|The Ballards - Turkey Side|
has always seemed an exotic place: not quite as upstanding, European and...well,
us, as Greece.
We went in April to avoid the worst
of the heat.
We stayed in a good
quality hotel rather than try to save a few ££s, as we have
found that in the long run this is a false economy.
We did, however, pass on the evening entertainment which
was, for some reason, every night of the week exclusively old show tunes
for the over 60s, danced to by young Turkish waiters with great gusto.
That aside, we ate well in the entirely buffet style restaurants on Half Board (why don't all hotels do it this way? It's cheaper on staff and more satisfying from the clients' perspective: you can eat what you want), swam in 6 of the 7 pools (the 7th pool had been abandoned to its fate at the back of the hotel and resembled a mad professor's chemstry set...) and visited the bars.
The hotel has an astonishing number and variety of swimming
pools and despite the earliness of the season I swam in all of them (besides
the aforementioned chemistry set...).
I went diving with an English firm - the owner claimed
to be ex-Marine and alluded to SBS experience.
I did see some examples of German arrogance towards the
Turks, which was a shame as my experience with Germans has hitherto been
The Euro has made it's appearance since our last foreign
trip: in Turkey it is preferred as a more stable currency than the inflation-ridden
Turkish Lire, currently exchanging at 2,000,000 to the £ (I looked,
but couldn't find, any Turkish Estate Agency advertisements - imagine
There is still a great deal of deference to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Modern Turkey. His face appears on posters, his life history was in a book next to a bust in the Reception area of the hotel.
Turkey is an interesting crossroads of Europe and the
Middle East: the bazaar culture is prevalent but Western-style supermarkets
abound, Islam is practised but not pushed, the emphasis is on practical
The hotel had a Turkish Bath.
Donald Sinden, in his memoirs, recalls visiting a public
Turkish Bath and in the Changing rooms finding two Turkish men matter-of-factly
copulating in plain sight; something that would appal his exquisitely
English sensibilities, yet in Turkey wouldn't be thought twice of.
We had an overall massage and an exfoliating scrub by
a pair of dark-eyed Turkish girls who, on closer inspection, both had
a body odour problem.
I managed to escape being forced to have a Turkish shave;
again that English reserve, and the thought of cut-throat razers and burning
cotton-buds (for defuzzing one's ears, I understand).
A visit to Blackwells prior to the holiday yielded a couple of truly excellent Turkish Guide books including one on the local area around Antalya and Alanya describing both driving and walking tours, assiduously explained in terms of navigation (sensibly assuming no signposts, giving directions only in terms of landmarks), quality of road/track (although we thought they were a little over-cautious) and what you were seeing along the way.
Following the guide book we drove to up the valley to
the Roman amphitheatre at Selge.
The road then wound up in to the foothills and entered
the Kopru River canyon. Rafting was on offer (we declined, like cats avoiding
water), before a climb and over the incredible Roman Oluk stone bridge
only just wide enough (and, I suspect, strong enough) for
Within the remarkably well-preserved amphitheatre grazed
a cow, which was quite incapable of getting out due to the tumble of rocks
within the single entrance tunnel and had, apparently, been carried in
as a calf and left to graze in this natural corral.
On our return, we visited Aspendos, which has absolutely
nothing to recommend it at all, being full of nothing, seemingly, but
tatty tourist leather shops.
Aspendos has, however, a fine, medieval bridge across
the Kopru which is now, fortunately, closed to traffic and bypassed by
a surprisingly good dual carriageway. It has been beautifully restored
and you can walk across it in peace. There was little tourist infrastructure,
so we were left in peace.
This is the worst part of visiting anywhere in the East:
the "bazaar" culture.
The coastal foothills do not extend far inland: it was
easy to view, through gaps in the hills, the heart of Turkey still covered
in snow. You don't have to go far inland for the scenery, and the people,
to get wild.
Turkish drivers have an awful reputation: apparently
the accident rate per mile driven is 20x the UK rate.
We saw some horrendous accidents in some very obvious
places, usually on junctions where it is not macho to Give Way.
We hired a 4WD which came delivered to the hotel but
with virtually no petrol in it. The car rental man was very vague as to
where the nearest petrol station was, or even whether it took petrol or
diesel (we sniffed the petrol tank in the end).
Turkish petrol stations are great: they fill you up (ever
tried "fill her up" in sign language to a Turk?), wash your
windscreen, fill up your washers, check your oil, wipe your seats down.
The following day we traded in our 4WD for a Fiat something-or-other
with a sewing machine motor and little skinny tyres like the old 2CVs
had. Same story with the petrol, but now we knew where the petrol station
We took a diversion up in to the hills to see Alara Castle,
described in the guide book as "fairy tale" but it looked more
like a badly decomposed lump of rock to me.
All along the coastal plain and up in to the foothills
we noticed a highly complex and obviously expensive to build and maintain
irrigation system of concrete open-lidded pipes and cisterns, with ingenious
underground siphons to cross roads and tracks.
The scenery up in the hills was refreshing and unspoilt:
we saw a Wedding party populated by old boys with huge moustaches and
bustling women in headscarves, driving along in a pick-up with horn blaring,
tiny villages with raki-sodden men playing cards and smoking cigarette
butts (always butts, never a proper cigarette... why?).
We eventually arrived on the main road near Guzelbag
having re-entered the world of maps.
We trundled down the road and in to Alanya, an unprepossessing
and workman-like town enlivened only by it's magical castle mount in the
centre of town.
The guide book told us of spectacular views East of Gazipasa
so we returned to the car and headed east along the coast road.
East of Gazipasa the road turned inland and ran through
a beautiful valley of orange groves before finally cresting the coastal
hills and emerging spectacularly and very suddenly at the coast, high
up on a cliff.