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.
I 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.
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.”
So, 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.
Still, 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.
On 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 Turkish 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. The 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.