips and advise ! An interesting one was to negotiate the price to at least half if not one third for shopping or even excursions. Being Indian by birth, I was used to the negotiation bit , however I had lost touch of it . Nevertheless all of it sounded fun !
Our journey from Amsterdam to Antalya went smooth and we had an airport pick up arranged by a travel company. We landed late in the evening while it was dark and could not spot our taxi anywhere. We walked around to look for it lugging our suitcases with wheels, which makes traveling so much easier – bless the inventors of suitcases with wheels! To add to our adventure the taxi was hidden behind big buses and was black , so we could barely see it in the dark. Thankfully we managed to spot it & we sat there waiting for another couple who was also going to the same hotel where we were put up.They had similar problems in finding the taxi, eventually they arrived and we were driven to our hotel. I was like an awestruck teenager who was seeing her teen crush in real. While the city sleept, we experienced the bright lights , impressive streets and modern buildings! Our hotel was a historic place with Ottoman-style rooms and an open-air museum. The hotel had a private courtyard with a mosaic terrace and swimming pool. This place had been designed by Turkish and International designers & had a very royal feel to it! The walls had many artifacts from the olden times that if you took a close look , it felt like you were taken back into history.
The first day we decided to walk through the quaint narrow streets of Kaleici to discover the area.The streets were so narrow that a big car or a taxi could barely fit in, but of course the taxis had to access these roads as they lead to many hotels. It was interesting to see how some of the taxi drivers would make their way wriggling into the narrow streets. And they managed it so well, without touching even one passerby or things displayed in a shop. This reminded me a lot of India’s busy streets where everyone lived in harmony, be it the pedestrians, cars, motorbikes, street dogs , cows , vegetable sellers and vehicles! There were beautiful souvenirs shops along the streets. There was a jewelry store which was set up in a old palatial building with the main entry, shaped as a huge arch as high as 8 meters. Once you enter the shop, you forget to notice the inside of the building as you are easily distracted by the more attractive things like jewelry, carpets, shawls, teas , natural beauty products, traditional Turkish clothes! I love ear rings and when ever I can, I pick up at least a pair of them which promote the local arts and crafts! In the bargain,I increase my ear rings wardrobe ! We walked to the harbor and saw a beautiful beach ‘ Mermerli ‘. The water was crystal clear and it faced the ‘ Taurus Mountains ‘. Close to the beach , there many boats offering rides and some of them were done up with a the theme of pirates of the Caribbean or a skull decoration while some others were done up with modern interiors alongwith loud blasting disco music. While walking on the port , the boat workers were trying their best to get people to go for the rides to the extent of shouting from one end of the street to another like a fish market – ‘ Lady, you want to go on a boat ride. We will give you a good price.’ As it was the low season, we witnessed some aggressive sales , however once we declined , they would did not bother us any more.
The next day we decided to go to the Mermerli beach which was less than 10 minutes walking distance from our hotel and what a sight ! It is a private beach owned by a restaurant on top of a hill & they charge a nominal fee to hire the beach beds & umbrellas. One can experience the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean sea. The view overlooked the Taurus mountains with clear calm waters caressing the shores very slowly , so beautiful as if one had a drink or two, it wouldn’t take you a long to go into your beauty sleep! We swam , ate our lunch and back to our beauty sleep.We feasted our eyes on the beautiful scenery with the chitter chatter of the people in the background & children playing in the water ! It was an a nice relaxing beach day in Antalya.
Our fourth day was the biggest highlight of our trip – a rafting activity which we had booked with Nirvana travels in Kaleici. We were picked up from a meeting point close to our hotel & it was an hour & half drive to the rafting site.I had rafted many many years ago when I was 11, in very calm canal waters in Rajasthan, India. It was a ‘ Summer camp ‘ organized by the Army. My friend & I were probably the youngest in the entire group of say 100 people. Her father had organized the entire rafting activity , hence we got the brilliant opportunity for some adventure. Years later, we wanted to experience this adrenaline rush again! My husband had given some pointers on what to expect from the rafting , with the instructor giving commands as – ’ right forward ‘ which meant the people on the right have to row forwards , ‘ left backward ‘ meaning people sitting on the left would have to row backwards.This sounds very logical however when you are on the boat , you tend to forget the basic rights and lefts with all the excitement ! Our instructor ‘ Alex ‘ was a man full of energy flowing in his veins & blood ! I secretly think he was on drugs ! Nevertheless half the fun on the trip was because of this highly motivating hyper active instructor! We had a great bunch of people on the boat from all over the world, including few other Indian people, so I got a chance to speak Hindi after a long time. The entire experience was such an adrenaline rush , right from walking together into cold water, the men helping to get the boat into the water, all of us putting on our life jackets, helmets, getting our oars & including the seating arrangements. The men were to sit in front as the macho strength was needed to move the boat faster & the women were sitting behind to give the balance & were of course the woman were the backbone of the boat ! We rafted all in all for 15 kms – with a break after 7 kms. In between we stopped to jump into the water and swim. I was so tempted and took the plunge along with the other fellow passengers. I couldn’t let that chance go away as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity ! During the break , there was a kind of a makeshift diving board which was around 10 meters high & one of the tourist from another group was contemplating if he should jump. All of us started hooting & encouraged him to take the plunge! He was the first one to dive in & later on many followed his footsteps including me. My second dive was flat on my stomach which hurt like crazy, nevertheless I recovered once I was out of the water! We had a lunch break & after which which we went back to the boat. With all of us with filled stomachs , we had an afternoon dip. Rightfully so as the sun was shining, it was vacation time and after having a beer or two , getting back to rowing was difficult. Anyway all of us managed to get back into action after couple of minutes. There was another stop for a last swim in the river & we all jumped in for the last time. Surprisingly the under currents were so strong I felt the water pulling me to the other side and I panicked. I swam furiously but the currents were so strong that any effort of swimming was not helping, forces of nature as they say! I thought I was going to the end of the water, flow into a waterfall and die! I shouted at Alex saying , ‘ Alex, we are going’. He saw the fear in my eyes and knew I was panicking. Thankfully my husband also saw the fear in my eyes & he calmed me, he was close by, so I went to him until the boat came to us & picked us up! I came onto the boat & I burst out laughing , thanking my stars & probably the nervous energy came out as a loud laugh. Despite the scary experience towards the end, it was the highlight of our trip and so amazing that I would not hesitate to do it again !
In the next couple of days, we went to Duden waterfalls and Termessos. The waterfalls, formed by the Duden River , which is one of the major rivers in southern Anatolia, is located 12 kilometers north-east of Antalya. They end where the waters of the Lower Düden Falls drop off a rocky cliff directly into the Mediterranean Sea. We walked around the area and one could also get into the caves behind the waterfall. The view from the caves overlooking the waterfall was spectacular! Later on , we drove to Termessos which was a Pisidian city built at an altitude of close to 1600 meters in the Taurus Mountains. We climbed the mountain to see the ruins of a city which dated back to the 2nd – 3rd century BC. We were lucky with the weather as it was not very warm to climb, the temperature was around 30 degrees with some breeze which kept us cool. This impressive city had a very interesting main street with huge pillars , a theatre overlooking the mountains – the only one of its kind in the whole of Turkey. A water management system with huge underground basins to collect rainwater & a drainage system which could put many modern cities in some parts of the world to shame! History says, Alexander the great wanted to conquer this place but failed to do so as it was so difficult to wage a war due to the insurmountable natural barriers surrounding the city. He did not take an assault in Termassos however decided to march to his next destination to conquer further! The city walls had many cemeteries containing rock-cut tombs with lots of treasures. Unfortunately many of these tombs have been plundered by treasure hunters over the years & there is very little left inside the tombs. The city was abandoned in the 5th century. Surprisingly no excavations have been undertaken there and if they did in future, the excavators could find a huge pot of historical remains under the ruins!
We had two more days to go and one can’t leave the place without going to the Konyaaltı Beach. It’s a beautiful pebble beach with crystal clear water and beautiful scenery overlooking the Taurus mountains.We had a relaxing time , took in all the sun to last us for few weeks to face the winter in the Netherlands, read, relaxed, ate and enjoyed our beach afternoon. This is one of the popular beaches in Antalya.On our last day, we went to the ‘ Antalya Museum ‘ which houses some of oldest artifacts from the 7th century BC onwards. All in all, very interesting display and sculptures of the olden times. It is one of the leading museums of the world on account of its sculpture works from the Roman period and unique finds found during the rescue excavations of the museum.
Antalya is a beautiful place, an interesting mix of history dating back to the first human beings, the Roman & the Greek inhabitants and coming to the modern times – the adventurous rafting experiene, serene calm beaches, fantastic food , friendly people and above all sun which shines 300 days of the year! So what are you waiting for?