Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The heat is on! Olympos & Antayla, Turkey


Destination: Olympos & Antayla, Turkey

Number of Days Spent: 1 day in each

Where we stayed: In Olympos we stayed at Sabon (30 lira including dinner, breakfast & free Internet), after Olympos we took a bus to Antayla for the day and then a night bus to Goreme (35 lira - this starts at 40 lira but you can bargain on this route but be sure your ticket says Goreme otherwise they might take you to the neighboring town)

Best restaurant: Can Can Pide in Antayla had the best pide(pita) we had in Turkey! Try the mixed plate and get a mixture of veggie, cheese, blue cheese & meat for 6 lira - $4! It also had free water which was a great bonus after our visit to the haman left us thirsty.

Best of: Throwing cold water on one another as we sweated it out on the marble slap. I never imagined that I would welcome a dousing with a tin of cold water but it was amazingly refreshing! After our "treatment" we went back in for a second dousing!

Worst of: Do they have to charge 15 lira ($10) for every archeological museum? The admission to the one in Antayla was rather steep.

Most Memorable: We will never forget lying on a marble slab sweating out the toxins while a wood fire burned under the slab. Our very first hammam experience!

Ah, the old "hippie" circuit. The infamous Olympos tree houses are the stuff of legends. Back in the 70's this was a major stop (or start?) to the hippie trail than ran from Turkey through Iran and into Pakistan and India. While Iran and Pakistan have changed making the route today not so appealing, little seems to have changed here as the "town" is a backpackers haven. Cheap rooms, beer and a party atmosphere lend itself to the average, 20 something year old backpacker and the makeshift town heaves with tons of them partying it up. With all our time spent in Patara, we didn't stay too long, but we can see how you could chill out here for a long time.

The "tree houses" are really more huts on stilts, bare bones basic with shared blocks of showers and toilets and a mattress thrown on the floor. It reminded us a lot of our time in South-east Asia spent in similar accommodations. Being more of the "chill out" traveler and less of the party hardy backpacker, we stayed at Saban's. While the thumping Disco could be heard in the distance from the party camps, it wasn't enough to keep us awake and with it's fantastic (nearly all)veggie dinner buffet, made for a nice one night stop.

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Not far from the camps are the Chimera fires. The flames are naturally occurring from some sort of methane gas leaking out of the ground. In ancient times, the flames would help sailors find the safe harbor at Olympos and could be seen for miles away. Today they are little more than a collection of campfires as the gas fumes have slowed over the years, but it's still an interesting phenomenon and worth the sweaty hike up to see them.

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The next day, we hopped on the bus up to Antayla, and left our bags at the bus station to explore the town a little. Much like most of the coastline, Antayla is also overrun with resorts, mostly catering to Russians in this part. After taking a "joy" ride on the public bus (it's hard to figure where to get off sometimes!) we ended up near the museum and decided to poke our heads in for a quick peak.

Not trying to sound too jaded, but we have seen a lot of Roman ruins and the collection here, while nice enough, was not worth the price (in our opinion). It did have some rather impressive sarcophagus room though including one depicting the trials of Hercules. It also houses good ole St. Nick's relics (bones)...err...no boys and girls Santa Claus is alive and well and still lives in the North Pole. He was born near here, however, and his name appears randomly everywhere in the Southern part of Turkey.

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A trip to Turkey would not be complete without a trip to a Hamam, or Turkish Bath. We figured it would be a good end to the day and a nice place to relax before getting on an overnight bus ride. After donning the attire, the treatment begins with a steam in the 500 year old steam room. Still fired today by wood, as it has for centuries, one enters the room and lies on a marble slab with a wood fire burning beneath it. The heat helps you sweat out the toxins in your body. You do this for 15-20 minutes (which feels like an eternity). To help you stand the heat, there are cold water basins with metal bowls for you to douse yourself in. After just a few minutes of laying on the marble slabs, we found ourselves huddled around the basin constantly pouring the refreshing cool water on one another.

Once your pores have sufficiently opened, the attendant (man for men, woman for women - ALWAYS, and don't let them tell you any differently) takes a puffy like bag with soap suds and washes you from head to toe...then they take a loofah like mitt and scrub (and we mean scrub) the dead skin cells from your body before completing a second wash & shampoo. It's wort mentioning that the attendants are almost always hulking large people and tend to take no mercy when scrubbing! After a rinse and dry, they wrap you up and they give you a refreshing glass of tea and some fruit before the optional massage. Using some sort of blend of oils, including a heavy dose of olive oil, the masseuse rubs you down, again, man on man woman on woman. The oil leaves your skin feeling a bit clammy to be honest, so we hopped back into the steam room and helped ourselves to more hot steam and a cool water dousing. If we were to do it again, we would skip the massage and stick to the basic bath treatment. The whole thing set us back about $25 US + tip each for the 2.5 hours we spent there, not too bad considering the prices in Istanbul were twice as much. Just the bath would have been $10, worth every penny in our book!


Feeling super relaxed and squeaky clean, but a bit parched from the steam, we stopped and had a great Pide (Turkish Pizza) and copious amounts of H2O before heading out to the bus for Gorome and the fairy tale Chimneys of Cappadoccia.

To see more photos of Olympos click here! For more of Antayla click here!

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