The Turkish Mediterranean
August 1999

We thought it was hot in central Anatolia, but we were quite unprepared for the humidity of the Mediterranean. The ruins along this coast were quite remarkable both in their condition (given all the time that has passed) and the history (primarily Lycean, Greek, and Roman) they represent. Our first stop was the modern resort city of Antalya with ruins including Hadrian’s Gate. However, we found Antalya to be oppressively humid and hot, congested, frustrating, and the “air conditioned” hotel we stayed at was awful (it was at this point in the trip that we began to aggressively seek out dondurma—ice cream—stands).

1999 Turkey Trip Web Pages

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Aspendos (just east of Antalya) is considered the best preserved and most complete Roman theater (2nd century) in the world. It was beautiful and is in such good condition that events are still held there. Note the coin-shaped “ticket” (below) used for admission to events. There were also Roman ruins and aqueduct nearby (upper right).
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Perge is a city built by Greek colonists after the Trojan War (around 1200 BCE). Developed by the Romans, it now has extensive ruins and “bits” (Ruth’s reference to pieces of Greek and Roman columns (left), friezes, pots, etc.) scattered throughout and along an ancient street. The marble slab (far left) is a sign that once hung over the doorway to a butcher shop. Perge is where we first encountered a seller of Roman coins lurking among the ruins (either the coins were fake or if authentic, it’s illegal to sell them).
The ruins of Olympos, a 2nd century BCE Lycean city that later became a Roman city, were a little hard to figure out since the signs were inadequate and preservation was almost non-existent. As with most of the sarcophagi (right) we saw on the trip, grave robbers got there first. Part of Olympos was situated atop an acropolis overlooking an extensive beach, presenting our first opportunity to go swimming (beaches in Turkey were pretty rocky requiring some careful walking to get into the water). The water was remarkably warm and beautiful (part of the fabled “turquoise” coast). Olympos.JPG (29067 bytes)
After a half hour hike up Mt. Olympos, we reached a bizarre cluster of natural flames called The Chimaera burning inextinguishably out from rocks. The fire has been burning since ancient Greek times and became part of their mythology. We went at night for a more spectacular viewing of the fire and because it would be cooler. However, we were drenched from the sweat of the climb, which required a flashlight to find our way. There were a bunch of people up there including one young Turkish entrepreneur selling beer out of a cooler. Ed dragged his cameras and a small tripod for a 30-second exposure (right). Chimaera.JPG (32338 bytes)


The Lycean city of Myra (in modern Demre) has spectacular ruins (from 8th [?] century BCE), particularly, the necropolis carved out of the rocky hillside (below left). It also has a very well preserved theater which was rebuilt in the more recent Roman times supposedly to host gladiatorial events (none were scheduled while we were visiting, however). Ruth escapes the heat and humidity by resting in the shade on a carved Lycean face (below right).
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The Church of St. Nicholas, also in Demre, is the 4th century church and tomb of St. Nicholas. Ruth skeptically inspects a strange statue of Santa Claus (below left) looking more like Darth Nicholas (complete with black hood and a menacing expression) than the kindly person he was as bishop of Myra (he is supposed to have dropped coins down chimneys of the poor). In contrast, the statue’s pedestal has a silly emblem depicting a Disneyesque version of Santa in sleigh as little kids holding hands ring a cartoonish Earth. Two of Santa’s helpers (from France) pose next to his sarcophagus (below right) as others wander in the chapel.
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The Lycean city of Kekova partially sank during an earthquake about 2500 years ago. We hired a beat-up old fishing boat ($12) at Ucagiz to take us along the coast of Kekova Island (followed by another swim in the warm waters). It’s hard to see the underwater ruins unless the water is perfectly still or one goes snorkeling (no longer allowed). But photo (right) shows a staircase leading into the submerged ruins near the shore of the island. Kekova.JPG (35615 bytes)
goat.JPG (38472 bytes) Xanthos was once the capital and “grandest city” of Lycia. We found a couple of great Lycean pillar tombs, a Roman theater, a pillar with Lycean inscriptions (below left and detail to the right) among other “bits.” We also spotted an errant goat (left) hopping from ruin to ruin near where the French are currently conducting excavations.
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blue_lagoon.JPG (34863 bytes) Oludeniz did not offer much in the way of ruins but it had a nice beach (as part of the Blue Lagoon) that had us in the water once again (note Ed, left, after a nice swim). There were also a lot of paragliders, and it was here that we also found the only vegetarian restaurant on the entire trip.
There weren’t too many ruins in the seaside resort town of Kas (pronounced cash), but we did find this striking Lycean pillar tomb (surrounded with carpets from a nearby store) in the middle of a steep cobblestone street. Our hotel had a nice pool (which required some swimming), and a nearby store garnered Ruth’s award for cleverest name, “Kas and Carry.” pillar_tomb_Kas.JPG (31836 bytes)
Fethiye.JPG (36378 bytes) We found the 4th century BCE Lycean city of Telmessos, in the modern Fethiye, to have some terrific temple-like rock tombs carved into the hillside (left, and below left with Ruth). Also, a recently (1992!) uncovered Roman theater right smack in town (below). It was while we were staying here (on August 17) that the earthquake occurred 300 miles to the north though we didn’t feel it.
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