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
All photos copyright © 2014 Terra Encounters All Rights Reserved

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