Pat and I are sitting, bare feet, pants rolled to our knees, on the multi-coloured pebble beach in Antalya. The sparkling azure sea rolls to the shore, a succession of gentle breakers, foaming and sucking at the steep beach a few feet from where we’ve been pebble hunting. Up and down the beach, brown Europeans are sunbathing and swimming. It’s November 18th. The temperature is in the mid to high 20s and we are at the most southern place we’ve visited since leaving home.
Later …… We’re staying in the heart of Antalya’s old city. Ottoman architecture surrounds us, our tiny hotel is an original, with suitably creaky stairs. There are hundreds of European styled street-side restaurants and cafes. Wine and beer is served at the vast majority of them. The menus are varied, the seafood plentiful and fresh. Yesterday we sampled calamari twice. Today we are tasting shrimp.
Antalya’s old city is perched on ragged rock bluffs rising out of the sea. Ancient towers of once strong fortifications still cling to the rock. Today they are occupied by mouse-catching cats. It maybe that the cats don’t bother with the mice as they – hopefully just the cats – also hang out at restaurants, putting the dogs to shame when it comes to shameless begging.
We notice tour boats taking people out in the pretty harbour and along the coast. That looks nice, so we investigate. Soon we are on-board an hour-long harbour tour. Forty minutes after leaving we are back.
“We paid for an hour,” we tell the ticket man. He pretends to have forgotten how to speak or understand English.
We point to the sign that clearly says, “one hour,” in several languages.
“No,” he insists. His English is magically recovering.
We point and I argue and he comes out of his booth, covers up the one hour portion of the English part of the sign with tape and goes back in his booth. He flaps a piece of paper at us that indicates 45 minutes.
I argue that we never got that paper. He shouts. I tell him to not shout and to listen. He gets more excited because there are now several people gathered around. I tell him I’m staying put until he listens. He listens then calls me a bunch of names. His English is getting better by the moment.
So the name of this blatantly dishonest boat tour company – just in case you are in Antalya or planning to go – is SS 200 NOLU AKDENIZ, Yelkenli Yatcilik Motorlu Tasiyicilar Kooperatifi.
A few minutes later we stop by another ticket office of the same company and we ask for harbour tour details. Yes indeed, one hour tours is what they are selling. So we tell the guy what has happened.
Suddenly the story changes, “well yes, it is really 45 minutes.”
“45 minutes is not 60 minutes, even in Turkey,” I say.
The guy sheepishly suggests I talk to the boss. I do. Oddly this guy listens. I find myself wondering if he’s doing so because there are several police within hearing distance. Pat explains that the false advertising is misleading. I tell him this kind of thing gives Turkey – Turkish men in particular – a bad reputation among tourists. The boss agrees but insists that in Turkey things are done this underhanded way. He offers us a free 45 minute harbour tour in compensation. We tell him we’ve had enough harbour touring and go find ourselves a restaurant with excellent wine and a stunning view of the harbour. We look down and see the 45 minute one hour tour boat puttering by the cliffs below us.
The afternoon after visiting the beach and tramping around the city, we go to a 300 year old hammam. We’ve been to enough hammams to know they are supposed to be hot. The idea is to sweat before being scrubbed. This hammam isn’t hot. We aren’t shivering but there is certainly no sweating happening either. When we point this out we are told that Europeans don’t like it hot.
“We’re not Europeans,” I say.
“This is a Turkish hammam in Turkey,” Pat says.
“The point is for it to be hot,” we both add.
“Don’t blame the Europeans because you don’t want to heat your water properly,” we mutter as we leave. Once again – misleading false advertising bites the unwary tourist where it hurts.
So the name of this establishment – in case you want to avoid a ineffective Hammam – is The Turkish Bath Antique Spa Hammam. It’s in the old town.
That said, the beautiful young woman who scrubs and bubble massages us is from Iran. She came to Turkey with her mum and sister eighteen months ago. They have applied for visas to immigrate to Australia. Oh so much more of her story we want to know. We hope they are soon making new and wonderful lives for themselves down under.
What will we remember of our visit to Antalya? The warmth of the Mediterranean sun? Absolutely. The fabulous shrimps and calamari? Of course. The cold wine and beer and the stunning locations of the restaurants? Yes indeed. The glorious beach? Oh yes. The vibrancy? Again, yes. But we will also remember the dishonesties. Tourists should be double aware here – we are marks and subject to being scammed.