November 25, 2003
-> The Turkish Riviera: Week II
The Turkish coast is littered with ruins, adding
wonderful historical aspect to an otherwise
beach-focused coast. Many of the historical sites are
located near the best beaches, giving the authorities
the justification to charge entrance fees to
sunbathers who really couldn't care less about the
jumble of rocks on the headland.
In true Mediterranean fashion, our lunches consisted
of fresh bread, white cheese, tomatoes, and plump
black olives. Each day we looked for the perfect
picnic spot: in the upper seats of a Roman theater,
beside the Aegean, near a rushing river, or on an
unpeopled beach. It was cheap and delicious, and felt
decadent in a way that no expensive restaurant meal
THE MID-SEA COAST: Olympos to Kash
This was the best of the Turkish littoral, in
opinion: a bulge of land that curved southwest from
Antalya to Kash and northwest from Kash to Fethiye.
It was wedged between the resorts of the Aegean to the
north, and of the Mediterranean to the east, and would
no doubt soon be overwhelmed from both sides. For
now, at least, its cities seemed calmer and cleaner,
its coastline less marred by 'development', and its
people less jaded by tourism. Boat trips were
available to offshore Greek islands, and the
hinterland offered exciting hiking opportunities.
About two hours south of Antalya was Olympos,
coastal ruin more famous for the 'tree house' hostel
located a few kilometers inland. In the summer, the
hostel's 300+ beds (you read that correctly) are full
of randy young backpackers who create a kind of
arboreal Ibiza. I would have liked it a lot ten years
ago. Even in winter, the hostel had the most diverse
group of travelers that we met throughout Turkey. The
bartender, naturally, was Aussie.
A short hike through a forested hillside near
took us to the Chimera, a scorched-looking area where
a dozen flames were jetting out from holes. A trio of
fat, shirtless Germans were BBQ'ing sausages on a
campfire beside the 'eternal' flames, which flared up
and guttered randomly. There were a number of
blackened holes where the flames had died, or perhaps
been extinguished with a handful of sand.
The little harborside town of Kas (pronounced
was our favorite place. At the point where the coast
begins to curve north into the Aegean Sea, the town's
rugged surroundings had spared it the evils of
unchecked development. From the rooftop terrace of
our 'pansiyon,' we could see the Greek island of Meis
and its whitewashed homes. The town center had
cobbled streets that fanned out from a lovely harbor.
They were lined with wine bars, seafood restaurants
and nargile cafes. Bright bougainvillea bushes,
spilled over the walls. Twenty kilometers down the
road was Kaputash beach, a pebbly arc fronting a cove
of exceptional beauty, which we had to ourselves for
an entire day.
THE AEGEAN: Fethiye to Efes
After watching England beat Australia in the
World Cup, we left Kash and began driving north along
the Aegean coast. The first stop was Fethiye, an
improbably large city for such a small population.
The harbor was full of boats touting "12 Island
Tours"; many looked unseaworthy. I wondered how many
poor galley meals found their way into the Aegean when
the seas got rough.
We ran into Rich on our second night in Fethiye.
had been to many sites that sucked and was
disconsolate. So we took him to our favorite doner
kebab stand (thinly-sliced roasted chicken with
lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, and dill sauce, wrapped in
soft turkish bread) and smoked the nargile in a
nightclub crowded with young Turks (mostly men).
On a day trip from Fethiye, we visited Tlos,
rambling ruin that spanned many centuries. Lycian
tombs were carved into a rocky knoll, atop which sat
the crumbling walls of an Ottoman, brick-and-mortar
fortress. Two village girls shadowed us around the
ruins, showing us the quickest route to the old baths,
and pointing out the carving of Bellerephon riding
Pegasus inside one of the tombs. They laughed when I
used my Lonely Planet Turkish Phrasebook to ask "Where
are the gay hangouts?" but they never asked us for any
Just over the ridge from Fethiye was Oludeniz
often described as the best in Turkey. The setting is
spectacular - a narrow tongue of pebbly land nearly
separating a circular lagoon from the sea - but lovers
of soft, white sand beaches would be disappointed.
Wisely, the beach has been turned into a park,
protecting it from development. There were very few
sunbathers when we were there, and no one was
swimming, but in the summer you must arrive early to
find space. Paragliders leaped from the cliffs far
above and slowly spiraled down to the beach.
The resort city of Bodrum looked more Greek
Turkish; the pleasing uniformity of its whitewashed
buildings stood in stark contrast to the multicolored
eyesores that blight much of the Turkish coast. The
old Crusader castle of the Knights of St. John
squatted on a small promontory that bisected the long
bay, dividing the louder, seedier east from the
quieter, uppity west. The scanty ruins of the
Mausoleum of Halikarnassas (one of the seven wonders
of the ancient world) lie just a few blocks back from
the castle, but the racy Halikarnassas Club on the
eastern edge of the bay attracts more visitors.
Bodrum has money; its harbor is crammed with
yachts and gulets. Fancy restaurants with leafy
verandas sit between thumping nightclubs that serve
outrageously expensive drinks, and posh holiday homes
extend far up the hillsides above the bay. We found a
wonderful studio apartment overlooking the bay and
spent two days soaking up the sun on our patio.
The final stop on our coastal tour was the extensive
ruins at Efes (Ephesus). The most important Roman city in
Asia Minor, tradition has it that the Virgin Mary came here
after Jesus' crucifixion. Unlike most of the other sites in
Turkey, much of Ephesus still stands: terraced homes, monumental
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