Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Antalya, Turkey

After a day at sea, we docked in Antalya, Turkey. Turkey was entirely unfamiliar to us, so we did not know what to expect. The view of the area from the ship was quite beautiful, including a combination of rocky and scrub-covered mountains, and a city skyline that appeared to be all skyscrapers. Since the shore excursions were all about Roman ruins, and we were planning to go to Ephesus, we opted to walk around again.

We set out walking with a lady named Wendy whom we had met on the ship. After about an hour of walking, and very little progress toward town, we decided to catch a local bus - the one that came by on the street we were on. We must have ridden for an hour before the driver kicked us off his bus & instructed us to get on a bus going the opposite direction. He was probably headed out into the countryside, and knew we wouldn't want to do that. He had the other driver wait for us, which was nice.

The second bus drove around through neighborhoods we had not seen before, and during that ride we encountered a massive parade of school children that started with a flag bearer and a drum corp. The street was narrow enough that the bus had to stop to let them go by us. When the children spotted us on the bus, they got very excited and were smiling and waving at us. Tina also finally decided to be concerned about getting back to the ship and started asking people on the bus if they spoke English. We found a very beautiful young woman sitting behind us, who said she spoke a little. At one point she told us to follow her off the bus, and as we walked down the street, she asked several merchants if they knew where we could find the shuttle bus back to the ship. The last ones we talked to were a couple of rug merchants, who said the shuttle stop was by the statue half a block from where we were. What relief! We thanked the young woman and gave her some money to compensate her for her kindness. We are pretty sure that she missed her dentist appointment because of helping us. We had thought she was having a hard time understanding us, but in the end we discovered that we were the ones having difficulty understanding. Tina saw a sign with the town name she had mentioned, and when we got back on the ship we saw that it was indeed next to the marina she kept mentioning. That was a lesson in humility! We were very grateful for her assistance, and she helped us to form a very positive impression of Turkey.

I found it very interesting to be in a country that is 98% Muslim, and yet with an atmosphere very different from places like Alexandria, Nazareth and Bethlehem. For me, Turkey was a comfortable place to be, where the others are not. Apart from the obvious language barrier Turkey felt almost familiar. Our experience in Antalya, while a little bit hair-raising, was still very good and helped us to anticipate further visits to Turkey.

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