As a new year’s resolution- 2015, both Verina and I had strongly resolved to take a trip to one of the three destinations – Turkey, Thailand or Greece. Turkey and Greece were my preferred destinations, whereas Thailand was Verina’s. I don’t know how I managed to convince her that Turkey was a better choice, but I somehow did. So by March, 2015 we were certain of visiting Turkey by the end of the year.
In a war among Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Antalya and Izmir, Pamukkale emerged as a winner as the pictures on the internet mesmerized us. Both of us wanted to visit it at any cost. Cappadocia was eliminated as it was a one off destination and the early morning hot air balloon ride was the only attraction. So it left us with Izmir, Pamukkale and Antalya. Pamukkale was closer to Antalya, and we could easily arrange for a day trip from Antalya. Only later we realized that Izmir also offered day trips to Pamukkale. Mother Mary’s home was a major attraction in Izmir which we had to relinquish. But we are happy that three years later in 2018, we actually had a trip to Izmir to see the birth place of Mother Mary. Hence, on the 11th of September, 2015, at 3: 30 am we boarded a Pegasus flight to Istanbul from Dubai.
Antalya is a small sleepy town located in the southern Anatolian coast of Turkey. Famous for its turquoise waters, it is a preferred holiday destination among tourists. Let me begin with our experience on the first day of travel.
The journey from Dubai to Istanbul was quite eventful, beginning with our flight being delayed by an hour. We had booked our flights keeping in mind a buffer time for “just in case” situations. We were supposed to reach Istanbul at 7:30 and had a connection to Antalya at 9:30 am. Our flight Pegasus landed at Istanbul’s Sabia Gocken at 9 am giving us a small window of just half an hour to board the connection from the same airline. As it was our first port of entry, we had to pass through the country’s border control. I have seen a few border control counters, but this was one of the worst. There was a long queue and to make matters worse, there were only three counters which were functional. The staff wasn’t to be seen anywhere and the ones who were present were least bothered about efficiency. This experience of ours remains with us and to be frank, this was the best the Turkish had to offer. Our later experiences with the country’s airports and airlines were pathetic, to say the least. Pegasus is easily the worst flight we have taken in our lives in terms of timeliness.
We were sure of missing the flight, but then there were 2 couples who also were heading to Antalya and to our amazement they already had their boarding passes. We were told by the flight attendants to collect the passes from the Pegasus counter after going through the border control. When we asked one of the couples, they said that there was machine nearby and we could collect it from there. Verina stayed at the line and I sprinted to the boarding pass machines. Out of the three, two were not functional and there was an Indian family haggling over the machine’s inefficiency. Fortunately, they left half way and I was third in line now. It took just 2 minutes for me to get to the machine and I too immediately got my tickets. By now, Verina had almost reached the counter and a sweet Arab couple allowed me to bypass the line and helped me get to my wife. We passed the border control and dashed towards the gate to find, that the connecting flight was delayed too. It was such a relief. Inefficiency can sometimes help.
This flight was a short one and we reached Antalya at around 11:30 am. We
had booked at Ozmen Pension and had asked for a pick up. It was hot and we both
didn’t like the place immediately. Coming from the simmering weather of Dubai,
we both didn’t want a hot vacation. The driver took us to Ozmen Pension through
narrow, kind of European alleys. There is a lot of influence of Europe on
Turkey; after all it is a part of Europe. We now were mesmerized by the narrow
winding pavements of the old Antalya. Our opinion was slowly changing. The
hotel room was agonizingly small. But we were aware of this fact as Trip
Advisor had warned us about this and yet we decided to live in the olden part
of the c
The hotel staff showed us around a little. Breakfast was to be served on the terrace. There was an amazing view from the terrace and we both couldn’t wait for next day’s breakfast. But we had planned to go to Pamukkale the next day and the breakfast and the view had to wait for one more day.
The street where we lived was full of restaurants and pubs and we had lunch at one of them. Verina always wanted to eat Doner Kebab, the way she used to get in Cardiff: full of meat and sauce dripping all over. We ordered one, but we got a huge plate full of grilled meat and bread, instead. I believe the Cardiff way of Doner Kebab might have been more customized to Welsh style. One of the high lights of this lunch was the Salad- it was simply amazing. Turkish cuisine needs one more separate section and I hope this blog will soon have a section where I can discuss about various delicacies from across the world.
In spite of being tired, Verina was in a mood to explore, against my idea of a short nap. I was dead tired, logging the bags to three airports- Dubai, Istanbul and then Antalya. The previous night was tiring too , packing and waiting for the aircraft at the terminal. She won and we began exploring. The winding paths were everywhere, in all directions and there were shops on both sides on the path. We were reminded of our very own Souq. The Turks call it Bazaar. How mutually influenced our languages are- Bazaar is a word used in Hindi, Turkish, Konkani, and even Arabic. The trade in olden times might have flourished and this has influenced in language, cuisine and culture across continents.
The winding paths led us to the sea, not a beach – but a sea and it was full of these small ships or what we may call cruise boats. Every sailor was waiting for tourists and every tourist was bargaining for the best cruise trip. Verina met a Turkish sailor, who offered her a good deal of 20 Euros for an hour- it was to take us around the Marina. Ooh the sight of the old city of Antalya, from the sea was breathtaking. There were a couple of water falls from the mountains, into the sea, which we had never seen and never thought was possible. We thoroughly enjoyed this one and as a souvenir, the crew gave us a small plate with our photo on it, of course for a price. I am sure; this would be prominent, in our show case for some time.
We spent three days in Antalya, with a in betweener to Pammukale. This was our free lazing around day. We had kept one day as a lazy day, just in case we need one. Our most awaited breakfast on the roof finally was served to us on the last day at Antalya. The breakfast was typical Turkish, with lots of bread, loads of cheese, heaps of olives and fresh melons which we had plucked the previous night, on our way back from Pammukale. Turkish cuisine includes something called Meze- a collection of small dishes which accompany the meal. The meze included cold cuts, walnuts ,white cheese and many more things. I was not yet fed up of the bread. Just like how we eat rice all day, the Turks eat bread, which makes sense. I wonder what they think about us and our rice eating habit J
View from the breakfast table was stupendous. With a backdrop of mountains and sea, it reminded us of the movie Troy. The Aegan coast is really worth visiting. Photographs do not do any justice to the inspiring view we had during breakfast. One could see a couple of ships, or tankers. I remembered the scene from the cult movie Dil Chahtha hai, where Sid, Sameer and Akash stare at the horizon and discuss their future. Breakfasts not only fuel up the body, but sometimes power the mind as well- this was one of them.
Sitting at the breakfast table, we decided to take a ride to the beach. I badly wanted to get a tan and we thought of hitting the beach. Koniyaalti beach was close by and actually visible from our terrace. We took a tram. The weather wasn’t great as it was pretty hot and humid. Nevertheless we decided to venture out into the beach and sun bathe. Koniyaalti is not a regular sand beach, it is a pebble beach and we did not know that. No one said this to us either. The sea and the beach are full of pebbles and we did two grave mistakes which we realized much later.
We reached at around 11:30 and were surprised to see many people already lazing on the beach. We booked two umbrella seats and began our so called sun bath. The water was nice and the sun seemed to be glaring at us mildly. As I said earlier, the sea is full of pebbles and these pebbles make it difficult to stand barefoot. Many of us were struggling, whereas some were going around jumping and running calmly. This is when we realized the why were crocs made. Our feet were hurting for the next couple of days. Anyways, it was a good lesson learnt, if at all we decide to visit a pebble beach again, we know what should be in our bags. One of the notable incidents was that of two old ladies on the beach. Water was shallow but there was a pebble bank formed and this was pretty steep. These two old ladies who had ventured out in the sea were trying to make it back to their beach beds, but the steep bank wasn’t allowing them to do so. Every time they tried, waves pushed them back to the sea. These women ended up laughing so hard that their laughter spread across and over to everyone present. Laughter is contagious. Finally after half an hour, they finally managed to get off the sea onto to the bank, to their beds.
At 3 pm, we decided to get back to our hotel as the sun was really harsh and we both began feeling the burn. It was now we realized the importance of having tanning oil or sun screen. Any holiday goers do not forget two things- sunscreen and a hat. Bald people like me need to make sure that their crown needs to be covered at any cost.
Anyways, after a change and shower, we headed back in the same tram to
the city centre, only to find a protest march by youth. We did not understand
the reason for the protest but it seemed a little scary. We believed it had
something to do with ISIS, which was true, but we never dared to ask anyone. I
think it is best not to enquire about political/religious views of a visiting
country, especially if one is a tourist. We had an average lunch at a joint in
the city centre before going back to relax for an hour or so. A quick
shower and we were off again to the city centre, this time to shop.. The city centre of Antalya was a nice one, with plenty of shops offering customers lot of discounts.
Fed up of eating bread of various forms for the past three days, we decided to eat something familiar- Mcdonalds. I swear !!! , the sight of M was so welcoming. I had a Large Big Mac- it was the best I had eaten thus far.
We ended the day by having the famous Turkish tea- chay. I did not find it different from that Suleimani tea we have back home in Dubai. Anyways, the lady at the cafe is worth mentioning here. She was very attractive with sharp features. I think it was a Father -daughter duo who owned and ran the cafe- Cay ( pronounced chai) Cafe with tables and chairs on the street- a typical street side cafe. This lady was busy moving back and forth greeting all customers with a very delightful, “brightening your day” kinda smile. We had asked her for some mint leaves and she did not understand initially, but then gave us what we wanted. We had our Cay and asked for the bill. Along with the bill, she gave us some chocolates and the amount was typed with a hand written note saying “Thank You for coming”. This is what is called “Customer Delight” in marketing terms. We immediately replied on the same note “You are most welcome. U are amazing”. She came back with the change with a very wide smile and thanked us for the note. I think this note would now be prominent on the customer boards of CAY CAFÉ.
Our Antalya trip was coming to an end and we would recommend this place to anyone who wants to visit Turkey. It was relaxing. We had a flight the next day to Istanbul- the magical city. The only new worry we both had was our evidently visible sunburns and the skin peeling off our foreheads.
Featured image used in the heading or homepage is courtesy :https://www.propertyturkey.com/blog-turkey/why-is-antalya-so-popular