May Flower Festival in Antalya/Turkey

Spring is the time of year when many flower festivals are held in Europe. Some like the festival in Girona/Spain or the world famous San Remo flower parade are better known than others.

If you want to enjoy a flower festival which you have probably never heard of, head for Antalya on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

Antalya

Not for nothing is Antalya the 8th most popular tourist destination in Turkey and one of my personal favorites. Located between the snow covered Taurus mountains and the Mediterranean coast, the city is a treasure trove for history fans like myself as well as an ideal destination for lovers of pristine beaches and water sports.

Taurus mountains

Taurus mountains

Konyaalti beach

Konyaalti beach

 

Stroll around Kaleici old town, take a tram ride, chill out on Konyaalti Beach or visit one of the most stunning archaeological museums in all of Turkey.

Antalya Museum

Antalya Museum

Kaleici at night

Kaleici at night

Duden waterfall or the mystical chimera are only two of many excursions you can go on from Antalya.

Duden waterfall

Duden waterfall

flame2

But today, I’m telling you about a very special event which will take place at the end of May.

Antalya’s 12th Flower Festival! Not only are flowers used to make colorful floats, the theme of this year’s  is Kids and Flowers. What could be more suitable and lovely.

antalaflowers

Here is the complete program.

12th ANTALYA FLOWER FESTIVAL PROGRAMME

21 May 2016

Activity 1

: Kids Plant Flowers

Time: 10.00 to 17.00

Location

: Cumhuriyet Square

Activity 2

Stage Performances

Date 20th and 21st May

Time 16:00 to 21.00

Location: Cumhuriyet Square

Activity 3

Competiton for cars made from flowers

Date 21st May

Time 16.30 to 18.00

Location: Cender Hotel

Activity 4

Cortege of Antalya Flower Festival

Date 21st May

Time 18.00 to 19.00

Location Between Cender Hotel and Cumhuriyet Square (Tram Road)

Activity 5

: Cumhuriyet Square Protocol and Award Ceremony for Flower Cars

Date 21st Ma

Time 19.00 to 20.00

Location: Cumhuriyet Square

Activity 6

Landscape Exhibition

Date 20th and 21st May

Time: 10.00 to 20.00

Location: Cumhuriyet Square

Activity 7

Decoration of Cumhuriyet Square with Flowers by the Municipality of Antalya

As you can see, there is plenty of activity in Antalya, accompanied by the sweet scent of flowers and the cheers of kids.. And during the rest of your time, enjoy the many sights.

Where History meets Luxury – Pera Palace Hotel Istanbul

There are plenty of 5 star hotels to choose from in Istanbul. But nothing beats the combination of modern day comforts with the flair of history, intrigue and romance which seems to linger in every corner of the fabulous Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, overlooking the Golden Horn.

The Golden Horn

The Golden Horn

History

Several years ago, the hotel underwent a complete restoration which not only unearthed hidden treasures but also added amenities indispensable for a luxury hotel today. One of the treasures was a huge set of Christoffel silver from Paris, still in its original packaging. And the amenity is the dreamlike spa and hamam bathed in soothing blue light.

silver

In the 1800 when Istanbul was the final destination of the Orient Express, a fashionable crowd was drawn to the mystic city. Sadly, she lacked a luxury European style hotel to accommodate the writers, journalists, artists and other well heeled travelers and that’s how the Pera Palace was conceived.

Overlooking the Golden Horn, the hotel opened its doors in 1892 and boasted the first electrically operated elevator in Turkey as well as hot and cold running water, but only up to the second floor. The upper floors were reserved as quarters for the maids and man servants.

Elaborate art deco furniture, fixtures and fittings were of the highest quality and many a flute  of champagne was consumed in the Orient Bar, by the likes of Hemingway, Atatürk, Churchill and…Agatha Christie. The first ever fashion show in Turkey took place in the Pera Palace in 1926.

peralamps

oreitbat

Agatha  loved the place and always insisted in being  given  ‘her’ room, number 411. It was in this very room that she wrote one of her most famous crime novels: Murder in the Orient Express. During recent years, the Pera Palace has undergone extensive restorations and finally opened its doors again to the public in September 2010

Staying there

By modern day standards, the Pera Palace is not a big hotel, ‘only’ 115 rooms and suites. Stepping through the front door, I immediately felt at home. The plush lobby could even be called cozy, due to the lack of size. Your eyes meet the famous elevator, flanked by two sweeping staircases which lead to the upper floors. On your right is the equally famous Orient Bar, adjacent to the reception desk you are tempted by the delicacies of the patisserie or you walk straight ahead to the lobby with a terrace overlooking the Golden Horn.

käfer

Antiques, paintings, carpets, chandeliers, wherever you look you find something to admire. Sadly, the Agatha Christie room wasn’t available, but I got the Greta Garbo room. I have to say, that I am not a fan of minimalism, I don’t want to bash my knees on sharp corners and sleep on a rock hard mattress. Neither do I fancy needing an engineer’s degree to be able to work the tabs in the bathroom.

I want to sink into an armchair, relax and enjoy and that’s exactly what the Pera Palace is all about.

The service is immaculate, attentive people are everywhere to help you with whatever you need.

For starters, a glass of champagne in the Orient Bar was called for. It was easy to evoke the spirits of all the famous people who have done just that in this iconic place. Ataturk, Agatha, Greta, Hemingway, Jackie Kennedy and countless others have partied here.

The hotel features two excellent restaurants if you don’t want to go out and eat. The kitchen is open, so you can see the chefs toiling over their creations. You eat with silver, but not the one which was discovered during restoration. This treasure is beautifully displayed in glass cases along the wall.

And finally, there is the spa and pool. Three treatment rooms, a pool with loungers, a steam bath, Turkish bath and sauna await to spend an hour or two in utter bliss, bathed in the magic blue light. And as the hotel is relatively small, it’s never crowded.

For reservation and further information please consult www.perapalace.com.

Disclaimer: I paid a reduced press rate but my opinion and observations are my own.

 

 

 

 

Istanbul’s Galata Bridge- a World of its own

Every time I arrive in Istanbul, I’m drawn like by a magnet to the Galata Bridge. For me, it’s the ideal place to get into the spirit of things and prepare for some serious exploring of all the marvels of this fascinating city.
First things first though: I settle into my favorite little hotel in Sultanahmed. I have stayed in the Muhlis Bey Hotel so many times, I’m treated like family. I get my favorite room on the first floor with a tiny balcony from which I can nearly touch Hagia Sofia on one side and the Blue Mosque on the other. The hotel, which is located in a beautifully renovated traditional wooden townhouse as are several in the area, features a roof terrace where I enjoy breakfast with an added view over the Bosporus.

Bedroom Mulish Bey Hotel

Bedroom Mulish Bey Hotel

Antique shop in the basement

Antique shop in the basement

My friend, the waiter, care taker, handy man all rolled in one, prepares me the nicest Turkish breakfast imaginable. He has even been known to make a little detourrto the market before reporting for work to get me some fresh fruit. Thus fortified, it’s time for my trip to the Galata Bridge.
The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of many major sites in Istanbul and I could take the tram to the Galata Bridge, but I prefer to walk. It takes about 25 minutes and along the way I take, yet another , peek at Cirkece Gare, the emblematic train station which was once the final stop of the Orient Express.
Pat the Bosporus and the many stops of the ferries which depart from there other suburbs in Istanbul, on the Asiana as well as on the European side, Galata Bridge looms into view.
Why do I like ti so much? Because it’s not just a bridge which connects one part of Istanbul with another, but really a world on its own.
History of the Galata Bridge
It took several centuries for bridge connecting Karakoy with Eminonu to take the shape it ahs today. The very first bridge spanning the Golden Horn was a pontoon bridge constructed by the Ottomans in 1453 at the time of the conquest of Constantinople.
In 1502, sultan Beyazit II commissioned none less than Leaonrdo da Vinci to come up with s design of a more permanent bridge, However, the designs submitted by the great multi talent da Vinci did not meet with it the approval of the sultan.
Three more bridges followed, one a wooden bridge until in 1994 the current bascule bridge was opened. The bridhe carries cars, the ram and foot passengers and affords a great view over the Golden Horn and the Galata Tower at one end.
Arriving at the foot of the bridge, I indulge in my first Galata Bridge experience.

Fishermen on the Galata Bridge

Fishermen on the Galata Bridge

Nowhere else in the city can you sample the most famous snack of the city: fish buns. Richly carved boasts are moored to the pier and near the bridge where vendors in embroidered vests offer the passers bye toasted buns filled with pickles and freshly grilled fish fillets. You grab a bun and a drink and sit down on one of the many rickety chairs or stools grouped around each boat and enjoy your snack and the world going bye.

Floating restaurant

Floating restaurant

Fish bun vendor

Fish bun vendor

The good thing is, you’ll not find fresher and more tasty fish and the filets hardly have any bones because the vendors expertly remove them before slapping them in the buns.
Then it’s time to cross the bridge proper, past the fisherman who are as much a typical sight of Istanbul as the Blue Mosque or the Grand Bazaar. Summer or winter, hundreds of them line the bridge from one end to the other, casting their rods and fishing for pleasure, their dinner or to sell their catch to the boats below.
Sometimes I make my way to the Galata Tower but as often as not, I turn around and walk back, this time underneath the bridge because the underside is as interesting as the top.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower

One restaurants and shop after another are wedged into the arches of the bridge and it’s one of the best place where to sample a nagile if so inclined. And why not, it’s another Istanbul pleasure not to be missed together with a Turkish coffee and a waiter who, maybe, will read your fortune from the coffee grounds.

Nagiles

Nagiles

To round out my first day back in Istanbul and getting into the spirit of things, I make my way to the Spice market.

Spice market

Spice market

No greater pleasure than walking up and down the aisles, indulging in the smells and colors of countless spices, all heaped in enticing piles and then going around outside where cheeses are sold .It’s also the best place to get an education on the many varieties of Turkish Delight, much more than you might think possible.

Variations of Turkish Delight

Variations of Turkish Delight

Figs stuffed with walnuts

Figs stuffed with walnuts

If you are looking for a suggestion as how to spend your first day in Istanbul, I can’t recommend a better itinerary.

Along the Silk Route in Turkey

Have you ever dreamed of turning the clock back many centuries and travel like a medieval merchant on camel back? Crossing deserts, mountains and vast plains, meeting countless civilizations along the way, eating their food and indulging in their culture?
In 1997 a heavily sponsored expedition of photographers and film makers set out to do exactly that. For 14 months, they traveled on camel back, starting in China in June 1996 and ending up in Canakkale/Turkey in April 1997. The aim was to follow the ancient silk route and a rather hilarious summary can be found here.
You might not be able to repeat the experience, or even travel as part of a caravan by camel, but there are still parts and stretches of the ancient silk route to be admired in Turkey today. You can even stay in a caravanserai and let your imagination run riot.
First, let’s take a look at history and see what the silk route actually was.
History of the Silk Route
The words silk road or silk route are interchangeable. Silk route might be the more adequate name, because the ancient trade path had many side routes and diversions. It wasn’t just one more or less straight stretch which ran from East to West.

 

Branches of silk route

Branches of silk route

The beginnings date back to China’s Han dynasty and 130BC. It ended with the Ottoman Empire in 1453. The name silk route was actually coined by German historian Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. But it wasn’t only silk which the merchants carried on their camels but also other coveted goods from the East, like spices which were exchanged for gold from the West.
During the times of the Roman Empire, the silk trade thrived, because silk became extremely popular in Rome. Despite many attempts by the Senate to forbid garments made from silk, the Roman ladies continued to cover themselves in the diaphanous fabric.
After the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Byzantine one, silk and spices remained in high demand. So much so, that Emperor Justinian sent two monks to China with instructions the steal silk worms and bring them back.
The worms took to the climate and silk production began to flourish in Turkey, particularly in Bursa.
The caravans from China to the West took a long time for their journey and obviously, beast and men needed to rest along the way. That’s how the caravanserais came into being.
They are all built to the same blue print: huge rectangular courtyards for the camels and other animals, surrounded by several galleries with rooms for the merchants and servants. Add a mosque, kitchen and hamam and you get the picture.
Konya and Aksaray
Following trajects of the silk road brings you to some of the best and most interesting parts of the country. Not only because of the connection to the ancient trade road but also because of other historical and cultural sites.
Konya in Central Anatolia is just such a place. It was the capital of the Selcuk Sultanate of Rum from 1097 to 1243. Konya is best known as the home of Mevlana Rumi, the founder of the Sufi order and the whirling dervishes.

dervishes

He is buried in a magnificent tomb in Konya and each year a huge festival attracts thousands of visitors to watch the performances of the whirling dervishes.

Sufi student

Sufi student

From Koya, follow a part of the silk road to one of its most important stop over: Aksaray in Cappadocia.

The town is a great starting point to visit the fairy chimneys and other marvels of the region.

 

Caves in Aksaray

Caves in Aksaray

Cappadocia formations

Cappadocia formations

 

It’s also near Aksaray that you will find Turkey’s biggest and best preserved caravanserai: Sultan Han.

Sultan Han

Sultan Han

Bursa’s Silk Bazaar
Head further north towards the Black Sea region and visit Bursa, another former capital of the Selcuks. It’s here were the stolen silk worms from Emperor Justinian ended up. The climate and soil were ideal for mulberry trees which are the preferred food for the worms and for nearly 500 years, Bursa became the most important center for silk production and silk trade.

Silk Bazaar

Silk Bazaar

Koza Han,built in 1490, the impressive silk bazaar bears witness to the importance of silk for Bursa. Sadly, the silk boom is over as Bursa silk can’t compete with (get this!!) the much cheaper Chinese products. Nearly a thousand years after the ‘theft’, the Chinese get their own back. Such is history.

cay garden

action

silk

Bursa silk

Bursa silk

The former rooms of the caravanserai are now small shops which still sell the most beautiful scarves and garments. From producing to designing, silk is still very much a part of life in Bursa.
Kusadasi
From near the Black Sea head to the Aegean Sea and the lovely resort of Kusadasi. As I said before, the silk route had many branches and one of them veered towards nearby Ephesus and to the port of Kusadasi.
Apart from several other remarkable buildings, Kusadasi is home of the Okuz Mehmet Pasha caravanserai.

Karawanserei Courtyard

Karawanserei Courtyard

Port and castle

Port and castle

Much younger than the others, it was built in 1618 after trade on the silk road had been closed by the Ottomans. Kusadasi is a port town and the caravanserai catered to the sea trade as well as being a defense castle.
Here you can finally have the caravanserai experience, because it’s a hotel. In fact, one of my favorites in Turkey. The guest rooms are the former rooms of the merchants, with thick walls, small windows, carved wood, carpets and pillows galore. Don’t worry, bathrooms are modern and impeccable and there is even a mini bar.
The courtyard is a café and on several evenings you can enjoy performances of musicians and belly dancers.
The Turkish part of the ancient silk route may be comparatively small compared to the full length but it’s full of unforgettable impressions and sights. Why not make this the theme of your next trip to Turkey?

Myra – where St. Nicholas really comes from

The 6th of December is a special day or rather night for kids in Germany. They spit shine their best pair of shoes and put them out during the night. Because that’s when St. Nicholas with his big sack passes bye and rewards the good ones with small gifts and sweets which he leaves in their shoes.
The bad ones get chunks of coal or even a birch rod. Naturally they wake up all excited to see what’s in store for them.
Santa or St. Nicholas? Legend and truth
The figures of Santa Claus or Santa and St. Nicholas somewhat blur, but where ever you look at this time of the year, you find stories about the ‘real’ Santa and his home in the small town of Rovaniemi in Lapland far up in the north of Finland. Santa is big, big business in Rovaniemi and people from all over the world flog there at Christmas to visit the Ho-Ho man in his long white beard and red coat, girded by a black belt over a well upholstered stomach. Not only kids, but adults alike are fascinated by the myth, legend , glitter and fairy tale accoutrements which surround Santa, his elves and reindeer.
What they might not realize is, that there is a very real person, the saint by the name of Nicholas who can lay claim to being the original Santa.

Icon of St. Nicholas

Icon of St. Nicholas

.Born in the 4th century, Nicholas of Myra was Greek and a bishop in Myra in Lycia which today is the town of Demre in Antalya province on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

The son of wealthy Greek parents who died of an epidemic when he was very young , Nicholas was brought up by his uncle, himself a bishop. He was a very conservative Christian and made his mark at the council of Nicea. What made him the revered saint he is to this day, were his good works and his reputation for secret gift giving. Because of that he became the model for Santa Claus and his feast day is the 6th of December.
The most well known story surrounding Saint Nicholas and his secret gift giving is the tale of a very poor man who had three daughters but no money for their dowry. This meant that they could not marry and would have been forced into prostitution, Nicholas heard of the man’s plight and , too modest to make a direct gift, secretly dropped three purses with gold coins at the man’s hovel. Some say, he dropped the purses through the chimney, another version is that the daughters had washed their stockings and hung them up to day over night, only to find a purse with gold coins in them the next day.
Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of an astonishing variety of people and professions, i.e. sailors, merchants, thieves (!!!), archers, pawnbrokers and, of course, children.
Myra/Demre
Myra, also know as Demre is an ancient town in the province of Antalya in the south of Turkey. Severla civilizations, from Greeks and Romans to Byzantines and Ottomans have left their traces which make the place a history lovers dream.
In antiquity, a vast temple and sanctuary to the Goddess Artemis stood here, but earthquakes and the quest of Nicholas to erase all traces of paganism are the reason that not a single columns of the temple is left.
The Roman Theatre fared much better and can be admired today. What makes this site of ancient history even more spectacular are the Lydian tombs carved out of the rock which tower over the theatre. Today their color is that of rock, but originally they were painted bright red, yellow and blue. Just imagine what a sight it must have been, an entire mountainside a riot of color.

Tombs in Demre

Tombs in Demre

Then of course, there is the Basilica of St. Nicholas with his tomb although his remains have been transferred to Rome. As a Byzantine building, the mosaics of the floor and walls are remarkable.
At this time of year. Santa and Nicholas are present everywhere, but, luckily, beautiful Myra is there year around to be enjoyed and admired by any traveler who makes his way to this part of Turkey.

Find out more about St.Nicholas and Santa Claus.