During our three days in Antalya we had a mixture of exploring and chilling. The weather was just perfect with 27-28 Celsius each day. After arriving and settling into the hotel we took a ride along the coast. Around the centre of Antalya the sea is bordered by steep cliffs but to the east there’s miles of sandy beaches.
On our first day we headed into the old city. It sits within the walled section just above the port and is filled with old Ottoman style houses, bars, restaurants, and shops.
The Australian government had been putting out security alerts about Antalya and in particular the port area, so Michele was a little concerned and I was on high alert. Having spent years watching people I look for people and things which just don’t fit. However, throughout Turkey we’ve always felt quite secure. Throughout the cities and towns there’s a visible police presence walking the beat, motorcycle patrols and police stops. On the roads leading into most populated areas police and armed Jandarma stop traffic to check licences, insurance and registration. It’s quite serious business especially around tourist areas.
We parked close to the old city and the first thing we spotted was the symbol of the city, Yivli Minare, The Fluted Minaret Mosque. It was built by the Seljuks in the 14th century when Antalya was part of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm.
At the edge of the old town the road descends sharply past the 18th century Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque and down into the market place.
We wandered through the old town past lots of shops selling leather goods, rugs, spices, Turkish lamps, clothes and souvenirs. A lot of it was the same old stuff we’d seen before throughout Turkey. The Turkish rugs were exquisite and the lamps….. we wish we could fit all the beautiful Turkish handicrafts on the bike.
Many of the old Ottoman mansions had been transformed into fancy new boutique hotels which look really great with their facelift. However, There’s a few which are in pretty poor shape just waiting for someone to bring them back to their former glory.
Wandering through the streets of the old town many places have felt the squeeze of the downturn in tourism and are quite willing to haggle a little lower on items.
We eventually meandered down to the port, Yat Limani. The harbour,which dates back to the Roman era, was full of cruise boats of different sizes and shapes. There were wooden cruise boats with high masts and pirate boats with tacky fibreglass “Pirates of the Caribbean” sterns. One of the smaller boats was readying to leave as we arrived but was keen to wait a few more moments for us to board. The spruiker wanted €60 but as I only had 60 TL in my pocket haggling was easy and we got a bargain cruise. Despite all the fabulous pictures of amazing sights the cruise wasn’t exactly what we expected.
The coastline of Antalya is mostly shear cliffs so there are not many features. The boat slowly cruised along the coast visiting a sea cave which the captain nosed into and a few waterfalls along the coast. We also had a view of the historic Hidirlik Tower, which was one of the famous 14th century Seljuk defences. The waters along the coast of Turkey are just magnificent with azure blue waters that are so clear that fish must live in fear. In the distance we could see Cyprus which was just amazing how along the Mediterranean sea other countries are so close. Whilst we were cruising the captains offsider was busily snapping photos which he soon returned with framed copies for sale. One family even had pictures of their happy smiling faces transferred onto plates.
Leaving the boat crew to sort out their crockery set we ran the gauntlet as we made our way back up the hill through the markets. Unlike some of the Asian or Moroccan markets we’ve visited, these markets were pretty subdued without any in your face vendors.
Exploring the old city was actually quite fun as a lot of locals take a lot of pride in their homes and businesses. Ugly old walls had been transformed with the installation of special shelving filled with boxes of flowers, creating a wall of colour. Park benches with small standard trees in pots completed the transformation from demolition site to a useful space.
Some of the Ottoman housing was just stunning with the upper storey overhanging the road often at angles not in line with the bottom floor which seems uniquely Turkish.
Around the old city a few Turkish baths proudly state how ancient they are with one near the Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque claiming to be from the 16th century and another one further down claiming to be 700 years old. We got accosted by a girl outside the oldest one but after checking the prices gave her the slip. Maybe tomorrow.
Around the old city are a few old mosques including the ones I’ve already mentioned and one which is currently a museum. Kesik Minare (Broken Minaret) Mosque was a Roman temple before being converted to a Byzantine church and a mosque, when the minaret was added. As the city changed hands so did the mosque as it became a church again and finally a mosque again. In 1846 it was destroyed by fire and the ruins now are a museum.
On the way back to the hotel we passed Hadrian’s Gate another of the easily recognisable landmarks of the old city area. The gate was constructed in the 2nd century by the Romans in honour of the Emperor Hadrian. The gate is so popular that try as we might we just couldn’t get a photo of it without someone in the way.
As the day was so hot we headed back to Hotel Falcon to relax in the pool and enjoy some of the benefits of the all inclusive package such as free drinks. We caught up again with Penny and Frank for dinner, a drink and talk about our days out and about.
Our second day started with a late breakfast and catch up with Frank and Penny before heading into the old city once again. It was national kids day so the centre of the old city and the park which adjoins it were packed with families and security staff. Nobody was allowed in without a body search, that’s how tight security was. We were looking for the museum but the satnav took us to the wrong place. After looking around the old city we discovered the museum was nowhere near it. whilst we were in the old city Michele had decided on taking the plunge, literally, and was having a Turkish massage. After dropping Michele off at the bath house I went for a walk around the old city to kill an hour. Well after an hour I met up with Michele who told me it was an experience she won’t be forgetting in a hurry. After handing over our Cyril Ash to the girl spruiker she was escorted to a changing room where she stripped off. She was given a towel about the size of a tea towel which covered the top or the bottom, but not both. She was then escorted to a large room with a stone slab in the centre where she squatted naked and washed off with a dipper. The masseuse was actually a bloke so she was a bit embarrassed as she climbed up onto the slab naked. He then proceeded to poke, prod and knead places which are off limits to all and sundry except yours truly. She went for the full treatment soap scrub, body scrub and massage.
After her massage we headed to the Antalya Museum, out at Koonyalti. The Antalya Museum also known as the Antalya Archaeological Museum is one of the most impressive museums we’ve visited. As we had the Antalya Museum Pass entry was free but normally it costs 20 TL. The museum was established in 1922 when Antalya was under Italian Occupation after World War One. It came as the result of the Italians removing ancient objects and relocating them around the Italian Embassy. Worried that the ancient treasures would be stolen the Sultans Advisor applied to the provincial governor to become the curator of antiquities and the Antalya Museum was established.
These days Antalya Museum has an excellent collection of artefacts from the Antalya region. The Roman city of Perga was located only 9 km’s from the city so many of the artefacts have been stored in the museum. Throughout the exhibition halls the history of Antalya can be traced. Starting from fossilised remains, the museum traces the history of the area with cave paintings and tools from the Neolithic era, bronze age tools, and Mycenaean pottery. The largest exhibition is the statues dating from the Hellenistic period, the Roman Period right through to the late Middle Ages.
Of particular interest is the hall of sarcophagi. It contains some of Antalya’s most important sarcophagi. It really is quite spectacular. The later Seljuk and Ottoman history is also displayed with furniture, rugs and household items. The museum was really well worth the visit.
After our visit it was time to head back to the hotel and cool down. Later we caught up again with Keith and Penny for dinner, a few drinks and to catch up on our days out.
Tomorrow we all plan to head to Antalya Expo, which opens today.