April 2, 2012

Antalya

Not to sound morbid when describing the most beautiful place I have ever been, but you absolutely must go to Antalya before you die. Just imagine the Sierra Nevada mountain range topped with snow leading into luscious forests dotted with wildflowers that extend down to rugged coastline with turquoise water and palm trees. Not to mention the mountain goats traversing cliffs and orange orchards so plentiful that children play soccer with the fallen fruit.

This region, the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, is quite popular as a vacation destination among Europeans for the quiet towns and historical landscape as it is the digging site for relics of the Roman and Byzantine Empire. Antalya’s archeological museum is an absolute must that can be topped off with a Turkish coffee in the beautiful courtyard next to the ancient Roman sculpture of your choice.

Antalya, the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey

 Despite the tourism draw, I find it interesting that agriculture is actually the main source of income for the region. Like I said before, orange trees fill the air with their fresh squeezed fragrance (a cup for the U.S. equivalent of 50 cents) and massive greenhouses filled with fruits and vegetables stud the green rolling hills.

Antalya, the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey

I would say my favorite aspect of the trip was not the five star resort equipped with a Turkish bath, indoor and outdoor pool and beach access, but rather the boat ride down the coast.

On a boat by Antalya, the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey

The weather was perfect, low 70s, as we cruised past islands with ancient castles and lighthouses. The boat was small but had a glass bottom to view green tinted pottery embedded in silt from lost civilizations. Antalya the city is gorgeous and is quite dichotomous in the sense that it has a separate modern and historical district. I have bought very few souvenirs but did pick up a gorgeous bright blue tunic with thick embroidery made in the early 1900s in the Orientalist style. The man who sold it to me was a political intellectual who had worked as a diplomat in Syria and retired to Antalya to open the expansive antique store. I spoke with him over tea for over two hours about the flaws of American politics and, of course, the glory of Ataturk.

It’s crazy to me that now that I am back in Istanbul I realize that this is my comfort zone. Only a month and a half ago I was struggling to cope with this maze of city, finding myself lost in translation every time I stepped out of the dorm. Now I am in the midst of midterms and rely on the standard eight cups of çai, a very strong black tea that is a staple of Turkish tradition. Speaking of çai, my cup is empty and my thoughts are beginning to diverge into the copious material I must study.

Until next week!

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