The gate to the Orient is an exotic world, a fascinating blend of European and Arab influences. Opening up to the emerald Mediterranean at one side and to the Black Sea at the other, split in two by the Bosphorus, Turkey is a coveted destination. I had dreamed of visiting the country ever since I was a child and read stories of Nasreddin or of sailors and merchants trying to reach its coast. Turkey is a delight for the senses, with its fragrant spices, tea, coffee, baklava and Turkish delight. Its colorful bazaars, pointed minarets and locals sipping black tea from their small funny glasses are the country’s most notable symbols.
So how do you plan a three-month-long trip to Turkey? First, we followed the recommendations and advice of a few friends who have been to Geyikbayiri, a famous rock climbing area near Antalya, and fell in love with the place. Then, we came up with a few ideas of our own. A working holiday did not sound very bad, especially when we planned to stay for so long. We knew there were a number of climbers’ campsites that would offer accommodation in exchange for a helping hand. Months before boarding on the plane to the Turkish Riviera, we received one of the loveliest replies in our lives. The JoSiTo Guesthouse Camp had invited us to help around the kitchen, offering us free meals and lodging. This meant that we had enough time and money to fulfill our dream of living like locals in Antalya.
One month of preparations helped us figure out how to get from the Antalya airport to our destination, Geyikbayiri, one of the most famous climbing areas in the world. Once in Antalya, we managed to find each and every bus we needed to take in order cross and exit the city and get to Geyikayiri, just as if we were locals. We hitchhiked the last kilometers and eventually arrived at the climbers’ paradise late in the evening. The journey was meant to be an adventure, one in which we wanted to get lost and find our way, rather than resort to taxis and maps. We wanted to shed our touristic skins and pass off as locals, thus becoming travelers in the real sense of the word.
Looking back at the three months spent in Antalya, it seems as if they were unreal. Life there cannot be compared with anything you see at home. The prayers from the mosque would follow us throughout the day. Turkish breakfasts, with their nutritious combination of cheese, egg, vegetables, fruits and olives, was the perfect start for each perfect day. The baths in the warm Mediterranean were the ultimate pampering experience. Who needs a spa when you have perfectly rounded hot pebbles on the beach to lay on and the warm water to dive in? Antalya is full of life and colors, with its great food and landscape, lost ruins, great climbing areas and warm people that always greet you with a smile.
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