Monday, November 23, 2015

Chasing the autumn sun: Fethiye versus Antalya

Chasing the autumn sun: Fethiye versus Antalya

Chasing the autumn sun: Fethiye versus Antalya
Kayaköy-Levissi (Photo: Pat Yale)

There's no getting away from it. The shorter days and falling leaves tell the usual story. Autumn is drawing to an end and winter will soon be upon us. So what better time to start planning a last-minute dash for the Mediterranean sun, especially as there's another holiday, the Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Republic Day, Oct. 29), in the offing.

Don't know where to go? Well, my money would be on fethiye or Antalya, which can be at their very best at this time of year. Antalya in particular is often nicer now than in the height of summer when the muggy heat can be pretty unbearable.

The two towns have a lot in common. Both sit in spectacular bays with mountainous islands shimmering on the horizon. Both offer easy access to a wide range of historic attractions in their backyards. And both have been in the tourism business a long time, which means that they have all the hotels, shops, restaurants and bars a visitor could possibly hope for.

So which to go for? It's a tough call, but here are the pros and cons.


Towards the western end of the Mediterranean Fethiye is much smaller than Antalya, something that has many advantages, especially in terms of the time it takes to get around the town center. However, it's still big enough to have a life beyond tourism for those who prefer not to stay in a visitor ghetto.

Fethiye's long waterfront was always very attractive but has been made even more so in recent years by new landscaping that extends it much further, with new cafes lined up to take in the extra views. Personally, I still like the heart of the waterfront where the wooden gulets (yachts) are lined up best of all. You don't have to take a boat ride, but you'd have to be pretty determined to pass up all the offers, whether it's just a quick whip round the bay on the “12 Islands” cruise, a run over to Göçek to shop at its Sunday market, or a real “blue cruise” taking in some of the sights along the coastline while sleeping onboard beneath the stars.

Behind the waterfront, Fethiye offers a sprawling bazaar area and an old hamam (Turkish bath). It's all pretty touristy but no less fun for all that, and if you wander into the old fish market area, select your fish, then have it cooked and served to you at one of the tables nearby, you're more or less guaranteed to have a good time.

The formal tourist attractions of Fethiye are relatively minor: the picturesque but not especially exciting Carian tombs cut into the rock at the back of town, the theater that has just been rather controversially restored and a museum housing the finds from nearby sites such as Tlos and the Letoon. But the surrounding area more than makes up for this. Indeed, you'll be spoilt for choice whether your tastes run to the Lycian archaeological sites at Tlos, Pınara, Patara and Xanthos-Letoon, the latter a world heritage site; to the glorious beach-fringed lagoon at Ölüdeniz; to the daredevil thrill of paragliding off Baba Dağı (Mt. Baba); to wading through ice-cold water in the Saklıkent Gorge; or to cruising along the river from Dalyan to İztuzu Beach where you can visit a hospital set up to care for injured loggerhead turtles. From Ölüdeniz there's also a wonderful boat ride to lovely Butterfly Valley where you'll just about have time to race inland to inspect a small waterfall.

The one excursion you should be sure to make is to the ruins of Kayaköy, as the old Levissi the place that inspired “Birds Without Wings” author Louis de Bernieres to set pen to paper. Levissi had to be abandoned in 1923 when the “Greek” Christians living in Turkey were forced to relocate to Greece while the “Turkish” Muslims in Greece came to live in Turkey. Fewer Turks arrived than Greeks departed and the settlement was eventually allowed to fall into ruin, its doors and windows scavenged for new buildings, its churches left to rot.

The reason why this excursion should top your list is that, not for the first time, plans are currently being floated to rebuild part of the settlement. Conceivably, if this was done slowly and carefully for non-commercial reasons, it might not be a disaster. However, talk of creating an “international brand” around the ruins has left many fretting about what might happen. If you're the sort of person who likes to wander amid ruins and let your imagination take wing then you might not have that opportunity for much longer.

The nearest airport to Fethiye is in Dalaman.


Far bigger than Fethiye, Antalya will suit those who like to be able to indulge their usual urban habits even while holidaying near a beach. The waterfront of Fethiye is longer and prettier than the harbor area of Antalya. However, Fethiye has almost no old architecture while the Kaleiçi (Inner Castle) area of old Antalya is choc-a-block with lovely old Ottoman houses, some beautifully restored, some rebuilt, some still awaiting a savior. Mixed in with these houses are Roman remains, including the fine Arch of Hadrian that serves as one entrance to the area, as well as several attractive Ottoman mosques, one of them with a fluted minaret that crops up in many photographs.

When it comes to specific attractions within the town Antalya beats Fethiye hands down. The Antalya Museum is one of the finest in the country, showcasing the finds from the nearby ruins of Perge in particular, but in Kaleiçi there is also a lovely private museum, the Suna and İnan Kiraç Museum, partially housed in a disused church and emphasizing aspects of Turkish culture such as weddings and circumcisions. The town also boasts a fine new aquarium and a large aquapark.

As with Fethiye, so with Antalya, there's a wide choice of places to visit on local day trips. Organized excursions often take in the extensive Roman ruins not just of Perge but also of nearby Side and Aspendos, which is home to a beautifully restored Classical theater. You can also visit the beautiful seaside ruins of Phaselis and the mountainside ruins of Termessos, or the cave at Karain in which traces of prehistoric settlement have been found.

Slightly further afield you can ride the Olympos Teleferik, a cable car running up Tahtalı Dağı (Mt Tahtalı, 2365m) and offering splendid views (on a clear day) across the Beydağları (Bey Mountains) national park to the sea. Those with a private car can also drive to Olympos and Çiralı where the Chimaera, an inextinguishable flame, shoots up beside the rocky mountain path. You could even drive up to Sagalassos, another mountainside archaeological site where the old fountains built by the Greeks and Romans now flow with water once again.

If Fethiye is all about boat rides and paragliding, Antalya is best known for white-water rafting and golfing. The white-water rafting takes place in the lovely Köprülü Kanyon, a 14-kilometer-long canyon east of Antalya, which is one of the most popular places in the whole country for trying out the sport, not least because some of the runs are suitable for less experienced rafters.

The golfing takes place in Belek, which specializes in catering to those for whom no holiday would be complete without being able to hit a small white ball across a green. Belek also majors on huge hotels that are the antithesis of the boutique offerings of the Kaleiçi. Vast and frequently themed, they are mostly all-inclusive and perfect for family holidays.

Antalya has its own international airport with a second not far away in Gazipaşa, near Alanya.
Keywords: fethiye , Antalya

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Enrollment for Turkish Classes has started - SPRING 2016. Enroll Now!

Enrollment for Turkish Classes has Started
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Monday, November 9, 2015

The best of the west

The best of the west

The best of the west
Pamukkale (Photo: Pat Yale)

The bad news is that recent events on the political front mean that tourism to the eastern parts of Turkey is likely to take a significant hit, at least in the short term. The good news is, however, that Turkey is a vast country, which means that there are more than enough alternative destinations for those in search of something a little less mainstream than a beach holiday. It has long been my opinion that Western Anatolia is one of the least appreciated parts of the country when it comes to foreign visitors. Now could be the time when it comes into its own.

Here are a few suggestions of where to visit in Western Anatolia, starting with the blockbuster destinations of Pamukkale-Hierapolis and Afrodisias that already receive their fair share of visitors and moving on to places such as Afyon and Gölhisar, which are waiting in the wings.


Why? Rare combination of man-made and natural beauty
Pamukkale is the site that launched a thousand dog-eared posters of tourists frolicking in the turquoise waters of the travertines that cascade down a hillside in front of the sprawling ruins of ancient Hierapolis, the place where St. Philip is believed to have been buried. With more than enough to occupy a day of anyone's time, Pamukkale is already a fixture on many tourists' itineraries. The sleepy little village at the foot of the travertines could do with more staying visitors, though, and those who do linger will find that there are plenty of other sites to see in the surrounding area including the increasingly impressive ruins of ancient Laodikya, site of one of the Seven Churches of the Revelation; and the beautiful old painted mosque at Akköy, within walking distance of Pamukkale village.


Why? Magnificent Greco-Roman archaeological site good enough to rival Ephesus
Famously publicized by photographer Ara Güler, Afrodisias, the ruins of the city of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, once stood silent and forgotten around the village of Eski Geyre. Today some of the old buildings of Eski Geyre survive to serve as a café and exhibition center, but you'll probably be too busy racing out to the Classical ruins to notice them. Afrodisias has all the typical features of a Greco-Roman site (Theater? Tick. Odeon? Tick. Huge temple? Tick), although perhaps the most striking survivor is the glorious stadium, one of the best preserved in the world. In the end, though, the real winner these days is the restored Sebasteion, a temple to the Roman emperor as deity, the splendid carvings from which are now housed in a purpose-built gallery that shows them off to perfection.


Why? Ceramics with a backdrop of fine Ottoman housing
Once known almost exclusively as a place to come to eyeball the sort of ceramics that took over from İznikware in the 18th century, Kütahya is also a great place to come to explore a partially restored Ottoman townscape and stay in Ottoman style at the Ispartılar Konağı (tel: 0274-216 1975) in the renovated Germiyan quarter. It's also the best base for making a side trip out to the remains of ancient Aizanoi, appealingly scattered around the village of Çavdarhisar.


Why? Drama of a hilltop castle combined with the pleasures of an old Ottoman townscape
Modern Afyon labors under the weight of its full name, which is Afyonkarahisar, a moniker that commemorates both the opium poppies (afyon) that grow hereabouts and the black castle (kara hisar) that looms above the town, daring visitors to make the ascent. Afyon's new archeological museum is way out of the center unlike its other great treasure, an Ulu Cami that belongs to a group of so-called “forest mosques,” their ceilings supported by a forest of columns carved from tree trunks. With Eskişehir, Afyon also makes a great base for exploring the newly waymarked Frig Yolu (Phrygian Way), centered on the remains of a great Phrygian temple at Midasşehri. Much of the lovely old Ottoman housing survives, some of it restored, some not. Stay at the lovely Şehitoğlu Konağı (tel: 0272-214 1313) to get the full effect.


Why? Remains of ancient Lydian town where coins were first minted
Most easily visited on a day trip from İzmir, Sardis is nonetheless on the edge of Western Anatolia and easy to fit in if you're heading across country from Denizli. The remains of the ancient mint are pretty unmemorable, unlike the spectacular mosaic floors of what was once one of Anatolia's largest synagogues and the reconstructed Court of the Hall of the Imperial Cult. A short walk away from these obvious ruins lie the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the four largest temples in ancient Asia Minor and beautifully sited against a mountain backdrop.

Turkish Lake District

Why? Glorious lakeside settings. Stopping point on waymarked St. Paul's Trail
If it's lakeside scenery you're after, then you should head straight for Eğirdır where you can either stay on the mainland in the shadow of a ruined castle or out on an island linked to it by a causeway where the strong breezes will act as a constant reminder that you're sitting in the middle of a lake. Surprisingly, there's little in the way of watersports development, not even in the form of boat trips out onto the lake. For that, you should head for equally lovely Beyşehir, where the ruins of a Selçuk summer palace sit right beside the water. Finally, you could stay in Burdur, where the lake is a couple of kilometers out of the town center, but where there's a great museum and a couple of lovely restored Ottoman houses open to the public.

Gölhisar (Cibyra)

Why? Newly excavated archaeological site you may well have to yourself
If you've popped your head into Burdur Museum, you will have seen some fine carvings depicting gladiators that were found south of town at the remote site of Cibyra, uphill from Gölhisar. Barely ready for visitors, the site nonetheless boasts another very impressive stadium as wall as a theater and bouleterion (council house) that are almost intact. An impressive mosaic showing the head of Medusa may or may not be visible when you visit.


Why? Nasrettin Hoca links make this a fun place to bring children
The small town of Akşehir is completely off the radar when it comes to foreign visitors, and yet it is a surprisingly pleasant place with several lovely Selçuk monuments. But what makes Akşehir refreshingly different from many other similar inland towns is that it is believed to be the last resting place of Middle Eastern funnyman Nasrettin Hoca, a fact enthusiastically celebrated in the local park with reproductions of some of his best-known stories dotted about.

Yalvaç and Antioch in Psidia

Why? Archeological site associated with St. Paul
Compared to Afrodisias and Hierapolis, Antioch in Psidia is very much an also-ran tourist attraction with few of the surviving ruins especially striking to the non-specialist visitor. On the other hand, the site has strong associations with St. Paul, who is believed to have visited on three out of four of his trans-Anatolian missionary journeys and for some people this will give it a particular poignancy. Yalvaç is the small town just up the road from the site. Here, in the Çınaraltı Meydanı, you'll find one of those lovely Turkish corners where a group of teashops are grouped together in the shade of a huge and ancient plane tree, in this case rumored to be more than 800 years old.


Why? To appreciate what can be done with a so-so town with a bit of imagination
Not so long ago the large town of Eskişehir was not a place where anyone wanted to linger unless they were tempted to sample its thermal baths. Then came an imaginative administration led by Yılmaz Büyükerşen, and the next thing anyone knew there was a flashy new tram, gondolas and Amsterdam canal boats on the river, inviting public parks and the restored Odunpazarı district where Ottoman houses grouped around the attractive 16th-century Kurşunlu Cami had been restored to serve as cafes and restaurants. For anyone interested in urban regeneration projects Eskişehir is Turkey's most unexpected must-see destination.
Keywords: Western , Anatolia


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