Lockdown in Turkey has meant we haven’t been able to realise our plans to travel – during the cooler months – to various locations inland. There are so many wonderful places to explore in this amazing country so it has been slightly disappointing.
Restrictions have been loosened now however, and we are back travelling over the water. This is just wonderful but the urge to explore some places of interest on land was still there so while we were anchored in Kas we decided to sneak in a quick road trip – just for the day – with our friends Sue on John of S/V Catabella.
We hired a car and drove first to Kalkan – only just over half an hour from Fethiye. Kalkan was an old Greek fishing village which became part of Turkey in 1923 during the Greek/Turkish population exchange. Now it is a thriving, sprawling, town, a haven for tourists, especially from Britain.
The old fishing port still maintains its Greek character, with narrow, paved or cobbled lanes, a profusion of bougainvillea and small and simple whitewashed houses.
We had a lovely time browsing in the shops – empty of people but not of tempting purchases – and admiring the wonderful view of the sparkling sea.
Apart from seeing the old village, the reason for stopping at Kalkan was to find a suitable spot for a nice cup of coffee.
The good news is that we found the perfect spot – the Doy Doy restaurant which boasted glorious views and every coffee choice you could wish for. The bad news was that the coffee machine had broken down!
Faruk, who welcomed us in, and who turned out to be the son of the owner, was mortified and insisted on us sitting down anyway for free çay. When you consider a cup of tea in Australia costs between $2.50 and $4.00, and the fact they have had no customers for months, this was so generous.
Next on the itinerary – the ruins of the Lycian city of Xanthos. This fascinating city, which was once the capital of Lycia, is perched on a hillside with extensive views of the surrounding countryside.
The city has played a prominent role in understanding Lycian history. In the 19th Century stone carvings were discovered in both Greek and Lycian which led to the unraveling of the Lycian language for the first time.
It is also famous for its funerary art but very sadly, many of architectural and sculptural pieces were taken to England in the 19th century, by the archeologist Charles Fellows. Among these artefacts were the Monument of Harpy, the Tomb of Payava and the Nereid Monument. These remain in the British Museum to this day.
Due to Covid there were very few other tourists there so we were able to spend a pleasant time wandering around the ruins undisturbed.
The peace and quiet belied the city’s violent past. When invaded by the Persians, rather than be captured by the invading forces, the Xanthosian men gathered their women, children, slaves and treasure at the acropolis and set them on fire before taking their final doomed defensive action.
In 42 BC the people of Xanthos again used murder and suicide to avoid being taken in the Roman civil wars.
The amphitheatre with its 2200 person capacity was very atmospheric and had spectacular acoustics. Built originally in the Hellenistic Period, it was renovated in Roman times.
From Xanthos we headed to the popular beach resort of Ölüdeniz.
The first thing that struck us about this lovely spot on the “Turquoise Coast” is that it was full of cars! It really was very busy and the little car park we used was chock full!
The second thing we noticed was that the sky was absolutely filled with colourful paragliders soaring and dropping like gorgeous mythical birds.
Apparently, Mount Babadağ which towers above Ölüdeniz, is regarded as one of the best places in the world to paraglide from. This is due to its unique panoramic views, stable weather conditions, and because the mountain has incredible thermals.
It was quite a sight to see the scores of paragliders floating gently in the sky, soaring upwards when they caught an air current and meandering slowly downwards and turning to land perfectly at a special spot in the middle of Ölüdeniz.
After a quick lunch in a waterfront cafe we decided to walk to the famous Blue Lagoon – we almost made it but were put off by all the commercial activity we could see in the distance – sun beds, cafes, craft of all kinds for hire and hoards of people.
Time was marching on and we had one more place to visit so we decided to turn back, leave the crowds behind and find our car.
Just 20 minutes later, after travelling along a rather bumpy road on which we had to make an emergency stop for a slow moving tortoise trying to cross the road, we made it to the ghost town of Kayaköy.
This haunting place was once home to Greek-speaking Christian subjects, and their Turkish-speaking Ottoman rulers. The townspeople had lived in relative harmony from the end of the turbulent Ottoman conquest of the region in the 14th century until the early 20th century.
Then in 1923 following the Treaty of Lausanne, the town’s Greek Orthodox residents were exiled and Muslim people exiled from Greece were settled there. The new residents found the land in Kayaköy inhospitable (and too full of ghosts!) and soon decamped, leaving the hillside village abandoned for a second time.
I am currently half way through “Birds Without Wings” by Louis de Bernières – set largely in the village of Eskibahçe which is based on Kayakoy. It felt strange being in the village after imagining the place in my head so many times.
It wasn’t hard to visualise the little children in the story, Christian and Muslim, running together through the maze of little lanes that twisted around the houses, past the old men playing backgammon outside the coffeehouse, past the women of the village gossiping at the well.
How poignant it was looking at the empty houses and the abandoned churches, shops and other civic buildings. It all felt such a waste – all that meddling in people’s lives – people who had lived amicably side by side for generations suddenly uprooted from all they had known. And for what?
We managed to get ourselves a little bit lost on our wanderings and ended up returning to our car via a rather circuitous route.
On our way we met a camel giving rides to tourists and then came upon its mate and baby along the way.
We arrived back in Kas late in the evening to find the Oxygen Bar in the marina buzzing with people listening to the live music. No masks in evidence and social distancing seemingly completely forgotten, we decided to sit at an adjacent restaurant/bar to listen to the last few numbers of the night.
Later we had a delicious meal at Vati one of the marina restaurants. After we had finished our waiter brought us – as a gift – a plate of fresh fruit and four shot glasses with a cocktail shaker containing a very shocking-green potion. It was a fun way to end the evening.
The next day we once again experienced the generosity and hospitality that is so typical of the Turkish people.
Sue and John invited us to join them for breakfast (kahvalti in Turkish) at the house belonging to Aysun, a short dinghy ride from Kas marina.
Aysun runs some wonderful bed and breakfast cottages in which Sue and John had stayed the previous year.
The property is situated on the peninsula opposite Kas marina and is perched high up on a hillside overlooking the water.
We arrived at the small jetty and private beach and after tying up our dinghies walked up the prettiest flight of stairs to a shady balcony where we were warmly greeted by Aysun.
In the middle of the deck overlooking the water, was a table groaning with the most fabulous spread imaginable.
There were black and green olives from the garden, apple jam, fig jam, chili paste and quince preserves all made by Aysun from produce grown on the property. The honey came from their neighbours up the hill. The tomatoes and cucumber came from the family farm. There was also menemen – the Turkish version of scrambled eggs – delicious salty white cheese, Börek – thin sheets of dough, filled with cheese and vegetables, fresh bread and other delicious treats.
We ate far more than was good for us and chatted to Aysun who continually topped up our cups with çay.
What a hostess Aysun was and what a paradise she shares with her many guests from around the world! We felt sure that this would be the perfect place to stay and immediately thought of family members and friends who would just adore it. To our consternation Aysun refused any payment – she just loved it that John and Sue had returned to visit her. So very generous.
That evening we had the first rain in months. It was so refreshing and such a novelty to hear rumbles of thunder and the sound of the rain drops hitting the water surrounding us.
The sky looked very threatening but apart from the downpour and a few rolls of thunder, there was no really rough weather to contend with and as if to reassure us, a beautiful rainbow appeared over Kas before the rain finally stopped.