Time flies… it’s been over 6 years ago since the last time I went to Alanya and Cappadocia, Turkey. My seven day trip to Turkey was probably the most roller coaster journey ever – distinctively memorable for the unexpected experiences, sometimes unpleasant, that took me to the next level of learning by traveling. Regardless, combination of breathtaking nature and fascinating history has made them top destinations you should not miss before you die.
PAY THE FINE OR LOCKED UP ABROAD
Arriving at Antalya Airport in the morning from Amsterdam, an immigration officer suddenly lead us to a smaller room that no other passengers came except us. My schoolmate and I sat there and looked each other, not knowing what was going on. Shortly after that, a dark blue uniformed lady came to us.
“You have no visa.” said the lady, starting a conversation. We were genuinely shocked. Indonesian passport holders need a visa to Turkey?? It had been part of the regulations that Indonesia passport holders doesn’t need a visa to go to Turkey as the moslem country solidarity agreement.
I was scared, confused and angry at the same time. I insisted, “Two years ago, I came to Istanbul and visa was not required. You can check the stamp in my passport.” Coincidentally, I traveled to Istanbul using the same passport number. She checked and found the stamp in my passport marking my arrival in Istanbul.
She replied, “Yes, I see. But now you need a visa to Turkey.” I still believed that she bullied us with visa as a pretext to get some extra income, aka a tool to get some bribery from foreign visitors. I just couldn’t accept it, but didn’t know how to solve it.
She added, “The flight from Amsterdam to Antalya only comes once a week. You have 2 choices, either pay the fine or stay in jail until the plane comes.”
Arguing about the visa thing would be a never ending story. We finally agreed to pay 100 euro fine each to end the nightmare. After that, the immigration officer stamped our passport with the biggest purple stamp we’ve ever seen, of which the size was almost as big as a regular visa sticker. 100 euro fine was nothing compared to joining the fellow convicts in jail. Leaving the airport, I was still wondering whether the visa issue was part of bribery tricks or purely a regulation change. I would find out after returning to Amsterdam.
Before Gazipaşa Airport functioned as an international airport in 2011, all international flights to Alanya could only land in Antalya Airport. From Antalya Airport, it took 2 hours to Alanya by bus. Alanya is situated in the eastern part of Antalya Province, the Mediterranean region of Turkey, 115 km from Antalya city.
Being in Alanya felt like being in Greece, rather than Turkey. Alanya is not Istanbul where grand mosques are the main tourist attractions. Somehow I forgot I was in a moslem country since caves, beaches and a fortress are more popular sites than mosques. The city has been a popular destination and (second) home of many European people due to its mild climate and picturesque view of the beach. Real estate business flourishes in Alanya thanks to them (if economy crisis doesn’t count). Needless to say, real estate in Turkey costs much less than that in Europe, especially in western Europe. Villa and apartment agencies claim in their pamphlets that their marketing team speak other European languages besides English. “Wir sprechen deutch”, “We spreken nederlands”, “Nous parlons français” were written in front of their office.
The most dominating landmark of the beach city is Seljuk Fortress (also known as Alanya Castle), stretching 6.5 km including 140 towers, situated 250 metres above sea level. It was built in 13th century under the remains of Roman and Byzantine fortress after the conquest of Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat in Alanya.
BYZANTINE CHURCH INSIDE SELJUK FORTRESS
Remains of Byzantine Church signifies the Christian era before the conquest of Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat. The frescoes once covered the dome and the wall are damaged, you only can see a slight trace of them nowadays. The old church was renovated in 1873.
The Red Tower or Kizil Kule was named after the red bricks used to build the tower of which is 33 metres high. Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat completed the tower construction in 1226 to protect the Tersane or shipyard from the enemies. It is also one of the most important Sultan Alaaddin’s legacy depicting his power besides the fortress.
MARINE LANDSCAPE: SELJUK SHIPYARD AND THE BEACH
Damlataş Cave is famous for its capability to heal asthma because its high rate of carbon dioxide, which is 8-10 times higher than normal and high rate of humidity. The site was accidentally found during the harbour construction while opening a stone quarry by a dynamite explosion. The beauty inside the cave drove the people to shift the explosion to a different location.
A SHOESTRING BUDGET TRAVEL
The holiday offer we took to Alanya was a very good deal. It costed 250 euro all-inclusive: free breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel, 7 nights stay in a 3 stat hotel (for us, 3 star hotel was already good), a return flight ticket Amsterdam – Alanya, and a return shuttle bus from Antalya Airport to Alanya. The food was fair enough for saving our budget, especially after paying an unexpected 100 euro fine! But of course, eating the same kind of meal for 7 days in a row was killing us, too! We didn’t really do that, actually. The local food outside was much better, indeed, as long as they were hygienic. The hotel location was strategic since it was close to public transports and a local supermarket.
The only drawback we had – apart from forgetting the hotel name – the shower flexible hose leaked while we were out. When we returned to our room at 10 PM, our bathroom floor was full of water and the water almost reached the entrance door!!
IT’S JUST THE BEGINNING!
We accidentally found a row of local travel agents on street offering a package to other cities and regions outside Alanya. Seven nights in Alanya was enough to optimize our time in Turkey by exploring another city within the country. Nearly locked up abroad and flood in a hotel bathroom were just the beginning of the adventure. Regarding the visa issue, were we actually bullied or just careless? “Careless and Clueless Journey” will be continued – in Cappadocia!