Antalya is Turkey’s fifth-largest city, considerably smaller than Istanbul, Izmir, or Ankara but it is huge, spread-out, very busy with traffic. It has a whirlwind of energy, too. Located on the coast east of Fethiye, it has beaches that attract mainly Russians and Germans, but also visitors from all over the world.
Our guide, Gengis, is a free-lance guide who works for many companies, is a retired engineer, and loves meeting people, showing them the delights of Turkey. Normally, he does longer tours, seven to as many as twenty-one days but this one day with us was a special treat. He was funny, informative, opinionated without being rude, and had many stories about previous travelers.
For example, one story he has not forgotten, is when an American woman tourist was very excited to be visiting Turkey. Then, she asked when the group would be going to Argentina. Gengis told her, without blinking an eye, that if she starts swimming now, she should reach Argentina in a few years! She didn’t get it. Are all Americans so clueless about geography??
Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet, rarely seen so far due to COVID, with dozens of choices to eat. We had to don plastic gloves to go to the buffet and enjoyed everything we selected. After our meal, we met our van and headed off to our first destination, Perge.
Perge is one of the largest and most popular ancient cities in the Pamphylia region, where Perge was its capital. It came under Roman rule in 133 BC, where it flourished, and most of the ruins we saw are from that area. We saw the agora (market), Roman baths, colonnaded streets, a nympharium, and a grand theater, which supposedly held 15,000.
Gengis told us that it is fairly easy to tell which parts were built during the Hellenistic period and which by the Romans. The Greeks didn’t use mortar between the stones or bricks, while the Romans relied on arched doorways held in place with mortar. In some cases, the ruins had a combination of both, depending on when each section was built.
We then went to Side (SEE-deh), one of the most popular and classical ancient cities of Turkey. It also became an important base for the Cilician pirates and their slave trade. With the defeat of the pirates, Side fell under the control of Rome and became part of the Roman Empire, with its own large theater, Roman baths, and the Temple of Apollo.
Our next stop was the Aspendos Ancient Theater. Probably an earlier ancient theater was built in the 2nd century on this site based on the various styles exhibited. This theater can hold over 20,000 people and is currently being used for concerts, ballet, and opera events. As mentioned before, these theaters have the most amazing acoustics, allowing everyone to hear even the slightest sound perfectly.
Time for lunch. We stopped at a very local restaurant that seemed to cater to groups visiting the various ruins. You select a protein, either fresh trout caught in the nearby river, chicken grilled on a skewer, meatballs, or a mix of chicken and meat. There was a table filled with a variety of side dishes that you can add to your protein. Despite our initial negative impression of this restaurant, it proved to be an excellent, prompt choice.
The touring was not over, however. We went to the Kursunlu Waterfall, to enjoy the fresh pine scent of the many trees, cool atmosphere, and beautiful falls. They are not equivalent to Niagra, Victoria, or other spectacular falls. What they possessed was beautiful turquoise water, which gave them a very different look.
Lastly, we stopped at a ruin of a Roman aqueduct, that probably was built in the 3rd century. It provided water to the neighboring towns in the most efficient manner. Those guys were very smart and had engineering skills to rival anyone now.
Another bit of information from Gengis… only 3% of Turkey is in Europe, with 97% a part of Asia. The area south of Istanbul is actually Asia Minor and Anatolia. This is why Turkey is not part of the EU. Turkey’s first president gave women the right to vote in the late 1800’s, considerably earlier than the US, in addition to other rights not given to women for over 100 years..
Well, it is time to head back to the hotel, write this update, have a bite to eat, and pack for our early morning ride to the airport for our flight to Capadoccia.