Friday, March 29, 2013

Alanya

Chinese New Year. 2013. Went to Turkey for most of February. Dug it. Here's the Feb. 17-18 part. 


Let me tell you about the good things in Alanya, a balmy, alarmingly touristy city of 250,000 on the southern coast of Turkey and a city in which Dawner and I spent one afternoon, one evening, and one morning, in that order.


One of the good things that Dawna and I did was climb to Alanya Castle. It took us an hour or two each way, a bag of Doritos, and a big loaf of bread but afforded us beautiful views of the city and Mediterranean below. The castle itself wasn’t huge or particularly breath-taking, but I felt it was worth the hike. The most important part of the castle was the point from which prisoners were thrown to their deaths onto the rocks below said point. Apparently, the condemned often felt a glimmer of hope as they departed from the peak, because it was said that if they could jump far enough to avoid a fatal spill on the rocks, they could perhaps also survive the violent splash in the water and swim away to freedom.















Another of the good things that Dawna and I experienced in Alanya was a boat ride through its city harbor and definitive cliffy peninsula. After boarding our vessel of choice – “The Ghengis Khan” – at 9:20, we finally cast off at 10:50 and set off on a one-hour voyage through the Mediterranean waters we’d gazed at on our hike the night before. The waves were blue, the peaks were sky-scraping, and the Germans on the boat with us were dressed for warmer weather.








One last thing that Dawna and I thought was good was the restaurant Bir Tat, at which we ate our lone dinner. We had some different kinds of pide. It was delicious, but the reason that Bir Tat was good was because it was a normal Turkish restaurant with normal prices and normal service. And normal tomato-rose centerpieces on the salad.


This was good because every other restaurant in Alanya – at least around the city center – was grossly patronizing to tourists. That seemed to be the game plan for most of the city’s center: expensive prices, shopping galore, not even remotely authentic stuff. In our crappy guide book, Alanya was depicted was a getaway spot for retired Germans, refined Russians, and other tourists seeking an easy, laid-back vacation, which isn’t really what Dawner and I are into, but we did what we came to do – which included getting shockingly confused searching for our hotel, soliciting stray cats, and sitting on various sandy beaches gazing absently at the sea – and then left.





No need for a return a trip: we saw it all…the good, and the meh. So long, Alanya. Bis später. I mean, I mean...sorry...görüşürüz! Onward to the last leg of the journey.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Antalya

Chinese New Year. 2013. Went to Turkey for most of February. Dug it. Here's the Feb. 15-17 part. 

Let me tell you about the positive aspects of Antalya, a fairly tourist-centered city of about a million heads on the southern coast of Turkey, a city in which I waited to meet Dawna to arrive from Africa so we could stalk around Turkey sacking towns and villages.


One positive aspect of Antalya was the view from where I stayed in Kaleiçi, the “old town” area in an expansive modern Turkish city. The water was beautiful, the mountains were enormous, and the coastline was…okay. I could see all of this if I walked fifty meters from my hostel, so, this being the most positive aspect of Antalya, the rest of the attractions seemed pale and tame in comparison.






Another positive aspect of Antalya was in fact the “old town” area, Kaleiçi. Certainly, much of what was there was quite touristy, restored, expensive, or otherwise unauthentic, but there were still many places to eat, shops to fulfill needs, and old crap to look at. Certainly, also, it was a nightmare navigating through the area upon arrival, but it was quiet during the tourism off-season – tourists being what make Kaleiçi go go go – so it wasn’t unpleasant just wandering around there. Below are the Saat Kulesi, Yivli Minare, Hadrian's Gate by Day, and Hadrian's Gate by Night, and then some more writing and more pictures, respectively.





A third positive aspect of Antalya was the pension I stayed in, Dantel Pension, located deep within Kaleiçi. It was nearly impossible to find, but once I did locate it, I smiled in delight at its aforementioned proximity to the incredible view of the sea/mountains, at its super kind and accommodating proprietor and his broken nose, and at the huge heater situated in such a way that warm, toasty air blasted a balmy breeze of happiness directly onto me as I slept. Nights were cold in Antalya, but not at Dantel. Here is Dawna at Dantel after she finally arrived, counting her wide spread of dough from different countries:


More positive aspects? How about the boat ride I took for forty-five minutes around the harbor?






Still another positive aspect was the waterfall, pictured above from my seat on the boat. I climbed down to it in a fit of boredom after I realized there wasn't really anything else to do. It was a bit of alright.




One aspect that was a bit less than positive about Antalya (then why share it?) – for me, when I was there, so this is not really about Antalya – was the amount of time I spent I spent on public transportation of some sort, especially in proportion to the actual amount of time I was in Antalya. When I arrived, I had no clue how to get to Kaleiçi from the airport; I’d been counting on any of the airport buses to go there. But they didn’t. I absolutely and completely lucked out when an English-speaking Turkish dude on the bus that I did blindly board happened to be heading to Kaleiçi also; Lord, please bless that smiling young chap and his offspring for generations. Then a large part of the next day was spent doing experiments and trials concerning how to get back to the airport to collect Dawna when she arrived. And then returning, and then leaving the next day via bus. It just wasn’t really how I wanted to spend a lot of my time in a new place. It was also the fourth city I visited in two weeks, and, thus, the fourth city in which I had to decipher how public transportation worked.


Antalya. A bit more touristy than I would have liked, but a cool place to relax and unwind for a day or two. Being there during the warm peak of tourist season would be a different story, but it was a good place at which to meet Dawner and head deeper in the wildness that was Turkey. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

Yılankale

Chinese New Year. 2013. Went to Turkey for most of February. Dug it. Here's the Feb. 14 part. 

Let me regale you with the amazing qualities of Yılankale – Snake Castle – which is an old, abandoned (can you believe it?!) fortress atop some high hill twenty-five kilometers east of Adana. I headed out there by myself to celebrate Valentine’s Day while Mike and Hilary worked.


The most amazing quality of this ancient, ruined fortification is just that: it’s a castle. Meant for exploring. Obviously my main focus was getting to the two or three most elevated points of the castle – which required some ill-advised climbing, I think – to see the whole world from atop them, but there were also all manner of cavernous rooms and other mysterious crevices to peek into. I spent some time reading and some time snacking and some time just being. It felt right.





Another amazing quality of Yılankale: it’s free in every sense of the word. No entry fee, no security guards, no rules, no safety precautions. I did what I wanted.





There was also basically no one else there, and that was amazing. As I entered the actual walls, I ran into a gaggle of eleven- or twelve-year-old dudes. We exchanged some words, some names, and a photograph and then parted ways. However, each time I reached the top of the highest turrets of the fortress, the boys saw me from the road, waved, and yelled my name.





The last amazing quality of this brief trek into the wilderness was getting to and from Yılankale. Mike and Hilary gave me superb directions, but it was still a venture into the middle of nowhere in a country where I knew all of six words (those words being the words for “one,” “two,” “three,” etc….not very helpful if I needed to communicate to an anti-American extremist terrorist that he should not detonate the bomb strapped to his chest). But! I walked to the bus station and immediately was herded into the prescribed van for Ceyhan, a van which went right past Snake Castle and dropped me off in front of it. After the exploration had been completed, I walked to the other side of the road and a similar van bound for Adana just pulled over and hauled me aboard. Swing.





Yılankale was one of the more amazing parts of the Turkey trip. It was simple, beautiful, and quiet. A win-win-win.