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Flying Buccaneer Jun 11, 08 3:15 pm

My First Trip to Turkey - How It Came About - Where I'm Going
Not only is this my first trip to Turkey, but it’s also my first Trip Report. I’ve never felt compelled to report on any of my travels, but this trip is different. Because a couple of searches for hotels where I am staying and places I am visiting have had little or no response, it’s the first time that I feel like I can offer something to my fellow FlyerTalkers. (Also, I apologize if I include too much information, but I like to read the reports that offer a little more than the logistics of the trip.)

Why I Am Going

When the opportunity to apply for a grant through my university for a CIEE (Council for International Educational Exchange) seminar, I looked at the faculty development seminars that were offered. Instantly, I knew which one interested me the most… South India! The chance to explore Bangalore and Hyderabad was irresistible. I wrote my grant application, and the committee approved funding. The next step was to apply through CIEE, and I received notification of my acceptance in early January.

In early February, I got a phone call from someone at CIEE. She apologized and told me that, with a week remaining for applications, it looked like there would not be enough participants for the South India program to go. I was disappointed, but I asked if there were any alternatives. She told me that there was only one other program in danger of not going, and suggested that I take a couple of days to decide which of the remaining programs interested me. So I did my research, and talked to the chair of the committee that awarded me the grant and director of international studies. They told me that I could switch to any of the remaining programs as long as the one I chose (a) did not interfere with my teaching schedule, and (b) involved travel to someplace I had never visited. The first restriction was easy. Most of the programs fit within the six-week period between my study abroad class to Eastern Europe that ended on May 24 and my Summer class that starts on July 7. The second was pretty easy, too, even though I have traveled to 30 countries.

My choice came down to Northwest China and Turkey. Both were appealing, for different reasons. My only visit to China involved a change of planes at HKG… not really a visit. Northwest China would have been especially fascinating, but somewhat rigorous, according to the description. In addition, travel to China would have required a journey (or at least I through so). Turkey, on the other hand, was a place that I had always wanted to visit: the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and the center of the former Ottoman Empire, a country that’s 99% Muslim with a strict separation between Mosque and State. What better way to be introduced than through an academic seminar?

So I chose Turkey.

Planning the Trip

After the formality of changing my application, I waited for confirmation that the trip would go. I got that in early March, and quickly after that, I was told to plan to arrive in Ankara by early afternoon on June 17 and depart Istanbul no earlier than late morning on June 28. I finally start planning the trip, something I enjoy tremendously. (I am sure that my fellow FlyerTalkers can all relate to that!)

The fares from Tampa to Ankara and returning from Istanbul were well over $2000. I decided to try a roundtrip to Istanbul, arriving a few days before the start of the program and leaving soon after. After playing around on and, I put a reservation on hold. I called AA and asked the agent if eVIP upgrades were available on the TATL segments of the itinerary. Unfortunately, they weren’t, but she helped me find an itinerary that would allow me to confirm upgrades on the AA-operated flights:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
AA 1786 Depart TPA 12:00 p.m., Arrive JFK 2:50 p.m.
AA 104 Depart JFK 6:35 p.m., Arrive LHR 6:55 a.m.

Thursday, June 12, 2008
BA 676 Depart LHR 10:25 a.m., Arrive IST 4:25 p.m.

Saturday, June 28, 2008
BA 677 Depart IST 5:25 p.m., Arrive LHR 7:35 p.m.

Sunday, June 29, 2008
AA 99 Depart LHR 7:55 a.m., Arrive ORD 10:20 a.m.
AA 1258 Depart ORD 1:30 p.m., Arrive TPA 5:10 p.m.

I didn’t mind the overnight at LHR. I have stayed at the Sheraton Skyline a few times in the past when I had early flights leaving Heathrow, and I knew that finding a good deal on a Saturday night would not be a problem.

With the ticket purchased, the only thing left to do (besides wait for the trip to start) was decide how to spend 4 or 5 days in Turkey before the program began. I had read the Lonely Planet guide to Turkey a few times, and I knew that the program would concentrate on Ankara and Istanbul. Therefore, I wanted to visit the eastern part of the country, places like Kars and Van. There was just one problem: My partner looked at a map of Turkey and vetoed the idea. I did everything I could to convince him that Kars was safe, even though it was close to the Armenian border, as was Van, even though it was less than 100 miles from the borders of Iraq and Iran. He didn’t budge. So I decided to involve a third party: A Turkish colleague. Unfortunately, I was outnumbered. My colleague told me that I should stick to Ankara and parts west for my first trip to his home country.

Defeated, I tried to decide where to go for my pre-program R&R and exploration. I chose Antalya, partly because of its location on the Mediterranean and near quite a few historic sites, and partly because the Sheraton Voyager Hotel had some pretty low rates. I was able to purchase two tickets to get me from IST to AYT (Antalya) to ESB (Ankara):

Thursday, June 12
TK 0424 Depart IST 8:05 p.m. Arrive AYT 9:20 p.m.

Monday, June 16
TK 0911 Depart AYT 8:40 a.m. Arrive ESB 9:45 a.m.

So that brings me to today.

June 11, 2008 TPA-JFK
American Airlines 1786
Seat 5F

On the way to the airport, my partner pointed out that this would be the longest time we have been apart since we met in 2002. I had already thought of that, as I am sure he had. He dropped me at TPA's "Blue Departure" area around 9:40 a.m. I waited in AA’s first class line, but an agent in the other line became free first. I told her where I was flying, and she was able to check my bag all the way to AYT. Sheesh, it already weighs 49 pounds, and I haven't even gotten to Turkey yet! I also got my boarding card for the BA flight. By 10:00 a.m., I was through security and waiting for my flight.

Boarding started at 11:35 a.m., and went about as smoothly as a full TPA-JFK flight could go, I guess. At scheduled departure time, the FAs were having to check bags that could not fit in the overhead bins. Our flight didn’t push back until 12:05 p.m., but after a quick taxi we took off at 12:13 p.m. The meal service was typical AA domestic F lunch/snack: drinks and mixed nuts, followed by a choice of turkey and cheese croissant or grilled chicken salad, served with a “Wee Brie” and crackers and chocolate chip cookie. The service was brisk but attentive. The pilot made quite a few announcements, giving the flight plan, pointing out Myrtle Beach, SC off the right of the plane and updating the ETA. He kept telling us that we would land about 13-14 minutes early. In fact, we landed at 2:33 p.m. and after an exceptionally quick taxi for JFK, we were at the gate at 2:40 p.m.

After I deplaned, I made a beeline for the Admirals Club. At the desk, I was given a “Ving Card” that allowed me to enter the Flagship Lounge. This is the only FL I have visited besides the ones at ORD and LHR. This one seems less claustrophobic. Obviously, it’s the windows. The food selection is nice for mid-afternoon: tea sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, scones, and there is a full beverage selection like at the other FLs I have visited.

I still about 22 hours before I arrive in AYT, if everything goes smoothly. The long layovers give me a chance to relax a little between each flight, but they make the trip drag.

Next stop, London.

Flying Buccaneer Jun 12, 08 1:30 am

Hello Heathrow!
June 11, 2008 JFK-LHR
American Airlines 104
Seat 10G

I left the FL at 5:55 p.m. and arrived at Gate 2 about 5 minutes before boarding started. Boarding was delayed because, according to the GA, there were quite a few pax who needed extra time boarding. The boarding process was uneventful, except that pax from another flight were deplaning on the same jetway that we boarded on. When I reached my seat, I saw someone seated in it and talking on her cellphone. When I showed her my boarding pass and told her that it was my seat, she showed me her boarding pass and asked “Where is my seat?” It was 10E, the middle. No problem. As boarding slowed to a trickle, the FAs came through with water, OJ, and champagne and a choice of newspapers.

A little before 6:30 p.m., the pilot announced that we were nearly ready to close the doors. He also said that our taxi time would be very long, approximately 56 minutes. That’s the JFK I know and love! At 6:33 p.m., two minutes before ETD, we pushed back. As we were taxiing, the FAs passed out menus, landing cards, and pink “Fast Track” envelopes. The pilot came on again and said that the taxi time might not be as long as he had thought and only seven planes were ahead of us. After a slight delay due to spacing—apparently all seven of those planes were also headed across the Atlantic—we took off at 7:06 p.m.

Business Class Menu

Pommery Brut Champagne

White Wines
Marimar Torres “Don Miguel Vineyard” Sonoma County Chardonnay
St. Supery Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Red Wines
Chateau Cantemerle
Chapoutier Coteaux du Tricastin Rouge, Rhone

Emilio Lustau Sherry

Dessert Wine
Graham’s 20 Years Old Tawny Port


Dining Service

To Start
Warm Mixed Nuts

Mojito Shrimp served with Pineapple and spiced Coconut

Fresh seasonal Greens and an assortment of fresh Vegetables offered with Classic Caesar Dressing or Castello Monte Vibiano Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Bread Basket
Assorted Gourmet Breads

Main Course

Beef Fillet
Seared Fillet of Beef featured with a Mango Chili Demi-Glace, Blue Cheese Potatoes and glazed Carrots

Seared Chicken
Savory Chicken Breast with a Balsamic White Chocolate Sauce, accompanied by Pumpkin Cranberry Rissole

Pork Tenderloin
Dijon and Rosemary crusted Pork Tenderloin served with a Sweet Potato Puree and blanched Asparagus Spears

Cheese Ravioli
Semolina Pasta filled with four Cheeses, accented by a Mushroom Tomato Cream Sauce, served with sautéed Shallots and sliced Mushrooms


Caciotta and Cheddar Cheese accompanied by seasonal Grapes and dried Apricots
Breyers Dulce de Leche Ice Cream ropped with a Turtle Brownie and Raspberry Sauce

To Finish
Ghirardelli Chocolates

Continental Breakfast

Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Breakfast Breads

Before the dinner service, I did a little work. I chose the beef, and the main course was just the right size--not too much food. I opted for the ice cream for dessert. I always marvel at the combinations that AA comes up with when it comes to ice cream: dulce de leche, brownie chunks, and raspberry sauce? I think it would work better if the raspberry sauce weren't frozen, but I guess you can't prepare the servings in advance in such a way that would allow the ice cream to stay frozen and the sauce to stay liquid.

After dinner, I put my seat in the closest to 180-degree recline I could and relaxed. I glanced at my watched and saw that it was about 2:40 a.m. London time. I'm not sure how long I relaxed before I went to sleep, at least 30 minutes. All I know is that I was awakened at 5:45 a.m. by an announcement that the FAs would be through the aisle to pick up the Bose headsets and landing would be in 35 minutes. I missed breakfast. No big deal, because I felt like I just ate dinner. I had a cup of tea and prepared for landing.

The flight landed at 6:23 a.m. and we reached the gate at 6:31 a.m., about 25 minutes early. I had transferred from T3 to T5 in May, so I knew the drill. I reached the boarding area for the bus to T5 about a minute before it left. When I got to T5, the BA agent at the desk reissued my AA BP, and I went up the escalator to security. The security lines were only about 7 - 10 people deep. Unfortunately, I forgot that I was still wearing my watch, and the machine beeped. I got the full pat down. I guess it was a morning massage.

At 7:05 a.m., I arrived at the BA Galleries Lounge. Thirty-four minutes from deplaning to relaxing in T5. That's a far cry from some of the horror stories we heard in April.

After I checked in at the lounge, I asked if I could get an exit row seat on my flight to IST. The agent typed awhile, looked up at me, and said "No, sorry." It was very similar to the character on Little Britain who says "The computer says no."

This is my second visit to this lounge. Even though it has been crowded both times, it is still pleasant. There's a good variety of breakfast foods: fresh fruit, sectioned oranges and grapefruit, mini croissants and raisin twists, bacon rolls, toast, hot and cold cereals, as well as some packaged foods. There are computers as well as T-Mobile WiFi (the latter for a fee, as it is all over Europe for those of us who subscribe to the service in the US). There's also a large selection of newspapers.

I still have over an hour before the gate for my flight to IST opens, and I am on my third cup of tea. I'm looking forward to my first impressions of Turkey, even if it they are just at the airport in IST for a few hours. I am not looking forward to 4 hours in a non-exit-row Y seat, though! I'm sure I will manage.

Flying Buccaneer Jun 12, 08 10:07 am

Lounging in Istanbul
June 12, 2008 LHR-IST
British Airways 676
Seat 21A

Boarding was pretty much a free-for-all. There was just one announcement, and the only pre-boarding was for those who needed assistance. Not even Club Europe pax boarded first.

I settled into seat 21A, a window seat over the wing. I like to take pictures from the air when I travel to new places, and sitting over the wing nixed that. So would the clouds around London and along most of our flight path. The pilot announced that we would push back a little late, because there were thunderstorms in the area.

The taxi out to the runway was drawn out--we seemed to inch our way along--but we took off at 11:08 a.m. I was prepared for worse. Within 30 minutes, the FAs were in the aisle serving a hot lunch. The main dish was fish casserole (chunks of salmon and whitefish in a cream sauce with a crunchy topping). I know it sounds weird, but it was better than the typical US domestic F offering. The casserole was accompanied by a small Caesar salad, two rolls, and a pre-packaged rice pudding dessert. Before clearing away trays, the FAs offered coffee or tea. After the trays were cleared away, the "entertainment" started: Our movie was The Gameplan, starring The Rock. I could not see the screen from my seat, so I listened to some music on my iPhone and watched a couple of episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I think my entertainment was better. I also slept a little.

The clouds broke somewhere over Romania or Bulgaria. For awhile, all I could see was the broad expanse of the Black Sea. The pilot announced that we had started our initial descent, and suddenly I could see ships on the water. A little later, I saw land. As we flew along the coast, I could see the Black Sea entering the Bosphorous. A few minutes later, we banked to the right and flew back across Istanbul. That was when I was really able to get an idea how big Istanbul is. And it looks beautiful from the air on a cloudless day like today. I could even see the Bosphorous Bridge. If only that wing had not been in the way!

You Mean I Need a Visa?

Even with our late start, we landed at 4:19 p.m. and arrived at the gate at 4:27 p.m. After deplaning and a ten-minute walk, I saw signs for passport control. I also saw signs for visas. I had read in at least three separate places that visitors from the US must purchase a visa on arrival for $20. Cash. No credit cards. So I came prepared. The AA agent in TPA even reminded me, and I told her I was ready.

I entered the visa line, and marveled at the different costs and durations for different countries. Slovaks pay $15 (or 10 Euros), but only get 30 days, while my $20 would get me 90 days. Canadian visitors have to pay $60 for a visa. Why? What did Canada do to deserve that? The two lines were long, but it took me less than 10 minutes to get my visa.

The next line was for passport control. As I entered the line for "Other Nationalities," I saw people leaving the line to get visas. During the 15 minutes I was in this line, I saw dozens of people leave the line to get in the visa line. Some of them had reached the front of the passport control line without realizing they needed visas! I just don't understand how anyone can travel to a country without doing at least a little homework about visa requirements.

Note to Self: There Was No Need to Check the Bag to AYT

Through passport control, I go to the baggage claim area. I am not sure if I will claim my bag here or not. Logic tells me that I will, because I have to go through customs. But after I get it, what then? Will there be a bag drop after I clear customs? Will I have to take the bag to the domestic terminal?

It began to look like a moot point. After waiting 30 minutes, my bag was not on the carousel, and it seemed that no more bags were coming out. I decided to ask someone in the lost baggage office. A friendly lady took me to someone else and asked her a question in Turkish. Then she turned to me and said "You will get it here," and pointed at the carousel. Sure enough, my bag was there!

After I cleared customs, I looked for a place to drop my bag, but the only sign that seemed to apply to me was the one directing me to the domestic terminal. Before walking over, I decided to get some cash from an HSBC ATM. However, a man stopped me and told me that the machine had eaten his card. That's one of my big travel fears. Actually, I have such an irrational fear that I carry three different ATM cards when I travel: my credit union, Citibank, and HSBC. I figured cash could wait until I got to the domestic terminal.

I followed the signs, and went up a couple of "travelators." I like this word and idea. They're like the offspring of a moving sidewalk and an escalator. Finally, I reached the domestic terminal, and I was not sure where to go. So I stood there and got my bearings, then walked around a little. I finally saw a sign for Business Class and Star Alliance Gold. I flashed my UA 1P card and walked to a counter. The friendly agent took my TK confirmation, my UA card, and my passport. He asked if I wanted an aisle or window seat. I chose aisle for this flight. Then he handed me a BP and put a new tag on my bag.

It took me awhile to figure out where the TK lounge was located, which was stupid on my part, considering that there was a big sign pointing toward security screening that said "THY Domestic Lounge." After 24 hours of a steady diet or airports and airplanes, I think I can be excused for a lapse like that.

I got some cash and went through security, then walked upstairs to the lounge. After the FL at JFK and BA Lounge at LHR, this one is spartan, but better than having to wait in the terminal. The food offerings certainly beat domestic airline lounges in the US: fresh salad vegetables, ziti pasta with sauce, chunks of hot dogs in some type of sauce, a variety of rolls and cookies, and non-alcoholic beverages. I tried the soup, though I am not sure what type it is. It is some type of vegetable puree with a meat stock. It has a nice flavor, so I might get another bowl before I leave.

I still have about an hour before my flight to AYT begins boarding. In the meantime, I am trying to wait before I develop my first impression of Turkey. It's not fair to use an airport as a measure of a city. This one is busy and somewhat stuffy. Then again, it's a much more civilized airport than MIA or certain parts of JFK and LGA. Besides, my true first impression was from the air, and it did not disappoint me. My impression of the people who work in the airport is definitely positive. I have been welcomed to Turkey by most of them, and when they could not answer my question, they tried to help or went out of their way to find someone who could help me. I consider that a good first impression.

l etoile Jun 12, 08 1:27 pm

I look forward to more of your report. Although it's too late to help you now, you could have avoided the 15-minute immigration line by going to the second to the last lane, which is for business-class passengers.

SanDiego1K Jun 12, 08 1:51 pm

I'll be interested if you notice the impact of Russian tourism in Antalya. It's been a long while since we've been to Antalya. At the time we were there, the dominant tourist group was German. We are the host family for a couple of Turkish grad students at UCSD. They tell us that Antalya now has so many Russian tourists, there are even billboards in Russian.

Flying Buccaneer Jun 12, 08 3:30 pm

After I left the lounge, I called my partner on my T-Mobile Pay As You Go Phone. I bought it at the end of February, and got a Virgin Mobile SIM card when we visited London in March. The connection was not so good, and the call cost 95p/minute ($1.90 or thereabouts). I am going to Turkcell tomorrow to get a SIM card.

June 12, 2008 IST-AYT
Turkish Airlines 424
Seat 5C

Boarding was supposed to start at 7:35 p.m., so I got to the gate about 10 minutes before then. At 7:35, the flight status screen said that the flight was delayed by 10 minutes. At 7:50 p.m., boarding began without an announcement. I joined the crowd, got on board, and settled in my seat. I had no idea how crowded the flight might be. The gate area did not look too full, and there had been almost hourly flights to AYT since I arrived in IST. I hoped that 5B would stay empty.

Unfortunately, it did not. Well, for an hour-long flight, I can put up with it, right? Around 8:10 p.m., boarding ended, and the flight was probably about 75 - 80% full. We pushed back at 8:28 p.m. and didn't take off until 8:46 p.m. During that entire period, the baby with the pax in seat 7A screamed. This was not a cry. It was a scream. For some reason, when I fly long itineraries like this one, a screaming baby joins me on the last segment. After takeoff, the baby settled down a little, but the shrieks still came along from time to time.

Within 10 minutes of takeoff, the FAs were serving dinner. Yes, dinner on a flight that's in the air 45 - 50 minutes. And we had a choice: salad or sandwich. The salad was a small plate of lettuce with tomato, cooked chicken, and dressing. The sandwich was a fairly large roll cut lengthwise filled with cheese, tomato, and lettuce. Both were served with a piece of cake that tasted like pound cake with cherries baked into the top and a cup of spring water, plus beverage of choice.

Turkish Airlines Is A No iPhone Zone!

After I finished my sandwich and cake, one of the FAs comes up to me and says "Is that an iPhone?" I told her it was, and she said "You have to turn it off," and I told her that it was in Airplane Mode. She said it didn't matter, and that I would need to turn it off. I didn't want to press the issue, so I did. Then she noticed the pax in 5D also had an iPhone and told him to turn his off. In broken English he told her that it did not send or receive signals and she said "Our planes are not ready for the iPhone." Whaaaaaaat? Then he mumbled something under his breath in Turkish and turned it off. When she walked away, we looked at each other and rolled our eyes.

The flight landed at 9:33 p.m. and the pilot turned off the seat belt sign about 5 minutes later. We had to deplane and board a bus. There were two men holding signs in Turkish and English that said TK international pax needed to take the second bus to collect their bags. I got on the first bus, because I had not flown TK internationally. Then one of the guys starts looking at people on our bus and tells them they need to get on the other bus. When he looks at me, I say "I flew British Airways." He didn't understand, and two people standing around me translate for me. One of them looks at me and says "You're on the right bus," but the guy with the sign looks disappointed. Hey, he picked me out as an international traveler, so he should be proud of himself.

In the terminal, something unique happened. My bag was one of the first ones out. In maybe a dozen flights as a *A or OW elite (I only check bags when I fly internationally), I had never had a "Priority" luggage tag do what it was supposed to do. My bags are almost always in the last quarter of those unloaded. Not in AYT! That *A Priority tag worked, and the bags that came out before it also had the tag!

At 10:59 p.m., I was in a taksi (I know one Turkish word!) on my way to the hotel. I expect to see my driver at the St. Pete Grand Prix next year. Hey, I am not complaining. He got me to the Sheraton Voyager in about 20 minutes, but I think he took the scenic route. The fare came to a shade under 44YTL, and I gave him a 50 (a little more than $40).

I had some drama surrounding my hotel reservation the morning I left TPA. I looked at, and saw that I had an extra 5000 Starpoints. That's never a problem, right? In this case, it was. I dug a little deeper, and saw that my 2-night reservation (starting tonight) was no longer there. I called the Platinum Concierge, and he figured out what had happened: The reservation was canceled, because I had booked a 2-night award stay for 5000 points (Cat 1 weekday+weekend). However, the hotel became a Cat 2 on March 1, and I should have been charged 7000 points. I booked the award stay (and paid stay immediately following) in early April. While I love my Starpoints, I had no idea about a change. I just saw that the 2-night stay was 5000 points. In the meantime, I had called regarding a couple of issues with the reservations, and never raised an eyebrow. It bothered me that my reservation was canceled with no notice, but I was impressed that the Platinum Concierge was able to reinstate the reservation. He apologized that he would have to take 7000 Starpoints from my account, but he said that he was submitting a request to have 2000 points refunded to me.

There was no problem at check-in. The guest in front of me was the woman in seat 5B! I got room 453 on the fourth floor (out of nine), not that high up, but (along with 455) the largest room on this floor. It has a seating and sleeping area with access to the balcony from each via sliding glass doors. I will have a better idea what the outside looks like tomorrow, but I know the Mediterranean is out there! Even though I chose the points as the amenity, there was a fruit plate and bottle of wine (that has a "With Compliments" tag on it) in the room, along with two complimentary bottles of water. Wireless internet is complimentary. The only nit to pick, so far, is this hotel policy:

We kindly remind you that, due to the Hotel policy, any food or beverage items taken from outside, are not allowed to be taken up to your room.

I'm interested to see what this policy covers. Is it OK to bring in bottled water? Are they just talking about alcoholic beverages and prepared foods? If so, I can understand that. However, if it also includes things like bottled water and a bag of chips, that's a little extreme.

On the other hand, if they put plates of these plums and cherries in my room every day that I am here, they can restrict outside food all they want!

It's been 32 hours since I left my house, so I guess I had better get some rest and start exploring Antalya tomorrow!

Flying Buccaneer Jun 12, 08 3:31 pm

Originally Posted by l'etoile (Post 9868714)
I look forward to more of your report. Although it's too late to help you now, you could have avoided the 15-minute immigration line by going to the second to the last lane, which is for business-class passengers.

That's good to know. However, it would not have helped me this time, because I was in Y between LHR-IST.

Flying Buccaneer Jun 12, 08 3:35 pm

Originally Posted by SanDiego1K (Post 9868865)
I'll be interested if you notice the impact of Russian tourism in Antalya. It's been a long while since we've been to Antalya. At the time we were there, the dominant tourist group was German. We are the host family for a couple of Turkish grad students at UCSD. They tell us that Antalya now has so many Russian tourists, there are even billboards in Russian.

It's funny you mention that, because I think the woman in 5B was Russian. But I am not sure.

A close friend of mine in Prague says that the Russians are taking over parts ofbthe Czech Republic. I had mentioned to her that I wanted to go to Karlovy Vary sometime, and she told me that I would be the only non-Russian there.

l etoile Jun 13, 08 10:16 am

Originally Posted by Flying Buccaneer (Post 9869686)
That's good to know. However, it would not have helped me this time, because I was in Y between LHR-IST.

Oops! Saw you were in business part of the way and assumed all the way.

LarryU Jun 13, 08 1:04 pm

Originally Posted by l'etoile (Post 9868714)
I look forward to more of your report. Although it's too late to help you now, you could have avoided the 15-minute immigration line by going to the second to the last lane, which is for business-class passengers.

Thanks for the tip. In late August, I am flying from FRA to IST on LH in C so this might come in handy. ^

Flying Buccaneer, I am looking forward to the rest of your report.

Flying Buccaneer Jun 13, 08 5:22 pm

My alarm went off at 8:43 this morning. I didn't want to sleep until noon, because that would have been a waste of the day, and it would have prolonged my jet lag. The first thing I did when I got out of bed was look out the window. The water was blue, the sky was blue with a little haze, and there was greenery all around, with white buildings in the distance and mountains behind them. I opened a sliding door to the balcony and made a cup of tea. After a few cups of tea and most of the remaining fruit, I showered and got ready to explore Antalya. It was a little after 11:00 a.m. by now. (I wake up very slowly.)

Before I left, I decided to call Guest Services to make sure I could keep this room for my entire stay, instead of having to change rooms at the end of the award stay and move to another for the paid stay. Guest Services transferred me to Reservations, and a very pleasant voice answered the phone. She told me that she saw that I had been upgraded to a junior suite for my current stay, and she would check with the front desk to see if it was possible for me to keep it. A few minutes later, she called back and said that I had a third reservation beginning today. That was actually the first reservation I made, but I canceled it when I decided to spend 4 total nights at the hotel. Fortunately, I had the cancellation number in my computer. She took it, called back a little later, and told me that everything was set, and that I could keep my room.

I went to the lobby, and realized I did not know where to catch the tram to Kaleici (Old Antalya). I asked the clerk at the front desk, and he told me to walk out the back door, turn left, and go out the gate, then walk about 70 meters. I also asked him about the no outside food and beverage policy, and if it applied to bottled water. His advice was to be discreet, and he gave me a wink.

I went down to the lower ground floor, walked outside, and turned left. I walked by the pool, which only had a few swimmers but was lined with sunbathers on chaise lounges. An outside bar, a tennis court, and lush plantings were ahead, but no gate. However, when I walked around again, I saw the gate to the outside world. I exited, and I saw the 30 meter cliff that the sign at the exit warned me about. The Sheraton Voyager is not on the beach. It's about 100 feet above the beach, which can be reached by an hourly shuttle from the hotel or a walk down a pathway. I don't think the walk down would be a problem, but the walk back would be a different matter. Anyway, I am not a beach person, even though I live in Florida, and I was much more interested in exploring Kaleici.

Antalya has one tram line. The west terminus (Muze) is across the street from the Antalya Museum, and that's closest stop to the Sheraton. There are two trams, each leaving its terminus on the hour and half hour and taking about 25 minutes to reach the other, then reversing direction. There's just one track for the most part. The only place where the track divides and comes back together is on either side of the Kale Kapisi (Tower Gate) stop, allowing the trams to pass each other.

When the tram arrived, it had to go around a circle to head east. There were two cars. I boarded the second, gave the man seated at the front a 1 YTL coin, got my receipt, and sat down. I stayed on the tram and exited at Selekler, which was the third stop. The reason I exited here and not Kale Kapisi was to visit the tourist information center. According to Lonely Planet, the office is "tucked behind the souvenir vendors of Yakuz Ozcan Park." Tucked behind is an accurate description. The first time I passed it, I thought it was one of the souvenir stands. I asked the woman if she spoke English. She did, and I asked her what I should do. She gave me some maps and a guidebook to the region. I don't think she ever really gave me a recommendation, but I didn't give her any idea what I wanted to do.

As I walked toward Kale Kapisi, I passed the Ataturk Statue. I am sure I will pass many more during my stay in Turkey. I knew little about Mustafa Kamal Ataturk before I started planning this trip. After reading about him and his impact on Turkey's birth as a nation and push to join the modern world, I look forward to learning more about him.

The next landmark I saw was Yivli Minare, more commonly known as the Grooved Minaret. As I walked around to take pictures of it from a better angle, I realized I was looking over the marina which was built by the Romans. Wow! Just then, the call to prayer began from a nearby mosque. That was the first time I had ever heard a call to prayer, but I was also hearing Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" playing from a restaurant overlooking the water.

Lunch at Parlak Restaurant

Seeing the restaurant reminded me that I was starving. I realized that I was close to one of the restaurants that Lonely Planet had recommended, a place called Parlak. I crossed Ataturk Caddesi (Avenue) and walked up Kazim Ozlap Caddesi, and quickly saw a sign for Parlak. I entered a courtyard and saw dozens of tables in the shade around a big grill. I sat at a table and a waiter brought over a very extensive menu. There were two types of kebap (kebab) on the menu: Adana and Urfa. I wasn't sure what the difference was, so I looked at the Adana and Urfa entries in Lonely Planet. Adana is ground lamb grilled on a skewer, while Urfa is chunks of lambs and vegetables grilled on a skewer. The waiter came back to take my order. I ordered the Urfa Kebab. He asked me if I like hot food. I told him I did. He suggested the Adana Kebap, because he said it was more spicy. I also ordered a Coban Salad, some chips, and an Efes, the local pilsner. Like I said, I was starving. My last meal that was not on a plane or airport lounge was on Tuesday night.

While I waited, the waiter brought a bottle of water. I looked at the guides I received from the info center. I realized that the only map I had of Kaleici was the one in the Lonely Planet guide. It would have to do. My beer came, and then the salad. It was a colorful mix of chopped tomatoes, red and green peppers, cucumber, onion, hot peppers, and olive oil topped with flat leaf parsley and served with a lemon wedge. It was delicious, kind of like a less finely-chopped version of tabbouleh without the bulghur. Before I finished it, the waiter served the kebap plate (kebap on pita bread, a couple of grilled hot peppers, and rice pilaf) and chips. I devoured it. The check came to 23 YTL (a little less than $20).

After lunch, I decided to get a SIM card for my phone. I went to a Turkcell shop nearby, and asked if anyone spoke English. The employee of the four with the best command of English helped me. I told him what I needed, and he told me that the SIM card, with 20 units (5 minutes to the US) would be 25 YTL, and a 100 unit refill would be 17 YTL. I told him I would take it, and I took out my cell phone, took out the battery and SIM card, and let him set my phone up. After he did it and showed me that I had 120 units, I asked him about registering my phone. He didn't understand what I was asking. I had read that foreign cell phones needed to be registered in Turkey. I couldn't think of a way to ask that he might understand. He told me to wait, and a few seconds later, he came back with his someone from the neighboring shop. He introduced himself and I told him what my question was. He asked my salesman, and then asked me how long I would be in Turkey. I told him 15 more days, and the salesman told me that I would be fine. I hope he's right!

To the Marina!

I crossed Ataturk Caddesi again, and started walking down a street that led into a bazaar. All of the shop owners wanted to talk to me! Some of them were very persuasive about why I should look at their carpets, their souvenirs, or their Turkish viagra, but I wanted to get to the marina. After a few minutes, I found myself looking down a steep set of steps. These steps were uneven and required some concentration to negotiate, but I made it.

The marina was filled with pleasure boats, excursion boats, and what appeared to be rowboats with people napping or eating in them. I walked around to the south wall of the marina, when separated the marina from Antalya Bay. The breeze felt nice.

It's Getting Hot in Here!

After I took about 40 pictures, I walked upstairs and through another set of shop owners. I finally found Hadrian's Gate and realized something I should have realized sooner. I was hot. I was sweating profusely, even though the temperature was not that hot by Florida standards. Maybe it was the bright sun. Whatever it was, I realized I should drink some water, so I bought a 1.5L bottle. It was a little after 4 p.m., so I decided to go back to the hotel and relax. I caught the tram from Kale Kapisi and made it back to the hotel where I took a shower and a short nap.

After my nap, I was ready to get back to Kaleici. At 7:30 p.m., the sun was low in the sky and the temperature was a bit cooler. I took the tram all the way to Hadrian's Gate and picked up where I left off. I took pictures from just about every imaginable angle. I walked through the gate and saw the Italy-Romania Euro Cup game being projected on a wall. I wanted to get back to the Marina and see what kind of nighttime photos I could get. Apparently, when the Ottomans laid out these streets centuries ago, they didn't think about tourists who might want to walk directly from Hadrian's Gate to the Marina. So I just started walking, figuring that wherever I ended up would be interesting. Somehow, I found myself staring down the steep set of steps I had in the afternoon. They looked even more challenging in the dark, but I made it.

While there was not much light, and therefore, not much of an opportunity for great pictures, the view and the atmosphere were worth the walk. During the afternoon, there were people, clamor, and an oppressive sun. During the evening, there was an occasional person or couple strolling by, some music or laughter from the distance, and a rising moon.

Kebaps, Anyone?

I was hungry again, and I wanted to get out of Kaleici for dinner. Again, I wandered the streets, wading through shop owners who wanted me to stop in for a visit. I learned quickly that the best way to deal with the owners was not to make eye contact, which is difficult for me. Eventually, I found Hadrian's Gate and I went toward the Plaza Cinemas. I wanted to find another place recommended by Lonely Planet, called Can Can Pide. (I don't always rely on LP for my meal choices, even though today would suggest otherwise.) I couldn't find it, so I walked back toward the Gate, and there it was on a side street on the left. Pide is Turkish Pizza, and I thought it would make a nice dinner. I took a table on the sidewalk, and the menu was under the glass. No English menu, no problem. Also, no English-speaking waiter! Again, no problem. I came here wanting pide, but I wanted another kebap. At the risk of sounding boring, I decided to get the same thing I got for lunch: Adana Kebap plate, Coban Salad, and a Diet Coke. The waiter and I tried to make small talk in different languages. The food came, along with a bottle of water. Dinner was as delicious as lunch, but only 9 YTL! I left 11 YTL, and the waiter said "Tomorrow, come back!"

It was nearly 10:00 p.m., and I knew the tram would leave from Kale Kapisi at 13 minutes past the hour, so I walked in that direction. I stopped for an ice cream cone. Turkish ice cream is thicker than ice cream anywhere else. The server gets small servings of it out of an ice cold metal container, and scoops it into a cone. I think it would still be solid if I had waited an hour to eat it. But it's not an inedible solid, kind of elastic. And delicious.

I finished my ice cream at the tram stop. At 10:15, I wondered if the tram was delayed. Then I looked at the sign with departure times for each of the stops. The last train departed from here at 8:43 p.m. Doh! Time to start walking!

The Walk Back

Walking back to the hotel took 45 minutes, mainly because I stopped a few times to hear where music was coming from or take a picture. I saw a couple of laser beams coming from somewhere near the marina shooting to the west. I saw a red light on one of the mountains to the west. And as I walked past the Muze tram stop into the area behind the hotel, I heard a mixture of house, Middle Eastern, and vocal music from different places. I slipped my key card into the gate and entered the Sheraton grounds, ready for tomorrow.

Flying Buccaneer Jun 14, 08 3:02 pm

Today was my second full day in Antalya, and even though I awoke a little before 9:00 a.m., I was unable to drag myself out of the room until a little after noon. I caught the tram into Kaleici. My plan was to have lunch, look around for a few minutes, and take the tram back to the Muze stop (the one closest to the Sheraton), where I would spend the afternoon at the Antalya Museum.

It almost worked without a hitch.

I exited the tram at Kale Kapisi and crossed the tracks and headed north onto Kazim Ozlap Caddesi. I forgot to mention yesterday that this is a pedestrian street that's full of small shops and kebap shops. Half a block up on the east side there's a covered alley that's a bazaar that seems to branch off in many different directions. I headed up the street, looking for a hole in the wall type restaurant. I walked aimlessly, and I found a place called Miss Simit Sarayi. The menu was similar to Can Can Pide from the night before. I was greeted by a man who offered me a table inside or under a canopy. I chose inside, and began the process of ordering. It wasn't that difficult: pizza, kebap, salat... all familiar items. I chose a pizza, my old standby Coban Salad, and a Coke Zero. The food was made to order, and delicious. The bill came to YTL 8.50 (about $7) plus tip.

I had about 15 minutes before the next tram back to Muze, so I walked along Ataturk Caddesi. I thought an ice cream cone would be a good idea. I stopped at one of the ice cream sellers on Ataturk Caddesi. The man serving the ice cream shook my hand and asked me where I was from. I told him and he said "Welcome to Turkey! You like"? I said I did, very much, and I got a vanilla topped with toasted pine nuts. He shook my hand again I was on my way back to the tram.

I still had more than 5 minutes, so I walked across the street and bought 5 postcards. I handed the elderly man out front a 1 YTL coin, and he put them in a bag. He said something I did not understand, so I shook my head. Then he said "Stamp?" I told him I did not have any, so he said "Come." So I followed him and he said "Shop has stamps." I realized I was being "invited" to a shop, so I told him I needed to catch my tram. He had the bag with the cards, so I followed him. We got to the shop, and it was filled with ceramics, magnets, postcards, and other items. The man behind the counter said hello, and the elderly man said something to him. The man behind the counter said "You need 5 stamps? Two lira each. Please take a look around my shop to see if you want anything else." I told him that I needed to catch my tram and gave him 10 YTL. He put the stamps in the bag and I left.

I missed the tram. Then I looked in the bag and saw that each stamp was 0.80 YTL. I paid 10 YTL for 4 YTL worth of stamps. I was angry that I let it happen, but more angry that it made me miss my tram. I didn't want to wait 30 minutes, so I walked. It took about 30 minutes to get to the Museum, and by the time I arrived, I didn't care about the stamp incident anymore.

I checked my backpack at the gate and walked into the museum. The air conditioning felt good, but the exhibits started off slow. At first it was mainly artifacts and pieces of artifacts from the Stone and Bronze Ages. It was interesting, but there was only so much I could process. However, a couple of rooms later, it progressed to statues of Greek gods from the first century A.D. Of course, most were missing arms or noses, and some were missing legs. But the detail was spectacular. Room after room. Many of these were excavated from nearby Perge, and some were returned to Turkey after they had been illegally exported. The most incredible exhibits were the sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?). Some were almost completely intact, some were missing quite a bit of their structure. I wandered upstairs where the the Christian icons and paintings were, and back down where Islamic artifacts, carpets, and more recent items were shown. Before walking into the park adjoining the museum, I relaxed with a tea and a bottle of water.

I made my way back to the hotel, but there was a problem. My key didn't work on the gate! Luckily, someone was behind me and he said "Your key isn't working?" Another American. Somehow, I selfishly thought I was the only one at the hotel! He let me in, and I stopped by the front desk to get re-keyed. It seems that when my first reservation ended, my keys expired. The good part about that was that there was another fruit plate with bottle of wine waiting for me. I called home, took a shower, and relaxed a bit.

At 7:30 p.m., I headed back to Kaleici. I heard a couple of Americans talking on the tram. Suddenly, we're all over the place in Antalya! One of them looked at me and said "What part of the States are you from?" I told him Florida and he said they were from California. They were to be in Turkey a month, and had been to Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia, and Konya... basically all the places I would see in the next two weeks. But they were going to spend the next few weeks traveling back to Istanbul via the coast. He told me that they had seen me at Hadrian's Gate the day before, but they thought I was Danish. Usually, it's German!

We arrived at Kale Kapisi, and I told them this was my stop. I walked down to the Marina, yet again, avoiding the shops along the way. I wanted to get some pictures at dusk, and they were worth the effort. There was all sorts of activity: cruise operators trying to get passersby to book a trip for tomorrow, tourists walking leisurely, kids laughing, and excursion boats unloading. I saw a man with a tray of roasted mussels with lemons. Then another, and another.

I walked up the stairs on the south side of the Marina and was taking pictures. To my left, I heard someone say "Let's take it here" in an American accent. Two women were doing a self photo, and I said "Would you like for me to do that for you?" One of them thanked me and said "That's OK, I getting good at this." The other looked at the screen at the image she had just taken and said "Well, not this time!" so I took a picture for them.

After I left the Marina, I walked back up to Kale Kapisi and decided to find another restaurant. I wandered into one close to where I had lunch. I wish I could speak Turkish, but the people are so helpful. And the food is so good that it's difficult to go wrong.

I walked back to the hotel. The walk is pleasant at night, and it's nice to see the people of Antalya sitting on park benches, going to dinner, or just out for a stroll. It's also nice to hear the music and laughter coming from nearby and far away. But maybe the best reason to walk was the chance on the way back to buy two pieces of baklava and successfully "smuggle" them to my hotel room!

LBsquared Jun 14, 08 7:36 pm

Originally Posted by LarryU (Post 9875289)
Thanks for the tip. In late August, I am flying from FRA to IST on LH in C so this might come in handy. ^

Flying Buccaneer, I am looking forward to the rest of your report.

Based on the Itineraries calendar, I'm literally a day behind you on the FRA-IST run (actually I'm following you for almost all the legs including FRA-JNB-FRA) also in LH C so I'm also happy to hear about the dedicated line for Bus class... also will need to look into the visa fee for each of my passports & go with whichever nationality works out cheapest! :p

Flying Buccaneer Jun 14, 08 10:54 pm

Originally Posted by LBsquared (Post 9880620)
Based on the Itineraries calendar, I'm literally a day behind you on the FRA-IST run (actually I'm following you for almost all the legs including FRA-JNB-FRA) also in LH C so I'm also happy to hear about the dedicated line for Bus class... also will need to look into the visa fee for each of my passports & go with whichever nationality works out cheapest! :p

This site should help with the visa fees.

l etoile Jun 15, 08 12:12 am

Originally Posted by LarryU (Post 9875289)
Thanks for the tip. In late August, I am flying from FRA to IST on LH in C so this might come in handy.

In that case , I'll jump in real quick to give two other little tips: 1) don't go to the visa line closest to immigration. This line moves the slowest as those who didn't know they needed visas, are in a rush to get a cnx, etc. can usually find a helpful employee who will move them to the front of the lie. 2) If you are in a rush to make a cnx, find a helpful employee who will happily move you to the front of the visa line. ;)

And one more ...while the visa site shows you need to pay in your native currency, they will take liras and there is an ATM right at the line. The exchange rate offered at the visa desk isn't very good though.

And another can get your visa i advance, but it's much more expensive and good for less time.

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