Webmaster's Note: Because the BikeAbout team is traveling in smaller groups for a little while, we have changed the format of the journal slightly. The dispatches for Turkey will be presented in geographical rather than chronological order. To view the chronological order, go to the itinerary.

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While Corinne and andrEa are staying in Izmir, Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic are traveling along Turkey's Mediterranean coast:

topics: Iskender kebab (food), Coast of Golden Sand, tourist over-development, the Greek gods, international artifact theft, Side, Antalya, HISTORY; jump to dispatch

Rider Notes: February 19–20, 1998

Food of the Day: Iskender kebab

The Iskender kebab takes its name from Alexander ("Iskender" in Turkish). Perhaps it was Alexander the Great's favorite food. Or maybe the recipe originated from Iskenderun, Turkey. Regardless, it is one of our favorite kinds of kebab. But wait! We need to explain more about how the street-side kebab-maker works and how it is different from the other kebabs that we have had.

Every city in Turkey seems to have at least one kebab-maker, although most cities have many, many more. The kebab-maker usually works with two basic ingredient: lamb and chicken. In both cases, a huge number of pieces of slightly cooked meat are piled into an elongated cylindrical shape around a heavy skewer. This is rotated vertically in front of a very hot coil that cooks the meat further. With a very sharp knife, the kebab-maker carves thin slices off this stack of meat. click to view a photograph Next he combines this meat with a simple tomato-meat sauce. When lamb is used, the result is a döner kebab; when the lamb is mixed with the meat sauce AND yogurt, it is all called an Iskender kebab.

Tech Fact of the Day: Plundered Turkish artifacts

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, as news of the archaeological wonders to be discovered in Turkey spread to the rest of Europe, some European governments, particularly the British and the Germans, financed large expeditions to the area with the goal of "rescuing" (as they would say, or "plundering" or "stealing" as the Turks and Greeks say) valuable objects of great archaeological importance and value. For example, most of the best statuary and friezes (and in some cases whole temples!) from Pergamum (in Turkey) are on display in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. Or the great marble frieze that ran around the Parthenon of the Acropolis in Athens can be seen in the British Museum in London, England. The latter pieces are often referred to as the Elgin Marbles, named after the man who brought them to England in 1812, Lord Elgin. Similarly, some of Turkey's most precious pieces of ancient heritage were transported to England by Charles Fellows at the end of the 19th century.

Turkey has long been laboring to force foreign governments and private collectors to return what the Turkish government feels is stolen property. Today it is illegal to export any ancient artifacts from Turkey.

Person of the Day: Greek gods

Today, we were reminded that we have truly entered the land of the gods. As we have moved through different towns and visited different ruins, we have again and again been confronted with the names of the famous Greek gods. While their names are familiar, their character traits are not. So, having picked up a ton of information while we were at the Antalya Museum, we thought we should share some of the basic background about the most recognizable gods and goddesses.

The 12 main Greek gods, usually called the Olympians, are Zeus, Hera, Hephaestus, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hestia, Hermes, Demeter, and Poseidon. In addition, there were Hades and Dionysus, two highly prevalent figures.

Zeus: head of the gods, spiritual father of gods and people
Hera: Zeus' wife, queen of heaven, guardian of marriage
Hephaestus: god of fire and metalworkers, also the gods' artisan who made their armor, weapons, and jewelry
Athena: goddess of the Greek cities, of industry and the arts, of wisdom, and of war; patron of the agricultural arts and of the crafts of women, especially spinning and weaving; gave people the gifts of the plow, the flute, and the arts of taming animals, building ships, and making shoes; often associated with birds, especially the owl.
Apollo: god of agriculture, light (the sun), truth, poetry, music, and prophesy; special protector of young men; taught humans the art of healing
Artemis: goddess of hunting and wild animals (especially bears), childbirth, nature, the harvest, and the moon; special protector of young women
Ares: god of war
Aphrodite: goddess of love, beauty
Hestia: goddess of the hearth, believed to watch over all sacrificial altar fires
Hermes: god of commerce; messenger of the gods and special courier of Zeus; ruler of science and invention; protector of traders, herds, sports arenas; believed to possess magic powers over sleep and dreams; responsible for good luck and wealth
Poseidon: ruler of the sea
Demeter: goddess of corn and the harvest
Hades: ruler the underworld
Dionysus: god of vegetation, wine, good cheer, and pleasure

Place of the Day: Coast of Golden Sand

The Coast of Golden Sand stretches between Alanya and Antalya on Turkey's southern Mediterranean coast. click to view a map

As we biked between the wide, fertile plains off to our right and the long length of sandy beach we could imagine off to our left, we were stunned by impressive and modern (and sometimes, therefore, depressing) tourist facilities. Large, multi-star, multistory, "resort" hotels, or whole complexes of them, came right up to the edge of the road or were visible a short distance toward the shore. In some cases, whole villages seemed to have been built up purely out of a need to cater to the tourists interested in popping out of the hotel for a moment. Which isn't to say that the landscape wasn't beautiful. It was. It still is. But it has been changed (not always for the better) by the constant flow of tourists, usually on package tours. In fact, this area is so heavily patronized by German package tour operators that many (if not most) signs and billboards were also (if not exclusively) written in German. And the packaged food available in the small market stores was exactly what you would find in a similar store in Germany.

Other than the beaches, there are many points of historical interest and natural wonder in the area. Not to be missed (when time — which we did not have enough — permits) are: the ruins of Perge (whose statues are at the Antalya Museum), Aspendos, Side, Köprülü Canyon National Park, the Dedegöl Mountains, the Manavgat Waterfalls, and Altinbes(h)ik Cave National Park.

Group Dispatch, February 19-20

picture of Ethan

The boys knew it would be a long day. At least 135 km (84 mi) to Antalya, perhaps the most important city on the Mediterranean coast that they would visit. Because the extremely challenging rides since Mersin had come as an astoundingly beautiful but muscle-breaking surprise, the BikeAbout threesome had looked more carefully at more detailed maps and asked around for information and advice about the route. The word was that the road would be flat. And it was. Fortunately.

They were up fairly early. Not as early as they could have been, but up as businesses were beginning to open. Their legs had had an extra day's rest so they were feeling relatively fresh. And that freshness was translated into a good cycling clip as they moved through the gently rolling countryside. The now-familiar Mediterranean was less visible than it has been, hidden behind coastal construction. Since this particular stretch of coast, called the Coast of Golden Sand (see the Place of the Day), is well known for its beaches and is easy accessibility (not nearly as mountainous as the eastern coast), it has been much more heavily developed. This was disturbing at times, since hotels were more prominent than the natural beauty of the coast. But it made it easier to put their heads down and bike even harder.

About 60 km (37 mi) into the ride, at Manavgat, they turned off the main road toward the coastal city/ruins of Side (pronounced See-deh). Lunch amidst the ruins seemed like an excellent idea.

Side, whose name means "pomegranate" in the ancient Anatolian language, is now a resort town cluttered with hotels and pensions (small family-run hotels). Countless shops, cafés, and restaurants are squeezed between the ruins, some of which — for example, the theater (the biggest in the area) — need and/or are undergoing restoration. click to view a photograph Side used to be a flourishing center of piracy and slavery during the time of the Greeks. After that, it turned to regular commerce and flourished. (It was such a popular place that Mark Antony and Cleopatra chose it as a place for a romantic interlude.) Today, all that remains of the ancient, but once lively, community are the market place, surrounded on four sides by columns click to view a photographclick to view a photograph, the abutting 15,000-seat theater click to view a photograph, and some scattered temples. click to view a photograph

The ruins of the agora — the marketplace — were an ideal location for a picnic lunch. click to view a photograph

With the sun well past its noon heights and the long shadows of the afternoon only getting longer, the threesome made some quick adjustments to their bikes click to view a photograph and then slid (gingerly) back into the saddles and pushed across the remaining distance to Antalya. Along the way, they got a first taste of what the days ahead hold for them: click to view a photograph.

As the sun was beginning to set, they hit the center of Antalya, 140 km (87 mi) from where they had begun, found a pension (where they showered and dined), found an Internet café (from which they sent off some more dispatches), and then strolled back along the city walls to the rest for which their bodies were screaming.

Antalya is the tourist center of the Turkish Riviera, which is Turkey's tourism capital. Given this, the boys had been a little concerned about what it would be like: too gaudy and overdeveloped? Too Germanized (see why in the Place of the Day)? However, they were very pleasantly surprised. Perhaps this is because they are visiting during the low season (and after a harsh winter made worse by the threat of war in Iraq), and thus there are very few tourists. Perhaps the city sparkles in a way that allows it to rise above its tourist importance. Perhaps it's a combination of both elements . . . and others. Whatever the case, Antalya was a comfortable and enjoyable place, and worthy of an extra day of rest. (Unfortunately, no luck was had contacting schools and so no information was formally exchanged with local youth.)

Antalya was founded in the second century BC by Attalus II, a king of Pergamum, who named the city Atteleia after himself. Since then, it has been continuously occupied by the Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and the Ottomans. Its attractive location and value as a great bay and anchorage helped it maintain its position. After World War I, Antalya was given to the Italians, who occupied it until 1921 when Kemal Atatürk took it back. There are many monuments to this long and mixed history built into the modern city of the 20th century.

The harmony that exists between the remnants of the city's past and the structure of its present is quite pleasing, and, after a morning spent in front of their computers, Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic hit the streets to soak in as much as possible.

Beginning in the Kaleiçi district — the old city click to view a photograph — in which they had found their pension, they wandered through the narrow and winding streets (with periodic views out to the west click to view a photograph) flanked by quaint wooden homes of only a few stories. click to view a photograph Apparently, the Historic Preservation Society and the Turkish Touring and Automobile Association have helped push through legislation disallowing the construction of new buildings. As a result, there is a feel of authenticity to the area marred only by the swift renovation and modernization of the buildings, almost all of which are becoming pensions and restaurants.

They paused in Karaalioglu Park to soak in the city and breathtaking view across the Bay of Antalya to the Bey Mountains click to view a photograph (along which they will be biking tomorrow). The precipitous snowcapped presence was a genuine concern. Would they mean more really tough hills? The nearby second-century AD Hidirlik Tower was a reminder that others before had also marveled at the same view and perhaps wandered about what it would be like to cross through it.

The boys resumed their tour across the award-winning Turban Kaleiçi Marina click to view a photograph (considered to be one of the nicest in Turkey), then beneath the ancient city walls click to view a photograph, past the landmark clock tower click to view a photograph, the 13th-century Yivli "fluted" Minaret click to view a photograph and into Atatürk Park, a long, narrow, clifftop, waterside park stretching west away from the center and affording tremendous views west click to view a photograph and east click to view a photograph

Early in the afternoon, they finally reached the Antalya Archaeological Museum. Filled with information and artifacts (many of the latter taken from excavations and explorations in nearby cities, like Elmali and Perge), the museum included displays of surprisingly intricate gold and silver work from as early as the seventh century BC! To Ethan, the highlights of the exhibit were the many rooms of life-size statues of the Greek gods click to view a photograph click to view a photograph (see the Person of the Day) and the mausoleums covered with intricate carvings. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph click to view a photograph

After a moment's pause for Padraic and Anthony to pose with a friend click to view a photograph, all three realized it was getting late. click to view a photograph They walked back through Atatürk Park, strolling past picnicking families, groups of young people enjoying typical Turkish games like soccer and basketball, and friends and young lovers just enjoying one another's company.

Back downtown, they strolled back through the Kaleiçi district, swinging by Hadrian's Gate click to view a photograph (built in honor of the Roman Emperor when he visited Antalya in 130 AD), and the Kesik Minaret Complex click to view a photograph (a "truncated" minaret and mosque built over a second-century AD Roman temple and sixth-century church, and modified by every new occupying force since), before returning to the pension.

At rest, they alternately worked, read, and watched the sunset over the snowcapped Bey Mountains. Tomorrow would bring a new series of tough riding days along the particularly scenic and historically important Lycian Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the ladies have been staying in Izmir. You can read about their visit in their February 18-20 dispatch.

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