March 26, 2015
After having a Turkish breakfast we got ourselves ready for today’s outing. It would be a varied day. To start with, Jon was taking the group to Olympos for a guided tour. We’d hurried through there last night, so now we would get to have a better look at the place. Departure time was scheduled for 10 am, but that time came and went and we finally left closer to 10:15 am.
Upon arrival Jon paid our entrance fees and we went in, stopping by a large plane tree where he told us the history of the site. The Lycian culture lasted for a couple of thousand years, and so their city included buildings in Greek style and Roman style and even had some Byzantine features. As ancient cities go, Olympos wasn’t very big, but its protected location made it resistant to attack and its proximity to the flames of Chimaera gave it great religious significance.
Our first stop was on the far side of the river, so we changed into our not-very-stylish plastic river-crossing shoes before wading across. On the far side was a series of necropolises; Jon pointed out the different styles which were built at different times. Also on this side were ruined villas and also a theatre, which was smaller than theatres we had seen at other historic sites. Donning our plastic shoes again we re-crossed the river to visit the agora, which was the largest part of the site since the Lycians had been traders first and foremost. Jon also pointed out a very early Christian church which had been uncovered only 18 months ago. The whole tour took about two hours.
The next phase of the day was to go for a walk in the hills about Olympos. Since it was nearly 2 pm we started by eating our lunch before setting off up the forestry track. This walk was a mixture of forestry tracks and obscure paths through the woods. Mostly it was easy to find the way, but there were large sections where it was a case of going from one marker to the next. At one point there was a washout which had obscured the path, but with the help of a local who pointed out the correct direction we continued on.
We went through forests, past pomegranate orchards, and through tiny villages. At one place our instructions said to turn right after a new house, but there was now another new house being built so we turned right on the wrong road. But there were some men sitting there who yelled at us and sent us on the right way. Finally we came out of the woods and met Jon at 4 pm at a roadside café in Uluçınar, which was our first checkpoint. In the woods we had taken pictures of some orchids, so we showed them to Jon. There was one he didn’t know, but the café’s owner was passing by and he said “Sahlep”. This was cool, because that’s the orchid whose roots they use to make dondurma, the rubbery Turkish ice-cream.
Pretty soon the Scottish group arrived and joined us at the café. We had an option now: we could hike the rest of the way to Chimaera, or we could quit or be driven. We decided to carry on walking, but almost immediately we came to a river crossing. This was straightforward in the plastic shoes, and we kept them on because we knew we would be crossing the river again very soon. But when we got there the water was deep and fast-flowing. We dithered around looking for alternative ways of crossing, but finally admitted defeat. Also we didn’t want to chance falling into the river, because we were going out to dinner later and we didn’t want to do that in wet clothes!
So we called Jon on the cellphone and told him we were wimping out, and headed back to Uluçınar. After a short while Sue arrived with the others who weren’t walking today, and all of us went together by car to the flames of Chimaera, the gas vents which have been burning for at least 3,000 years. It was now getting on for 5 pm and raining slightly, so the trail up to the flames was slippery in places. There are several vents with flames of various sizes coming out of the ground, so the hillside looked neat. We gathered around a couple of vents and Jon handed out wooden skewers and marshmallows. After having a couple each we all decided to head back down. It was dark now, and even with the help of headlamps and flashlights we had to be careful going down the slippery sections.
Back at the cars, we were off to the last stage of the day, which was dinner at Havuzbaşı Restaurant in Ulupınar. It’s a famous restaurant which has its own trout farm and is well-known around Turkey and beyond. You enter by climbing some steps and walking across platforms suspended over the trout tanks before entering the main dining area.
Our meal came in several courses, starting with salad, chili sauce, yogurt with mint, and fantastic pita bread. This was followed by a variety of mezes, garlic and cheese mushroom, and roasted vegetables, and finally on to the main course. Almost everybody ordered trout, of course. The trout was filleted and baked in a stone dish. Grilled perfectly, it was really good. And finally there was dessert, pieces of fruit to be dipped into halva sauce. What a great way to end an already excellent meal!
It was nearly 10 pm when we got back to the hotel; the weather forecast for tomorrow wasn’t that good so we decided that we wouldn’t make up our minds about what we wanted to do until the morning.
Next: Short Walk