It was free and still not worth it

Today was the first of the tours (committed and prospective) that we’ve looked into. It’s part of the package offered by the tour operator through which we booked. You get one ride into Antalya (the largest city in the region) for free, but since this is billed as a shopping tour, you have to make a couple of stops before getting into town. Plus, lunch is included. How bad could it be, right? As far as the shopping part, pretty bad.

Timeless Glamour
Timeless Glamour
We left our hotel at 8:15 this morning and picked up several other tour-goers – enough to fill a big coach bus. On the ride, we heard the same spiel about why shopping in Turkey rocks out so hard: raw materials are all the same price, but Turkish labor is so inexpensive that the prices here are unbeatable. We arrived at the first shopping stop at 9:45, a very large jewelry store.

My parents’ house could have fit into this place three times and it was filled with counters and cases of ugly jewelry. Krystle vs. Alexis in a fountain ugly. Dolgin’s catalog 1982 ugly. And expensive – because even though it wasn’t to my taste, it was made of real gold and gems. I’m sure the staff had to draw straws to figure out who was going to try and pry a sale out of the two idiots walking around giggling at their merchandise (that was us). The poor sales rep tried everything – watches for Cliff in the 1000€ range, silver for me, some hot chains for Cliff, What a kerfuffle!gifts for moms (sorry, Moms – I don’t think you would have liked this stuff, though). Mercifully, we left after an hour.

After some more driving around to see a neat waterfall (killing about another hour), we hit the second shopping destination, a huge leather goods store. It was out in an area full of big-box stores and roughly shaped like a Costco, so I expected an outlet environment and could not have been more wrong.

Upon admittance, we were led into a small, Project Runwayesque room. They had a fashion show planned for us! In leather!! With Turkish pop music!!! In truth, this was pretty well done. The leather shown was all coats and mostly not to my taste, but there were some attractive and innovative pieces. That said, I sure as shazam wasn’t planning on buying any investment-quality leather goods. I got even more intimidated when we were led to the showrooms. This giant facility had gorgeous, upscale department store style (think Nordstrom or Selfridge’s) display areas just loaded with products – again in 4-digit prices. Cliff had expressed some interest in a new wallet and or a black belt (his are a little ratty), so we asked a nice sales agent where the accessories were. Stuffed in a plain, narrow corridor right before you get to the exit (like any museum gift shop) was an explosion of knock-off designer goods. After seeing how seriously they took the large goods, I was hoping they would have some nice quality small goods. Instead, it looked like the swanky store rented this spot to some joker from Canal St. After a short gawk at the PARDA and HUGO BOOS wallets, we took off.

At about 1:15, we went to eat (remember, we haven’t even made it into town yet). Lunch was pretty good, better than the hotel food so far. Finally, right before 3, we got to the Altstadt of Antalya. It’s a pretty, ancient harbor town in which I wouldn’t have minded spending a little more than two hours. Tomorrow’s tour doesn’t have a shopping portion. We’ll see…

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):

Sound of Music Tour

The Joint

PANORAMA TOURS & TRAVEL Gesellschaft m.b.H.
Schrannengasse 2/2
A-5020 Salzburg
Phone: +43 662 / 88 32 11 0

St. Gilgan
St. Gilgan, on the

This is a great 4-hour tour.

SoM house - or was it?
November 2006

It was much better in November 2004 (although the weather was better this time around), owing to a much smaller vehicle and tour group size. Note to prospective participants: find out before you book whether you’ll be doing the tour on a giant tour bus (seating about 100) or perhaps in a minivan. The minivan is in my opinion, a much better deal. Both times I have taken the tour, we had Sue as our guide, who is very informative and enthusiastic.

Gabe and Cliff
and Brian in
November 2004

But I liked it better when it was just her and me and Brian and Gabe and the Vietnamese Family from Canada and Team Malaysia* piled into the minivan.


Despite the number of people on the tour bus, this was a really good time. Sue, our guide, was so knowledgeable and personable. And even though she must be sick to death of this movie, she’s able to infuse her commentary with enthusiasm. Plus, given the variety of locations, you get a great opportunity to see much of Salzburg and the surrounding area.