A Bit Of Tyneside In Turkey, Hadrian's Gate And The Beautiful Old City Of Kaleici, Antalya

Issue 93

By Caroline Preston

Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, or Hadrian for short, is the ambitious and aggressive Roman Emperor who’s pretty famous here in the North East. He’s the man who left a great big 73-mile-long wall here when he ruled the Roman Empire from AD 117 to 138.

This famous wall stretching from Wallsend in the East (Tyneside) to Bowness-on-Solway in the West (Cumbria) was built in an attempt to bring security and stability to the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. At 15 feet high at points and almost 11 feet wide, the wall was designed to protect. With its deep ditch in front and series of gateway forlets (milecastles) it was certainly a deterrent. These little checkpoints served as a sort of guarded border monitoring and possibly taxing those wishing to enter.

What does this have to do with Turkey you ask?

Well, Hadrian was one busy ruler. Before the wall, he rebuilt the Pantheon in Rome and during his reign, the Basilica of Neptune, the Forum of Augustus, the Baths of Agrippaook, and many temples.

Hadrian’s Wall took six years and 15,000 men to build (AD 122 – 128) and two years later, Hadrian’s Gate was built (AD 130). It’s thought the gate was built to welcome Hadrian to Antalya, Turkey. It’s believed this impressive gate once had an upper level, this no longer exists, but remarkably the rest of the gate is extremely well preserved, due to being mostly hidden by adjacent buildings until its discovery in 1817. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it became fully exposed and restored. It’s now the main pedestrian gate to the inner city of Kaleiçi (meaning: “Inside the Kale” or “Inner Kale” – Kale means castle or fortress.)

Now known as Antalya’s ‘old town’ to the visitor, Kaleici was once the main hub of the city. Nowadays Antalya spans 1,417 km² and is home to 2.5 million people. Antalya is also a tourist Mecca, with golden sands that stretch for miles there are accommodations for just about anyone. Resorts like Lara Beach and its 8km blue flag beach are known for their five and six-star offerings that are often comparably affordable for the same standard elsewhere in the world.

Despite the mass metropolis that is Antalya, Kaleici, protected by its historic walls means it remains almost unspoilt. Access to vehicles is restricted to taxis, deliveries and two-wheels only. Many visitors come here for just a day, however, if you are lucky to stay longer you’ll find a host of boutique lodgings waiting to welcome you. We stayed at Hotel Dogan perfectly located in the heart of old Kaleici. Tastefully renovated in Ottoman style this friendly hotel and restaurant feels homely and welcoming.

Exploring by day, here you can simply wander, and get lost in a maze of retail and restaurantladen narrow cobbled streets. Wandering further downhill will take you to pretty Kaleici Harbour, it’s a pleasant downhill stroll or a surprisingly free glass elevator ride in either direction. Explore the fortress-style walls or perhaps take a boat trip to Antalya’s waterfalls. A highlight was the freshly squeezed fruit juices from the many vendors on the quayside. The pomegranate was an absolute delight, think superfood in a glass!

If you’ve ever been to Turkey you’ll know that as a nation they’re not shy when it comes to a night out. Although some will argue the bars in Kaleici have spoiled this serene and historic location, it’s absolutely possible to escape it too. Staying a week, we did both. Our favourite hang-out was the Viking-themed, Odin Pub. This live music rock and metal bar offers a fun atmosphere with inquisitive locals all keen to know their visitors.

On the quieter side of town, we spent a few evenings at Karaf Bistro. This popular Ottomanstyle local space offers delicious wine, pizza and Turkish antipasti. We ate, drank and chatted with young professionals about life in Turkey and the challenges they face. Fascinating.

If you’re looking for a city break that could easily be a beach break, a culture break, and a nightlife break, Kaleici has something for everyone and is a ‘gateway’ to unlimited adventure.

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