Lycia Tour: Day 3 and 4

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While it has been over a week since we returned from our trip, it has taken me this long to sit down and conclude my efforts to document our trip. Back in the fast paced world of Istanbul, with the daily dramas and intensity of work, traffic and the early darkness that descends upon the city, I have found it difficult to sit down and reclaim the joy and excitement of each experience. After a big breakfast and two cups of strong coffee, I have finally found the energy to do so.

Our third day of the tour was spent in Fethiye. In the morning we drove to the elaborate tombs that sit above the city. Fethiye was established on top of the ancient city of Telemessos. Telemessos was the son of Apollo. Much of the ancient city is underground, below the modern city that now stands. At different times in history, it was a Greek, Lycian and Byzantine city. The ancient temples and theater that once stood have been significantly damaged by the numerous earthquakes that have plagued this region throughout history. The tombs were strategically placed on the eastern side of the ancient city’s acropolis. We hiked up a steep set of stairs that criss-cross through the steep hillside above modern Fethiye to see the tomb of Amyntas up close. It is modelled after a temple of the Ionic order as a means of paying respect and showcasing the prominence of the King that once ruled over the city. It was pretty spectacular to see up close, but sad to see the damages to each and every tomb and sarcophagi throughout the city. As civilization upon civilization conquered these lands, every tomb was raided in efforts to find the wealth and treasures buried with the dead.

After hiking up and exploring the tomb, we hiked down again and headed towards the waterfront to board the boat for our tour of the surrounding islands off the coast of Fethiye. Memories of the untouched islands and caves, and the turquoise waters of Croatia rushed into my mind.  The vivid blues and greens of the water, and the warm sunshine bewitched me and gave me a taste of summer (that many do not have the opportunity to experience in November). We spent the day laying on the top of the boat, reading and chatting. Every 45 minutes we would dock in a new abandoned harbour and dive into the cool water (yes! We swam in November!). We saw wild rabbits and chickens, we feasted on fish and we sipped beer, as the day passed in perfect harmony and ease. The beauty of these islands linger with me, and the tranquility of their inviting bays and beaches stay in my mind. We left at 10 am and did not return until 5 pm. It was an extraordinary day.

Day 4 exceeded all expectations. We started in Oludeniz,  a beautiful beach and national park along the coast.  Afterwards, we drove through windy roads that maneuver through farmland and greenhouses, small villages and mountains, we stumbled upon the ancient city of Tlos, that sits neat the top of a rocky hillside, seemingly hidden from the rest of the world. There is record of this city as early as 1200 BC, and it was still inhabited throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman period. The ancient city consists of an arena, a theater, numerous tombs, ancient Roman streets, the foundation of Roman baths and an old aqueduct. There is a Byzantine fortress and church built on top of the ancient Lycian city. Farmers led their goats through the ruins. It was amazing to see how the ancient city sat frozen in time as village life moved slowly around it.

After wandering through Tlos, we went to an amazing restaurant situated in the hillside, surrounded by trees. It is called Yaka Park. It has water flowing all around you. There are tree houses situated above everyone and everything. There is a large trout pond, and ducks wandering around. The leaves were green, red, orange, brown and yellow. There was a buffet of salads and other treats awaiting us. We sat on a small elevated deck covered with pillows and ate our lunch. It was absolutely beautiful.

After lunch, we boarded our bus to see Sakli Kent. This was one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. It is the second largest canyon in Europe and has been shaped by the rapids and streams that pass through it. There is a pedestrian foot bridge that hangs along the opening of the canyon. The canyon is 18 kilometers long and 600 meters high. It contains 16 caves. Several old tools have been discovered  which suggest that man took refuge in Sakli Kent in prehistoric times. While the rapids were to strong, and the water was too cold to go very far, I am determined to go back. In the summer people can hike into the canyon as far as they have the courage to go. I have been told that at times the water reaches your neck, at other times you must swim under or over certain rock barriers. It sounds exciting, and it is now on my list of things I must attempt before I die….

Our trip ended with the ancient city of Xantos. It was the capital of the Lycian League, and known for its noble battle against the Persians. There is a black layer in the foundation of the city which proves that the entire city was burned down sometime between 475 and 450 BC, only to be rebuilt again. The city was rich in history. Brutus, Alexander the Great and Mark Anthony all had ties to Xantos. The city was built and rebuilt after various wars and battles. In 1838, the city was discovered by an Englishman named Sir Charles Fellow. The rich historic treasures of the ancient city of Xantos were sent to London on a war ship, and many important structures from the city are showcased in the Lycian room of the British Museum. This is obviously a point of great tension with the Turks, and the Turkish government is currently in negotiations with archaeology museums around the world in efforts to bring everything back to the historical sites in the country. I will leave that for another post…

Lycia means ‘Illuminated Nation’. While the civilization thrived over 2000 years ago, its tenets of democracy, order and honor still shape nations and societies today. We wandered through the ancient ruins of 3 major Lycian cities, in a region that once contained around 40 cities that came together to form a republic. The natural beauty of the coast, the mountains, and the small towns captivated me, and will certainly lure me back in the future. I hope everyone seizes the opportunity to explore Southwestern Turkey, and the ancient land of the Lycians.

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