Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Travels thru Turkey

My birthday was a few weeks ago (shout-out to all the Virgos). To celebrate, I flew with my girl to Turkey for a few days to catch the last rays of autumn sun. “Winter is coming” and in Holland that isn't a joke.

The city we stayed in was Alanya. It's a district of Antalya Province on the southern coast of Turkey,in the country's Mediterranean Region. The view was gorgeous. Palm trees, clear blue water and water parks all over the region. The airport security is tight when you fly in. There are signs posted in multiple languages saying, "Forbidden to take cultural artifacts out of the country." I have never seen signs like that in any of the places I've been to.

The reason Alanya has them is because the city is ancient. There have been archaeological discoveries found in the Karain Cave showing the place was occupied during the Paleolithic era 20,000 BC. Since then, there have been empires (Phoenician, Achaemenid Empire, Alexander the Great) built, rebuilt, conquered and destroyed throughout the ages. What remains are castles and monuments surrounded by busy streets, markets and crowds of tourists.

Alanya is a six hour ride from Antalya airport. We took a shuttle; which is a van and driver that takes six to eight passengers from the airport to individual hotels. Luckily on this trip, my stop was the second stop. After being in a van for 6 hours with a crying baby...I was ready to jump out the van while it was still moving. Things got better at the hotel. The place was right on the coast, less than 100 meters from the beach.

Since the climate is so warm, there's fresh fruit and vegetables being sold from markets throughout the city. When I say fresh, I'm talking about picking fruit off the trees fresh. Everywhere in Alanya lime trees grow. The trees line the sides of lawns and sidewalks getting manicured like Japanese Bonsai trees. I would pick limes from the tree outside the hotel and squeeze the juice into my drinks. (Bangin!) I bet they never heard of the disease "Scurvy" in Turkey. Alanya is a coastal city, so most restaurants serve a diverse assortment of seafood. It's also a Muslim country, so don't expect to find many pork dishes. The dining was exceptional for me, because I only eat poultry and fish.

At most of the hotels they have open terraces and live bands. Just walking down the boardwalk, with the hotels to my left and the beach across the road to the right for a few blocks, I got to see a man doing Karaoke to Wayne Newton; another to Elvis Presley, with a bar offering two for one drinks, playing Lil Wayne’s "Lollipop" in between. Across the street, the scene was crowded with beautiful, bronze, beach, bodies, basking in the Mediterranean sun. A mix of young and old, families and students, the patrons were diverse and almost all of them had a tan.

The water was warm and surprisingly clear, blue. Even without goggles, I was able to see down several meters. Since my girlfriend had never snorkeled before, I took this opportunity to teach her. A good snorkel set with goggles and fins will cost around twenty euro from a street vendor. If you enjoy viewing sea-life without a computer monitor, I highly recommend it. The waters were full of diverse types of fish, dodging the swimmers and eating algae off the rocks below. The further away from the beach you swim, the bigger the fish become.

At the end of the beach is the wharf. The scene is like a postcard right out ofPirates of the Caribbean.” Long rows of actual pirate ships, adorned with a colorful spectrum of figureheads. All the ships offered different services, while the boat chauffeurs people around the bay. Some were party boats with disco balls and turntables. Some offered scuba diving lessons, others sight-seeing tours. I was surprised at how many of the guys who worked on these ships, dressed like actual pirates. They were literally dressed like pirates from the 1800's. I took a few pics of my favorite ships. (you can view them below)

If you're not a fan of the beach, there's an awesome alternative. In the center of Alanya, and all around the region are water parks. The one in the center of Alanya is f^%kin awesome! There are around twenty different slides for all ages. I spent an afternoon trying to ride everything in the park, but only succeeded in making it halfway. Some of the slides, like the half-pipe or canoeing around the park, are only open at certain times. The place is so big, they offer inflatable canoes you can rent for one euro to ride around the water park. This ride is only offered every few hours so you have to be there at the right time to partake.

They use the Turkish Lira as a form of currency. It's better to exchange money using a bank machine than going to a currency exchange. They will cheat you. Since the Euro is worth more than the Lira, food and shopping were quite affordable.
The main shopping district is a place called "Bar Street". It's an enormous area, encompassing the city main street to the docks. There you can find every type of shoe, clothing and electronic for discount prices. The only thing is...most of it is fake.

Merchants offer counterfeit items with the brand name sewed on the outside. Most carry the real item in stock, but if the buyer doesn't ask, then they get the bargain they're paying for. Aside from the fake goods, there were numerous places with handwoven leather boots, traditional Turkish shoes, bracelets, clothing, and jewelry. Bar Street is an eclectic area for shopping, dining and shows.

Most of the time during my travels thru Turkey was spent exploring the city and relaxing (drinking) in between. I didn't take many pictures this trip...but I posted a few below.

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