Part 2 of my travelogue of a 7-week tour of Turkey in April/May 2018.
The week in Adana was very comfortable in a nice hotel and though little English was spoken the staff looked after me wonderfully. I got to know the city quite well too, and I was impressed at how the local council worked really hard to create lovely big open, green spaces. There was a large park all around the Seyhan river, just 5 mins’ walk for me, and I went there most evenings for a long walk. Shopping streets tended to have parks as well, with nice shade trees and benches where I could sit and watch life go by. And they’ve dammed the river and created a huge lake north of the city, which was very beautiful. I was taken there one evening for a meal with the teachers from the first school I was working at.
That school was a private school in the middle of the city. Work there happened over three days and ran really smoothly. The two music teachers there were lovely and clearly working very hard to make music a big part of the school,though like in the UK the educational focus is on ‘core’ subjects so it’s easy for the musical activities to get sidelined.
I had a day off on the Thursday and walked all day, finding streets with markets selling textiles, food, fruit (the orange is big in Adana!) and tech - every other shop is a phone shop or an accessories shop. I also found a mall, which was great for the middle of the day when the temperature was around 35 degrees. In the afternoon I spent quite a lot of time sitting under a tree watching a family of lizards, and hired a bike for an hour or so to extend my touring further up and down the river, finding the dam of which I spoke earlier.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday I was working in TED College in Adana - TED is a Turkish private school with colleges all over the country. Here the days were very hot but my interpreter and I got along brilliantly and as always the students were polite and friendly - they had all toiled for 2 hours from Hatay which is very close to the Syrian border. The college was out of the city which meant an interesting commute each way - Adana traffic is horrendous, everyone drives with their horn blasting, everywhere is jammed and road rules aren’t really followed! I saw a 5-person family on a motorbike one day - father driving with a son in front of him and one behind, and mother perched side-saddle on the back holding a tiny baby. All without helmets of course, and weaving through 5 lanes of traffic.
I flew to Antalya on Monday and it felt like a different country. Here life is more relaxed and of course there are lots of tourists. My hotel was nicely situated near the old town and harbour which was beautiful for evening walks. I had a lovely high room with a sea view and work was either at a boutique music school near the sea run by two Kazakh sisters who were very hospitable, or at the Antalya branch of the TED college where there were a surprising number of American teachers. About 35 students of one teacher came all the way from a town in the East, and they all flew to Antalya with their families which must have been very expensive for them, and the teacher came too. The effort some families go to always humbles me.
My 10 days in Antalya were lovely, and the cherry on the icing on the cake was the visit of my wife and daughter for the weekend there. We had a lovely time, including great meals, lovely walks through the old town and a visit to the aquarium on a rainy Sunday afternoon. All too soon I was seeing them off back on the Monday morning but it was such a treat to have them visit me. Somehow my jammy daughter got the pick of the hotel’s rooms, right up on the 12th floor complete with Jacuzzi and amazing view over the bay. We couldn’t quite believe it.
There was always somewhere to walk in Antalya and it felt very safe - police there walk around in plain clothes so apart from the occasional squawk from a radio you don’t know who they are. A good idea in my book! There was a nice bar near the hotel that I went to most evenings for a ‘nightcap’ and sometimes for a bite to eat as well; the bartender Hakki was very friendly and we’ve ended up staying in touch. I’ve told that many Turkish people that they must let me know if they ever come to England that I might have to charter a plane - there’s so much warmth and genuine hospitality here as I’ve said before.
I left Antalya on a Thursday and had about 3 hours’ drive west through the mountains to Fethiye, undertaken in a huge blacked out Mercedes with very well presented driver. Proper pop star treatment. The Ece Saray resort in Fethiye was a marina, filled with beautiful and very expensive looking boats, overlooked by a boutique hotel with only 3 floors and 40 rooms, and two parrots in reception who said ‘hello’ and imitated mobile phones. Every room had a little ‘juliet’ balcony overlooking the marina and the rooms were beautiful, and all so quiet as the marina is half a mile or so away from the bustle of the town. It was like a little piece of paradise and I would love to return for longer. Breakfast each morning was on the roof terrace in the sun overlooking the boats and listening to the noise of the rigging and the water lapping against the boardwalk. I was virtually the only guest as well.
Fethiye itself had a long promenade with cafes and boats trying to attract people to book trips. Whilst Antalya was mainly Germans and Russians, Fethiye was more popular with the British. Just back from the water there was a big semi-covered market, a bit like a souk with bartering and loads of shops selling clothes, bags, spices and souvenirs. There were lots of restaurants though many in town catered for the Brits, offering fish 'n’ chips and beer etc. On the first night I found a Turkish one with a roof terrace and dined alone in the moonlight on an Izgara (grill) while being gently nibbled by the mosquitos.
Work in Fethiye was at a lovely music school run by a lady called Nilufer who cooked delicious lunches each day in the kitchen there. Every now and then we were interrupted by Fethiye’s public address system, where a lady (preceded by Hi-De-Hi-style bongs) would make very loud announcements to the whole town covering all kinds of subjects, including announcing recent deaths and advertising two-for-one deals on bananas. I worked Friday and Saturday and had a day off on the Sunday.
I’d thought about a boat trip on my day off but didn’t fancy anything with large crowds, loud music or shore-stops at the captain’s cousin’s spice stall (I’m getting grumpy in my old age) so on Saturday evening I walked the full length of the waterfront to see if I could find anything. I was attracted to a chap with a medium-sized sailboat offering a ‘quiet’ cruise around the islands and decided to book (for the princely sum of £12 for a full day on the boat with BBQ lunch). I was a little apprehensive, especially being on my own and in case it ended up being a bit club 18-30 but it turned out to be a superb day.
We set out mid-morning and chugged along with the engine on for about an hour to a cove around the other side of one of Fethiye’s many islands, where the boat dropped anchor and we could swim in the very clear waters. This was amazing, and as there were only about 30-40 people on a boat that can take 100, all couples and families with older children, it was really pleasant splashing around with the fish and exploring rocks. Back on the boat the BBQ was done and a delicious meal of fish or chicken with huge amounts of salad was served, washed down with beer from the on-board bar. We put in at another island where we could go ashore and walk for an hour or so, and there were further swimming opportunities during the afternoon in waters that were positively turquoise.
If there was enough wind they cut the motor and hoisted the sail and we skimmed across the bay - at one point to the sounds of the Titanic theme tune played on their music system - extremely cheesy and actually rather funny. Weather was perfect, everyone on board was friendly and chatty and it was a really nice day.
That evening Nilufer and her friends treated me to an evening at the fish bazaar, where you first choose your fish at the huge market there (all caught fresh of course) and then pick a local restaurant to cook it for you. We dined on grilled bug-eye, squid, very tasty fried roe, some unidentified ‘cold fish’ and plenty of salad, yoghurt and sea-beans (no idea what they were but they tasted nice), washed down with a nice bottle of Raki. God that stuff’s strong.
The third and final installment can be found here. Thank you for reading!