Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Turkey, Tuesday, June 3


Today's blog will try to bring you up-to-date in a coupleof ways. First, some thoughts on Antalya and touring, and then a capsule from Pat and I on the Gullet experience. Finally, some photos on today (Tuesday's) adventures in our final day in Istanbul.

Long ago, vacationers in need of sun and warm, clean waters to swim – headed for the Mediterranean coast of France, or Italy, or Spain. But those places got crowded, and expensive. Lately, there’s a newer, cheaper alternative. It has more hotel rooms, a longer summer, and plenty of charter boats to host your day or week on the coast. It’s Antalya.

Transformed with billions in foreign investment in the last ten years, the area’s hotel and housing stock has grown to support a summer peak population of over a million. Sporting one of the busiest airports in Turkey, Antalya brings them in, and brings them back again and again.

Three features we saw appealed to us: the Marina, the old town, and the coastal pedestrian promenade along ten miles of scenic cliffs. The cove at the Marina is as gorgeous as one can imagine, full of sleek sailboats, yachts, and fishing trawlers. Narrow, winding streets, lined with merchant shops and 600 year-old houses, snake through the old town near the marina. Connecting the residential and commercial areas, a swift tram parallels the promenade.

Of course, taking long walks through beautiful environments is not what brings most knockoff versions of every product imaginable. They’re young, rich, and looking to have fun without exerting themselves very much. Sailing from anchorages in search of even better places to swim, they eat, sleep and soak up the sun. We joined them for four days, and also found time to explore three ancient ruins in the hills which fronted the beaches.

Our Gullet Adventure
Natalie from Pasha delivers us from the airport in Antalya to the marina at Kerkova. It’s a 3-hour drive across mountains and winding narrow roads. We find at the end that I’ve left my camera back slung over the chair at the hotel restaurant, and subsequent searches prove fruitless. Oh well, a lesson learned. The boat is a 80-foot sloop with nine berths (five forward, four aft) separated by a galley. The passengers are all German, and only a few speak any English. The captain speaks only Turkish, and only the cook speaks German. Her husband (1st Mate) helps both her and the captain, and seems nice enough, buy depends on her to communicate with the rest.

Here’s a little from Pat’s Journal:

We are assigned a quite comfy cabin – with a spacious full bath and almost double bed. The foam mattress actually is the most comfortable we’ve had in Turkey. The other 13 passengers went on a full-day excursion to some canyon to hike, so we visit with a German-Dutch couple who speak English well. Then, we walk around Kerkova – this takes about 20 minutes, and return to the boat to lie on the comfortable cushion seats and enjoy the warm but not hot weather. The pier we are on has about a dozen “daytrip” boats and three other gullets berthed. The neighbor gullet has to use our plank to board their boat. I learn we will be traveling with them throughout. It also has 17 – all German speakers. Although most know English – their banter is all in German – so we are somewhat isolated. But it’s okay, we came to chill out. After three weeks as part of a group, we have an excuse to stand off a bit.

Breakfast the next morning was bread, cheese, butter, tomatoes, and cucumbers with coffee or tea and a thin but tasty omelet. We pulled anchor, headed a few kms east to another cove, anchored again, and all took a swim (except me – got an ear ache). Afterward, we all stretch out like pashas and enjoy the breezes.. Most of the day was spent swimming or soaking up the sun”.

We awoke the next day to the ship’s motor starting up. We are heading east to Olympos. We stop in a shallow bay for breakfast. It’s a bit hazy, but the breeze makes for not too hot a day. We go on to Olympos, and pull into a long beach with ruins on the cliffs right on the water’s edge. The captain takes us by outboard to the shore, and a short walk inland gets us to the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine ruins. It’s quite hot, but a cooling stream runs through a steep valley to the bay, and the ruins are on either side of it. On the road to it, we meet our friends Arthur and Bev from our Grand Turkey Tour coming from the west end parking lot. They had taken a tour bus from a local hotel, and were as surprised as we were. We bring each other up to date on all our interim adventures and fellow travelers, and promise to see each other soon. We’re sure we will, and we’ll stop by to see them whenever we get back to Australia. We have quite a few new friends to see there now.

The ruins include an amphitheater, necropolis, Byzantine Church, huge Roman arched gate, irrigation canals leading to a two-story house with mosaic floors, and several large
Sarcophagus (i)?. Back to the boat for another cruise to a bay, and sight of another ruin (Phaselius). This one is larger, and contains an aqueduct and a central paved main street with temples. After an hour ashore, we sail again to a small bay to anchor and swim again.

The captain and first mate go ashore to fill four large bottles of water. We learn that the group seems to be running through showers too frequently (all this swimming and rinsing off on deck). The captain is upset, and the group gets very tense about it. Adding to the tension is the fact that the toilets aren’t flushing, and the captain isn’t clear about what is the cause.”

The next two days are an interesting drama. As it turned out, the water pump had broken. This led to some hostility between the captain and the cook, and between the captain and the owner of the boat when we finally docked for the final night. On Sunday morning breakfast, as we were about to leave for our flights, we heard that the captain was fired. We weren’t surprised, as most of us had sided with the cook. As valuable as captains are, they are no match for multilingual, competent chefs who don’t break parts of their boats.

Thoughts about Historic Ruin Tour Design
We probably had the perfect ruin tour design. First, it takes a special group of travelers who are both physically and mentally prepared for the rigors of multi-ruin, 300km days. Second, it takes a bright, sensitive, and motivated tour guide to be able to keep the tour group on its schedule. Third, it takes a very good driver to navigate the roads and military/governmental barriers which present themselves. We had all three.

Our core tour group was composed of eight Australians and seven North Americans. All were seasoned travelers over 40 years of age. At one point, we concluded that collectively we had been everywhere on the planet (including one woman who had been to Antarctica three times). Most had cameras, were good hikers, and could exit a bus in under a minute.

Our guides were eager to lead such a group. We learned later how important it was to a guide to have travelers who didn’t fall asleep every time they got on a bus for the next leg of the trip (especially after lunch if there was another ruin before the long hall to the next hotel). One of the tips for a good outing is for the guide and the travelers to have a good conversation on the bus about what to expect when you get to the site. The worst kind of outing is when all of the explanations about the ruins have to occur on the site. Most travelers want to be set free once they get off the bus to explore with the knowledge they have (from guides or guidebooks). Standing around in the hot sun or rain listening to a guide say what he should have said in the bus – is a real downer for the trip.

Travelers should be capable of keeping up with the group, should not spending time wandering away from the site, or delaying the group by not returning at the designated time to the bus.

Today, we went looking for the Archeological Museum, and the cisterns. We had to wait until noon to get started in order to secure designated seats on our flight home, we were moving quickly through both. We were not disappointed by either. To say that we keep encountering things that overwhelm us is the understatement. I am only disappointed that I was not able to avoid the museum cops more in order to take more photos (no flash rules were being strictly enforced, and the exhibits were all very dark). My next camera will be easier to know how to turn off the flash!!

For a look at the day's photos, click on: Turkey Tuesday June 3

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