It’s such a long time since I told you of my visit to the Grand Canyon, I’m sure you won’t mind if I keep you waiting even longer for further Round-The-World excerpts…
…I’ve just been to Turkey. Must admit I had my misgivings about spending two solid weeks in the same hotel, and they were justified a hundredfold. Don’t get me wrong: it was a bridge holiday, and the bridge was great. But –
I feel like a trapped bird in a cage. The Siam Elegance Hotel – NOT in Belek, but in a new developing area called Bogazkent – is enormous and brim-full of package tourists (and the surrounds are certainly not pleasant green pastures).
Meals are a mayhem of cacophony, and the queues when the dinner doors open are horrendous. It is all self-service buffet, and the food is excellent, full of variety and exotic tastes. The choice is bewildering, but I soon learn to head for the counters with the shortest queues. Why oh why don’t they have several buffet outlets at different corners of the vast dining area?
But I’m going to enjoy experimenting, and expect I’ll be at least five pounds heavier at the end of the fortnight. One saving grace is that the salads are very good indeed.
Pat is heaven-sent. She tells us not to jump at the tours on offer – she will look for more interesting, cheaper options, and three of us go with her to explore the “village”. An ordinary collection of shops, where we stop to enjoy delicious fresh pomegranate juice. I discover I won’t be able to visit Ephesus from here: too far. I buy myself some culottes; I really want ordinary Turkish trousers, such as the peasant women wear, but can’t find any. Nor can I find a cashpoint for Euros. Oh well, I’ll have to use Turkish lira instead.
I walk through the pleasant hotel gardens with many nooks for solitary sitters. The beach is clean in front of the hotel, grainy sand leading to pebbles under the washing waves, but lines and lines of loungers hold greasy sun-worshippers. I take off my shoes, but beyond the hotel beach it is not so clean, and an off-putting drain gurgles down the sand into the sea. The heavy sand scattered with pebbles plays havoc with my calf muscles as I trudge the mile or so towards a point which marks a slow moving river. I spot a couple of sparrows. Hotels are banking up their supply of brown sand, ready to spread over the trash in time for the approaching summer season.
Decades ago when we used to pad along the beaches of Kenya, scrunching our toes into the soft white sand and avoiding the scuttling crabs, we would look askance at the enormous luxury hotels which cropped up along the coast, catering for the myriads of package tourists from Europe. Their thick slimy bodies oozing with oil lounged on the terraces round fancy-shaped swimming pools and spilled onto the beaches. Why use a pool, when there was a wealth of sea around? And small businesses complained that these people from far off never spent their money locally – they had paid their all up front.
Now I’m seeing the other side of the picture, for I am one of those millions. But I shy away from the loungers lining the meagre sands three deep, facing the flat expanse of the gently moving sea. There seem to be no tides in the Mediterranean. And I feel hemmed in by people and their noise.
I can’t get away from it soon enough, and hurry into a decision to join a tour. We visit a waterfall at Mavganet, and wander through the bazaar. More “shopping” at Side. In a carpet shop, Kate purchases an exotic hand-woven cushion cover and hands over her money, only for the proprietor to cast it to the floor with a flourish. I gasp. Is it a fake note? Is there going to be trouble in this intensely Muslim country? Hussein our guide turns to us.
“Do you know what this means?” he says. “He is passing down blessings – “ It is a symbol of rejoicing at the first buyer of the day.
We stroll through some ancient ruins. My Rough Guide warns there isn’t much here: many broken boulders with bits of carvings. Hotchpotch attempts at “restoring” the columns on the temple of Apollo. Our guide clearly doesn’t think much of the ruins, and tries to hasten us past the state agora, but we insist on entering it. We are late, and don’t reach our lunch venue until after 2pm.
Aspendos is grand and imposing, with a beautiful view of the Taurus Mountains through the main gate. But renovations forbid us to enter the theatre and we climb the hill to view it from above, looking towards the back stage area.
In the bright afternoon sunlight the restorations stand out in a motley picture of old and new and I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to leave the place in its naturally decaying form. But then, high profile operas and ballets are performed here in season, and maybe it all looks better at night when the new bits are not so easily spotted.
It was good to get away from the hotel for a day, but an excruciating sound invades my ears as I enter my room. The air-conditioning plant in the next door hotel lies just outside my window.
But hope is at hand, for there is a scheme afoot to go to Capadoccia.