7 Aug 2011
I found a beautiful hotel, Embassy Pansion for 40 TL per night, with a fenced in courtyard where I could dump my bike. I felt like I needed a little alone time away for the bicycle. I had a puffy rash on my legs and feet from cycling in the heat, and had managed to sunburn my back through my shirt the day before. I felt like I was wearing too much clothing and my head had been aching for two full days despite drinking gallons of juice and water. I needed a vacation.
Fortunately Antalya is the place. The Mediterranean is blue green, the sunbathers are out in force, and every street corner sells fresh squeezed orange juice. Kayleci, the historic old town of Antalya has narrow winding streets of cobblestone and Ottoman style houses where the second floor overhangs the first. The town is full shops and little markets selling souvenirs, spices, and fresh fruit. I went immediately to a clothing store and bought a tank top. For the first time in Turkey, I bared my shoulders, it felt fabulous.
The heat was ever present so I would walk around for about an hour, find my hotel, take a freezing cold shower, and lay down with the air conditioning blasting until I dried off. This was working pretty well for me until the cleaning lady walked in on me laying buck naked on the bed. I decided that I needed to get out more.
There was a mosque nearby, and I had yet to go inside of one, so I peeled myself off the sheets and left. At the entrance to most mosques there is a bin of scarves that you can borrow. I had donned a shirt to cover my arms and with my borrowed headscarf, I left my shoes at the door and stepped inside. There was an instant hush when I walked in. The noises of the city are muffled by the plush carpets and thick marble walls. A few people were seated around the mosque praying. There was a special section for women off to the side, and I sat with my back against the smooth stone so could people watch without being noticed.
There is a different feeling when you step inside old religious buildings. Sounds become muted and the air feels heavier. The domed ceiling of the mosque let in an amazing amount of light and gave it a sense of airiness. There was pulpit in the center and a few rooms at the entrance. The mosque was very simple inside, the carpets rolled out wall to wall being the only decoration.
I realized after I had planned my trip that I would be traveling during the holy month of Ramadan. For the entire month, Muslins abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. Just before sunset, people sit at restaurant tables with water glasses beading up from condensation waiting in front of them. As soon as the evening prayer sounds out from the mosque’s loudspeakers signaling sunset, everyone grabs their water glasses and drinks deeply. Each day, that must be the most delicious glass of water imaginable.