Turkey 2019

Antalya Day 1: 99 Luftballoons

I know it’s a German song and we’re in Turkey, but roll with it.

 

Like a dehydrated zombie, I rose from my slumber at 5am. Brushed my teeth. Threw on a sweatshirt. And emerged from our cave hotel.

 

As soon as I looked up, I was elated to find hot air balloons afloat.

There’s only so much I can say about the balloons themselves. It’s what it looks like. A bunch of hot air balloons floating around a canyon. But there’s something about watching all of them in person that’s just magical. They just float. It’s peaceful, it’s whimsical, it’s magical. I loved it. The air smelled like helium and everything was quiet.

I’ve got a lot of pictures of balloons. I actually cut down my collection a bit because it got excessive. But it was pretty, okay! I couldn’t help it.

There were people at the next hotel over from me that were having a full-out photo shoot complete with props. I mean, yeah, I took a couple selfies, but I wasn’t posing from different angles while my friends captured me gazing deeply into the sunrise.

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In fact the people I most identified with came from our hotel. They were a Slavic couple in their fifties or sixties maybe. Her haircut was straight out of 1978, and he hadn’t yet been bothered to put on a shirt. She came running out with her camera while he staggered out a minute later, desperate for more sleep. She threw me a thumbs up and I returned it. They were a pair.

 

I took a bit of a walk to get another view, preferably unobscured by another hotel. Along the way a sweet old man who spoke no English was talking to me. From context I got that he was asking if I liked the view, and I responded affirmatively. We spoke in basic sentences on our walk down the hill. At some point he invited me for tea at his home, which, is a common thing. I turned him down, but he was very sweet.

 

Turkey, man. They’re too damn nice.

 

I went back down to the hotel, and from my path I could see the balloons starting to land on the ridge.

I made it back to the room, which was the temperature of a brick oven, so I propped the door and the window for an hour or so while I was awake and typing, at least until it cooled down a bit. A couple hours later we got going again, packing all our belongings so we could make our way to Antalya, on the Turkish Mediterranean.

 

We had one more okay breakfast at our hotel. If one thing made this breakfast better, it was that we saw a cute shirtless guy doing pushups on the terrace of the hotel next to us.

 

We had some time to kill before we met our bus transfer to the airport, so we went downtown one last time to grab a cup of coffee/tea. While at the café, we met a man who had a 2 month old golden retriever puppy. We’d been staring at her the whole time they were next to us, so he was nice enough to bring her over and let her play with us. She definitely had a ton of puppy energy, and took it out on Sarah’s hand. But she was a good girl. We love her.

 

About 45 minute later, we boarded our van to hitch a ride with the airport. It was full of a bunch of other tourists from around Goreme, and we had to pick up a couple more passengers before we got rolling. But from there, the ride was pretty easy.

 

We arrived back at the bus station-sized airport and went through a couple security checks, checked in, and waited by the gate. Our flight was delayed a bit, which was unfortunate, considering we had a connecting flight to catch, and also it was really hot in the un-air conditioned airport. But eventually we took off with plenty of time to get up in the air and back down again.

 

Our layover was in the other Istanbul airport, which sits on the Asian side of the city rather than the European. Our main goal while at this airport, besides boarding our flight, was to take a break from Turkish food and get Burger King. We achieved that goal. I hate to be an ugly American for a minute, but, despite the delicious Turkish cuisine we’d experienced, I was really satisfied with that hamburger.

 

Before we knew it, our second flight was touching down in Antalya, and we were boarding the cab to our hotel. Our first impression upon our arrival to Antalya was that we’d left Turkey behind and somehow made it to Miami. The only difference was the backdrop of the Taurus mountains, with crazy rocky peaks that seemed to look over the entire city. Yeah they don’t have those in Miami.

 

We arrived at our hotel and got some information about the area from our receptionist. He provided a lot of ideas but little assistance on making those ideas become actual plans, but eh, at least he didn’t guilt us like the last guy. He also took us up to the hotel restaurant, which happens to have a panoramic view of the beach and mountains. Yeah. It was okay.

 

We went to our room and were greeted by the refreshing glow of an air conditioner. A good one. One we could set to “arctic” and adopt penguins for the room. This was definitely our nicest hotel. We did have to share a double bed, but who cares. With that a/c we could spoon and still be plenty cool.

 

We spent some time looking at options for activities in the next days. We knew we wanted to go to the beach. I’m a sucker for a good boat ride, so I knew I wanted to try to get on a boat. And we also knew that one of the “must do” activities for Turkey was visiting a Turkish Bath. So we laid out a game plan for accomplishing all that we’d wanted for our two-and-a-quarter days in the city.

 

Already our plan hit some snags. It was about 7pm and we didn’t want to make the hike to the beach, so we decided on hitting the hotel pool instead. Well, we got down to the pool and it was full of kids. And it was not a big pool. So we scratched that plan and decided to walk down to the close beach anyway.

 

Turns out it was closed.

 

Well, we took the opportunity to get a sense of the neighborhood around us. It definitely had a beach resort vibe: Turkey style. But we definitely noticed that it didn’t seem super crowded. It was a little odd. It was gorgeous. We were just wondering where everyone was.

Still full from Burger King (whoops) we forewent a real dinner and visited a juice stand instead. We each got a melon and pomegranate juice that was actually really good. Super fresh. We also saw that you could get a coconut, they’d poke a hole in it for you, and then you could drink it out of a straw. I vowed in that moment that I wouldn’t leave Antalya until I drank out of a coconut.

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And, much in true Turkish fashion, there were cats everywhere, and Sarah made friends with all of them. She tried to feed one cat her watermelon rind, but he wanted nothing to do with us. But then she found another one who was really into ear scratches (we think she might have had ear mites or something) who started following us back to our hotel. Sarah is the cat whisperer.

With a goal to hit up the beach early enough to get a seat, we returned to our hotel and cranked the a/c. Before we knew it, we were sleeping like babies in the cold.

 

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