We left Goreme on June 15th and took a bus to the city of Konya about half way between Goreme and the coastal city of Antalya. We only stayed in Konya one night mostly because we wanted to break up the long bus ride from Goreme to Antalya. Konya is best known as the home of the Whirling Dervishes and the site of the tomb of the famous Sufi mystic and poet Jallal Ad-din Rumi, also known as Mevlana. After we arrived and got to our hotel, we walked to the Rumi tomb and museum as it was closed the next day and we wouldn’t have much time before catching our bus to Antalya anyone. Both of us are fans of Rumi’s poetry, so it was neat to see the tomb. It was a beautiful building that is also an Islamic holy place so there were people praying inside and once again Jocelyn had to cover her hair and we had to wear little plastic booties inside.
The next day, we got back on the bus and moved on to the city of Antalya on the Mediterrenan coast. A word about Turkish buses here, they are really nice. Not only are the tickets cheap, but they run like clockwork, always on time in our experience, and the service is great. There is a whole crew on the bus kind of like an airplane. Sometimes there is two drivers on the longer trips so they can switch off and there is also a steward who comes through with a cart and serves free drinks and snacks a couple of times throughout the trip. There is also an entertainment system in each seat with TV (in Turkish), movies, and music. Compared to Greyhound, it is the definition of luxury.
We were in Antalya a total of 4 days. It is a bustling city of 1 million with an interesting old town, decent beaches, and a beautiful setting on a large bay surrounded by mountains that seem to jut straight up out of the sea. We stayed in the old town that was a bit touristy, but had some interesting historical sites including Hadrian’s Gate, built by the Roman emporer Hadrian, and the ruins of a mosque that started out as a Roman Basilica. We spent a lot of time on the beach and swimming in the Mediterrenean and we also visited the Antalya Archaelogical Museum, which has a huge collection of Roman artifacts and statues from the surrounding Roman ruins and archaelogical sites.
We also took one day trip to the city of Demre which has the ruins of the ancient Lycian/Roman city of Myra and the church of St. Nicholas (yes, that St. Nicholas, Santa Claus as we know him). Myra was very interesting as it has a Necropolis (tombs) cut right into the side of the mountains, similar to the churches in Cappadocia. It also has a very much intact Roman era amphitheatre. It was fun to climb around on it and picture it full of people 2,000 years ago watching the latest Roman theater performances. The church of St. Nicholas was also very interesting. St. Nicholas spent most of his life here as the Bishop and his tomb is in the church. It is a pilgrimage site for Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians, so there were people there sticking various objects under the tomb to be blessed and praying. Much of the church is in ruins, but there are some frescoes that are in good shape and the main basilica is also still standing. It was actually just a nice place to visit and hang out as it provided a cool and shady refuge from the blazing midday sun that we had just been walking in for the previous couple of hours.
We had a good time in Antalya and it was very nice to take it easy for a few days and just hang out on the beach after the break neck pace we had been doing for the previous few weeks. Pictures below, and stay tuned for the Greek island of Kos and Athens up next.