Turkish Riviera Day 3 – “Side” trip/planning

After breakfast this morning, we met with our tour company rep and started talking about all the other neat stuff we could be doing on this trip. A lot of the options were available for less than €50 a head and included a meal or two. We were most interested in Antike Höhepunkte (Highlights of Antiquity) and Sea to Sky (a gondola trip up a mountain from sea level) and Das Erlebnis Nord-Zypern (The North Cypress Experience), and Kekova (a sunken city) but of those four, two have been cancelled due to a lack of interest or dangerous weather conditions. So we signed up for Antike Höhepunkte and a free shopping trip to Antalya. We’re not big on tourist-targeted shopping opportunities, which are apparently attractive to other visitors from Western Europe (a couple times one or both of us have been mistaken for Dutch or Belgians, so it must not be exclusively Germany sending her children abroad), but we opted to take in Antalya as part of that package. I mean hey…it’s free transportation 50 minutes to the city of Antalya and back here at the end of the day. Why not, right? If the free trip to Antalya and the Highlights go well, we might sign up for the sunken city trip. Otherwise, we might be renting a car and striking out more on our own.

After getting our package plans settled for the next couple of days, we walked out onto the main drag along the coast and hopped a dolmuş (mini-bus) headed toward Side. You wave at the bus headed toward you, he pulls over, you get in, and you hand the driver a Euro coin (don’t forget, the national currency of Turkey is the Lira, but you don’t hardly need it) per person. Then get off wherever you want. Any verbal interaction you need happens in fairly broken but usable German. Our first impressions of the road travel are that it’s much less crazy than Puerto Vallarta (nothing scary about the buses at all), so that’s encouraging.

We got off at the main bus station (if you can call it that — more like a parking lot) in Side and walked around, taking in all the ruins lying around. Along the way, we stopped in at a place which smelled good and seemed a refuge from the Turkish merchants encouraging us (in German) to buy their jeans, shoes, leather goods, jewelry, etc. I had a chicken döner and Sarah had a beef one. Fellow expats: ever heard of a beef döner? Both were great, served piping hot in freshly grilled lavash-like wraps. When we got down to the harbour area, we finally — FINALLY — found a place with a decent cup of coffee (saw the Illy sign). That’s been pretty sorely lacking for the past few days, as the coffee at the resort is awful. Still have yet to try out any Turkish coffee or tea, but we’re hoping for some of that tomorrow.

Check out these ruins from Side (OK, the first one is from our hotel room):

Possibly spoiled Turkey

I’ve made a huge mistake. Maybe.

When we came up with this travel plan, it seemed like a good idea. Let’s not be such control freaks! Pay someone else do all the research! Which is why travel agencies exist, right?

But here’s the rub: six years of planning our own travel have left us pretty exacting about our likes and dislikes. And since we never have to communicate them to anyone else, we may have forgotten to do so when we broke from routine and let someone else take the wheel.

We didn’t tell them explicitly that we like to be able to leave the hotel grounds under our own power or by using public transit. We didn’t explain that we’re more into cultural pursuits than hanging at the the hotel drinking. We didn’t stop to really consider what ‘all-inclusive’ truly includes (and whether it’s something you’d want).

And we forgot to tell the kind, patient, early-twentysomething agent helping us that we are not 60-year-old Germans.

So, oops.

If the above sounds like your thing, awesome! No judgement on my part. But it’s not really a fit for us. It looks like there’s a variety of excursions available through on-site travel agents that might be helpful and we’re going to try one tomorrow. Plus, there are cars you can rent right here at the hotel, if you want to get out there on your own. Our bus trip to Side (see-duh) today showed us that the traffic isn’t crazy, so we might keep that as an option. Or just take the bus again – it seemed pretty easy once you learn how to work.

We remain cautiously optimistic. Any stories out there of a vacation that seemed like it was a bad fit but turned out well would be much appreciated!

Turkish Riviera — first couple days

Day One

We had a nice and easy late afternoon departure fro Munich. We took a train down and though the platform was packed, and the train itself arriving from Nürnberg with a ton of passengers on it looked foreboding. But practically all of them got off in Regensburg, leaving easy seats for us and our big suitcase. Waited a few minutes for the bus in Freising, like always. But it was reallly, really cold. You know the kind where you can’t stop shivering, even after finding a heat source? That’s what this was.

We got into the airport and had a bit of a kerfuffle regarding our tickets — the TUI counter is not always the TUI counter, it would seem. It was hampered by an apparent bomb scare — we watched security shepherd everyone away from an area with red warning tape as a real German Shepherd was brought in to sniff a suspicious misplaced/ abandoned piece of luggage. But whatevs, it all got sorted out with plenty of time to spare. We were lounging comfortably at the gate when WE spotted a piece of luggage with no owner around. No one else in the immediate area seemed to know anything about it, either. I kept an eye on it and Sarah grabbed some airport staff. I don’t know about y’all, but when it comes to stuff like that, we don’t play. Die Polizei came around a couple times and when the bag’s owner returned, he got a little talking-to from the Feds.

Uneventful flight. Just a little delayed due to the weather and de-icing.

Getting off the plane in Antalya, we both remarked upon the swankiness of the airport as we collected our luggage and bought our visas (€15 a piece). We stepped out in the parking lot area and found our tour company’s stand pretty quickly, found our way to our bus and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Other passengers were getting antsy in the meantime, even berating the driver a bit. We finally got going and didn’t arrive until about 1am. We checked into our room knew right away something was wrong. It smelled terrible. It looked OK — clean, tastefully decorated. But we couldn’t spend the night in there. The clerk was happy to upgrade our room for €45 (total, not per night). But he couldn’t or wouldn’t just move us into a non-smelly room in the same price range the same night. I am pretty sure that was a scam of some sort — just not willing to fight it at 1:30am after having traveled all afternoon to get there.

Day Two

We were so tired from our late arrival on Day One, that we managed to wake up for the tail end of breakfast, but crashed out again immediately afterwards, sleeping through lunch. Eventually, we woke up and decided to explore the beach area. Here’s what we found waiting for us: