(written by Nancy)
Beautiful blue sky and sunshine when we woke up this morning and the temperature already felt warm. We had a great breakfast at the Villa Tulipan to see us off – our kind host brought us extra food this morning, including extra plates of fresh fruit. It is a bit of a dilemma you see – at these nice pensions we eat almost everything they bring us as we do not want to appear rude and leave food on the table. The Turkish people in turn do not want to be rude and let your plates be empty, because if they are obviously you are still hungry. Hence the problem arises that if we stay a few days in one place every day the breakfast spread gets bigger and bigger and bigger!
We finally rolled out of the guesthouse just before 9 and made our way through town to get back on the D400 heading east. I thought we would have a bit of a traffic nightmare this morning, having to go through a city this size just around rush hour but it was nothing really. (Excellent route finding by the junior editor and director of navigation, Dave)
We were on the highway the whole way today – the D400 is a 4 lane divided highway in this area with a very wide shoulder so it wasn’t too bad to ride. It was basically flat all of the way into Side and we rode at speeds that we haven’t seen since we left SE Asia so it felt nice for a change. Best of all, we had our first asphalt road that wasn’t chip-sealed – smooth is great. It wasn’t terribly scenic though it was not as bad as you might expect. Once we got past the Antalya airport the area opened up into fields on both sides of the highway with random collections of buildings and apartment blocks at regular intervals.
We saw many roadside stands selling strawberries today, so the berry season must finally be starting. We didn’t stop to get any today but hopefully we will be able to get some fresh berries one of these days. We did stop for a cup of tea and a snack in a little town along the way – a nice cuppa and some bikkies never goes astray on a bike ride. Other than the tea stop Dave did not stop to take any pictures, even though we did have some nice views of the snow-capped mountains off to our left for much of the morning. I think he just could not bring himself to slow down as he was enjoying the speed too much. And for those who read the post yesterday about our room and the toilet standards, just to prove us wrong, the restaurant had a squat toilet with bucket flush – though it was pretty clean (clean being relative in a bucket flush squat toilet).
We made it to our destination of Side (pronounced Sihdeh) by about 1 or so. This is kind of an odd spot as this coastal area is lined with huge hotels and resorts – it is apparently one of the top package tour destinations in the world, where everyone stays in all-inclusive resorts. We bypassed the resort areas and headed to the old town area of Side where there are quite a few hotels and pensions. We have landed at the Beach House Hotel in a room with a deck facing the sea. It’s a nice spot and not too busy yet.
Side is known for its ruins so we quickly cleaned up, headed out to get something to eat and see the ruins. The ruins are pretty spectacular, particularly because you are allowed to walk right amongst them. It seems to cover a very large area, with no fenced or roped off areas and no fees, other than to see the theatre. The ruins are purportedly some of the most impressive in Asia Minor – the setting is clearly impressive, right next to the sea. Some of the ruins have been incorporated into various buildings – even the garden of our hotel has some ruins in it!
The theatre is also very impressive – it is in pretty good shape and apparently held almost 20,000 people in its day. It is apparently somewhat unique in Turkey because it is not built up against a hill. We paid the 10TL entrance fee to go in and have a wander about. It is very interesting – it has two sets of seating with a corridor running underneath the top deck of seating. It seemed very much like the arenas you see now – you could just picture the guys selling hot dogs (or meat pies) and drinks along the corridor walls while the gladiators fought to the death at the base of the theatre.
We walked a bit around town, dodging the carpet and trinket salesmen and made our way to the Temples of Apollo and Athena, perched right on the edge of the sea. There are hundreds of columns and temple pieces laying about the area of the temples. Several columns of the Temple of Athena have been put back up so you can get a real impression of what it might have looked like in its heyday.
This area seems to be a magnet for German and Dutch tourists and most of the restaurants and shops quote prices in euros. I even had someone give me euro change (coins) today, which I quickly used to pay for a bottle of water, as I do not want to carry euro coins around with me until we get back up to the Eurozone many months from now. Our hotel owner said that most of the package tourists never even bother to get Turkish lira and don’t know what the exchange rate is – they just pay for everything in euros. Because of all of the tourism it is a relatively expensive place, which I guess is not surprising given it’s beachfront location. I think in the summer it gets pretty crazy here so we are glad to see it when it is a bit calmer.
Tomorrow we are aiming for the town of Alanya, about 65k from here. We are told we should be free of the package tourist area and that it is flat again all the way there. There is a bit of rain in the forecast but at this point it is not supposed to arrive until later in the afternoon or evening, by which time we should be settled in the next town.