The Road From Antalya To Mersin

Going to Antalya I took a HAS night bus (27 YTL) and on return I was in a Guney Akdeniz day bus (25 YTL).

The day ride for the 500 km between Antalya and Mersin is much preferable to the night trip. Not only is the coastal scenery beautiful, but the windy, up and down highway makes an uncomfortable sleep almost impossible, let alone a comfortable sleep!

Sunset east of Anamur

The 300 km section between Alanya and Silifke is almost constantly hilly. The hills are covered with pine forests and the hillside properties have almond and carob trees amongst other crops. The carob is used to make ‘pekmez’, a kind of molasses.

Bananaman at the bus stop, Gazipasa (between Alanya and Anamur)

This region is the only part of Turkey mild enough to grow bananas on a large scale. Anamur in particular is famous for bananas. The bananas grow very close to the coast in either hothouses or out in the open.

Strawberry hothouse in foreground, mountains in background

Besides bananas, the hectares of hothouses also produce strawberries, tomatoes and other traditional summer crops during the winter off-season.

One week almost to the hour after leaving I was back in Mersin. I loved this trip and look forward to visiting Antalya again.

Lara Beach

(continuing my Kurban Bayrami Antalya trip diary)


Hotels on Lara Beach, Antalya, as viewed across a freshwater stream splitting the beach

Lara Beach is a large sandy east of Antalya flanked by many 5 star luxury resort hotels. There are hotels designed to mimic the Titanic, the Kremlin, Concorde and Topkapi Palace as well as conventional looking resorts. It kind of resembles a Turkish casino-free beachside version of Las Vegas.


The afternoon moon above the front of the Titanic Hotel

Yasemin’s hotel, the Kervansaray is a new hotel that only opened in 2005. It has 585 rooms and convention facilities for two (or four?) thousand people.


The Kervansaray Hotel, Lara Beach, Antalya

The Kervansaray has flat screen TVs located in the floor, in (not on) the walls and just about everywhere else. Including flat screen TVs in the hotel’s design was a clever idea.

On the dolmus to Lara (catch the one going to ‘TRT’ and get off at the last stop) the first time I met Ayhan and his Taiwanese wife holidaying from Istanbul and they helpfully showed me the best way to the Kervansaray – the walk along the beach.


The moon as viewed from the Kervansaray

As my visit coincided with a large Turkish public holiday, all the hotels were filled to capacity with local tourists. Yasemin wanted to show me a room with a view over the Mediterranean and ith all available hotel rooms full there was only one solution-show me one of the owner’s rooms. The hotel’s two best rooms are reserved solely for the owner’s use!


View from the owner’s room, Kervansaray Hotel, Lara Beach, Antalya

Although untidy, the owner’s penthouse room was very impressive. Again, flat screen TVs abounded (I counted at least 3 and I didn’t look everywhere).

Unfortunately I was too late for the sunset. Down below on the pitch I could see Trabzonspor, Turkey’s fourth largest soccer club train. Two other clubs, Vestel Manisaspor and Canakkale Dardanelspor were also training at the hotel.


Trabzonspor training on the Kervansaray Hotel’s pitch

Antalya’s traditionally limited summer tourist and the instability of foreign tourist numbers due to external threats (such as Gulf Wars I & II) led the hotels to find other income sources. These include golf holidays, health resorts and soccer camps.

Antalya is now the place for soccer in Turkey during the Superlig winter break. Whilst I was there Istanbul clubs Galatasaray and Besiktas played against German sides Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen in the 5th Efes Pilsen Cup.


Hotel reflection

Yasemin kindly invited me to return the following day to eat at Kervansaray’s buffet lunch. Following lunch I walked along the beach in the glorious winter sunshine and took photos of the reflections in the stream emptying into the sea. I love reflections 🙂


Looking west along Lara Beach with mountains in the background

Sivasli, Usak Province

Warning: the following post contains blood and gore

On Monday night last week, Kurban Bayrami Arife (Sacrifice Holiday Eve), Umut drove Beysun and I up north, through 5 provinces (Antalya, Burdur, Denizli, Afyon and Usak) in 3 hours to Sivasli, Beysun’s home village in Usak province.

Beysun’s sister, Camile and her husband and daughter were visiting from Izmir and it was a fine family occasion.

Beysun’s wonderful Mother makes almost everything, including tomato powder, pepper paste and dried fruit. In Sivasli I ate roasted sugar beet for the first ever time.

With Umut, Beysun, Beysun’s sister family and Mother

Sivasli, with the single lane highway running through and its country atmosphere where everybody knows or is related to everybody else reminded me of one the Eyre Peninsula towns located on Eyre highway between Ceduna and Port Augusta, the location of many childhood travels. The zero to five degree temperatures, frozen puddles and snow-capped mountains did not reflect Eyre Peninsula, though.

Sivasli’s sunset

Tuesday morning it was time for the sacrificial slaughter, commemorating the time when Ibrahim (Abraham) was going to sacrifice his young son when he saw a ram nearby and instead sacrificed that. This Muslim tradition is more popular in rural and conservative areas of Turkey than in the large western cities.

Sacrificing the ram

Beysun’s extended family sacrificed both a ram and a cow. First, the ram was killed, hung, skun and gutted. Beysun’s 81 year old Grandmother played a main role in the sacrifice. She is wonderfully agile for an aged lady.

Grandma with her ram

Later, a butcher came to slaughter the cow. After the cow was killed and beheaded, its body twitched instinctively for minutes.

The butcher gutting the cow

The cow cost around 1000 YTL to purchase. Historically in Turkey some people have misused Kurban Bayrami to show off their wealth. The larger the size and numbers of animals killed the richer and more important the owner.

Cleaning the driveway

The butcher took the cow skin and a charity worker came to collect the ram skin. The skins are sold to leather manufacturers and charities earn a large amount of money this way.

Within 2 or 3 hours of slaughter, select portions of the cow and ram were being grilled over the fire in the shed and eaten wrapped in ‘yufka’ a very thin and flaky bread.

Mother and daughter grilling lunch

During Bayram Turkish television stations played video footage of escaped bulls damaging property and knocking people over whilst their would-be slaughterers tried to contain them.

This was my first close look at the slaughter part of this holiday. I believe the practise of uncontrolled backyard slaughters is illegal in Turkey, although it will take a long time to completely stop. The cold of winter certainly made the slaughter more tolerable. In summer it must stink and be far less hygienic.

Umut and I took two buses to get to Antalya, changing in Burdur. Afyon Province was cold enough for ice to form on the sink of a petrol station’s toilet.

Aspendos

Aspendos is approximately 50 km east of Antalya. The feature most synonymous with Aspendos is its theatre, capable of fitting 15,000 people.


The theatre

Aspendos has the best preserved ancient theatre I’ve seen in Turkey and it is still used for performances in summer.


Aspendos performer

Both Aspendos’s theatre and the main area at Perge cost 10 YTL for foreigners and 3 YTL for Turks.


The moon poking above the theatre

A few kilometres east of Aspendos lives the remains of a large aqueduct system.


Aqueduct in background, cotton in foreground

Perge

On Monday I drove with Beysun in her Mother’s Renault to Perge and Aspendos, two historical sights east of Antalya.


Beysun in front of Perge ruins

Perge is ruined city set in a large area flanked by bamboo forests and I could have spent hours more there.


A Perge relief

In the undergrowth were both green and brown orchids. I used to love orchids as a child and am still fascinated by them.


Green Orchid

Perge has a ruined athletics stadium, the first I recall seeing in Turkey. The technology (sides were held up by arches) was still very impressive even with the stadium badly ruined.


Beysun running around the stadium

Coming out of Perge we stopped at the large weekly open-air bazaar, a great tradition still found all over Turkey.

Antalya

Antalya is located in a fabulous setting. The sharply rising snow-capped mountains surround the city and provide a great backdrop for the ancient harbour and Konyaalti and Lara beaches.


The pebbled Konyaalti Beach

Although similar-sized Mediterranean port cities, Antalya is much richer and more famous than Mersin. There are far more luxury hotels, international-chained fast food restaurants, pizza outlets and upmarket shops, and prices are generally higher. Mersin does have more kebab shops and infinite number more tantuni restaurants, though!


Yachts in the ancient harbour

Antalya’s main foreign tourists are large numbers of Germans and Russians as opposed to Mersin’s small numbers of Arab visitors. From what I understood, the Russian influence is a topic of many Antalya conversations.

Most chemists (‘eczane’) have the English (pharmacy) and German (Apotheke) equivalents displayed. Many also are written in Russian and one was even in American (drug store). Mersin just gets ‘eczane’.

Weird as it may seem, but in some ways I feel more anonymous in Mersin than in Antalya. Along with the tourists in Antalya comes the expectation to meet foreigners and the associated tourist claptrap, something foreign to Mersin (excuse the pun).

The sunny weather added greatly to my trip enjoyment. I walked a lot and relaxed far more than I have for a long time.


Antalya Bay

The fruit crepe and cappuccino at the café in the sun and the tiramisu and coffee drink at Kahve Rengi were two amongst many memorable moments.


Fountain with mountains in the background

Umut and Beysun live to the east of Antalya’s centre, near his workplace and in the same area as both Yasemin and Umut’s Grandmother.

I met Umut’s Grandmother a few times in Istanbul and then she was a wonderful bright and bubbly woman. Unfortunately, in 2005 Alzheimer’s took over and she is not completely with it, but still very bubbly.


Umut, Grandma, myself

One evening, Umut and I armed with chocolates and flowers respectively, went to see his Grandma and her Bulgarian Turk carer. Grandma still remembered me and we were both very glad to see each other. I don’t know if we will meet again.

I also met up with another Mersinite friend and university classmate of Umut’s, Mutlu, in town visiting his sister. Another evening was spent at Tunca’s, a high school friend of Umut’s, Beysun’s and Yasemin’s.


Mutlu, Umut, Beysun, myself and Yasemin

PS:…

… I promise I will reply to those who have emailed me. I was planning to do it this weekend but I extended my stay in Antalya. Will try and write them all this week. Sorry!

Antalya In A Week

I’m back in Mersin, refreshed after a wonderful week in Antalya. I was planning to return earlier to Mersin but extended my stay. I wish I could have stayed much longer.

The hospitality shown by Umut, Beysun and Yasemin, the historical sights, the weather, the setting, the sophistication, the relaxation, the trip to Sivasli; it was all fantastic.

Umut, my former Mersin flatmate, is an Assistant Manager at Laura Shopping Centre’s Migros, part of Turkey’s largest supermarket chain, owned by Turkey’s largest company, Koc Holding.

Beysun,Umut’s wife, works as an educator at a tourism school owned by MNG, another large Turkish company.

Yasemin, Umut’s and Beysun’s friend from their High School days in Alanya is a Sales Executive at Kervansaray Hotels, owned by International Holiday Courts. She works at their head office, located in the Lara, Antalya hotel.

I will write lots more and post many photos when I have time in the next few days.