Days: 528-529 (5 December 2015 – 6 December 2015)
Total distance travelled: 134,047.9 kilometres (83,259.57 miles)
We’d allowed ourselves an additional couple of nights in Antalya, essentially for us to not actually spend the days there at all.
Not that we had taken issue with city at all, but rather we had other things to see… other things slightly further afield.
Another sunny morning, and we were again to be found at the otogar (bus station), where more plump mandarins could be bought from sellers somewhat lacking in enthusiasm (I’ve a feeling I did hand over a few lire for a plastic bags worth), and a ride to the nearby town of Aksu could be found.
Indeed Aksu wasn’t far at all, a little over twenty kilometres of bouncing along the road later and we were stood on the dusty verge of the highway, a large overpass of sorts providing an impressive amount of undesired shade.
We eventually got our bearings, left the road behind and made the not too difficult walk towards the ruins of Perge.
There’s an entrance fee to visit Perge, a fee we could have avoided had we purchased a Mediterranean Museum Pass (similar to the Aegean Pass we utilised on the west coast), however we simply didn’t intend to visit enough sites too make it an economical option.
That said, you can avoid paying anything at all to simply see the most grandiose parts of the city.
You see, before one even gets to the main gates (at least for us on foot) you’ll encounter the ancient theatre and stadium.
Whilst the theatre was in fact fenced off to all, the stadium, looking like a small version of a Hippodrome (where Charlton Heston rode his chariot in Ben Hur), was open to the world.
It wasn’t long before I was clambering atop its weathered stone seating, trying to find that perfect view.
I’m still not sure I found it, but it was a nice place to start…
We carried on courtesy of a low (in terms of ceiling height) tunnel through the stone, wandered our way through a carpark of hard, packed gravel and a handful of listless trinket vendors, their wares spread haphazardly across their respective blankets.
In contrast to what one may have expected (with us being their only potential customers in some time), they really weren’t all that fussed with plugging their wares.
Beyond, we purchased our entrance tickets from a small window, and just like that we were in.
Welcome to Perge.
It was a welcome befitting our journey thus far, as like so many places we’ve visited, perhaps as a result of it not being tourist season, we were also met by our old friend, scaffolding!
Whilst we may have stood before what was once the grand entrance of this city, it wasn’t necessary for us to pass through it to begin our explorations, as we found ourselves veering to the right, lured by an impressive row of pillars.
As we’d eventually learn, if wide boulevards, and standing columns are your thing, then Perge is most certainly right for you!
What it also did, was give a real sense of how grand this place must have been in its pomp, as there was little imagination required to understand its original scale.
Even though some of the wide promenades were now covered by a fine layer of gravel, others were still paved in stone, polished to a smooth sheen over time.
Some pretty neat things could be spied as well whilst we ambled our way through these impressively complete ruins.
I guess it was piece of vandalism at the time, but the sight of an ancient board game carved into the stone gave the experience an even more human feel.
We’d seen few people this day, however we did run into a namesake of mine (as in somebody else called Chris) and his wife, an older English couple also enjoying the relative peace and solitude that could be found wandering these ruins.
By now done, we said our farewells before departing (this time we did use that main city gate) Perge, and making the trek back to Aksu and the main highway.
The only thing was, now here, we were totally unsure of where we’d best stand to find a ride back to Antalya!
Logic would dictate the opposite side of the road to where we’d arrived, however vehicles travelling in either direction seemed to occasionally stop at one small bus shelter on what seemed at this point, the ‘wrong’ side of the highway…
In short, after some time we eventually found a ride, and made it back for our last night in the city.
Our last day… well that was again, not even spent in the city.
Copy and paste the previous morning, and we were again to be found on a bus, bouncing our way out of Antalya, the only difference, we were this time headed south-west and hugging the coast.
It promised to be a journey of two to three hours, however factoring in regular and impromptu stops (this was after all a local bus service) it was ultimately longer, with our packs hopefully tucked safely away in storage at the Antalya Otogar (bus station).
The journey itself was a beautiful one.
More blue skies and bright winter sun, our route flanked by the aforementioned sea, its flat waters a perfect mirror for the sky.
There was plenty to love as our bus took us along this winding coastal road.
Eventually we pulled into a bus terminal in Demre, a town of roughly fifteen thousand people, famously (and somewhat oddly) the home of Saint Nicholas of Myra, the man who would morph through history into Santa Claus!
It was also here that we were headed… but Saint Nick, he was not the reason.
But before we were ready to consider anything else, there was the small matter of lunch, and in true Turkish form it once again consisted of a delicious kebab.
With our appetites sated and our energy levels buzzing from the cans of cola included with our meal, we were on our way.
We’d been lured here by the famed necropolis of Myra, although as we strode our way out of the town towards where we thought it lay, we had no idea Myra was in fact the ancient Greek name for the town where Demre now stands.
As we left the hustle and bustle behind, it felt like we’d entered a massive market garden, with the road winding us through a sea greenhouses, a world of poly tunnels lush with green fruits and vegetables.
A large rocky hill stood in the distance, and the closer we got, the surer we were that our direction was true.
We took a left turn, wandered past the homes of some entrepreneurial types who’d turned their yards into parking lots for tour coaches (currently empty) and made our way into the park, into this vertical city for the dead.
We’d had our first glimpses from afar, but even now, much closer to the rock face within which the necropolis was carved, this place was mighty impressive.
There was an incredible, almost late afternoon glow that just lit the place up, a legacy of the shorter winter daylight hours.
Nor was this place all about the dead, an impressive theatre obviously serving the living at points in its history… even today, as we climbed its cold stone tiers, a tour group wandered through below.
Leaving the park, we made our way back to the road which we followed a little further before finally heading back towards town (there are in fact even more tombs cut into the rock wall further on).
The shadows were by now very long, but we had a little time we thought to perhaps to investigate the church of Saint Nicholas, after all he is now truly a global citizen and one to whom retailers give thanks every year (after they line their pockets with cash from all the presents people buy).
Time enough we had, but an inclination to pay the exorbitant entrance fee we did not.
We had a bus trip back to Antalya ahead, and from there an even longer overnight journey, so we figured we’d need something to see us through the hours to come.
Maybe they don’t get too many patrons, or at least obvious foreigners this time of year, but I swear there was a chuckle when we ordered another pair of kebabs from the store we’d earlier lunched!
As we cruised our way back along the coast under the ever thinning light, we had another stunning series of views to help us round out our day.
Temperatures pushing the twenties (as in degrees celcius)… this is a seaside winter one could get used to!
* A microbus from the Antalya Otogar to Aksu (where we then walked to Perge) cost us ŧ3.50 Lire, whilst the return via a city bus cost us ŧ2.00 Lire each.
* Entrance into the ruins at Perge was ŧ20.00 Lire each, however the Hippodrome can be explored without entering the ruins proper (and is therefore FREE).
* Luggage storage at the Antalya Otogar (bus station) set us back ŧ5.50 Lire for each bag, for up to 24 hours (we managed to attach our day packs to our main packs, therefore only paying for 2 bags).
* The microbus from Antalya to Demre cost us ŧ22.00 Lire per person, each way.
* Entrance into the Myra ruins cost another ŧ15.00 Lire per person.