Tag Archives: Turkey

Antalya

Antalya. The final stop in our trip through Turkey. We left Kekova in the jeep, winding our way north along the coast, then through the pine forests, and finally arriving in Antalya where three-lane roads become six-lane roads. Marcus did a heroic job driving.

That afternoon we befriended a bookstore owner who kept his books in dusty, teetering piles and asked “What are you reading?” instead of “How are you doing?” He was pleased with the answers that Marcus and I provided and we were invited to sit and share fresh watermelon and figs as he told us what to do and see in the Old City neighborhood.

We spent the rest of the day wandering the cobbled streets to find Hadrian’s Gate and Kesik Minare (the broken minaret) and enjoyed a fantastic evening meal at Vanilla. The next day, we didn’t have to go to the airport until 19.00 so we started walking around the neighborhood and then to the park. As we came upon the rocky shoreline, we realized that the only thing we wanted to do on our last day was swim. We returned to the hotel, unpacked our swimsuits, snorkeling gear, towels, and books and returned to a restaurant perched precariously on the rocks with a small ladder down to the water. We swam and read and slept in the sun until the moment came to pick our backpacks and head to the airport.

A view of the Kesik Minare from the hotel.

Access to the waters.

Hadrian’s Gate.

Üçağız and Kekova

Üçağız, the gateway to Kekova, is a small fishing village of about 400 residents. Tourist boats from nearby Kaş passed in the distance to see the sunken city of Simena, but this Hemingway-esque retreat was full of peace. Pictured above, the pier of our pension out to the water.

Across the peninsula and over a hill strewn with sarcophagi, was Kekova and a small collection of houses, restaurants, and pensions that sat across the water from the sunken ruins.

A fisherman returning to the harbor.

Three boats in the bay.

In Üçağız, Marcus and I discovered gözleme, a Turkish style crêpe, filled with cheese, onions, and potato. The elderly couple who owned the small restaurant were so friendly and we ate there multiple times. Marcus befriended the  man and spoke about politics in a strange mix of Turkish, German, and English. His wife was full of smiles for me and serious remarks towards her husband’s political comments. In addition to delicious gözleme and Ayran (a Turkish yoghurt drink), they would bring out watermelon, pears, or apples for dessert and sit down with us and share the fruit.

Visiting the sunken city was only possible with a group, either on a boat or by kayak. Marcus and I chose to paddle across the bay on a four-hour tour for an up-close view. The sunken city is a collection of ancient Lycian ruins, destroyed by earthquake, attacks over the centuries, and time. We would have loved to spend more time there, but swimming and snorkeling is prohibited. So we looked, admired, and then paddled to Kekova for lunch.

Kekova is only accessible by boat. Or by foot if you’re willing to make the sweaty hike over the hilly peninsula, through the necropolis, and past the grazing goats. As we did on the second day there.

The hike was tiring, but we rewarded ourselves with homemade ice cream from one of the pensions in Kekova, then hiked further towards a secluded bay to swim and snorkel.

When we arrived in Üçağız, we realized that they didn’t have any cash machines and had to go to a bank in the nearby town of Demre for extra lira. The landscape was again astounding. On our return trip, we picked up a hitch-hiking granny who ended up being the cousin of the man at whose pension we were staying. Marcus was mysteriously able to hold a conversation with her and we were laughing as we bounced across the dusty road, the woman waving to all her friends as we passed.

Fethiye

After Selçuk, we headed further south to Fethiye, with its abundance of yachts and beaches. We spent most of our time there swimming in the warm waters and lazing in the shade of an umbrella. The sun and heat were intense, but we wanted to see more than just the beach, so on the third day we rented a jeep and drove around the peninsula, finding small beaches along the way.

Tombs carved into the rock face by the ancient Lycians.

Marcus windsurfing on a not-so-windy day.

Sunset at the surf beach.

On our day exploring with the jeep, we crossed the peninsula to see the town of Kayaköy, with its hillside ruins, a town destroyed by earthquake. Deemed a historical site, building is prohibited and the town is made of mostly farmers and a few family restaurants.

Sunday afternoon lunch in Kayaköy. We stopped at an outdoor restaurant, filled with platforms of carpets and pillows, and had my favorite meal of the trip. Marcus ate roasted lamb, while I enjoyed a vegetable stew ripe with flavor. The two figs were given to us, freshly picked from a tree by the restaurant owner.

I was impressed by the landscape around Fethiye: dry land, stone walls, and green trees and plants. We passed farms and orchards as we drove across the dusty roads.

The harbor in Kalkan, a small town southeast of Fethiye, where we stopped on our way to the next town. The jeep was so much fun that we decided to take it to our next destination: Kekova.

Selçuk and Ephesus

A flight to Izmir and a train south led us to Selçuk, a small town on the doorstep of the magnificent ruins of Ephesus. We realized quickly that Selçuk was perceptibly warmer than Istanbul, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the city: a mixture of teahouses, ruins, carpet shops, markets, and parks. We extended our stay to see more and enjoy the concerts and festivals for a public holiday that no one could explain.

Ephesus, the whole reason we were there, was fantastic, but one of my favorite moments of the whole trip happened on our last night in Selçuk. After buying fruit for the bus ride to Fethiye the next morning, Marcus and I were wandering around, looking at the night market and listening to a group of musicians play when a boy of about 12 came and asked for help with his homework. He had to pair famous authors with the books they wrote. He spoke only a little English, but we played a fun guessing game in which ‘bad, trouble, police’ led us to discern ‘Crime and Punishment’ and match it with Dostoevsky. I only wish I had been able to help him with the Turkish authors.

Pictured above, the Library of Celsus at Ephesus.

Ephesus was a sweaty affair. Armed with water bottles and a keen eye for spotting shadows, we headed out in the early morning to take in the ancient ruins.

Shoes outside a mosque in Selçuk.

Four chairs and a hookah wait for an afternoon break.

Looking out towards the İsa Bey Mosque.

Mosaic of an ancient basilica. The first afternoon we found ourselves atop a hillside among the ruins of St. John’s Basilica. The saint was believed to have lived in Selçuk late in his life.

A view of the ruins of St. John’s Basilica. Upon inspecting a sarcophagus against the wall, Marcus and I came upon a mother dog guarding her new puppies. It was probably a hilarious sight. Two tourists, solemnly discussing the carved stone when suddenly a dog jumps out to attack and sent them running and screaming around the crumbing walls. Ha.

Istanbul

The trip to Turkey began with a few days in Istanbul. We arrived in the city on a Saturday evening, greeted by traffic, heat, and crowds. The city was buzzing and we jumped into the flow as we made our way to a hotel in Taksim. The next day we rose early for a day of sightseeing. Walking through the city towards the Old City, Hagia Sophia, the many mosques, the Spice Market, and the Bosphorus. Sadly, the Grand Bazaar was closed, but we enjoyed slowly wandering and stopping for fresh pressed orange juice, pastries, and tea along the way. The following day we headed to the ferries for a day trip to the Princes Islands.

The Rüstem Paşa mosque.

The Spice Market.

Fisherman on a bridge across the Bosphorus.

A view towards the Asian side of Istanbul from a rooftop bar near Taksim.

The port on Büyükada, the largest of the four Princes Islands.

Antique stores and bicycle shops on Büyükada.

While the tourists queued in line for a horse and cart tour around the island, Marcus and I rented bicycles and headed in the other direction, stumbling upon a fantastic beach all for us.

Relaxing in the sun.

Seafood lunch in town.

The first of many fruit purchases.

On the ferry ride back to Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia

Visiting Hagia Sophia was one of the main reasons we included Istanbul in our trip to Turkey. I couldn’t miss the chance to see this historical treasure that I have been fascinated with since my first art history course. A cathedral turned mosque turned museum, Hagia Sofia (Ayasofa in Turkish) is a symbol of Byzantine architecture and the strength of the Ottoman Empire. And it is breathtaking.

A blend of the high ceilings of the Orthodox dome with Islamic artwork.

The Virgin and Child mosaic in the apse, now the museum exit, was one of the highlights.

The view from the balcony.

Details on the arched ceilings.

A mosaic tucked away in the corner of Hagia Sophia.

It’s incredible that this far-flung place I read about in my youth is now a place that I have seen with my own eyes.

travels in Türkiye

Two weeks, 1071 kilometers (665 miles), and 11 cities. Our trip down the west coast of Turkey, starting in Istanbul and ending in Antalya, was simply wonderful. We explored the metropolis of Istanbul, roamed the island of Büyükada, visited the ancient ruins of Ephesus, swam in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, kayaked above the sunken city of Simena, and climbed a hill to walk among the sarcophagi of a necropolis.

We became experts at finding secluded beaches and never let the heat, which averaged around 35° C/95° F, deter us from exploring. I came to admire Marcus’ exceptional navigational skills and his ability to be invited to sit down and share a meal with a stranger. I consumed my fill of fruit for the next year and passed as being Turkish, thanks to my great pronunciation of merhaba (hello) and my universally accepted curly, black hair and dark skin.

While I am still sorting through all the photos and typing out my journal, here is a taste of what I saw and ate during my travels. Above, colorful flowers hang above an empty street in the 400-inhabitant village of Kekova.

Exploring the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus.

Driving along the coast and stopping to admire the turquoise waters of Fethiye.

We started each morning with a Turkish breakfast. Freshly-squeezed orange juice, Turkish coffee, cheese, olives, vegetables, bread and jam, pine honey, and always a plate of fruit.

Turkish coffee in Istanbul. Strong and delicious.

I ate dozens of figs during our trip. Some we bought at outdoor markets and others were given to us, freshly plucked from the tree. When we arrived in Kekova, I was standing on the street and looking at the scene when a man walked by with a crate full of figs. As I stared in wonder, he stopped and asked if I would like one. Yes, please.

We traveled on planes, trains, boats, buses, but our favorite form of transportation was an open-top Jeep. The wind was great and it gave us the freedom to explore on rough roads and pick up hitchhiking grannies. I was always in the sun and had to wear a scarf around me to protect my skin.

The call to prayer coming from the minarets was always striking. Waking up to it at 4am was actually quite beautiful. A song in the night and then back to sleep.

In lieu of many vegetarian options, I ate a lot of fish.

The sleepy village of Kayaköy, which we visited on a Sunday afternoon. One delicious meal and a hike up a hill to see the ruined city. Exploring the Turkish countryside let us really appreciate the mountainous, dry landscape of the southern coast and its abundance of farm animals wandering around.

Weekend Links #18

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed LAST week:
1. Dreaming of a summer holiday in Fethiye in the Turkish Riviera (pictured above)
2. Browsing the collection of photos from New York Fashion Week on The Big Picture
3. Listening to Joan as Police Woman live (finally!) at Paradiso
4. Looking at how others enjoy my favorite moment of the day with this fantastic blog (pictured below, via @kfar53)
5. Watching the Vice Guide to Narco Cinema, the Mexican film genre that has exploded in popularity. Crazy.