A couple sites near Antalya, Termessos and Aspendos

My parents spent about a week of their three weeks in Turkey, in Antalya, staying in Kaleiçi, the fun, old part of the city.  We did some of the usual touristy things here such as enjoying the views of the mountains across the bay, admiring heaps of Roman statues (mostly from Perge) at the archaeological museum, and, a first for me, checking out the small Kaleiçi Museum.  That museum houses some old photos of Antalya and also a small, restored church.  Upstairs in the church was a super display of photos from 1860s Turkey of all sorts of street sellers — ice cream, carpets, milk, eggs — everything used to be sold right on the street.  There were even cotton fluffers, and one of the most interesting to me were the people who buried (or covered?) the snow in the mountains in the winter to keep it from melting.  Then in the summer they’d take the snow from the mountains to the city, cut it, and sell it for people to use in their ice boxes!  It’s a good little museum, and I’ve already been back for a second visit.

Of course we enjoyed some good meals.  One day we enjoyed quick pizzas and beers next to the picturesque yacht marina at my friend Ahmet’s place.  We had a fish and rakı dinner at Volkan Hamsici next to the stadium — one of the places that Ferda and I have been to a few times.  And check out this spread that Tülin and Ferda put together for us one night:

DSCN8910 by bryandkeith on flickr

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A quick taste of İstanbul

After spending over two years in Turkey, I’ve finally spent a little time in İstanbul.  Julie and I did visit this city for a couple days in 1998, but as I recall, we spent more time dealing with visas for Syria than visiting tourist sites.

İstanbul is a huge city, with 14,000,000 people, up there with London and Lagos according to wikipedia.  And of course it has an incredible history.  As the DK Eyewitness Travel guidebook says, “for almost a thousand years, Constantinople was the richest city in Christendom.”  Following that was almost 500 years as capital of the opulent Ottoman Empire.  In the week that I spent with my parents here at the beginning of last month, we hit some of the most famous tourist sites, but I feel like we barely scratched the surface.

DSCN8478 by bryandkeith on flickr

Ferda and I flew on a Friday afternoon from Antalya and met my parents at the airport after their long, direct flight from Los Angeles.  They were on, apparently, Turkish Airlines’ longest non-stop flight.  We didn’t have our days specifically scheduled.  We only knew that the US State Department and others were recommending staying away from Taksim Square and Gezi Park during my parents’ first day in the city because that was the one-year anniversary of the Gezi Park protests.

Since the weather was good, we decided for a Bosporus boat tour that day to the Sakıp Sabancı Museum.  We took the light rail to the Kabataş docks and there learned that because of the police crackdown on expected protests return transportation would be shut down.  What to do?  We considered a bunch of options and in the end decided to head straight to Taksim to see what all the fuss was about!

Mom kept wondering why, on their very first day in Turkey, we were doing the only thing that they were specifically advised not to do.  It was a bit ironic, I suppose.  Taksim, it turns out, is a rather ugly concrete square surrounded by unimpressive buildings.  We visited a couple nearby churches, walked down the crowded pedestrian-only İstiklal Caddesi, and ended up at the top of Galata Külesi (tower) toward the end of the day when the police started their crackdown.
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An overnight trip to Ovacık Dağı

Last December I signed up for a weekend trip to climb Ovacık Dağı with TODOSK.  I was hoping to use crampons and an ice axe so I was a little bummed to learn that at that point it had hardly snowed up there.  Last winter Turkey received much less snow than normal.  In the end the trip was postponed, and when TODOSK finally did climb the peak in May, I had other plans that weekend (cruising around Antalya on a tandem bicycle!).

Two and a half weeks later Cemalettin, Nazif, and I set off to climb Ovacık on our own.  We set our tents up at a low yayla below the west flank of the peak, a bit passed Etler Köyü (Serik).  The normal thing to do is to take a good trail to a higher yayla and climb the peak from the NW.  Instead we talked to a couple locals who recommended we go straight up the steep west face.  Once you get to the ridge they explained, it’s a straight shot to the summit.

DSCN8425 by bryandkeith on flickr

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A weekend in Gündoğmuş

About a month ago Ferda and I made the last minute decision to spend the weekend exploring a part of Antalya (province/il) neither of us had ever been to before.  We had kicked around the idea of going to Olimpos, about an hour’s drive south of the city.  Ferda likes the relaxed atmosphere at Olimpos.  She feels she can wear what she wants and do what she wants without people judging her like in most parts of Turkey.

However, this time instead of Olimpos, we decided to drive east to the land-locked ilçe (county) of Gündoğmuş.  I had heard there were bungalows in Kayabükü village near a waterfall that sounded worth visiting so we headed off with that in mind.  Well, the curvy, mountain road meant that it took longer just to drive to the town of Gündoğmuş than we expected.  It was getting dark, and we didn’t want to drive any farther when we learned it was another 28km to the village — a long ways on these steep, narrow, twisty roads.

DSCN8219 by bryandkeith on flickr

We asked around and learned of another bungalow operation quite nearby at Pınarbaşı, above Pembelik village.  That ended up being a great place to spend the weekend.  The bungalows were clean, the heater was sufficient, and the couple from Manavgat running the place was quite friendly.  When it’s too hot to breathe in the summer in Antalya, these bungalows would be a great escape.
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Israel politics/apartheid

Everywhere I went in Israel and Palestine I was warmly welcomed.  However, that is, sadly, not the case for Israelis and Palestinians travelling to the same places.  One thing that Palestinians tried to determine pretty earlier on in any conversion is whether I was Israeli.  I guess they could usually tell by my behaviour/clothes/mannerisms, but they often asked just to be sure.  Unfortunately conversations were limited since I don’t speak Arabic or Hebrew and few Palestinians speak good English.  Jewish Israelis, on the other hand, largely speak terrific English and quickly correctly surmised that I was a tourist.  Unlike in Turkey, one thing that people rarely asked about was religion.  At least that’s something.

If you consider that it’s still one state, Palestinians are second-class citizens.  They can’t travel to Israel without special, difficult-to-get permission.  I talked to one Palestinian who would like to visit Turkey and asked about how much the plane flight was.  “Antalya to Tel Aviv cost me…” I started to say.  “Oh no, I can’t go to Tel Aviv.  I have to fly from Amman.”  In practice for Isreali and Palestinian citizens it’s two states.

Other times, however, it feels like one state with an apartheid system.  When Shimshon and I were descending from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, I came across my first gated-village at Mitspe Yerikho.  It’s like a private gated community in the US, but in this case anyone can enter unless they’re Palestinian.  Sitting on the outside watching a man jog around the interior of the fence, I felt like I was looking into a zoo.  Apparently there’s security for Jews inside the fence, but they’re not allowed to travel on some roads inside Palestinian territory, even roads just outside some of their illegal settlements.  In spite of numerous UN resolutions, the illegal settlements continue.

The fact that Jewish Israelis can’t use some roads was one reason I chose to continue travelling my own when Shimshon invited me to join his family in Jerusalem for Passover.  My route south from the Dead Sea took me on some roads that are illegal for Jewish Israelis to use.  Most of the time, however, it’s the exact opposite: I was in areas where Palestinians would need special permits to enter.

The most visible reminder of the apartheid system is the huge wall, somewhat supposedly (?) separating Israel and Palestine.  Over 500km of the planned 810km have been built.  If completed, the wall will illegally annex 46% of the West Bank.  In other words, Palestinians won’t be able to enter Palestine.  Jerusalem already has been annexed.  I visited Bethlehem and saw the wall there.  Then I crossed back into Jerusalem, something the Palestinians in Bethlehem cannot do.

DSCN8177 by bryandkeith on flickr

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