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Turkey: Impressions and Antalya

Konyaalti PlajiMy visit to Turkey was relatively impromptu. I was notified less than 2 weeks before departure and didn’t have time to research and prepare or even think about what I would like to experience and see in this exotic country. This planning is always important when heading out on a work-related trip – the meetings don’t leave you with much time to sightsee and tourist, and with 2 days to travel there, energy is also in short supply. When I realised that I was not going to be in Istanbul, I didn’t really have any idea what I was going to see.

Looking at Antalya on the map during my limited preparations, I was struck with how close it was (relatively speaking) to my grandfather’s birthplace of Tartous in Syria. Just across the Mediterranean really, since Tartous is also a coastal city. I really wanted to visit, since I’d never been that far away from home, and that close to that part of the world and the relatives there. But skirmishes in northeastern Turkey and the lack of direct travel between Antalya or Istanbul and Tartous settled my mind that maybe this was not the time. It would have been a very rushed visit in any event, and I didn’t have a visa or much time to get one.

The prospect of visiting Turkey, while exciting, was also a bit daunting knowing about the hijab-ban in government and military buildings, and universities. I’d never been in a country with that official attitude towards the hijab and I didn’t know what that meant for the daily life of Turkish hijabis. What would that mean for me as a foreign national? I got some positive assurances from Turkish nationals, through my father and brother, and since my meeting was in a hotel, I set aside those concerns (mostly) and set forth. Instead I focused on the fact that, with more than 90% of the population being Muslim, pork not on the menu and meats halaal, I could be freer in sampling food than in most of my travels. But more about the food later.

I didn’t spend any real time in Istanbul, unless you count the few hours in Attaturk airport. For those who need to know, at least in the domestic terminal, people line up at the boarding gates well in advance of the stated time for boarding, or opening of the gate, without even the hint of appearance of any airline staff or plane. It’s not quite a stampede, since they are orderly and lined up, but by the time the airline agents open the gate, people are ready to go. It was also surprising to realise that Turkish airports do security scanning before you enter the building; full works including scanning of suitcases, removal of shoes etc.

But before I properly assimilated those peculiarities, I have to admit that it was the smoking that made the first impact. I have never been to a country where people smoke so freely indoors. Well, not freely, but none of the buildings seem to be smoke-free. There are sections in the airport and in the hotels, that are smoking, and so many people smoke that despite the generally excellent ventilation, you can see the walls of smoke. And smell it. Restaurants generally didn’t seem to have no-smoking areas either – in one case we asked to be seated outside, away from the smokers and with fresh air, then they seated smokers right next to us. I am not getting into a anti-tobacco rant, merely pointing out that this is noticeable on arrival from non-smoking-in-public-places countries, and particularly when your sinus allergies are prepared to rage after 2 days in planes and airports.

Konyaalti Plaji and Mountains Mountains all around Watch out for the Waves

Antalya is on the Mediterranean, on the Turquoise Riviera, in reference to the gorgeous colour of the water, or the turquoise that is part of the fabric of Turkey and things Turkish, or both. It is a city on the Mediterranean coast of southwestern Turkey, capital of Antalya Province. The population of the city is over 600,000 but reaches two million in summers at the height of tourism season. (Antalya on Wikipedia) There is so much history and culture in this region, coupled with the sheer natural beauty of the mountains and the water. Antalya is like a crescent with the sea in the inner curve and ringed on the outside by mountains. The combination is beautiful, even if you’re only looking from one area and didn’t get to explore. You can take cruises to various waterfalls and along the coast and trips to mountains and various sites nature attractions and sights. Plans for some time in the future. Or for any of my readers who are so lucky. We ate lunch a couple times at this beach bar/cafe right on the beach, where we could soak in the blueness and bits of the mountains, and observe the people fishing from the shore with rods, stretching out on the “sand” (which looked like grey gravel but didn’t seem to bother anybody) and even swimming.

Fishing on the beach Antalyan Mountains Boats in the Marina

There’s a beautiful marina next to the old walls of the city and the old city bazaar leading down to it. Hadrian’s Gate and the Antalya museum are musts. I made it to the museum and saw the 3 arches of Hadrian’s Gate (but no picture).There are mosques throughout the city and you can hear the adhan call 5 times a day for prayer. I didn’t make it to the mosque when I was in the city, but I could see spires and domes, just didn’t figure out how to get there without getting lost. The mosques in Turkey are beautiful and share some common features, in that the primary structure is very cuboid, or several cubes, with a dome, and a tall spindly minaret or two at the corner.

Lunch by the Sea

It is all quite breathtaking, and impossible to truly appreciate when you’re stuck in meetings 8.30 until and the days are short because it’s winter. Not that winter is too much of a problem. It’s mediterranean – warm and sunny at temperatures in the high teens and 20s Celsius, with rain of course as it’s winter, but even then, not too bad. When you’ve got days like this when you can sit out in the sun at the beach and soak in all that turquoise gorgeousness…you really can’t complain.

Well, not too much anyway…

In the next couple posts I will detail some more of the touristing activities and the food to be enjoyed in Antalya. I am currently stuck in the Barbados at 2.20 am, after leaving Trinidad 9.30 pm for Guyana, only to be diverted after circling over the airport in Timehri unable to land because of heavy fog. Who knows when we’re getting out of here.

Other posts from this trip:

Turkey: Getting There

Turkey: Touristing in Antalya

Turkey: photos on Flickr

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5 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. poor chennette

    1. Lilandra, Empress of Chocolate and Envious Sister on December 7th, 2007 at 5:25 am
  2. Travel logs and blogs are fun to read and especially about places like Turkey. I enjoyed reading your impressions, both in words and in pictures.

    2. aka_lol on December 7th, 2007 at 12:48 pm
  3. Lilandra – 😛

    aka_lol thanks :-)

    4. chennette on December 8th, 2007 at 12:17 am
  4. Enjoyed this post. Turkey is one of those places I never think of visiting, but it sounds fascinating.

    6. wordtryst on December 28th, 2007 at 2:27 am
  5. hey Liane – put Turkey on your list of places to visit. It’s beautiful and historical and you don’t need a visa!

    7. chennette on December 28th, 2007 at 12:00 pm

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