To the mediterranean coast

Trip Start May 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 16, 2006

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Monday, July 3, 2006

Well, I have been busy with classes and day to day stuff here in Ankara, so updates have been scarce, but this weekend I finally got to get away for a bit. My Canadian fellow student friend Chris and I ventured to the city of Antalya, a resort-ish town south of Ankara on the Mediterranean. It is the closest place on the coast to get to, and it is close enough for a day trip to Olimpos, a famous area with ruins, mountains, a beach, and tree-houses as pretty much the only form of accomodation.

Anyway, we took a bus Thursday night and arrived in Antalya at 7 am Friday. The bus ride was standars Turkish style - fairly nice, plenty of tea, coffee, and juice available, etc. Day 1 in Antalya was not overly eventful, but was still completely great. We slept in air-conditioned rooms (no AC in my METU dorm, and yes Ankara is very hot... I literally woke up on fire one night, had to stop, drop and roll), which was amazing. We made our way down to the overpopulated, main Antalya beach. Neither the scalding hot rocks that you can't walk on without shoes (no sand) nor the obnoxious, blaring pop music being blasted at beachgoers could stifle the joy of sitting around in the sun with the occasional swim. I even got a quite good 9 lira pizza (~5 USD), brought to my chair of course. Solid day. We wandered around a bit, ate, moved rooms because of the armies of giant flying ant things in our room, and eventually slept like babies... babies that know that they don't have to wake up for class the next day, and that are sleeping in air-conditioned rooms for the first time in several weeks.

Then came, probably, the worst part of the Antalya trip, if not my entire life. I got my sandals shined. Walking through the narrow, uneven streets of Antalya's old town back to our hostel, we got got beckoned by a shoe shine guy. Thinking that stopping for a second to tell him that we were wearing sandals was no risk since, hey, we were wearing sandals, proved to be a mistake. First he insisted we each take a little pin with a blue eye thing (very common around there, still not sure the "story"), for "no money, no money". Then after he pinned them on, he deftly slapped some leather polish stuff onto our sandals, before we could react. Game over. Shoe shine scammer 1, Chris and Robert zero. So, we sat there while he rubbed it in for, oh, 40 seconds. Then demanded 5 lira. He was lucky to get 1. He said no money.

On day two we decided to go on a, supposedly, relaxing boat tour. Much to our annoyance, the theme of Turks having a penchant for combining beautiful, relaxing nature with really loud, annoying pop music. The darned boat was saturated with it. On the lower level, conversation was impossible. We hoped for better things on the top, only to find that they rigged a giant speaker up there too. Did I mention that they only have one cd with about 8 songs, so every 25 minutes or so we would here the same, say, "Hey Macarena" remix? Finally, in a stroke of brilliance that saved the day, Chris turned the massive speaker away from the boat and towards the water. Anyway, Chris and I, and our new kiwi friend, explored caves and rocks for jumping into the water at every stop. Very, very good fun. Despite what anyone tells you, "rat island" looks absolutely nothing like a rat and everything like a turtle.

Day three was ushered in with a stroke of fantastic luck. A couple Germans wanted to rent a car to go to Olimpos, as it is a hassle (and costly) to get there with public transport for assorted reasons, but wanted to stay there and continue there way east, not return the same day. Chris and I, somehow, learned of this and made a deal. We all split the cost, they stayed, we went back, everyone wins. The most important part, as well, is that I get to drive a car for the first time in ages. The drive there was beautiful. Olimpos was a little tourism mini-town tucked away in the mountains. Nothing there but hostels and restauraunts. We saw some ruins, admired the mountains, jumped off of a really, really high rock into the mediterranean, burned our feet on the rocky beach, ate a popsicle, and generally enjoyed ourselves. We even stumbled upon a couple Australians we watched soccer with at the hostel... small world. We then took the car to Chimeara, a rocky area 7km from Olimpos with natural flames. There are little fires that literally just.... come out of the rock. Interesting and novel, definitely worth the 1km hike, though it would have been better at night I think. We then drove some more towards Antalya, stopped in a Kemer for a few minutes (complete resort town, bears no resemblance to Turkey as a whole), and stopped on a nice lookout point next to the highway where we could get a nice view of Antalya. Of course, it's pretty much just rows, and rows, and rows, and rows of highrise hotels. We got back, showered, ate some absolutely great Pides (vaguely like pizza, very Turkish, very good), packed, and made our way out to the bus station. On the way to Antalya, there were empty spots, so we each got 2 seats to ourselves. On the return, since it was Sunday night, we had no such luxury. Sleep was spotty and unpleasant, but it made the transition to a non-airconditioned, hot but confortable bed not so bad.

All things considered, a fantastic weekend. Next week I am, most likely, going to Kosh (for lack of Turkish characters, I spelled it roughly phonetically), a less-touristed little spot a couple hours west of Antalya, on the Mediterranean of course. Should be great as well.
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