Bergama Theatre Bergama Trajan Temple Dalyan Lycian Tombs Kaprulu Kanyon Afrodisias Tetrapylon Demre Beach Ortahisar Volcanic Plug Goreme Sunset View Yoruk Turquoise Treasures and Volcanic Vistas draw Travellers to Turkey
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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Happy Saturnalia

Welcome Back Thailand

Grand Palace, Bangkok
Grand Palace, Bangkok
UPDATE: our 33-day trip is nearly over and we had a great time. Driving in TH was quite an experience.  Bangkok has changed the most.  Traffic is a nightmare!

Actually, it is we who are going back to Thailand many years after our three year Round-The-World (RTW) trip.

Three Chedis, Ayutthaya
Three Chedis, Ayutthaya

We are off to see the chedis of Chiang Mai, the birds of Northern Thailand, the wats of Ayutthaya and the palaces of Bangkok. 
National Palace Laquerware, Bangkok
National Palace Laquerware, Bangkok

These photos from our RTW trip were used in our Appreciating AsiaTM course at the University of Alberta.

Hill Tribe Girl, Fang Area
Hill Tribe Girl, Fang Area
The Turkey blog will resume after January 10th with the two best highlights of our Turkey trip, Cappadocia and Safranbolu. 
Nativity Scene, Santa Maria d'Aracoeli, Rome
Nativity Scene, Santa Maria d'Aracoeli, Rome
So we want to wish you all a Happy New Years as well as Merry Christmas -- or should that be Happy Saturnalia as we explained in our Patara and Saturnalia and the Mithraism and Christianity posts. 
As you think about Christmas remember that there was a real Saint Nicolas born in Patara (see post).  Bishop Nicolas was influential in the Synod of Nicaea that finalized the New Testament.  So yes there was a real Santa Claus and he was from Turkey (though he was Greek)!!

Next Post: Göreme Top 9 Sights
Last Post:  Kizkalesi

Thursday, 11 December 2014


Maiden's Castle (Kiz Kalesi)

Gorgeous Coast, Turkey
Gorgeous Coast
The main reasons to stop in Kizkalesi are to see the Maiden's Castle (Kiz Kalesi) that appears to float on top of the water and the exquisite, soft sand beach.  But we can now add the drop dead gorgeous coast on the way there as a big reason.  Our final reason was to have a stopover before the big trek across the Taurus Mountains to Goreme, Cappadocia.

From Kaleiçi (Antalya's former castle) we drove to Alanya, which is wall-to-wall modern hotels. I am not sure why people want to go to a town where every space is filled with modern hotels. It does have an extensive beach but it reminds me of Miami. 

Magnificent Verdant View, Turkey
Magnificent Verdant View
Our hotel hosts thought it was crazy to drive 7 hours in one day to Kizkalesi. But the point is to see the scenery and it's on the way to Goreme.  The distance is short but it is a winding, cliff-hugging road with lots of traffic.
Stunning Sand, Terrific Turquoise
Stunning Sand
A new expressway will eventually take most of the traffic away from this coastal road. If your schedule is tight then you can bypass this long drive along the coast and head directly from Antalya to Cappadocia.  But this rugged coastal scenery is gorgeous and probably second only to the turquoise-fringed beaches of Demre.
Terrific Turquoise, Turkey
Terrific Turquoise
The only thing missing is pullovers at the view of the turquoise-etched coves from high up on this ledge road. When there was a decent size space to stop, we took photos of the coastal views. Unfortunately, we never found any place for lunch (again).   We are going to have to complain to the tour operator!  It was only 420 km to Kizkalesi but it actually took nine hours to drive there. 

Kizkalesi Castle
Kizkalesi Castle
On the plus side, we arrived just in time to see the Maiden's Castle (Kiz Kalesi) in sunset lighting. It is located on a shallow island located just 150 m off shore so that it appears to be floating on the sea.  It dates from Byzantine era and was used as a fort during the Crusades. There is a second castle at the end of the beach.

Rain Hotel

We were worried when we got to the hotel and the doors were locked.  The hotel manager from across the street came over and reassured us that the manager probably went shopping.  So he kept us company.  He spoke perfect English having worked in Britain for a while.

We are the only guests at the Rain Hotel in Kizkalesi!  It is a very modern place.  We spent a lot of time speaking with the owner, Mehmet Shirin, who speaks perfect English.  My sister 'Umet' thinks he looks like he could be our cousin.

Narlikuyu Nosh
Narlikuyu Nosh
Mehmet drove with us to a nearby town of Narlikuyu (west of Kizkalesi) that has several seafood restaurants at the harbour.  Since he was a regular customer there he made sure they prepared a special meal for us. We had the best sea bass as it was grilled rather than fried. We had so much food we made up for not eating lunch.   We had seaweed of some kind and a delish green salad as well as a version of fried potatoes plus a banana and desert with yummy Turkish coffee.  We ate while admiring the views of the sea.

The rest of the evening we spent talking with Mehmet and finding out all about him. He is Kurdish and his family moved here when the Turkish army burned down their village. The Kurdish language is related to the Farsi (Iranian) branch of the Indo-European language group. He said 39,000 people died over the last 30 years.  The situation appears to have been resolved peacefully last year.  He showed us pictures of his son (he is separated).  Now we are watching Istanbul playing Chelsea in an EU football game.

Busy Beach, Kizkalesi
Busy Beach
The next morning before breakfast we walked from our hotel just half a block to the beach. None of the hotels are actually on the shore. All beaches and shoreline are owned by the government so there are no private beaches. The sand was very soft but the size was small. Otherwise this ranks up there as one of the top five beaches on the Turquoise Coast.
Mehmet Shirin, Kizkalesi
There were some small bits of garbage dropped on the beach - I assume by the locals since there were no tourists.  Mehmet said during the season they will use a vehicle to clean the beach. They get very few foreigners as most of their guests are Turkish.  We had a nice breakfast outside the hotel on the road-side terrace.  Again the Turkish coffee was to die for.

Next Post: Happy Saturnalia
Last Post:  Stupendous Aspendos and Köprülü Kanyon

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Aspendos and Köprülü

Awesome Aspendos, Colourful Köprülü | Antalya Turkey | in-depth travel advice from Terra Encounters This post is about the last of the reasons for visiting Antalya: to use it as a base for the surrounding archaeological sites as well as nature delights.  The two sites we chose were the famous Roman theatre at Aspendos and the gorgeous green river flowing through Köprülü Kanyon.

Stupendous Aspendos

Stupendous Aspendos
Today we drove 40 km (one hour) to see the Aspendos Theatre only to find out that it was closed for three months to put a concrete roof over the semicircular gallery at the top of the theatre.  By the way, that is not too controversial since the Romans invented concrete. In fact, the greatest Roman temple was one of the first to use concrete. That building is not a ruin and is still in use today.   
Cleaning the Road to the Acropolis
It is known as the Pantheon - the largest dome ever built until the Houston Astrodome.   
So I hiked up to the acropolis, which was mildly interesting. I passed some locals who were cleaning up the road with views of verdant fields fringed by low mountains in the background.
Acropolis Main Road
There was a partially uncovered sewer or aqueduct - take care. At the top of the acropolis were a large set of ruins especially one very large basilica, which was the origin of both the name and the architecture for the Christian Basilica.
Then I walked back to the road on the left then up "theatre hill" (there's a sign) for dramatic views of the whole interior of the theatre from above. 
Aspendos Theatre
It is completely intact and massive. It did not fall down during the major earthquake in the 4th C that destroyed the rest of the city.  While it would be overpopulated by tour groups in high season, we had the site to ourselves except for four young Chinese tourists, who came by taxi.

So why was this architectural miracle located here in the middle of nowhere? All the important tourist sites of today were once important cities in the past. Aspendos was founded by the Hittites, who like the Lycians came from the Caucasus region as part of the great Aryan migration that led to Europeans and European languages.  It later became Persian, who are also descendant of the Aryans. It was freed in 467 BC from the Persians.  The Greeks used one of their tricks: they sent men in the clothing of their Persian captives and were let into the city for a celebration.   Then the Greeks attacked. While the Persians recaptured it in 411 BC, Alexander the Great conquered it in 333 BC.
Aspendos Basilica
Aspendos was not a capital or major power.  So how did Aspendos afford this splendour?  It was able to finance these buildings because it was rich due to trade in salt, wool and oil. The theatre was established by Emperor Marcus Aurelius in second century CE.  Its main redeeming feature is that it is huge and intact. But it is bereft of any decoration.  I still prefer the theatre in Hierapolis (in Pamukkale) where there are partial columns and statues decorating the stage.  So in retrospect, if we had to choose which sites to visit, we would opt for Hierapolis and Afrodisias, which have a lot more to see.
Emerald Koprulu River
Aspendos only took about one hour so that is a good indication.  Today was an example where having a car makes a difference. We were able to choose another destination we had not planned. 

Köprülü Kanyon

How Did They Build This Bridge?
So we drove 45 km further east to Köprülü Canyon. That was a pleasant surprise. First we traversed flat farms surrounded by low mountains when suddenly the first viewpoint of the river appeared on our left. It was overlooking the first of the river rafting companies. Köprülü is famous for river rafting.  Below us flowed a gorgeous emerald green river. 

Amazing Roman Bridge
Then things got very dramatic as the river and the road go through a narrow canyon.  The road hugs a cliff then crosses a beautiful stone arched bridge 27 m above the gorgeous green river. But wait the sign says this was built by the Romans in 2nd Century CE!  Wow, and it still supports cars after almost 2000 years.  Köprü means bridge, so clearly this was an engineering feat even in its time. Admission to Köprülü National Park is free by the way.

No Diving
I got out of the car and climbed massive rocks along the cliff on the other side of the bridge to get better photos of the canyon.   At the highest point the walls rise 400 m above the river. Pine and cedar trees cling to the rocky crust. The ancient road led to Selge, which has a Roman theatre and a Temple of Zeus.

Construction Zone
On the way back, we saw some locals building a retaining wall.  Then the rough, dirt road under construction was damaged by a mud slide that swept away a part of the road. Everyone waited while the construction crew filled in the gap. They were already there because they are creating a better and hopefully wider road.  So that was our adventure for today.

Next Post: Kizkalesi
Last Post:  Antalya Kaleiçi

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Antalya Kaleiçi

Kaleiçi – Castle of Antalya

Lost in Kaleiçi
This post is about two of the reasons for visiting Antalya: the Old City of Kaleiçi, with its gorgeous Ottoman houses, and food.  We had just finished our morning at the Antalya Archaeological Museum described in our last post and we're finally driving to our hotel.
Kaleiçi means “within the castle” but today this was more like the road to hell.  I did not have a paper map because I was relying on the old technique of “offline” Google map of Kaleiçi and, of all days, it disappeared from my tablet.  Antalya has the worst signs and there was no tourist office.  Doesn’t the city realize that there are tourists who are driving in their city?  
Kaleiçi Caddesi
We got lost several times and there are a lot of one way roads surrounding the old Ottoman city of Kaleiçi that necessitated going a long way around every time we came to a dead end.  It was exceedingly hard to find the one entrance you needed to take to drive the one way road into the mainly pedestrian only old city of Kaleiçi.  The narrow road (Kocatepe Sokak) is to the right just after Hadrian's Gate heading south on the main shopping street, Ataturk Caddesi, which is a one way road.  It looked like no entry was allowed.  Once on that road it seemed like it was taking forever and I still didn't know where the hotel was in Kaleiçi no signs for hotels are allowed.  Eventually I parked the car and walked until I found the pension.  Then I had to re-find the car and my wife too! Fortunately the hotel provided a great map.

Our Room in the White Garden
It had taken two hours trying to find our hotel, the White Garden Pansion, a gorgeous 125 year old Ottoman house. The photo shows our room, which has the oriel window that juts out over the street.  
In terms of architecture this was one of the special places we stayed at in Turkey. It was a pleasure to sit in the dining room each morning and have the typical Turkish breakfast surrounded by beautiful wood ceilings and green outdoor garden outside the glass wall.  

Outstanding Ottoman Houses
We still hadn't eaten so we walked through Kaleiçi along Hespaçi Sokak bypassing the more expensive tourist restaurants toward the place we were going to try out.  There were some touts – though not as bad as Istanbul asking you to buy at their shop.  We just ignored them.  There were many examples of stone and timber-framed Ottoman architecture.  This was definitely a larger and more affluent Ottoman area than two places described in our Cumalikizik & Bursa – Ottoman Delight post. 

Hadrian's Gate
Finally we reached Hadrian's Gate, which was erected to commemorate his visit in 130 CE, but was not built by Emperor Hadrian – who did complete the Temple of Trajan in Precipitous Pergamon.  Üçkapılar (its Turkish name) means three arches. 
This typical Roman triumphal gate is built entirely of white marble, which contrasts with the brown adjoining towers.  It is amazing that cart wheels could have carved the deep grooves in the stone pavement beneath the central arch. 

Tea anyone?
Once we exited the old city through Hadrian's Gate onto Ataturk Blvd, it was another world of Antalyans shopping and talking.
There were lots of young people in very modern clothes.  A çaycı (Turkish tea waiter) circulates the small wall-side park selling tea.  The word çay (pronounced chai) comes from Hindi chai, where their word and the tea originated.

Kaleiçi Kafe
We walked on Recip Peker Cd two blocks then turned right to Arik Cd 4 to find the non-descript Can Can Pide ve Kebab Salonu. We had a late lunch of two yummy mercimek çorbası (lentil) soups, one pide (type of pizza), and two teas.  I still think the pide in Toronto is better.  Even though we were only a couple of blocks away from Kaleiçi, there were no tourists.  We shared the table with the locals.  That meal cost TRY 17 for both of us!  In the tourist area the mains alone were TRY 20 ($10) each!!!  

Wedding Photo Shoot
I also became a wedding photographer today.  I was walking down the narrow alleys and came upon a shocking sight. A Turkish couple all dressed up and making dramatic poses.  They were so cute and really seemed to be enjoying their photo shoot.  
I even photographed the wedding photographer as she was wearing special outfit as well. 
Capturing the Photographer

After that we walked to the clock tower – wow, this is where the locals were hanging out.  Then we walked back via Uzun Çarşı Sokak.  We were nearly back – I think it was around Kaledibi Sokak – when I saw a sign for sahlep TRY 3.  As mentioned in the Topkapi Palace Paradise post, the aromatic sahlep drink is made from wild orchid root, milk, honey, cinnamon and vanilla – and it is yummy!  I could have had a second cup.

Because that very late lunch was filling, we never did have supper. We went back to the pension but sat downstairs in the Ottoman lobby where there are divans and sofas and had tea (just ask the desk) and talked with the concierge.  
Hidirlik Tower

Kaleiçi Day 2

It was a glorious sunny day.  We went to the Ancient Roman Hıdırlık Tower at the end of Hespaçi Sokak.  

Taurus Mountains

We discovered the extensive Karaalioglu Park along the sea with fabulous views of the snow-capped Taurus Mountains across the bay.  So that’s why people like it here.

Our Oldest Breakfast Table
We returned to our hotel for breakfast in the Ottoman foyer.  In summer everyone goes outside to eat in the inner courtyard.  In the mornings we talked with the owner, Metin, and especially his very helpful nephew who was working the reception at the hotel.  Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, cereal, cooked meats and cheese, and very good coffee.  

The Youngest Tourist

At breakfast, we met the cutest Dutch girl who had a gorgeous smile, and loves football (soccer). Unfortunately, she didn't talk very much but you cannot have everything. She is only 14 months old!!!   

Next Post: Stupendous Aspendos and Köprülü Kanyon
Last Post:  Antalya Archaeology Museum

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Antalya Archaeology Museum


Is it worth going to Antalya?  The top five reasons for coming to Antalya are:
  1. Antalya Archaeological Museum one the best in Turkey
  2. Old City of Kaleiçi yes it's touristy but quaint
  3. Base for surrounding ancient sites such as Aspendos, Termessos, and Perge
  4. Base for Köprülü Kanyon day trip
  5. Food
Antalya Archaeological Museum: Roman Sculpture
Roman Sculpture Alley
Each of these bolded places will get its own post.  Some travel forums are very negative about visiting Antalya.  Yes it's a large city but so are Istanbul and Bursa.  If your goal is to mainly spend time on a beach then for sure stay at smaller towns discussed in pervious posts, like Dalyan, Demre, and Kaş.

Digging Archaeology at the
Antalya Museum

As we are driving in from the west side, we made an executive decision to go straight to the Antalya Archaeological Museum rather than our hotel in the old city, Kaleiçi.  There was ample parking and we spent at least two hours there.  If you dig archaeology you could easily spend more time. The museum is located at the curve in Konyaalti Caddesi that heads to/from Kaleiçi.

Silk Routes

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Gorgeous Blue Bowl and Flasks
Gorgeous Blue Bowl and Flasks
The reason for the wealth of objects in Turkey is that Istanbul and Ephesus served as the terminus of the Silk Trade Routes.  There was not a single Silk Road, a term invented by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in the 19th century.  There were many routes, including some sea routes (see the Silk Routes Map).

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Glass, one of the West's Inventions
Glass, one of the West's Inventions
There is another misconception to clear up.  While we know many inventions, art, silk, paper, gunpowder and other goods came from the East; there were many inventions and goods from the West that went to Asia.  In the hall of small objects look at the amazing glass with ornate colour patterns.  Glass is one of these inventions. It is associated to Ancient Rome but the first true glass was invented in what is now Syria.  Cotton, cosmetics, chairs, peaches and grapes are some of the western exports. 

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Romanesque Niches
Romanesque Niches
The museum is very well laid out with lots of space between artefacts. I loved the Romanesque niches that were used to highlight each statue. This also gives a feel for the way these statues would have been displayed in Ancient Roman times. The lighting was either very atmospheric or purposely too dark for good photography.  Their policy of no flash is ridiculous as I seriously question whether flash can affect stone.  Let's get real.  
Antalya Archaeological Museum: Resting God
Resting God
The more likely reason is to prevent photographers from getting good photos rather than buying the museums' books. After learning how to let my new digital camera adjust the ISO sensitivity (formerly film speed) automatically, I was able to capture photos without the use of a tripod. However the photos may be grainy.  Some of the best photographic subjects are the Ancient Roman sculptures.  The main hall to visit is filled with statues of gods excavated from nearby Perge, 11 km east of Antalya.  The next in importance is the hall of Emperors and their wives.

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Emperor Trajan
Emperor Trajan
As you look upon an ageing Trajan dressed in military cuirass, remember that he was the one who fought many wars to expand Rome to its greatest territory. Also remember he was responsible for starting the Temple of Trajan in Pergamon (discussed in an earlier post), which was finished by his successor, Hadrian.

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Emperor Hadrian
Emperor Hadrian

Admire the statue of Hadrian from the North Nymphaeum at Perge.  Hadrian stopped expanding the Roman Empire as he preferred to promote the arts and architecture. As you take in his portrait, remember that he was also an architect and sponsored the construction of the greatest building and dome of ancient history the Pantheon.

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Coins
Heads or Tails?
A side trip upstairs brings you to the numismatics section. Lydia (located just north of Lycia) invented the first coins in the world.  Alexander the Great spread the idea around the world while promoting his image on the "heads" side.   Some things have not changed.  Royalty or presidents still adorn the "heads" side.
Coming back to the ground floor, is probably the best statue in the museum especially because it used to be in two pieces.  The “Weary Herakles” is a Roman marble statue that was excavated in 1980 in Perge, Turkey.  However, the top half was removed during excavations and sold to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.   After much negotiation, Hercules finally returned to Turkey in 2011 and the top portion was reattached to the torso.

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Hercules
Hercules 1 Lion 0
Herakles or Hercules was the god of heroes, sports, athletes, health, fertility, and divine protector of mankind.  One look at this statue and you know he was a paragon of masculinity, strength, and sexual prowess. Heracles used his wits on several occasions when his strength did not suffice.
The skin of the conquered Nemean Lion is shown draped on his left side.  This was a mythological lion with golden fur that was impervious to attack and claws that could cut through any armour.  It could not be killed with human weapons.  The lion was strangled to death by Heracles.
I love the chiaroscuro lighting with Heracles appearing out of the dark shadows in a corner niche.  It is truly the piece de resistance of the museum, which really has a knack for presentation and lighting.
Next came a hall filled with Sarcophagi, lots and lots of them.  Normally, this where your brain shuts down because you don't know what to look for or appreciate.  It's also so much easier to get "museumed out" when you're hungry we still hadn't had lunch. Sometimes our days feel like we are on a guided tour but without the meals and we have to do the driving.

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Sarcophagus of Aurelia Botain Demetria
Riot of Figurines
We did notice the sculptured bas reliefs along the sides of the coffins.  However one huge coffin was a work of art, the Sarcophagus of Aurelia Botain Demetria, from 2nd Century Perge.  Soon after several art students sat down and drew pictures of it. So we had made a good choice.

Antalya Archaeological Museum: Blue Outfit
Blue Woman

As we completed the tour, we were impressed by the clothing and artefacts in the ethnography hall.  What gorgeous blue dyes were used in the clothing.  It's hard to believe that the outfits are in such good condition.  

Next Post: Kaleiçi – Castle of Antalya
Last Post:  Cirali and Demre - Turquoise Coast Treasures