And she’s off…

Although embarking on a solo trip to some [perceived] shady places, wandering through London at 4.30am is so far the closest I’ve felt to ‘gonna get killed’ . But I skipped past the drunks and down-and-outs relatively unnoticed, with only a curious call to ‘jump! jump!’ from an Albanian (I’m presuming for my own well-prejudiced reasons) tramp.

Being a hobo and a skank, I decided that the walk-bus-train-plane option at some unholy hour of the night was a better way to arrive at the airport for my 6.45am check-in than some garishly convenient taxi. So that’s what I did, thus ticking off 3 modes of transport (I’m not counting walking) within 3 hours of the off and prompting a transport tally. To be updated.

Discovered as I boarded the bus that I was dressed a lot like TinTin. Too late to change, not just now but full stop seeing as I have a severely limited wardrobe for the next few months. And I am already sick of the sight of all within it. Have also swiftly identified some sartorial carelessness and crime among it which must be rectified, reducing the number of bad options and options full stop. I thought I had it down to pat but packing for several months to account for hot, cold, wet, urban and country settings ain’t no picnic.

Plane ride was uneventful, landed at Antalya airport with a bunch of Thomas Cook holidaymakers and found my way determinedly to duty free and the public bus respectively while they found their reps. When it comes to planning the trip, I’m an avid plane researcher so I glugged down guidebook information, hot spots and potential routes as we whipped across Europe. Like looking at a world map, I was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer possibility and had to snap the book shut in favour of the die-hard ‘work it out as I go along’ strategy. However I did discover that there is potential to add two of the Caucus countries to the itinerary on the road East…

The first thing you must do when arriving in a new country is master the word for thank-you. Seeing as the Turks, like the Ethiopians and Kenyans, have made it overly complicated (teshekewr edirim), I’ve written it on my hand. Turns out English isn’t quite so widely spoken in Turkey as you’d expect, even in the popular tourist destinations, so I’ll be honing my charades skills quicker than I anticipated. Still ‘kecks off’ (from the hammam lady – keep it clean), ‘beer  please’, and ‘I’m not married and don’t have any kids’  seemed easy enough to communicate off the bat.

First ports of call were hostel – hammam (Turkish bath) – beer, in that order. Taking a Turkish Bath is possibly the only way that I can really understand what it must have been like in Roman times. They were the ones to pass the bathing experience to the Turks and as you are steamed, scrubbed and soaped, you can actually conjure an image of how those tumble down remains of Roman bath houses across the world would have felt and functioned. Why hasn’t everyone clung so tenaciously to the ritual?? Perhaps next time I’ll take a strigil with me and bridge the ages. These Turks wimp out and use a scourer instead.

Antalya enjoys a beautiful setting on the arc of a coastal bay, surrounded by surprisingly high mountains which are frequently snow-capped in winter. Luckily I took in most of the key sights of the city on my meanderings. The bombastic statue of Attaturk atop the hill is worth mentioning only because it was once described as bombastic by someone. So yeah, the town has a gate built by for Hadrian, a revamped Roman harbour, markets, clock tower, a bunch of mosques in varying states of repair and a series of pretty-ish parks. I absorbed all of these in my wanderings and repaired to a bar to enjoy the first holiday beer to an accompaniment of live Turkish music. Two dudes – one with an afro – playing a flute and a guitar. Inspired.

Awoke to my first full day on the road to find it pissing with rain. So I took my time and had a typical Turkish breakfast (omelette, bread, honey, cheese, tomato, cucumber, olives and lashings of tea) up on the roof terrace as I watched the rain lash the town and holidaymakers with kids in tow, determined to get out there come rain or shine.

Few photos to show. Blame the rain.

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