Turkey for £99 part 3: Anatalya and Aspendos – 29th November – 2nd December 2015   Leave a comment

This, the third and final post on our trip to Turkey. covers the journey from Laodicea to Anatalya and the Roman ruins at Aspendos.

The last post ended with our visit to the ruins at Laodicea, this possibly was the high point of the trip, but then things took a sharp downturn with our enforced visit to a carpet factory!

IMG_1835 carpet

There was no doubt that the carpets on show were beautiful and would be greatly valued by some people ….

IMG_1843 carpet weavers

…. or that the ladies that weave them, (often taking months or even a year to produce one) are highly motivated, highly skilled and highly underpaid (a point that was repeatedly made) but it was the enforced demonstrations and the hard sell that lasted well over an hour that annoyed me. The salesmen simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. We had no intention in paying hundreds or even thousands of pounds for a carpet, but they just wouldn’t listen. This ‘lock in’ was all the more annoying as I would have liked to spend a further hour at the ruins of Laodicea.

IMG_1852 mountains

Later we crossed the Anatolian plateau as we headed for the Mediterranean. Scenery was lovely, many raptors were seen but of course there was no stopping. This photo was taken from the bus window.

IMG_1860 hotel

We stayed at a beautiful hotel to the west of Antalya.

IMG_6631 hot spring baths

A small ‘volcano’ has been built over the site of a hot spring and you can take an outside dip in a steaming hot pool, the temperature of which was just about tolerable.

IMG_6648 belly dancer

We were entertained with a belly dancer who insisted on audience participation (both male and female). I hid behind a pillar in case I got selected.

IMG_6675 jewel factory

The following morning it was the hard sell again – first a jewelry factory ….

IMG_1892 fashion show

….and then a leather factory where we were obliged to watch a fashion show first. With a salesman shadowing us just three feet behind, Margaret told him that ‘my philosophy in life is not to buy anything I don’t need and I don’t need a leather coat’. He replied ‘the exit is over there madam’

IMG_2016 Antalya

In the afternoon we were free to explore Antalya, although much of the city is tourist development, an ancient centre with its narrow streets and quaint shops still exists.

IMG_1927 Anatyla

We were dropped off a square near the old town ….

IMG_2017 Ataturk memorial

…. dominated by a huge statue to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern secular state of Turkey in 1923 after the demise of the Ottoman Empire

IMG_1979 Anatyla

…. we wandered the quaint streets ….

IMG_1981 Anatyla

…. and pretty courtyards ….

IMG_1985 Antalya

…. photographed ancient minarets ….

IMG_1944 Hadrian's Gate

…. until we came to Hadrian’s Gate built in honour of the Roman emperor.

IMG_1967 Anatyla

Retracing our steps ….

IMG_2000 Antalya harbour

…. we headed for the harbour ….

IMG_1998 Antalya harbour

…. with its old ships ….

IMG_2002 busker

…. and even older buskers …

IMG_1995 tourist galleon

…. but the ‘ancient galleon’ with its diesel engines appeared to be of more recent construction.

IMG_2067 White-spectacled Bulbul

In a park overlooking the harbour we found several White-spectacled Bulbuls, a common species in parts of the Middle East, here at the extreme western edge of its range.

IMG_1925 Crag Martin

Along the cliffs were a number of Crag Martins, the only hirundine of the trip.

IMG_2136 sunset

As the sun set over the distant mountains we headed eastwards to our hotel.

IMG_2029 Hotel Lykia

I have already stated that I was very impressed with the standard of hotels on this tour, especially given the cost. The best of all was the Hotel Lykia near Aspendos where we stayed for the last two nights. The dining room (above) was massive with the biggest buffet I have ever seen. You would think you had inspected every dish but still others on your table would come back with food you didn’t know was there.

IMG_2021 Hotel Lykia

The view of the swimming pool from our room ….

IMG_2122 hotel pool

….and the pool in the daylight.

IMG_2123 Cormorants and boat

A late start the following day allowed me to do a bit of birding first but there was nothing on the sea except a few Cormorants.

IMG_2070 Roman aqueduct

Our fist stop was at the ruins of a Roman aqueduct, with its attendant souvenir stalls.

IMG_2078 Aspendos

But it was the partially restored Roman theatre at Aspendos that was the focus of the day, said to be the best preserved in the world.

IMG_2081 group at Aspendos

As a measure of how multi-national and multi-cultural we have become, we discovered that although all but one of the group lived in the UK they originated from Canada, China, Cyprus, Gambia, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Malta, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Trinidad (plus of course the UK) so with our Kurdish guide and Turkish driver there were 16 nationalities represented out of 34 people. We all (with possibly with one exception) got on very well.

IMG_2085 Aspendos

After the obligatory lecture about the archaeology we were free to climb to the top if we wished ….

IMG_2092 Andrea

…. to explore ….

IMG_2094 Aspendos

…. and photograph the colonnade that surrounds the structure.

IMG_2097 Aspendos

Built in AD 155, the theatre was used for artistic performances rather than the gladiatorial combat. In the latter the seats would have been raised above the height of the stage to separate the crowd from wild animals.

IMG_2106 Anne and Yin at top of Theatre

We were amazed that 90 year-old Anne made it to the top of the steps, indeed I think she had to help Yin (who must have been a third of her age) get down.

IMG_2108 Anne and Yin at top of Theatre

If you have any doubt how high up it was, look at the two of the them in the centre of this photo.

IMG_2120 Roman bridge

We had our lunch by a restored Roman bridge ….

IMG_2115 shadow of bridge

…. with a beautiful view of the river and the mountains beyond.

IMG_2126 sunset

We returned in time for a sunset walk around the gardens and on the beach.

IMG_2140 group at the hotel

With quite a large group and the trip only lasting a week we were just getting to know people as the trip ended. Although from very different backgrounds and with different interests, I think we made some nice friends that week, although it is unlikely our paths will cross again.

IMG_2148 Crested Lark

As our departure to the airport wasn’t until the late morning there was time for some final birding in the scrub and fields around the hotel. Birds like Common Kingfisher, Wryneck, Stonechat, Cettis and Sardinian Warbler, several races of Chiffchaff, Water Pipit, Serin and Corn Bunting were seen but the best photos were of Crested Lark  ….

IMG_2050 Woodlark

…. and Wood Lark.

IMG_6690 from the plane

So all that remained was to fly home to Gatwick. Almost all the trips I have done have either been self-drive, self-led tours or commercial birding tours. Apart from one day guided trips around a city, I haven’t done this type of sightseeing tour since the seventies. Was it a success? undoubtedly, with the exception of the retail outlets, all the places we visited were interesting and photogenic, the company good, the hotels excellent and it was very good value. Would I do similar tours again, yes, especially if it was something that Margaret was keen to do. Finally as Margaret’s daughter and her husband are away at Christmas, we headed straight from Gatwick to Maldon in Essex to spend the next four days with them – but that’s a tale for another day.



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