It is April break! Our friend has come to vistit and we are off to Kaş, on the southern coast of Turkey. The flight from Izmir to Antalya is only an hour. We rent a car to drive the coast and are heading to Olympos' ancient site. The highways are beautiful as they wind along the coast, but as we get off the beaten track, things change. Driving downhill the road turns to a dirt and then ends at a river bed, but we have not yet reached our destination. In order to reach our accommodations we have to drive through a river. " Hey its a rental!!! " No problem. We just hope the 'creek don't rise ' with the expected rain.
Olympos is popular for its famous tree house accommodations. The town is mostly pension, tree house resorts and a few bakals (corner stores). It's a backpacking, hippie haven. After viewing the tree houses we decide to stay in a bungalow. Its a bit early in the season for the tree house and we expect we'll need a heater. We stroll down the river and discover Olympos, an ancient Lycian city whose ruins extent right into the sea.
One night we head out to find the flaming mountain of Chimera. Chimaera mountain is located in the ancient Lycian city of Phaselis, just over the ridge from Olympos.It is an geological phenomenon with permanent gas vents that spontaneously combust. Pliny the Elder in 75 AD described it as being "on fire" adding that it "...indeed burned with a flame that does not die by day or night". They are truly eternal flames. You can blow them out and like a trick birthday candle they will reignite on there own!
As we turn off the road we pick up a hitchhiker. He's an older fella and he begins to ask us the typical question...where you from, and such. Turns out he was heading to Chimera as well. He was a bit surprised, angry and disappointed that we did not have a picnic of meats and rakı for our evening. "you should make picnic." He tells us repeatedly. When we ask him why he does not have bbq supplies, he said "oh! I work enter place but i cannot discount...Tank for ride."
There are lots of little places to discover around this area but often off the beaten track, but with a rental car sometimes it's all about the journey be sure to stop for the roadside orange juice!
The next day we are off to find giant fruit, giant pottery, turtle crossings and the ancient city of Myra. Myra is known as a Lycian metropolis and famous for the wall carved tomb sites. St. Nicholas (yep Santa) was the mayor here in the 4th century. In the town of Demre, just outside Myra, we visited the earliest church of St. Nicholas at Myra, built in the 6th century. (huh..Santa is Turkish??)
The landscape is peppered with ancient reminders. We pulled the car over to tromp around these pillar tombs... because you can!
Xanthos in present day town of Kınık. Xanthos was the capital city of the Lycian federation whose history is a bit violent. Twice demonstrating its immense desire for independence with mass suicide rather than succumbing to invading forces. Hence, it is famous for its many pillar tombs.The Rosetta stone of the Lycian language still stands here. In this site stands the obelisk with writing that is instrumental in deciphering the Lycian language. In the middle of this field, in the middle of nowhere, unprotected it stands surrounded by ruins and sheep.
Our next destination is the great valley of the Saklikent (Hidden City) Gorge. This is the longest and deepest gorge in Turkey (20 km-long). It is way off the beaten trail. By car you have to trust your map, your instinct and keep a keen eye out for signage, usually bent and tattered hidden in the rough. Just keep driving to the mountain and ask a shepherd, if need be. It is worth the trip, and the cafe by the river is a great place to spend an afternoon!
Heading towards Kaş latter in the week we stopped of at Iztuzu Beach, a breeding ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle and the nearby ancient city of Patara (Apollo's sons place). While walking the ruins an huge storm came up out of nowhere. We are standing in the theater and lighting hits. There was no time between the light and the sound and we could feel the ground shack. Running back to the car, the sky opens up and it rained like gravel. Driving out we picked up a hitchhiker who was trapped in the storm. As he got in, the rain turned to golf ball hail. This guy lives down here on fish, literally. He trades his fish for grocery, taxi, bread or whatever. He thanked us for picking up , apologizing that he didn't have any fish to give. What a life!! The stranger said it was the storm to break the season and as fast as it came, it left leaving the sun to shine.
Finally spring had sprung and the weather is gorgeous so it's time to enjoy the Mediterranean. Kaş is an adorable little seaside town that has not been spoiled too much from tourism (yet). It's a great town to relax, enjoy the small streets and long meals. If you feel like kayaking over the ancient city, just head to the little town of Ucagiz and start paddling. Head out to an island and tromp around on some ruins or float across the sunken city of Batik Sehir. Its all amazing!