They say that Finns love to travel, and several studies seem to back up the assertion that Finns are the “most-traveled” nation, with some estimates of over seven trips a year. It’s a bit easier to do as a Finn, since the civilized work schedule offers plenty of time to take off for parts abroad, plus many tour companies cater to the idea that Finns like to get the heck out of Dodge for a week at a time.
I just got back from one of those tour group weeks, which took place over the “ski week” vacation time. It coincides with Mardi Gras back home, so it was nice to get away from all the reminders that my friends were attending parades and donning the festive green, gold, and purple. However, at some point in the week, it was the same temperature in Helsinki as it was in New Orleans. Go figure!
Our trip was to Antalya, Turkey. I will admit, Turkey was not on my bucket list. It may or may not be on yours. However, if you are a foodie or a history buff, you should definitely add it there. While unseasonably cool (of course, since I wanted heat), the weather most of the week was beyond beautiful, and the landscape was breathtaking. We had blue skies, some white fluffy clouds, and I simply could not take a bad picture if I wanted to. This was not due to the skill of the photographer, but rather the beauty of my subject matter.
We left early Saturday morning, and flew on a budget airline called Corendon. The flying posture was “knees around ears”, and I would bet money that it has the tightest seating arrangement of any commercial airliner. And it is no frills. On a four hour flight, you paid for drink and food, and got really chummy with your seatmate. We arrived at Antalya Havalimanı airport around 1300, and were herded towards our bus and tour guide. We found out that we were staying at the Siam Elegance Hotel and Resort, which was…well, my takeaway from that stay is that the beds were very hard. I dreaded going to bed at night because of the state of my back come morning. Other than that, it was okay, but definitely a hotel that is simply there to shelter tour guests.
Our tour included an Antalya city tour and lunch, and that included two stops to see our “sponsors”, which, according to the tour guide, was the reason why our tour could be offered at such a cheap price. We got about an hour in the old city, which was enough time for me to spend more money than what I should have.
We ended up hiring the hotel tour guide, Tufan, to drive us out to Aspendos, Side, and Manavgat Falls on Tuesday. Best money we spent. We weren’t rushed, he took us where we wanted to go, we had time to wander the ruins without worrying about missing a bus, there weren’t crowds of people, and it was just perfect. He even took us by an ancient Roman bridge, and dropped us off, and we walked to the other side and met him there, with time to stop and take plenty of pictures. In Side, we walked through the old town, all the way to see the Temple of Apollo, then ate lunch at a cliffside, open air restaurant, within sight of the temple. The view from the table is my new happy place.
We toured the Aspendos ruins, which was amazing. Leave yourself plenty of time to do that. We spent almost two hours, climbing the amphitheater, as well as the “goat paths” to the ruins of the basilica and other structures. Again, plenty of time to soak in the ancient history and take some amazing pictures.
Wednesday, we took a group tour of a river boat ride down the river to the Mediterranean Sea. Since it was the off-season, it was pretty cold, but the landscape was gorgeous. Our guide took us to see the mosque in Manavgat, which is one of the largest in the Antalya Province. It was very interesting to hear about all the rituals associated with their prayers, and to see the beautiful building.
Thursday, we had hired Tufan again, and he took us to Perge, to see the ancient ruins there, as well as back to the city of Antayla, so that we could go to the museum. After wandering through the museum, we walked along the coastline, and made our way back to the square, where he met us. We had some street food along the way — I heartily recommend the hot buttered corn with pomegranate sauce!
Unfortunately, I am restricted on space to add pictures, so I will leave you with a link to some of photos I took, posted to Flickr. I hope you enjoy them.