In Turkish, "çok güzel" means "very beautiful." It's an expression of enthusiasm used to admire beautiful things, beautiful people and beautiful actions. At night, Antalya's old town casts a musical enchantment on its inhabitants immersing them into a melodic sea of çok güzel. Around every corner, from every crevice, music emanates into the night air, mixing with the intoxicating smell of jasmine and the twinkle of string lights. The warm evening air of the dry summer entices people out of their air-conditioned rooms into the narrow, cobblestone maze of Kaleiçi, Antalya's old town.
My husband, my son and I plunge into this sea of bewitched tourists and residents that flows through the twists and turns of the narrow pedestrian only alleys. We get lost in the labyrinth of restaurants, each with it own live music group playing melancholy melodies in minor keys that spills into the night air. On a park bench, a man strokes the strings of his bağlama, coaxing from it a timeless melody that makes me feel the intense pleasure and pain of love all at the same time. The music, the night, the air, the smell, everything about Antalya is çok güzel.
King Attalos II, a Hellenistic King of Pergamon, founded Ἀττάλεια (Attaleia) in 150 BC, giving the city his name. Antalya continued to thrive under the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman Empires. Antalya is the jewel of the Turkish Rivera from its turquoise waters to its historic old town to its impressive views from the cliffs of the Beydağları Mountains. In this article, I hope to give you some suggestions on having a "çok güzel" experience in Antalya.
Kaleiçi, the Old Town of Antalya, is a the perfect place to stay during a visit to Antalya. Kaleiçi is filled with red roofed mansions, minarets, clock towers, tombs, mosques, fortress gates, shops, and restaurants within the old city walls. This area has seen something of a renaissance in recent years, with many of the wooden Ottoman mansions being restored and turned into boutique hotels.
Hadrian's Gate is one of Antalya's oldest and most important historic sights. The gate, which dates back to 130 AD, was originally built to commemorate Roman Emperor Hadrian's visit to Antalya. In Turkish, the gate is called Üçkapılar which means "three gates" (üç means three, kapı means gate and lar creates the plural.) Looking at the gate, it is easy to see how it got this name as there are three arches of white marble. Hadrian's Gate became one of the main entrances to Kaleiçi through the walls that surrounded the old city. Today, you can walk through this gate as you enter the old town from the busy main street of Ätaturk Boulevard.
Antalya is all about the views. Antalya perches on the edge of a cliff. The land looks as it some giant hand broke off a piece of the continent, leaving a giant slice of cliff that runs along the coast line. In many areas, these cliffs fall dramatically straight down to the water. Although this topography may not lend itself to lovely beaches, it makes for spectacular views. Finding a restaurant high on the cliff with a panoramic view of the sunset is a definite "çok güzel" experience.
Mermerli Beach is less of a beach and more a series of wooden platforms covered with sun chairs and umbrellas built on top of the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. You will find Mermerli Beach at the bottom of a very long flight of stairs. You enter Mermerli Beach through the Mermerli Restaurant by paying a small entrance fee of 15 lira ($2.50) that includes a sun chair, umbrella and towel. Waiters run up and down the stairs bringing the sunbathers çay (Turkish tea), soft drinks, hamburgers and fries from the restaurant above.
The water is cool, calm, crystal clear and çok güzel. The area from Antalya to Fethiye is called the Turquoise Coast because of the beautiful color of the Mediterranean Sea. You can easily spend all day slipping in and out of the cool water here at the base of the ancient walls of Antalya. We opted to rinse off and enjoy lunch at a table in the restaurant above where I ate a fish that I personally selected for the day's fresh catch.
Continuing with the cliff theme, the Düden Falls are a dramatic set of water falls that plunge from the cliffs of Antalya to the turquoise waters below. The Düden Falls are in fact made up of two separate cascades, the Lower and Upper. The Lower Falls (Karpuzkaldıran Şelale) is considered to be one of the largest in Europe, flowing over the cliffs and into the sea below.
To reach the Lower Falls, head to Kaleiçi Marina, the Old City Marina of Antalya, where you can take a boat to the falls and see them from the sea. Make sure to negotiate your price. Like many things in Turkey, the ticket price is negotiable. We negotiate a price of 280 lira (50 US dollars) for a two hour boat round trip boat ride for three people to the falls.
Our boat hugs the coast of Antalya where we take in the dramatic cliffs that define the terrain of this area. Along the ride, we see various "beaches," or long stairways that lead down to platforms that hug the walls of the rock face. As we near the falls, we can see the billowing clouds of mist before we see the actual falls. Once the mammoth falls come into view, it is a çok güzel sight to behold as the massive amount of water gushes over the precipice. It is like the mythical edge of the flat earth where the water plunges into the abyss.
Just south of the old town and along the cliffs is the Karaalioğlu Parkı. This park is the best place to watch the sunset. During the heat of the day, this park offers relaxing shade for a break with picturesque views. The Hıdırlık Kulesi, an old Roman tower from the 2nd AD, perches on top the cliff. The tower provides a beautiful base for taking in the views of Gulf of Antalya. Just before sunset, local couples pick their place along the walkway and in front of the tower. We too watch the stunning sunset as the Mediterranean and the Beydağları Montains swallows the sun.
If you love cats as much as the Turkish People love cats, you will love the Cat Village. The Cat Village is just a two minute walk from the old town. It is just off Cumhuriyet Caddesi in the same park where the Monument of National Rise is located. The village consists of several rows of little kitty condos. The condos are filled with cats big and small ("kediler" in Turkish). There is a place to leave a small donation that helps provide food and healthcare for the feral cats. I had so much fun snuggling the little kittens. The village was filled locals and their children, all enjoying playing with the kittens.
Life is an adventure, not a destination. Fill your life with Çok Güzel places, people and experiences.