Winter finally is gone, and it is about time to leave your sofas, go out and explore the world a bit.
This is what the Woodpecker clan thought, when some weeks ago we checked the internet and found a very pleasantly prices package tour to a tourist resort in southern Turkey (apparently all the russian tourist are missing there, so price was incredible low).
But then you might guess our next thought:
A package tour? An All-inclusive tourism resort?! Hm, not really the thing the Woodpeckers are typically into. Sounds too much like fat-bellied ever-beer-drinking average consumer chaps in the main stream hotels and hard-working rat-racers with their mobiles always on in the golf clubs next door.
Not seeing the country but feasting on “international” (i.e. boring) food, buying overpriced carpets, demanding “Schnitzel” or Burgers in every restaurant and complaining if Turks only speak Turkish.
All not really what we are looking for, as we traveled Turkey a total of 20 weeks before individually and far off the beaten tracks, two times even with our own car that we brought there all the way from Germany, one time a full eight weeks in a row during parental leave (different story).
Anyway, the price included accommodation, flight, food, kids care, pool etc and was so good that it was hardly beatable by anything we could compile ourselves, plus we had an advantage:
Most people going to the area around Antalya rely on their tour operators on what to do, and miss out the chance that there are actually a lot of places to discover and a lot of non-mainstream things to do, provided one thing:
Your own transportation and a bit of trust in your own ability to cope with local traffic and sometimes “challenging” road layout, e.g. in the mountains.
So we decided to go for it but do it the Woodpecker style:
The booked AI hotel should only serve as our comfortable and cheap home-base and we rented a car with a local company that I can wholeheartedly recommend especially to Germans, as they are specialized on german customers: Say Automobile. It is a hands-on rental company, friendly and cheap (we paid 30 EUR per day for a compact car plus ony 3 EUR per child seat and day, delivery and pickup included. Prolongation of rental period was settled by phone and simply leaving 30 additional EUR in the car when parking it in front of hotel for pick-up).
So, we arrived and where all puzzled by the fact that someone with out name on a sign was already waiting to pick us up at the airport, everything was prepared, we did not have to care for anything, etc.
Not need to organize something themselves – obviously what most tourists are looking for.
But after two days of hanging out at the pool and walking from one AI food station to the next – as expected – it started to bore us (can’t understand how people are able to spend a full two weeks in the resort without their brains getting mash), so we started our excursions:
And South Turkey (or all of Turkey to be precise) is just perfect to go out and explore. People are extremely friendly and helpful, especially outside tourist zones, and especially if you have kids and do not behave like a superior asshole. Turkey also is cheap, food is great, landscapes are diverse and fascinating, and the best is:
Woodpecker loves ancient cities, especially if they are not boring ordinary ancient cities, but if they fulfill two criteria:
1) A great setting, what I call a “Lord of the Ring setting”, giving you that “Fellowship of the Ring travels the empty lands of Middle Earth” feeling.
2) As few other visitors as possible and as little signs of modern culture as possible. Giving you what I call “Indiana Jones discovers magic place no Westerner has seen before” feeling.
Thus, the perfect spot would be an ancient city, half buried under vegetation, barely digged out, no signposts, fences, guards or paved walkways, sitting in a secluded, quite and spectacular landscape, not really visited by a lot of people.
And belief it or not: Turkey is full of this places! Even as close to touristic hot-spots as the Turkish Riviera.
However, to max out your chances to be there alone, follow the classical four rules of anti-cyclical tourism:
Go there when:
- Time is odd, off-season, or early in the morning or late afternoon (or night for the pros)
- Weather is bad (this is a big secret tip to enjoy so many places that are otherwise crowded)
- You have to exert effort to get there. A long hike necessary? Perfect. A difficult drive not doable for tour busses? Great.
- Choose the second tier. This ruins may be a bit smaller, but this is more than off-set by being able to be there alone and really feel the thousands of years of history plus the magic of the place (holds true as well for mountain peeks, churches, cities, basically all places that gain from being empty).
The first tour took us to Termessos, an ancient city in the Taurus mountains, set on a spectacular mountain valley quite close to Antalya.
It is not fully clear when it was founded, but certainly before 500 BC. Termessos was under siege by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, but Alexander finally had to give up and conquer half of Asia instead.
It is a difficult drive though and a long sweaty walk to get to the ruins, thus the place is not crowded. At least not in April and with weather being on our side (i.e. cloudy, cold, some rain). A few people running around but if you go to the fantastic necropolis (the city of the dead, an extra 30 min walk uphill) you are alone again.
This is what we got. The theme of the this location was mountain grey.
Lord of the Rings Score 7/10.
Indiana Jones Score 6/10.
(Click for large version, hover for caption)
Being fascinated by Termessos, the real surprise came when we discovered Lyrbe (incorrectly called Seleucia, even in Wikipedia), a quite unknown place, not much written about in the guidebooks.
But what a magic setting, so quite and secluded in the middle of a pine forest. NO ONE in the whole area there except the Woodpecker clan. Bird chirping and wind being the only sound around to disturb the sleep of centuries.
Lord of the Ring Score 6/10.
Indiana Jones Score 9/10.
Difficult to catch this special atmosphere in pictures, but I tried. Note the lovely greenish atmosphere in the forrest.
(Click for large version, hover for caption)
But then, a few days later, Woodpecker really was swept off his feet by another excursion.
This one – Selge – was so spectacular that it deserves a separate post – stay tuned!