Click on any name on the route to go to the story for that place

Monday, May 8 (continued)

So, after our dramatic trip through the Toros mountains, we arrived in the tourist city of Antalya.


Antalya came as a bit of a culture shock, a return to a Western European feel after Cappadocia and Konya. As you can see from the pictures of the hotel, the coast is edged by monstrous apartments and fancy hotels. The city extends over at least 10 km of coastline, if you include contiguous towns with a variety of names. Much of it consists of tall apartment buildings of what we had come to see as "standard Turkish design." In the west side of the city, the buildings are limited to five or six floors, but in the east, they are much higher. This is because of the differeing soil for foundations in an area liable to strong earthquakes. Our hotel was about 5 km east of the city centre (as you might deduce from its height in the pictures).

In the picture of the main entrance to our hotel (left picture below) you can see the reflection of another Dedman hotel just behind me as I took the picture. According to our guide, Ahmet, Dedeman owns one of the more expensive restaurants in Istanbul, as well as other hotels. But he donates a portion of his profits to schools and village infrastructure projects in Turkey, so he is well thought of.

The main centre of Antalya is some 5 km west of the hotel. Between the hotel and the city proper, there is a forest of apartment buildings and hotels. Along the roads in the neighbourhood of the hotel, there are many little shops, both under the apartment buildings and in more modest buildings. The hotel itself is very Western, with a huge lobby and all conveniences--lounge bar overlooking the sea and one of the two swimming pools, and so forth. Despite its elegance and fortress-like appearance, it was a very pleasant hotel.

The Hotel Antalya Dedeman

Hotel Antalya Dedeman: (Above) The main entrance, from across the four-lane boulevard into Antalya. (Right) The hotel from the gardens on the Antalya side.

(Above) The view toward Antalya (in the far distance) from the same point as the garden view of the hotel. The concrete pad in the middle is a "beach" for swimming. (Right) The hotel setting on the sea cliff,seen from the Antalya side.

From our hotel balcony, we overlooked a water-slide park. One should know that in Turkey, very few signs are bilingual, even in Istanbul. Everything is in Turkish. This park, however, was called "Aqua Baby Park" in English only (though most of the people we saw there were adults). It has an access path from the hotel patio, but hotel guests have to pay to get in, just like anyone else. There's nobody using it in the picture, because the picture (actually three combined pictures) was taken after closing time, which is 5 pm (17:00). The view in the other direction from our balcony was quite a contrast.

(The view from our hotel balcony--Left) Aqua Baby Park (Middle and right) across Antalya Bay to a spur of the Toros Mountains, which curve to the south around Antalya bay.

As had become our custom, we visited one of the little groceries and bought some good local wine for a drink before dinner (much cheaper than taking wine with dinner!). But before trying the wine, I attempted to access my e-mail on the Hotmail account I had set up. At a nearby Internet cafe, Explorer complained about javascript not being enabled, and the people there didn't know what to do. I tried to explain to a girl who spoke some English, and she translated to a boy who seemed to be the more technical person, but he didn't understand either, and I couldn't read the Turkish menus to set it myself. They just asserted that Hotmail stopped working three days ago, and it wasn't their problem! So I left and went to another Internet Cafe nearby, where the technical problem was that they were in the mniddle of changing their mode of connecting to the Internet, and hadn't completed the setup. So that didn't work either, and I went back to enjoy the wine.

Tuesday, May 9


The stadium of Perge, with the Greek gate in the background. (From a postcard)

Today we took a short "optional" tour that turned out to be one of the most enjoyable of the trip. It was different from most days in that the group was about half the size of the full tour group and was more relaxed, and in that one or two nice but unexpected things happened. We left earlier tha usual, for two reasons, to avoid the hottest part of the day, and to beat the crowds at Perge.

Perge is a Graeco-Roman town about half an hour out of Antalya. Outside the town proper, there is a theatre, which we could see only from the outside because of restoration work in progress,. and a sports stadium like the Olympic Stadium or the one at Delphi. The Theatre is built into a hillside in the Greek manner, rather than being a stand-alone constructions as the Romans were wont to do.

The floor of the stadium
Stadium entrances and shops

The amount of seating in one of these stadia is deceptive. They look as if they would seat only a few hundred, but with about ten rows of seats both sides of an oval 150m long or more, four or five thousand would be very comfortable.

Unlike at Olympia or Delphi, the Perge stadium has arched openings all along both sides. They look like entrance ways, and some of them are. But only every third one is an entrance. The others were shops or fast-food stands and the like. Nothing much changes over the centuries.

The theatre and the stadium are outside the town, as can be seen in the aerial postcard view at the left, above. Outside the town entrance there is a ticket kiosk that sells postcards and icecream and the like--this comes into the story later. While we were waiting at the entrance, we were joined by two dogs, a tiny puppy and a bigger dog, which followed us around for a while as we toured the site. The bigger dog kept nipping at the puppy, and we couldn't figure out whether it was being big brother keeping the little brother in order, trying to bring it home, or whether it was trying to hurt it. One of our party got very angry at the big dog, and tried to chase it away from the pup, but it didn't do any good. Eventually they left us, and presumably went home.

(Left) The Greek gate of Perge, seen through the Roman gate. (Above) The Greek gate, seen over some of the Roman part of the town. (Right) The Greek gate from the Roman side.

(Above) We meet the two dogs that followed us around, with the big one continually nipping at the little one.

Perge has a layout that had become quite familiar to us by the end of the trip. The town was based around a long straight central road flanked by a shopping collonade or portico on each side, with side roads and public buildings either side. This town was originally a Greek town, which was enlarged by the Romans, rather clumsily, to judge from what remains we saw. The Greek gate is imposing, but in a way welcoming, whereas the Roman gate looks simply defensive.

If you look at the larger version of the picture of the Greek gate seen through the Roman gate, you will see a puzzling feature of the Roman gate. It has an orthodox round Roman arch, but the space under the arch is filled in with stone blocks supported (originally) by a lintel that is now broken in several places. This seems a rather puzzling design, the arch being much stronger than the lintel underneath it. Perhaps they wanted a square door for defensive purposes, and the arch is intended to carry off the weight of the wall above the lintel. However that may be, it looks rather strange.

The Agora of Greek Perge, the main meeting and shopping centre.

The hill in the background is where the Christian town of Perge was built, as being better protected from Arab and other attackers. By that time, the Greek and Roman towns had been more or less abandoned and ruined.

The main road of Perge must be at least 1 km, probably longer. Down the middle there used to be a stream with weirs making little waterfalls. To cross between the shops on one side and the shops on the other, there were stepping stones. With the imposing colonnade of shops down both sides to give shade, it must have been very pleasant.

Women selling jewellery and other trinkets to tour groups. I can find six in the big picture

Ahmet talking to a boy who was going somewhere carrying a kid. This was near the end of the main road

The Roman and Greek gates both are on the same straight main road of Perge. It seems a general characteristic of the Classical towns we saw, that they were built around a central colonnaded main road, with other roads crossing on a grid pattern like so many contemporary N. American cities. The Perge main road was a bit unusual, in that it was a divided highway with a stream down the middle, dammed so that it formed a series of pools with water flowing over the dams from one pool to the next. There's no stream now, and the dams are all broken, but it must have been very pleasant to stroll along the shop fronts under the shade of the portico, window-shopping and looking at the stream, which might have had ducks or swans...

A bit off the main road, there were large public baths (you can see the wall on the left of the middle picture of the Greek gate above). The method of heating is very easy to see in these baths, because of what is broken and what is not. Unfortunately, I don't have any reasonable pictures of it, so I will describe it in words. In the floor of one part, there is a furnace that heats air which circulates under the floor. In the walls there are flues which serve both as chimneys and as heating pipes, so that the "hot room" (Caldarium) is heated from beneath and all sides. The air is passed under the fllor to the next room, the Tepidarium, which is warm, not hot, and finally there is the cold room (Frigidarium).

On the other side of the main road is a large Agora, in which what you now see is mostly a forest of columns in different states of repair. The Agora is where people would meet, and where the public buildings would have been, as well as shops. Further down the main road, maybe 1 km from the Greek gate, a row of women were setting up their displays of trinkets to sell to tourists like us. Some of our party bought from them, so they must make some kind of a living from the trade. Further along, a little boy was crossing the road carrying a kid (see the picture). He was not interested in tourists. He just needed to take the kid somewhere, as Ahmet determined by chatting with him.


One of the most pleasant encounters of the trip occurred in Perge. As we were walking back down the main road, we were joined by a cute girl in a neat school uniform--grey kilt, white blouse, grey blazer with a red insignia on the jacket pocket. She just wanted to talk with us to practice her English. Unfortunately, I didn't take Leyla's picture, which I now regret. She told us that she comes every day by bus from her village to meet English-speaking tour groups, and takes the bus back in time to start school at noon. We learned a lot about Leyla, and about the Turkish educational system. Leyla said she was 13. In school, she was in a class of 44, in which she claimed to be the best at English. They have 4 hours of English instruction per week, and two of German. Someone asked Leyla if she was married, and she calmly said "No." Then he asked if she had a boyfriend, and she blasted out "NOOOO!" in a charming way. My impression of Leyla was that she was very personable and clever, with good political skills. She wanted to be a doctor, but I had the feeling we might have been talking to a future Prime Minister of Turkey. At the end of our tour, when Leyla left us, one of the Americans gave her a silver US dollar, which he thought she would keep as a souvenir. But instead, she went straight to the kiosk and bought an ice-cream with it! (US currency is preferred to Turkish in many places in Turkey, and quite a few prices are given only in US dollars).


One of the flow reducers along the aqueduct. The field in the foreground has just been cleared of a crop of tomatos, to make way for seeding it with corn.

From Perge we went to see a Greek theatre nearby at Aspendos. It has been in continuous use since it was built. Now it hosts a summer theatre and ballet season.

On the way, we passed an unusual aqueduct. Every couple of hundred metres along the aqueduct, there was a strange hump, which Ahmet said was a flow regulator, to prevent the water from going too fast. This implies that the water must have been carried from the mountains in a sealed pipe, rather than travelling in an open channel.

The area must be very fertile, since they apparently expect three different crops per year. In the picture, you can see heaps of tomato plants along the side of the road, but there were much bigger heaps just out of the picture.

At Aspendos, there is a bridge (13th century) over the river, built on the site of a higher Roman bridge. It is interesting in that the ends have a substantial jog, for defensive purposes, making sure that no enemy could charge across. I did not get any decent picture of it to show the interesting aspect.

The theatre at Aspendos is in the Greek style, built into the hillside. Originally the entrance seems to have been through a series of arched doorways from the hillside at the back of the seats, but now it is at the orchestra level, at the side of the stage (remember from Epidauros that the orchestra is the flat part where the performers walk, whereas the stage is the building at the back, which holds the stage machinery, changing rooms, and so forth). This theatre is nowhere near as big as that at Epidauros, but even so it probably holds a few thousand people. It is well preserved, but little renovated. Essentially only the wooden parts of the original stage are completely gone, though some other parts are unusable.

The stage at Aspendos shows many niches in which statues of gods and heros would have been displayed. You can see the doors where the actors playing gods might have appeared. In the big picture you can see a row of many holes for the wooden structure that might have held such things as curtains, or supported flying machinery. The audience area is the usual semicircular arc of rows of seats. Some seats for the rich and famous were on a dais visible above the tunnel in the picture of the stage and orchestra. The colonnade at the back was added by the Romans. It offer shade, and at the same time, blocked off the original entrances from the hillside behind.
The theatre at Aspendos, from a postcard, showing how it is set into the hillside. The orchestra and the stage (the stage is the building at left). A Roman arch in the colonnade blocks one of the earlier Greek entrance arches.

Wandering around Antalya

When we returned from the excursion to Perge and Apendos, the bus let us off at the Antalya Archaeological Musem, at the west side of the main town of Antalya, not far from the harbour. Most of the content of the museum is Roman, Byzantine, or Ottoman, up to the 20th century. Flash photography was not allowed in many parts of the museum, so we have no very representative pictures.

Antalya Museum. (Left) The main entrance (Middle) Byzantine and Ottoman coffee grinders and roasting pans, (Right) One of many Roman and Greek statues from Perge and other regional sites.

Modern, apartment-block Antalya is built around a very pleasant old core fishing town, now a bit run down, but also full of tourist-trap little souvenir shops and waterside restaurants. The new town is all up on the high ground at the top of the cliff, but old Antalya straggles down to the harbour. The harbour itself is now a pretty modern looking marina, but surrounding it are walls built by the Emperor Hadrian (who also had built the wall separating England from Scotland).

A major street in modern Antalya, with the Toros Mountains across the bay in the background. A plaza above the harbour. I don't know what the monument was for. War memorial, probably. The harbour, with Hadrian's Wall in the background. A contrast of old and new!

We had a simple, cheap, tasty lunch of lentil soup and bread near where the bottom-middle picture was taken, in a place very like what is shown in the picture. There were three tables, but more could be set up upstairs, if needed. We were, however, the only customers. After lunch, I asked for tea (, expecting the proprietor to serve some. But that's not what happened. What happened was that he phoned out, and after a little while a boy came, carrying a tray with two small glasses of tea, one for me and one for the proprietor. It was as delicious as Turkish usually had been. We had seen these tea-boys all over the place, in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and in many other towns, but we had thought they were serving the shopkeepers who could not leave their shops for refreshments. It was a bit of a surprise to have them serve the tea to customers in a restaurant, as well.

The old town is fairly unspoiled, if a little run down in places. Near the place in the left picture there is a house that seems entirely abandoned, with vines growing out of the windows. The outer harbour, with the Toros Mountains in the background. In the bigger picture, you can see the lines of apartment buildings that seem to fortify the top of the cliffs along the entire shoreline.

After lunch, we strolled around old Antalya a bit more, winding up in a park on top of the cliff at the east end of the outer harbour (see the lower-right picture above). From there we walked through the park, which seems to be a very popular area for strolling couples and for children. I don't know how long the park is, but my memory suggests it must be appreciably more than 1 km. Eventually, it gave way to city streets and occasional open areas along the cliff-top for the rest of teh 5 km back to the hotel. From one of the open areas, we took the lower pair of pictures below, showing the contrast between old and new that seems so characteristic of Antalya.

A walk from Antalya back to the Hotel Antalya Dedeman
A fort protecting the harbour, now in a large park, through which we walked on our way back to the hotel. Fountains in the park on top of the sea cliff. There were outdoor cafes, playgrounds, strolling paths, etc.
These two pictures were taken from almost the same spot, facing in opposite directions. (Left) Some Roman ruins and the Toros mountains (Right) part of the forest of apartments which seems to constitue most of Antalya.

The forest of apartments in Antalya is really quite dramatic. They seem to grow, rather than to be built. As one leaves the forest-city edge, one passes fully completed apartments, then a region in which the completed buildings lack their final paint, then ones without walls, then ones that successively have fewer and fewer skeletal floors, until we come to ones that are mere stubs or even holes in the ground. It is just as if the big ones float seed on the wind, from which the little ones grow. I've never seen anything like it in any other city. It doesn't sound attractive, but it has a kind of austere beauty of its own.

Back at the hotel, we relaxed with the remains of our nice, cheap, Turkish wine, before dinner. The next morning, we bgan the final leg of the tour.

Continue to Pamukkale and Ephesus