Category Archives: World Travel

Smashse Ship Antalya

The Turkish Riviera – Antalya Part 1

Traveling in the Riviera always sounded so Golden Age of Hollywood to me. Who knew that I would be bumming around such a beautiful place in my future.

After my last teaching gig ended, I spent a bit of time in Istanbul before heading back to Manisa to close up my affairs and figure out what exactly to do next. I had a couple of job offers in Manisa but couldn’t really convince myself or (even less likely) my wife to stay there any longer.

Turkish Christmas DinnerI spent Christmas with English and Turkish friends eating some delicious food (Yorkshire pudding, and chicken with brown gravy since they don’t do turkey in Turkey) in Manisa. The day after that another friend introduced me to a school in Izmir which seemed interested in giving me some work. Finally, a fourth school in Antalya called and told me to come meet with them and they would offer me a fantastic gig.

I’d wanted to see Antalya anyway, so as my birthday rolled around, I boarded a Pammukale bus and hit the road to Antalya. A friend was working at the school and told me they were free of the bullshit that we had dealt with in Manisa and besides, it sounded pretty cool to me to be able to spend a week in a beautiful Turkish beach town. Especially since I would be ringing in the new year there.

Smashed Ship Antalya
This ship got smashed against the cliffs in Antalya during a Christmas storm. Several guys died.

I’ll cut to the chase. Antalya was very cool but the school was another joke of a Turkish private language academy. They offered me less money for more hours than the Manisa schools in a town where the cost was twice as much. The owner was a big Turkish guy who said “This is a good deal, you should take it. We’ll make it even better in the future.” I actually had to keep myself from being nasty. “It’s a good deal for you but for me, it doesn’t work at all. Thanks anyway.”

Cliffs in AntalyaSo, I ended up spending a week in the Turkish Riviera. I stayed with my buddy who is a blues musician and had recently become involved with an Antalya blues bar called “Miles”, so we spent quite a bit of time hanging out in a laid back blues bar. The odd thing to me was that with a great decor and blues atmosphere, the owner insisted on playing KISS and Scorpions. If he would have actually been playing Miles Davis and Etta James, it would have probably filled his seats with foreigners since even in winter there were plenty of them strolling around. Mostly baby boomers from the looks of it. Such is the Turkish business mentality though. Like the English schools, I just don’t get it. Rape and pillage with no regard for what the customer or the employee really wants.

fishing in AntalyaStill, the vibe in Miles was great. Also the vibe in Antalya was cool. My buddy was hosting some couch surfers. A Swiss goat herder and a Moroccan Anarchist girl who somehow had gotten married and were traveling all over the place for about as cheap as it gets. Together they were spending about 9 Euro a day by using hitchhiking, couchsurfing, camping, and food from the bazaars. One night they invited another Lithuanian couch surfer over for dinner and the four of us had great conversation and just the right amount of wine.

I also was pleased to meet and get to spend time with another couchsurfer who I became great friends with in a short amount of time. Hard to describe her – she is a tattooed black lesbian woman who is traveling around the world to put together artists and find a way to give them representation. In a word, very cool chick. We had a few meals and took some great strolls along the beach while discussing art, life, travel, and the oddities of Turkey.

Beyond that, most of my time in Antalya was spent taking long walks, getting into deep conversations about god, nature, reality, Islam, the Moroccan monarchy, Turkey, jazz, and heavy metal with a whole range of characters from a heavy metal Turkish guitarist named Ozzy to a South African t.v. guy who was preparing to go to South America but decided to plant some roots in Antalya for a while before he did. In a word. Interesting and enjoyable.

New Years Eve AntalyaOn New Years Eve, I was invited to a half dozen parties but instead I ended up taking some long walks and then as the New Year began in Turkey first and then in Morocco, giving my wife the virtual kisses she deserves via Skype. Antalya was filled with drunk young Turks and the public square was like an electronic rave with old and young all bebopping to laser lights and DJ house music. Not quite what I expected.

On the interesting side of things though, I came across two beautiful things on New Years Eve. First, I encountered a bunch of break dancers. They were great at breaking but the very cool thing was that the music they were breaking to was like a combination of hip hop and Travel to AntalyaTurkish art music. I’ve never heard anything like it. If I had come across it and hadn’t of been sober, I would have thought it was a complete illusion or hallucination.

Second, I found one restaurant out of the seventy or so I passed that had traditional music and people drinking wine from glass carafs on the table. They had traditional musicians and traditional dance. It was where I would have stayed if I would have stayed out. Holiday in AntalyaThe odd thing, there were two groups – children and seniors. Everyone else was in the big rave square.

Antalya is beautiful, but I’m certain that if I had stayed there, I would hate it when the heat is turned up and the crowds swell with a multitude of tourists.

Turkish Sausages and Campfire

Snow Hiking in Turkey – Izmir – Bornova – Manisa

Adventures in foreign countries can be complex or they can be simple. One of the reasons I loved living in Manisa was because of the Manisa Tennis and Hiking Club. They made hiking adventures simple.

Snow in Manisa MountainsDon’t worry Manisa, we still love you. I met up with the club at the usual location in Tarzan square on a Sunday morning. As usual, everyone there was healthy, happy, and ready to get hiking and eating. Part of the fun of this club (and probably all Turkish clubs) is how much emphasis is put on the food. The packs were loaded and this wasn’t just going to be a normal outing in the snow. This was going to be a good old fashioned snow hike/sausage roast over an open fire in the mountains.

Turksih cattle in the snowThe club had arranged a bus to take us to the highest point in the mountains between Izmir and Manisa. It was going to take us higher but since there was quite a bit of snow and ice, the road was closed down. The driver let us out at the bottom and we began carefully working our way up the mountain road. More than one hiker slipped and fell but no one was seriously hurt.

Along the way we stopped to drink tea and have breakfast. The location was pretty but not very good for those of us who hadn’t brought something to sit on! It was a cool ass place! Ha ha.

Turkish Mountain Cabin in the SnowFurther on we came to a small village where the snow had trapped the inhabitants in. They didn’t seem to mind a bit. One problem did seem to be sewage leaking from somewhere though as the smell of urine was incredibly strong throughout the village. I’m not sure why, but I watched where I stepped.

We hiked up into the hills further through virgin snow and past woolly cattle who didn’t seem to mind the snow drifting in the least. They ran in a small herd. I don’t know why, but there aren’t all that many cows in Turkey which makes beef incredibly expensive. In fact, all meat is expensive in Turkey in comparison with North Africa or North America or Europe. I haven’t really figured out why.

Turkish Sausages and CampfireFinally reaching what seemed to be a peak of sorts, we started to gather wood for our weenie roast. Once again, the choice of spots wasn’t the greatest for those of us without pads to sit on, but since my Turkish is minimal I went with it, even though a more comfortable spot was not very far away with places for people to sit.

After a few misguided efforts to start a fire with large or wet wood, finally wiser heads prevailed and we managed to do things the proper way with small dry tinder, small dry twigs, and plenty of room for the fire to breathe. After that, it was sausage time.

Turks love sausages. Obviously not pork, mostly sheep or some of the more expensive ones are cow meat. We roasted, we ate, we drank tea, and then we covered up the fire with snow and set off back down the mountain.

Gokceler Bornova IzmirDown the hill, through the village, down the road, and with only one injury that caused some tears, we made it back to the waiting van. On the way we passed plenty of Turks who had come up from either Manisa or Izmir playing in the snow. Snowmen, plenty of picnicking, and as I smiled at two senior citizen couples enjoying the snow, one old man nailed me with a snowball! I wasn’t the only one laughing. His wife looked scared at first that I would be mad, but how could I be!

trekking and packing

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Packing for a Trek

One of the joys of traveling around the world is getting out into the great outdoors and enjoying Mother Nature all around the planet. Guest blogger shares how to pack for the occasion.

For those who are familiar with the joys of trekking they must have experienced that packing the right things is more important than anything else for such a trip. Imagine running short of essentials when you have hoards of non-essentials in your pack to carry around! This can be very frustrating and at times may be life threatening. Here I don’t mean running out of toilet paper but running out of your medications or forgetting your first aid kit!

Here are a few tips if you are planning to go on a trekking trip:

1)  Pack No More Than 1/4th of Your Body Weight:

Remember you will probably be carrying your essential trekking and packingload if you don’t have porters available. So do take your full load but always pack a light backpack which you can conveniently carry for a long day’s walk. As a rule it should not be more than 1/4th of your body weight.

2) You Shouldn’t Bring Everything  You Think You Should.

There are many things without which you can easily survive. The list can be long but this has to be worked out by you only. What is important to know is that when you have to carry it yourself every ounce counts!

3)Spare Batteries Are Essential

Depending on where you are heading you should keep your essentials accordingly. If it is a river trekking trip or a mountain trekking one the essentials will be different. But there will be some which will always be there. Never forget to pack your first aid kit, your sunglasses, and extra pair of socks, spare batteries for your torch and communication system as these can be a life saver in times of need.

4) You Can’t Know It All

What you should do first of all is get advice from someone who has been there before. If he or she is a professional guide then stick 100% to the advice. If your advisor is not a professional then it is advised that you should get maximum details from him or her but then carefully evaluate because there can be some overlooks or differences in perception that can change the entire content of your backpack.

Going out in nature can be very relaxing, joyful and educational and it’s better if you are comfortable and not overloaded.

Owais Siddiqui is an avid trekker and loves sharing his knowledge of places and techniques for great trekking.