Ellen’s Antalya

When Ellen Rabiner found herself at a crossroads in her career because of the economy, she decided to forget what she’d like to do for a living and focus on what she wanted to do in life. She’d always dreamed of living abroad, and when she  saw a photo of Antalya it seemed like it was exactly what she was looking for. Find out what this ex-New Yorker loves about her new home in the capital of the Turkish Riviera — and why you should visit.

Catch up with Ellen on her personal blog and on Twitter @ElleninTurkey.

Antalya is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Kaleici’s Marina. No many how many times I stroll down the cobblestone streets of Kaleici (the old town center inside the city walls), when I arrive at the harbor I’m always struck by its beauty.

When I crave the best of Turkish home cooking I always go to Zencefil. This little café has different selections every afternoon (they’re only open for lunch) and everything is fresh and made with the attention to detail that defines Turkish cuisine. I check the daily offerings on their Facebook page, and make sure to go whenever they’re offering Karniyarik (which means “split belly”) — a roasted eggplant split down the middle and stuffed with chopped beef, onions, tomatoes, and spices.

To escape the heat I head to the Taurus mountains to take in stunning views of the city as well as the surrounding snow-capped mountains. I can even get a snack at the revolving restaurant at Tünektepe.

If I want to go bowling or play pool I go to 1e1. They also have plenty of arcade games to keep kids busy.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in one of the many parks in the city, or a secluded spot on Konyaalti beach.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with a photo or statue of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Guneyliler, it has to be the Ali Nazik. This dish is made with chunks of marinated lamb over a purée of eggplant and topped with a yoghurt sauce.

The weekly pazar (market) in my neighborhood is my one-stop shop for great bargains on food, clothes, kitchen utensils, souvenirs, and whatever else they have on offer.

Locals know to skip the pizza and burger joints and check out a pide or kofte salonu instead. These informal eateries provide fresh, inexpensive meals of pide (flat bread cooked with meat or cheese on top), kofte (grilled meatballs) and kuzu/tavuk shish (lamb/chicken chunks grilled on a spit).

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to the beach and make a meal out of the snacks sold by men walking by: mussels stuffed with rice, corn on the cob, and a simit (a bagel-like roll covered in sesame seeds).

For a huge splurge I go to Seraser. This upscale Kaleici restaurant offers continental cuisine of an international standard, with service to match.

Photo ops in my city include Konyaalti beach, the Taurus Mountains, and Kaleici’s Marina. The best vantage points are from Tünektepe (for a panoramic view of the modern city) and a boat in the harbor (for a view of the old city).

If my city were a celebrity it’d be on everyone’s best-dressed list. With colorful flowers blooming all year long, Antalya always looks fabulous!

The most random thing about my city is that it was owned by Italy in early 20th century. One would think we’d have better pizza.

My city has the most persistent men. They will take “no” for an answer, but they have to hear if three or four times for it to sink in.

My city has the most hard-working women. Many routinely prepare elaborate meals from scratch after working full days outside the home.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiking through ancient ruins.

My city’s best museum is the Antalya Museum, where you’ll see most of the statues taken from the ancient sites in the region.

My favorite jogging/walking route is on the boardwalk in Konyaalti.

For a night of dancing, go to King Bar in Kaleici, where the partying goes on to the wee hours. Or, for live music, check out one of the many restaurants and meyhanes (pubs) in Kaleici. Just walk around and let your ears guide you.

The “Corbaci” (soup seller) on Gazi Mustafa Kemal Bulvari in Konyaalti is the spot for late-night eats. It’s open around the clock, and offers pides and kebaps as well as soups.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the free Antalya Metro. It’s available in English, German, and Russian.

You can tell a lot about my city from the variety in women’s clothing. Outfits include the raincoat, which pious Muslim women wear whenever they leave the house; the baggy flower-print pants called “salvar” worn by women from the villages; the chic head-to-toe-covering ensembles of the modern Muslims; and the slogan-bearing t-shirts and low-slung jeans of the “westernized.” It’s not unusual to see a woman dressed in the traditional “covered” style sitting next to a friend in a bikini on the beach.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they never leave the house when it rains. I remember “snow days” when I was a kid in school in New York. Here, I had an English class canceled because of rain.

In the spring you should get out your summer clothes: beach days start in April.

In the summer you should probably get out of town for a while, because the heat and humidity are stifling. When you’re in town, you’ll only leave your air-conditioned home to go to the beach.

In the fall you should enjoy the beautiful weather. It’s the best time of year in Antalya: The tourists are gone, but the sea is still warm enough to swim in. This is also the beginning of the cultural season, when Antalya’s symphony, opera and ballet open.

In the winter you should go skiing, or at least take a cable-car ride in Saklikent. 

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A hidden gem in my city is the Sefa Hamam, a 650 year-old Turkish bath in the center of Kaleici.

For a great breakfast joint try Karmen Pastanesi. Breakfast here includes the usual boiled egg, sausage, cheese, olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers, but they also add Sigara Boregi (fried pastry rolls with cheese) and the best french fries in the city.

Don’t miss the Golden Orange International Film Festival in October or the Efes Pilsen Blues Festival in November.

Just outside my city, you can visit several ancient sites. A popular day-trip is to the remarkably well-preserved theater in Aspendos and the ruins of the ancient city in Perge.

The best way to see my city is on foot. Whether it’s a stroll along Kaleici’s winding cobblestone streets or a walk by the beach, your feet are all you need.

If my city were a pet it would be a Persian long-haired cat: graceful, friendly, and a bit mysterious.

The best book about my city is yet to be written. There’s surprisingly little written about Antalya in English.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Benim Memlekettim” (“My Homeland”). This song is played at the end of every nightly newscast on the station I watch, and is often sung at parties after everyone’s drunk a few rakis.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss Aktur Park and its roller coaster.

Spending an October day on a boat trip, swimming in grottos and waterfalls, and eating freshly caught fish could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s so very photogenic. I don’t think anyone’s ever taken a bad picture of Antalya.

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