We arrived at the Saban Treehouse Pension after sunset last night, so this morning was our first opportunity to properly see the area. It was a surprisingly large complex, with a big collection of elevated timber shacks built around trees. I guess they are technically ‘tree houses’, but it’s not what really comes to mind for me when I think of a tree house. They certainly looked nice and airy, with plenty of gaps between the exterior wooden panelling, but surprisingly even in our mostly enclosed (there were still quite a few large gaps in the joinery) bungalow, I was ready to reach for a blanket in the early hours of this morning. When I arrived at the communal eating area (which looked like an amazing place to relax for a day or two) there was a girl seeking medical advice for her friend who had been bitten by something (most likely a mosquito or two) and her eyes had swollen up so much she couldn’t see. She was searching for somewhere to buy anti-histamine tablets in town, but the manager suggested that some seawater would do the trick. I thought our mosquito problems were behind us after that horrible night without sleep in Patara, but it seems that we were lucky last night – doubly so having opted for a room with proper walls.
There was a 4TL ($2) charge to park a car at Olympos historic area, so we opted to drive a very short distance from our hostel and park just outside of the official car park. Entry was 10TL ($5) each, and I’m pretty sure the ticket collector is skimming money by giving us old tickets (they all have electronic barcodes to allow access through a turnstile and these were expired) and then using a master card to open the gates for us. I guess you’ve gotta subsidise your income somehow…
Like Patara, access to the beach was via the ruins. We were feeling pretty hot, so we quickly made our way to the waterfront to enjoy the Mediterranean. The smooth pebble beaches are quickly growing on me, especially when it means that the water is as clear as it is here. We splashed out and bought more sunscreen yesterday (35TL / $18 – and that was one of the cheapest!) so we were able to spend some time in the sun without being too worried about burning up. I wish I could relax and enjoy the warmth of the sun while reading a book, but even with our fancy SPF50+ sunscreen, I started to feel paranoid after 10 minutes…
The area is full of ruins that are now overrun by the forest. Olympos was once a very important city, and it is pretty easy to see the scale of this town, unlike the much more popular (and expensive) ruins at Ephesus. I guess they are quite different styles and can’t really be compared… Still, I found the ruins here much more enjoyable, even if they didn’t have any of the amazing individual examples, like the Celsus Library, that Ephesus had.
We (I) honestly thought that I could have spent an entire day exploring the area, but after about an hour or two it began to lose its excitement. I’m still generally finding ruins interesting, as they all tend to be quite different, but I’m losing the motivation to go visit more.
We had a quick lunch in a relaxing looking café before leaving. Sorry, we planned to have a quick lunch in a relaxing looking café before leaving except they didn’t seem to be in any rush with our order. I guess the staff were also relaxing… A tavuk sis ekmek (grilled chicken sandwich) and a couple of different gozelme (crepes) were enough to tide us over until dinner. At least they had some cute kittens, even if they were too shy to play with us…
Driving north towards Antalya we were told to visit a few places. First of them was Phaselis, but after spending a couple of hours walking around some ruins in Olympos I lost motivation to go to some more, even if Lonely Planet said they were ‘irresistibly romantic’. What we did try to see though was a canyon. We could get an idea of where it was by the amazing and rugged mountains that we were driving past, but we didn’t see any signs about how to get there. We did accidentally drive down to a luxury town that was full of young, tanned, beautiful and rich Russians. OK, I don’t know that they were Russian, but the (comically enormous and incredibly expensive looking) hotels were flying Russian flags and shops had Cyrillic writing. The hotels really were enormous, and they looked amazing. We had to have a look online to see just how expensive they were –the cheaper ones cost more a night than we are paying a week! It was quite a surprise for us.
As we rolled in to the outskirts of Antalya we opened the Booking.com app for my phone and searched for some budget accommodation in town. Quite a lot to choose from, but we ended up settling on one that looked to have a beautiful view from the terrace. Getting there was a little more challenging… We’d purposely chosen a hotel within the old city walls (Kaleici), but I didn’t realise how hard it is to access this area (neither did my GPS application). The roads are clearly not designed for vehicles, which isn’t surprising as I’m sure it predates cars and carriages by quite some time. But, we found an entrance and navigated the one-way streets around to our hotel successfully.
It was a positive experience right from the start. The manager (Alper) was super friendly, and we ended up spending the afternoon/evening chatting with him over coffee and taking in the million lira views out over the bay.
He eventually cooked us a quick dinner (which was delicious, and saved us the effort of navigating the quagmire of finding a restaurant in a tourist area.
In fact, we were enjoying it here so much we decided to spend an extra day here, because why not! It’s certainly more expensive having our own rental vehicle, but the flexibility and freedom are worth it in our minds.
After dinner we had a bit of a wonder around the old town. There is no shortage of fancy (looking) restaurants and bars. If the people walking around the area were anything to judge by, it was a lot more upmarket than we were used to – I certainly looked out of place in my t-shirt, shorts and thongs (flip-flops/jandals). Outside the old city walls there were numerous markets selling much the same as we’d seen in other places in Turkey. The one thing we hadn’t seen before were boats decorated in Pirates of the Caribbean themes! Half of the harbour was filled with boats similar to this. We noticed boats doing tours out to a small waterfall that falls from a cliff into the sea just outside the old city walls, but didn’t realise that they were faux Black Pearls!