Friday, 29 April 2011

Kos (and a long overdue family catch-up)

View from the balcony at dusk ... time for a rose?

Ah the beach ... we swam out to the island, and clambered up the rocks for an amazing view.

Easter Sunday lunch - yep, that's a whole lamb. The other one is slow-cooking in the wood oven ...


Steph flew in from Oxford to meet us on Kos, and we spent six lovely days over Easter eating, drinking and chatting. We also swam, sunbaked (supervised by our dermatologist, of course) and admired the goats and chapels and the wild, rugged scenery. Perfect.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Bafa Golu

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a large, walled city on the edge of a natural harbour. It was close to the trade routes of the Aegean sea, yet well protected by both its location and more than 5km of stone walls, with numerous towers. It was called Herakleia, or sometimes, Latmos.

Once a tomb, now a pond.
One of many towers on the walls.

After some time, the Romans took over but they didn't really favour it like other cities and so it started to decline. And the landscape changed, blocking off the entrance to the sea and forming the large lake that exists today - consequently the city diminished entirely. Oh, and the Byzantines came along later and added a castle on the peninsula, but that too was eventually abandoned.

Another of many towers!

So, there is no longer a city on the edge of Bafa Lake; just a small, sleepy rural town filled with ladies selling handmade lace and delicious citrus fruit. Cows wear coloured beads around their horns and donkeys are a common form of transportation. All over the rocky hillsides the flowers were in bloom and the bees busy making honey from their nectar. 

We parked up out of the way, but nevertheless had more than a few locals pop their head in the door to try to talk to us in Turkish (lots of smiling, hand waving and laughter). Each morning went to nearby cafe for tea – and on the last day, having got talking to the owner about the van and our trip, the tea was his gift to us. It really is a beautiful place.

And on top of this, the stone walls, towers, amphitheatre, bath-houses and temples remain as testimony to the great city that once stood here – perfect for wandering around and scrambling through, enjoying the countryside. Indeed, the walls are so immense and the towers so numerous, we couldn't help but wonder – was it all for defence, or just for show? How many soldiers would be needed to guard this city, and who was attacking it?

Apparently, too, the stones that were left over after these city structures had been built (and there are many!) are great for bouldering – a type of climbing where you never really leave the ground, so have no need for harness or rope, but instead make a short series of extremely hard moves around or to gain the top of the boulder. 
Pebble Wrestling
Herakleia is the new bouldering destination, written up in climbing magazines as the place to go. We found some boulders worth playing on for a bit … but found many others where holds crumbled away or the ground was too uneven to fall on safely. Well, we have to admit that we didn't really try too hard as we're not really boulderers anyway!

View from the van at sunset ... time for a swim!

Sunday, 17 April 2011


More ruins? Yep!

By now Mark and I were feeling like we'd seen more than our fair share of brilliant antiquities in Turkey – tombs, castles, old city walls, amphitheatres, bath-houses and more, from the Lycians and the earliest Hellenistic cultures to the Romans, and later the Byzantines and even the Crusaders! Frescoes on hidden churches and underground cities. Polygonal walls. Hilltop fortresses. Tombs carved into the cliffs and scattered across the countryside. Even cities underwater! They were everywhere!

Yet we hadn't even been to Ephesus, the “best preserved classic city in the eastern Mediterranean”. After all we'd already seen, it had better be worth the hype, we thought.

In ancient times, this was an important harbour and pilgrimage site for Artemis, whose temple was just around the corner, but the silt from the rivers clogged the harbour and the sea retreated, cutting off the city from commerce. Over time much of it was buried beneath the fields, and during the last forty years more and more of it has been slowly dug out and propped upright again.

The Library, upright once more.
We started by heading to the top of the amphitheatre (the very same that Paul the Apostle famously denounced idol worship; also used for camel wrestling tournaments (!) until a few years ago), for a view of the site, and then down along the marble streets, past the temples, agora, fountains and extremely impressive library. 

We stopped in to check out the famous men's loos in time to hear a tourist guide tell his captivated audience that the Romans were more sanitary than we are, as they used communal sponges on a stick rather than toilet paper, but were quite amused when someone asked where the ladies “went” - and apparently, in ancient times, the ladies “didn't”. Likewise, it was frequently repeated that the grand private house on the corner was a brothel … Which it probably was, of course, as at one stage in its history, it might have been owned by a woman – and that's a sure sign it was a den of sin.

Our trusty LP does say that the site can get crowded with people, but this isn't all a bad thing – if you want to experience what a Roman city was really like, hordes of people moving in different directions and pushing here and there may certainly help.

With the arrival of a few drops of rain, we retreated to the terrace houses – the amazingly well preserved houses for the wealthy – to admire their frescoes and mosaics under cover. Definitely worth the extra entrance fee!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Hot Mud and Hot Lunch

We decided to do something a little different … so we headed to Sultaniye Hot Springs for an apparently therapeutic and beauty-enhancing mudbath.

The Chemical Analysis: better not to know?
It works like this: you get into your swimmers, and sit in a pool of hot, slightly smelly mud, coating yourself completely. Then you sit on the pool's edge and enjoy the view until the mud dries onto your skin, feeling all the while slightly ridiculous – but hey, everyone else is doing the same thing. You then jump into the water to scrub the mud off, and once clean, head to the hot tub for some relaxation.

Jen tried to convince Mark that people pay hundreds for this sort of "beauty treatment" in luxurious spas worldwide. Look at the therapeutic benefits on the sign! Mark thinks anyone that would pay more than a few lira for this is crazy.

Smile! You're having fun, remember?!

And the end result? Yes, we smelled like sulphur for a day or so afterwards - despite thoroughly scrubbing the mud off. No, we felt or saw no great improvement in our health or beauty. Still … when was the last time you had a hot mud bath?

But the best part of the day was definitely grabbing lunch off this guy. Delicious.

Trailer with a chimney ...
... and lamb roasting on the coals! Delicious!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Faded Glory

Having just read Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres, we thought it was worthwhile to head to Kayakoy – a city of 2000 empty and abandoned stone houses near Fethiye. These abandoned buildings are a product of the population exchanges after WWI and the Turkish war of independence when all the Christians living in Turkey were sent to Greece and all the Muslims living in Greece were sent to Turkey. With more of the former than the latter, towns were left as empty shells.

This was one of those brilliantly simple ideas from on high, designed to prevent further bloodshed, yet done without any consultation of the people forced to leave their homes and move far away: their struggles and the suffering and confusion felt by them are hard to imagine. Many of the houses still have their decorated fireplace, or bright blue paint on the walls, but now the streets, marketplaces and churches are empty.

Roadside Ruins

Tower carved from one piece, with added tomb on top: quite a momument!

One of the great things about driving around Turkey is that when you see something interesting by the side of the road, you can stop to check it out. 

We found these tombs by the road near the UNESCO World Heritage Listed site at Letoon and Xanthos, and decided to explore them rather than head to the temples and amphitheatres further in town. Impressive, eh?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Myra: Lycian tombs and a Roman amphitheatre ...

Sea kayaking over Kekova

The Thing To Do around Kas is head out for a sea kayak over the remains of the ancient, ruined and sunken city of Kekova - inhabited by the Lycians and the Romans, and destroyed by an earthquake. Considering the perfect weather, we headed to Ucagiz and picked up a tour from there.

The Castle and Town of Simena ...
 .. and its Lycian Tombs.

We stopped in at Simena for a stroll around some Lycian tombs (everywhere in this part of the world!) and to admire the castle - oh, and to have an icecream.

We then headed across the clear sea to paddle over the walls of the city buildings. As our guide informed us, everything made of individual bricks is Roman - everything carved into the rock itself is Lycian. A little bit of imagination is needed - it's not the most preserved ancient site we saw in Turkey- but hey, it was the only site we saw from a kayak.

 Hard work over, there was a BBQ lunch served in a sheltered bay ... perfect for a swim!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A night at the Chimaera

With a couple of new climbing mates, we headed out to see the Chimaera one evening.

We'd heard that it wasn't that impressive, and that the size of the flames has somehow diminished. Is the monster, after more than 2000 years, finally suffocating under that mountain?

Perhaps. But we couldn't tell, as we sat by and warmed ourselves with the natural flames coming straight from the rock, watching a half moon set and the stars come out. At one stage, the wind picked up and blew one of our flames out … and it was just like lighting a gas oven, getting it started again. How did the natural gas catch alight originally? Ah, I mean ... how do you imprison a monster under a mountain?

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Time for the beach!
Olympos Beach is famous for its “tree houses”. Whilst here and there there is a cabin perched a few metres off the deck, near a tree or with a tree running through it, these cabins are supported by wooden beams rather than by the tree itself. We don't really think they qualify as “tree houses”. The vast majority of people (us included) stay in a wooden bungalow, enjoying the breakfast (freshly cooked omelette) and dinner (rice and ratatouille, tasty but monotonous) that is included.

Before you can hit the beach, you must pass through the Lycian (then Roman) ruined city of Olympos, with scattered a necropolis of large stone sarcophagi, little theatre, Roman baths and – most spectacularly – temple door. Apparently this was the home of the first Olympic games, with men running with a torch lit from the nearby Chimaera across the beach to the city (although a few places make that claim!). 

Later it was a pirate hideout, and a castle on the headland was built (or restored?) by Genovese knights during the Middle Ages. There's an entry fee for this, meaning you have to pay to get to the beach, but once you've bought your ticket on the first day, thereby supporting the preservation of the ruins, it's pretty easy to walk up through the bush on the other side of the river and get to the beach for free.
First view of Cennet

Oh, and did we mention there's climbing here? And despite being on limestone, it was a completely different style to Geyikbeyiri – with one crag, Cennet, being a flat, vertical wall, with tiny crimps and scattered pockets (some better than others!), and the surface in places so smooth it was as slippery as glass. The best climbs here were in the high sixes and sevens … most of the time, Jen decided it was best to be photographer.

Friday, 1 April 2011


Walking to (one of) the crags ... check out those shapes!
Considering this is a very small town up the hill from Antalya, you're unlikely to head in this direction unless you're a climber or a local. Nevertheless, we were a little surprised upon entering the main reception / bar / restaurant of Josito's Campsite to see so many people there!

Local Ladies - who thought I was hilarious, wanting to take their picture!
With cheap daily flights from most main German cities, excellent rock climbing in a moderate climate and a warm welcome on arrival, if you're a climber then Geyikbayiri is The Place To Be. We completely understand. Thankfully, there's more than enough rock to go around.

Lunch - melted Nutella.
The days have settled into a pattern not dissimilar to our days in Siruana, back in Spain … wake up slowly, wander up to the crags, climb until the light goes and then head back to Fred for dinner and beers. Also like Siruana, most of the climbs are in the 6's or above – there's not many routes around for those of us who like an easy life!

The best climbs are in the caves, on steep, overhanging tufas, although there are also vertical faces and slabs too – but these climbs seem to be really quite sharp, ripping our soft winter hands and putting holes in the rubber on our climbing shoes. Sadly, it's also started to rain sometimes… another reason to stick to the best stuff, and head to the caves and build up our forearms.

We've had a couple of rest days, and spent them doing unexciting things like fixing Fred (great service, extremely cheaply – we do like Turkish mechanics) and heading to the fruit and veg markets to eat gozleme and pick up bags of fresh fruit and veg from the local farmers. 

Nobu, a new mate, lowering off something steep.
We're pretty tempted to head to a local butchers (recognisable by the pen of sheep and goats munching grass happily out the front), but don't want to accidentally end up with an entire animal … our fridge isn't that big. Do they let you chose which goat or sheep you want, like fish in a restaurant? And surely we could just get half a kilo or so, but how do you ask for that in Turkish??