Dear Steemit friends:
In my last post about Turkey, we had the pleasure of visiting a restaurant not only known for it's culinary distinction, but also the charm it inherits from being a surviving landmark of the ancient city of Kaleiçi. The restaurant i'm referring to is of course Seraser and for those that missed my review, you can find that here.
Today, we'll be taking a tour around Kaleiçi, enjoying it's landmarks, resonating with it's culture and trying to get a sense of it's multi-epoch history. Though most people know Antalya for it's touristy, resort vibe, those looking for some tradition and heritage, will find Kaleiçi to be defiant of such labels.
Admittedly, my original plan when visiting Antalya was to stay at these resorts, there isn't anything wrong with some relaxation after all. Occasionally, you stumble across a treasure without looking for it, as if a gift from a spiritual tour guide, a hint if you will. I'm glad I could experience that moment of divine intervention, if not for that, I would have sat oblivious to Kaleiçi, sipping cocktails contently beside a pool inside a soul-less resort, missing out on this demure but mesmerising town.
I lived to the west of Kaleiçi, in downtown Antalya. There are buses that run from downtown to the ancient city, but a taxi will set you back around 30 TL (~8 USD) and will save you a great deal of time. From the map above, you'll notice that the Kaleiçi area is located along the Mediterranean coast, fronted by a harbour. This is in-fact a harbour that dates all the way back to the Roman era.
Kaleiçi means "Inside the Kale (Castle)" and for much of it's history, was surrounded entirely by the city walls. From the drop off point of the taxi, you get a magnificent view from the high ground of the ancient town. One of the recurring characteristics of Turkish cities are the tall spires marking the location of local mosques. In Kaleiçi , it's no different. Tall protruding towers stand tall above the Ottoman style houses below, serving as a sacred place of prayer. It is almost hard to believe that the town was once predominantly Christian, as most Roman occupied settlements were.
Red roof tiles dominate view of houses across the plain, with trees growing beside them, some to greater heights than the buildings beside them.
Outside the walls, I found this lovely stand dedicated to helping stray animals, particularly cats. They had built these mini cat houses and offered passerby's the chance to feed the homeless kitties. Me being a true cat woman, I just had to stop by and greet these friendly felines.
Just behind the stand were the mini cat houses. Each about the size of a baby crib, and all in various contrasting colours. Most of the cats were sleeping but to my surprise, a few friendly ones came to greet me and receive some snacks. My favourite was definitely the white one, she reminded me a lot of Milky!
I was very impressed to find the cats roaming out in open space. I know from experience that domestic cats tend to be cautious and don't feel comfortable out in the open. Clearly, these cats have been living independently for quite some time.
There are many routes into the old town. This 'Bazaar' entrance is just one of them. The souvenirs you see are pretty typical of the goods you will find within.
Although these horse carriages are not allowed within the city walls, they can go around the outside perimeter of the city, taking you from the clock tower all the way to Karaalioglu Park.
This was one of the most amazing displays of umbrellas I have ever seen. So many different colours, neatly arranged in rows covering the entire street. Either side, we have Turkish kebab shops, cafes and mobile phone stores.
This is a the Hıdırlık Tower as seen from Karaalioglu Park. According to records, the tower was built in the second century by the Roman Empire who were the rulers of the city at the time.
Originally, it was built as a square shape, but then turned into a circular tower in the same century it was built. Nowadays, it is used as a light house, but as late as the last century, it was still used as a fort.
Once inside the ancient city, we're presented with a myriad of locally produced goods, the most recurrent would be these beautifully hand made rugs.
They're beautifully detailed, and double up as decoration for the brightly coloured walls they hang on.
Wandering deep into the narrow cobble stoned streets, less and less imagination is needed to see how the locals go about their daily lives, in-fact, I get the sense that the ancient dwellers lived a similarly quaint lifestyle. If only schedule permitted, I could sit inside these cafes and restaurants for hours, days even, and simply be content.
Some of the streets had neatly manicured plants growing on the walls. Ivy, forming artistic and delicate leaves with almost random growth patterns that leave you wondering if they were placed there or did nature bury it's seeds within the walls?
You would expect with so many stalls around, shop keepers would be pestering you in an effort to sell you their wares. Quite the opposite. I was warmly greeted with each passing and that gave me a lot of confidence to admire their work. I was twice a visitor to this town, and on more than one occasion, the shop keepers had recognised me as I passed by their stalls. Sometimes they'd ask me where i'm from, and upon answering, they'd greet me with "Ni Hao". Such a joy!
This is the Broken Minaret of the Korkut Mosque. Originally built as a Roman temple in the 2nd century, it was later converted into a Byzantine church in the 600's. During the Seljuk Turkish Empire invasion, the church was used as a mosque and the minaret was added. During the 14th century, it was once again converted back into a Church. It was only until the Ottomon's rise to power in the 15th century where it became and stayed a mosque until it was destroyed in the 19th century by fire.
This is located in Antalya's city centre, right on Ataturk Boulevard. Built in 130 AD to commemorate Emperor Hadrian's visit. It serves as the main entrance to Kaleiçi from which you will gain access to the meandering narrow city streets. As I mentioned before, legend has it that the Queen of Sheba passed under these very gates!
Right on the other side of the gate, there's a Hadrian‘s Gate Cafe with it's own fresh juice stall. It's a good idea to take a breather and refuel with refreshments before venturing further. On this particular day, the temperature was in the mid 30's, so some freshly squeezed juice and pineapple was great!
Some parts of the old town have quite open spaces...
Whilst others are very narrow and filled with blossoming flowers and plants.
I love how these Ottoman style houses blend in with the nature around them. They look a lot like what I imagine the Terrace houses at Ephesus would look like, built with uneven heights of floors and raised patios. It's also obvious that the locals have made an effort to paint their houses in suitable yet different colours from each other, the only colour they share in common is red, for the roof tiles.
In the public area, a garden with some lovely wooden sculptures of rams.
Shopping for Turkish style scarves..
Pottery with beautifully painted designs..
Cloth bags with very Turkish style designs..
Endless souvenirs to choose from..
There are even stalls selling counterfeit goods.
This candy shop really caught my eye, not only for it's child like colours, but also the two cute little girls outside who came over to greet me. They reminded me a lot of myself when I was their age. Always fascinated with colourful things, and anything that tastes Sweet.
Old Town Harbour
This is an ancient Roman Harbour which served as the city's main artery from the second century BC, right up to the late 20th century. It was only until a new port was built near Konyaaltı Beach. Nowadays, this historic harbour is used by tour boats and yachts which will take you on short day trips to nearby scenic landmarks.
Most of the tour boats have been made to look like pirate ships, some even having quite dramatic designs on the sides and back.
By evening time, the pier becomes a popular place to watch the Sunset.
Just around the corner, there are private beaches, and even a hotel.
This is what it looks like after sunset. In the distance, you can see some laser lights being shone at the sky.
The green laser lights are actually projecting writing to the mountain face on the other side.
The ships light up, and the whole harbour becomes quite the light show. It's a perfect time for a romantic dinner, or just a casual stroll with much better temperatures to work with!
Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower)
This was built during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. This first picture is when I entered the old town, and the second is when I left!
Check out my short video of Kaleiçi
Thank you for taking the time to join me on this quick tour of Kaleiçi. We had a faint idea of what it was like before from our visit to Seraser, but who would have known the historical city had this much to offer. It turns out Antalya isn't just about those modern resorts after all.
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