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Turkey's Fastest-Growing City

August 13-14

Antalya Harbor

Antalya's Beautiful Old Harbor

From Oludeniz, we moved southeast to the thriving Mediterranean city of Antalya (pop. 400,000). Our sole intention had been to use Antalya as an overnight resting place before moving inland into Central Anatolia. We had really had enough of the overhyped, overcrowded coast and didn't expect another big coastal city to have anything to hold our interest. We were wrong; while much of modern Antalya looks a lot like any other big Turkish city, its Old Town, centered on an old Roman harbor, is very charming. We stayed inside the Old Town's walls at a small pension where we later wish we hadn't -- after having a look around the town, there were far nicer places, often built in restored 18th and 19th century Ottoman mansions, for not much more money. Nevertheless, we enjoyed wandering around the Old Town, admiring its ancient stone walls and the beautiful old Roman harbor, now a yacht marina.

It was in Antalya that we got our first dose of real traditional Turkish life. Surprisingly (for a big coast resort town), many of the locals were dressed conservatively. The older women often had scarves over their heads and long skirts, or even full-length wool coats (in the summer heat, at that!). We must have done something to upset one of these women's sensibilities, because one time near the harbor, a traditionally-clad old woman came up to us, mumbled something, and then smacked Jen three times hard on the arm before walking away! We were a little confused by this strange incident, until another English-speaking woman who had seen what happened came up to us and confirmed our suspicions -- she said that the old woman had, indeed, cast the Evil Eye on Jen! Now, this was quite strange and even a little troubling (as it was probably meant to be). We had seen people in other places like Morocco sometimes try to ward off the evil eye when we glanced at them (looking at somebody with envy is a sure way to unkowingly cast the Eye on a person), but we had never been on the receiving end! "No worries," the English-speaking woman said, "just dispell the Eye by holding your palm out in front of your forehead and flicking your fingers serveral times." This Jen did, and to this date neither of us has ended up with a broken leg or had any other strange accidents...

From Antalya, we finally struck out into the Turkish interior...


Relaxing Island Town in the Turkish Lake District

August 14-15

The little town of Egirdir ("eh-YEER-deer") lies nestled against the shore of giant Lake Egirdir, some 140km inland from Antalya. Surrounding the lake are the steep slopes of the Taurus mountains. The beautiful blue lake water backed by the tall mountains makes for a pretty natural setting. While the main part of town sits alongside the lake, a small neighborhood full of pansiyons (small privately-run lodgings) and restaurants is situated on Yesilada Island, connected to the main part of town by a 1km-long causeway. Egirdir has long been known as a place for road-weary travelers to stop for a rest coming from or going to vast Central Anatolia, which begins just east of here. In keeping with this tradition, we stopped here as well, to take a one-night break on our way from Antalya to Konya.

New Friends

Jen with little Nihal and Emine

There really isn't much going on in Egirdir, which is its real appeal. You don't feel rushed to run out and see all the sights, because aside from taking a boat excursion out onto the lake, there are no sights to see. The island gets busy for an hour or two in the early afternoon, when a few tour buses stop for the requisite "lakeside lunch" on their way to Konya, but after the buses depart, things get quiet again. There were a few other foreigners staying on Yesilada Island along with us, but a quick walk across the causeway to town changed all that. Once in town, we found ourselves surrounded only by people from the local community. Old men in traditional wool hats lingered in cafes and on park benches, chatting while playing backgammon or draughts. Kids played in the streets and women carrying shopping bags loaded with produce from the market walked the cobblestone streets. It felt like our first glimpse of traditional Turkish life away from the resort towns, and we loved it. When we tried to use our rudimentary Turkish around town, people's faces lit up -- everybody didn't want to just speak English for a change! On the way back across the causeway, we were taking some video footage of the lake when two girls, around 11 or 12 years old, came right up to Jen and tried to strike up a conversation. It seems they wanted to practice their English skills, and they were very anxious to know who we were and where we came from. Nihal and Emine were their names, and they were only too happy to pose for a picture with their new friend, Jennifer, from the "Amerika." We took down their addresses and promised to mail them a copy of the picture as soon as we got the film developed. The Turks are such friendly people, especially the kids, who want to know everything about you! Jen made lots of friends with the little girls in Turkey -- they all seemed captivated by her, and the feeling was quite mutual!

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