Last Thursday night, in a stunning turn of events I found myself at ASTI for weekend 3 of 4 in a row of traveling. Unlike my previous few trips, I had company on the journey. Jessica, who is placed in Zonguldak, arrived in Ankara at 9pm. We grabbed a late dinner from a restaurant in the bus station. One of the workers remembered me from when Karlene and I had sat up there before catching our bus to Maras a month before. Stomachs full, Jessica and I boarded our bus to Antalya at 11pm.
A miracle occurred the next morning and our bus got in 25 minutes earlier than the online projection. We took the shuttle to Akdeniz University, where Mariya and Alex work, and then we followed Mariya’s directions the short walk to their apartment. Mariya let us in and gave us water and a snack. Alex was still sleeping, as was Konya Fulbrighter Ben and his friend John. Once we rehydrated, Jessica and I took a nap. When we woke a few hours later, the others were starting to put together kahvalti. We ate on one of their balconies, which has a view of the Mediterranean (hooray for seeing all the Turkish seas!)
With the various dishes and utensils in the dishwasher, everyone got dressed and we headed first into the city center and then into an area called Kaleci (The Castle). We passed the clock tower and a famous minaret, and then began winding downhill through the twisting streets of the bazar.
The shops opened up on the marina. On a whim, we decided to take a boat tour for only 10 tl each. We sat up top and only waited about 15 minutes before the boat was full enough to head out. The boat drove up close to one of the cliffs so we could see a small waterfall up close. From there, we zipped through the harbour, going around a bend or two before heading back in.
There was a boat photographer, Provincetown Ferry Style, and halfway through the ride he came back around and distributed group shots in frames and individual pictures on ceramic squares. I didn’t need a plate with my face on it, but I did buy the group picture, partially because I like those kinds of things, partially because the frame itself included the name of a city we were not in and the image of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Back on land, we went in search of lunch and found sandwiches on a side street, falafel for me, fish for everyone else. After walking through a garden with an aerial view of the sea and perusing a few more shops, we headed back to the apartment.
A few hours later, the six of us were on a shuttle to Olympos, another ‘city’ in the Antalya province. The first ride was a little over an hour, and then there was a second, smaller service that was about 20 minutes. We arrived at Bayram’s Treehouse Bungalows just after 10, and the owner showed us to the kitchen so we could get dinner. Ben had been to Olympos and Bayram’s before, so he was our sort of guide for the experience.
We went for a walk along a dried river bed, the path bordered by Roman ruins we would get a better view of the next day. Our way was lit by a nearly-if-not-all-the-way full moon, the white rocks reflecting back to show a safe place to put our feet. The pathway opened up on the beach, where a few groups were already scattered, some around small bonfires. A mountain curved around on our right, keeping us sheltered from the breeze and giving the sea something to crash against. We could see the stars, something Ankara’s light pollution makes impossible. The whole thing felt like a living poem. We sat for a while, drinking in the moment. When our bottle of wine was gone, we retraced the rocky path and headed for bed.
Breakfast was a pretty decent kahvalti spread at the hostel. We went back to the national park, this time through the main entrance, getting in free with our museum cards. We explored the ruins along the main path, which included some pretty cool arches. Ben had said there were a ton more besides what was along the river, but there were no clear paths to them and the other girls wanted to get to the beach, so we didn’t linger in the history too long.
Down on the beach, which was just as pretty in the daylight, there were only a few groups of people spread out along the shore. Before settling in, we climbed along the cliffside and sat in a sort of cove for a few minutes, watching the beach from the other side. I had brought a pair of Old Navy flip flops so I had the easiest time getting to the cove and back to the beach. Our towels were down and sunscreen was reapplied by 12:30.
After a couple hours, a few flips, and very entertaining show of Jessica trying to get Mariya to float in the water, I got up to stretch my legs and walk down the other side of the beach. I found the boys pretty quickly, who had been unable to spot us when they found their way out of the ruins. They went to join Mariya, Alex, and Jessica while I continued my walk.
Eventually we got hungry, so we packed up and exited the park, scoping out restaurants on the way out. We picked a gozleme place. I had mine filled with potatoes, and the portion sizes were pretty impressive. When the bill was paid, we returned to Bayram’s collected our bags, and waited for the shuttle to the shuttle.
Back in Antalya, we knocked off a few showers, and then we bussed back into the city center for dinner. Mariya and I got lentil soup and everyone else got sheep face meat soup. We also got a couple plates of piaz, a bean dish local to Antalya. We got on a bus 20 minutes before transit shut down and then got to bed.
We all aimed to get up at 7 Sunday morning, but only Ben, Jessica, and I were successful in doing so. A little after 8, we went to a cafe down the street to get simit and hot drinks–filter coffee for Ben, çay for Jessica, sahlep for me. I had to ask for my sahlep twice and have Jessica say it once before the man working understood what I was saying. It’s pronounced exactly the way you think it is, but there are plenty of people whose brains shut down when a foreigner starts speaking because there’s just no way a (half) blond person could possibly be saying Turkish words.
When the group was reunited, we started the trip to Expo 2016, the inheritor of the old World’s Fairs. This year’s theme was Children and Flowers, and the gates had just opened the day before. (They’ll close on my birthday). Mariya had read on the Expo blog that this year was the first time everything was finished ahead of schedule, but the cranes and scaffolding found upon concluding the hour long ride quickly put that idea to rest.
The website listed a regular day pass as 30 lira (which I could not purchase online because Turkish sites don’t take my US cards, my Turkish debit card cannot be used online, and my computer I have access to once a week never got hooked up to the computer) but the site did not indicate that a ticket purchased in person would actually set you back 60 lira. Parts were clearly unfinished, and some parts that were took the theme of children a little too far, making displays and workshops strictly for children only instead of about them. There were plenty of flowers, but I was expecting more.
In general the experience was underwhelming, but it wasn’t wholly negative. There was a biodiversity museum that was sort of like an interactive light show that we all thought was really cool. Overall, I had the feeling that this was the sort of thing I would have liked a lot more if I could come on my own and walk around at my own pace. We weren’t expecting the bus to be so long, so our time was a bit limited, making it harder to get the full experience in that regard too.
After getting Subway for lunch (the most economical option), we started the trip back to the apartment. Ben and John took a 6:00 bus and Jessica’s was at 6:30. After we dropped them off at the shuttle pickup spot, Mariya, Alex and I made a veggie packed dinner and ended up napping for a bit. I got the shuttle at 9, got a late night tour of the city, and my bus pulled out of the Antalya otogar at 10.
The weekend felt a lot longer than three days, and we did quite a lot. I had to trim many of the experiences to keep this post from getting stupid long. I was so tired that I actually slept pretty well on my bus back. One of my students asked me this afternoon how I have the energy to travel so often. I told him that I wasn’t doing so well in the energy department today, but I’ve designated the first weekend in May as Ankara Only time so that has a light at the end of the tunnel aspect to it. More importantly, time is running out, and March and April have acted like catch up months for September-February. In the 50 days remaining, I’d be fine if I didn’t get to anywhere else, but I wouldn’t be opposed to getting to use one or two more of the fancy pins I ordered off Amazon either.