We knew we were in for an experience as soon as we landed in Antalya (after missing our flight in Istanbul, but that's another story). Our B&B host, Emmy, greeted us at the airport and loaded our things into the minivan. I told her to keep Sophie's carseat out because I would be using it to strap Sophie in for the 30-minute ride into the city. Emmy said, "Oh, you don't need that.
"This is Turkey."
Sophie was thrilled to ride in the van like we all did in the 70s. (It had no seatbelts anyway, so the carseat would have been pretty useless.)
During our week-long vacation, we discovered that a lot of things are different in Turkey, including:
1. The Islamic Call to Prayer. I have never visited a Muslim country before, so I was startled at around 5 a.m. when a man started singing/chanting through loudspeakers from a nearby mosque. I rolled over and looked at Lewis with wide eyes. It was pretty magical. The city was dark and silent, and it was our first impression of the city we were about to discover. I learned that the prayer call happens five times a day, and that people on the street don't stop what they are doing, face mecca and pray. (I was kinda disappointed that people just went about their business.) We looked forward to hearing the prayer call each time. Sophie caught on after a few days and got pretty good at singing with him, too!
2. Turks love children. No, you have not seen this kind of love before. From construction workers, passport officials, college students. Sophie felt a little like a celebrity. People stopped whatever they were doing to talk to Sophie and pinch her cheeks. One night at dinner, a girl who seemed to be college age, came over to Sophie's side of the table, gave her a candy bar and kissed her cheek.
3. Olives for breakfast. Plus cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and bread. I embraced the olives but have to admit that by the end of the trip, I was really looking forward to getting home and eating waffles.
We had planned to spend 2 nights down in a small village called Cirali. But we fell in love with our "Holland apartment" at Villa Tulipan, which was in a really quiet area in the old city (Kaleici). So we decided to stay put and make a day trip to Side, instead, where there is a sandy beach and some ruins.
The weather was beautiful the entire time – mid-70s to 80 and sunny. So we spent two full days at the rocky beach on the East edge of Antalya. Sophie loved throwing the rocks into the Mediterranean Sea.
And we managed to avoid getting food poisoned until our last night. The culprit: bad french fries. Poor Sophie threw up the whole night. But she got it out of her system and was back to normal by morning. I, on the other hand, still have an upset stomach and am popping Pepto Bismol.
I also want to point out that I felt completely safe the entire time. Safer than Barcelona and Paris, for example. Not even pickpockets to worry about. Makes me feel a little silly now that I was a wee bit worried about terrorism and an anti-American sentiment (dangers that were mentioned on the State Dept. site). It is still a poor country. But the people are rich in spirit and warmth.
That was Turkey, and we loved it.