Tombs Entombed Antalya

A section of distant Antalya rising out of the blue Mediterranean like tiny pale LEGO blocks completely filled a gap between mountain peaks as we were winding our way around the rock and fallen tree filled valley head between the little green grave and Hudacili ridge around twenty four hours ago.

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Antalya is Turkey’s fastest growing city and seemingly forms a long narrow arc of multi-story buildings following the curve of the bay with the cliffs of the ancient harbour and old city district of Kaleiçi splitting two long sweeping shale beaches.

According to Wikipedia, in 2013, Antalya became the third most visited city in the world by number of international arrivals and has a rapidly expanding native population of over one million.

Pam and I are dropped off by our kindly saviours nearby the very busy intersection of Bogacay Cd and Ataturk Blv at the Western end of the city’s arc. During our nerve wracking winding descent from Hiscandir I have spied a huge modern shipping harbour at this end of the city where the mountains plunge down to the sea.

Despite it having always being our plan to make Antalya we are more than a little grateful and amazed to have finally arrived and after the relative quietude of our long hike the hubbub of the city outskirts is overwhelming.

Sweaty and disorientated, yet very happy and wearing face splitting grins we heave our packs back on and set off in search of food and wifi. Diagonally across the intersection from where we have arrived is a brand new looking cafe at the other side of a square where Russian Dolls stand in smiling welcome however we are informed that the wifi will be working ‘next week’.

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No matter as Ataturk Blv is lined with shops and restaurants and we are soon enjoying our first cooked food since Goynuk whilst getting busy with the Googles.

It turns out that our apartment is only a few blocks from where we have been deposited and a few minutes later Pam has booked us a close by hotel room for the night.

Pam puts me in charge of finding the route to the hotel so I can only blame my disorientation in this new city for us getting a little lost however we are soon blissing under a hot shower in a very comfortable room in an affordable hotel just a couple of streets back from the beach.

Looking out to sea through the windows of the top floor hotel restaurant at dinner is as close as we get to the beach that day.

Sporadic showers during the night deposit nowhere near enough rain to clear the dense smog of this busy town and after a delicious Turkish breakfast it’s time to hit the streets in search of our apartment.

Light rain from the night before is steaming from the streets already and Pam warns me that I will be receiving some severe punishment if I get her all hot and bothered by getting lost again however now I have my bearings in this new city and we walk straight to our apartment building following the shortest possible route.

Antalya is a maze of pale apartment buildings mostly around five or six stories high with many more being continually constructed to accommodate the rapidly expanding population and tourism industry.

Our apartment block seems almost brand new and consists of three white multi-story buildings surrounding a large rectangular swimming pool. The foyer is completely empty and we are at a loss as what to do next however after five minutes or so a child on a bike notices us and shoots off to get someone to let us in.

No one speaks any English however our booking is expected and soon we are ensconced in our first floor unit. Air-conditioning in both living room and bedroom, a modern kitchen and a fancy bathroom. We are in heaven.

First order of business is to get our laundry done and to hang Vincent over the balcony railings to fully dry. Second order of business, go in search of booze and food.

Other than short expeditions to replenish our supplies all we do for the next few days is work on the blog, drink and eat.

Heaven.

Finally we post our last entry ‘Done and Dusted’ and our little blog is for once completely up to date. This great news we celebrate with considerable liquid cheer deep into the evening.

Recognizing we would need time to recover and write Pam has booked seven nights in Antalya at our comfortable modern unit which is the longest we will stay at any one place in Turkey. With the blog at last up to date we plan a course of action for the days we have remaining.

Antalya is living up to its warm Mediterranean reputation by the time we find ourselves back on Ataturk Blv and the dolmus we catch is tight packed and airless so we are relieved to step inside the huge modern air-conditioned shopping centre where Pam intends to replenish her tattered wardrobe.

With no plans to purchase anything myself within minutes I am suffering from shoppers fatigue and bothering my wife so while Pam sets off in search of new garments I take in the latest X-Men movie at the cinema complex on the top floor.

mmmmmnnnnnnn cool, dark, seated.

Back outside again we march towards the Post Office which is about a kilometer back down busy Ataturk Blv in a westerly direction.

This large Post Office has an armed guard at the door and when we finally manage to communicate that we want to post the walking poles Pam has borrowed back to Howard in the UK and our tent back to Australia we are asked to unroll the tent for inspection and are not allowed to touch it once it has been unpacked.

Of course the postal staff have no idea how to properly repack the tent and the final package ends up being about three times the volume that it would normally take.

Bizarrely, despite being an agent for a major Turkish bank, the Post Office does not accept credit cards for payment and there is no ATM in the building.

By the time Pam has walked back to a walk bridge to cross busy Ataturk Blv and returned bearing enough cash she is in no mood to be trifled with and even the guard with the pistol seems a little cowed.

Our shopping and postal expedition has eaten up almost an entire day and when we discover that there is no nearby dolmus stop for our return journey we soon tire of walking beside the hot and busy six lane road and hail a cab.

Twice the price for half the fuss.

It’s all good.

We elect to fill our remaining couple of days in Antalya visiting the old city precinct of Kaleici and the Antalya Archaeological Museum.

Ataturk Blv is becoming very familiar by now, there is a constant stream of dolmus and regular buses heading towards Antalya city at all times. The old city Kaleici is an easy tram ride from the more modern city section.

Dismounting from the tram at the Atatürk Monument at Cumhuriyet Meydan (Republic Square) where heroes and a rampant horse are framed by a cloudless blue sky we stroll down the stone footpath towards the Fluted Minaret.

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Narrow streets branching in all directions make deciphering the tourist map difficult and we find ourselves at the clock tower where cobblestone and pedestrians give way to bitumen and vehicular traffic.

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Compared to other ruins sites we have encountered on the Lycian, Antalya old city is small and compact, with the modern world pressing in from all sides.

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Around the corner from the clock tower a street lined with restaurants forms another entry to the old city precinct and we pace the carpeted length shaded by a rainbow of gaily coloured umbrellas strung overhead.

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The few remaining ruined buildings are not accessible to tourists and I take photos between the iron bars of surrounding fences before we make our way to Hadrian’s Gate which is a remnant of second century Roman fortifications.

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Parched and hungry from our meanderings we cross the road and tram tracks where apparently ancient oxidizing green statues have me startled and laughing at the video camera and microphone they are holding. Roman pop video clips?

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Eating beside this bustling road and footpath holds little attraction for either of us so we make our way back through the narrow cobblestone streets and down towards the harbour area where a spacious shady outdoor bar offers delicious food and drink to accompany the grand views.

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Relaxing in our vantage point the eclectic mix of the ancient and modern Antalya is readily apparent.

Stone walls and cliffs ring the harbour which provides anchorage for tourist boats where gaudy plastic pirates welcome revelers aboard. Ancient ruins, minarets and red tiled roofs of the Ottoman era houses give way to almost omnipresent pale multi-story apartment blocks.

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One too many 500ml Efes beers has considerably lowered my energy levels by the time we decide to leave this shady haven and make our way back through winding market streets towards our starting point. By the time we have reached the tram lines I elect to sit on a shaded bench and watch Antalya pass by while Pam goes off in search of clothes shops.

She returns empty handed within ten minutes complaining of shoppers fatigue and we call this slow day done.

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The little tram line we familiarized ourselves with yesterday circles back around for the return journey in parklands above the old harbour cliffs.

Across the road from these parklands are the expansive grounds and large modern building of the Antalya Archaeological Museum.

Antalya Archeological Museum is one of Turkeys largest museums. Within its stone walls lie thirteen exhibition halls and outside in the well maintained grounds there is an open air gallery. Over 5000 works of art are displayed and an astonishing further 30000 artifacts are kept in storage. The museum highlights examples of work from the Mediterranean and Pamphylia regions in Anatolia.

Bright sunlight burning down from another cloudless sky brightly illuminates the pale yellow stones of this structure which ends in a shape reminiscent of the many tombs we have witnessed on our long hike.

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Outside the entrance area are many tombs with detailing at least as ornate as the best examples we have seen so far along with fragmented statues.

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Class after class of excited primary school children flood through the turnstile before us and by the time we have entered the halls they are echoing with exuberant high pitched Turkish.

Leaving the gaggles of school kids in the initial displays devoted to tools, coins and other minutia we make our way through to the larger halls full of tombs and reassembled statue fragments.

Intricate detail of these tombs far exceeds anything we have so far seen and I work my shutter finger to the bone.

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The museum is spacious and temperature controlled and clever use of lighting shows off the magnificent pieces to great effect.

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Mighty Hercules occupies a dark recess whilst a brightly lit Aphrodite holds her shield aloft.

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By the time we have completed perusing the lower floor some of the school children are catching up to us so we make our way upstairs where tools, textiles and historical examples of periods of Christendom are housed within glass displays.

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Air-conditioning is having little effect on this upper floor of the stone building and we soon make our sweaty way back down to the initial displays we had left to the kids on entry.

As we make our way back out into the museum grounds it is early afternoon however we forgo the Museum cafe and take a stroll past the stone lions and huge clay urns in this area before making our way back to the parklands across the road.

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Conversations with our American friends Shelly, Stacy and Tony from our ‘The World gets much smaller’ entry spring back into my mind as I watch a para-glider use the paved square above the cliffs as a runway.

A light onshore breeze tumbling up over the cliffs provides enough lift to hoist the brave pilot aloft with minimal effort however he is unable to gain much altitude as he traces a large horizontal infinity sign back and forth along the cliff edge.

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Fascinated by this close up display where the pilot lands and takes off several times I take a squadron of photos and frustrate Pam who is doing her best to shepherd me down towards the beach far below.

We have seen photos of the long Konyaalti Beach mid-tourist season where it appears there is standing room only for the entire grey pebble length however we are fortunate to be in Antalya very early in the season and today the beach is only lightly populated.

From the base of the cliffs where we stand our view extends uninterrupted, sweeping all the way from the large rock in the sea where young men find ever more gymnastic ways to hurl themselves into the Mediterranean to the distant mountains, now veiled in smog, we have so recently clambered up and over.

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For me there is an air of finality accompanying this view. Looking back towards the high mountains where we strode resolute and glorious amidst stone and tree reminds me that this our last full day in Antalya.

During our comfortable Antalya recovery from our extraordinary Lycian hike we have rested, eaten, drunk and made merry. Possibly to excess.

It’s time for new horizons.

PLL

Pam and Mick

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