I knew I would like Turkey even before we left. Old World charm, beautiful coastline, great food…. I even like the simplicity of their flag. It is no surprise that it ended up being one of my favorite trips so far.
We were to spend the week in Kas, a small fishing village along the old Lycian Way. The guidebooks indicated that Kas was popularized first by hippies and writers, and then by scuba divers (tons of diving in the area: sunken ships and ruins). But if you appreciate the idea of getting away from the crowds, like we tend to…first you have to get there. So after a red eye flight from Amsterdam to Istanbul, than another flight to Dalaman, we got in our rental car and drove another 3 hours to our AirbnB rental in Kas. ugh.
I stared out the window, as usual. I was struck by how much agriculture we passed….orchards and greenhouses lined the side of the road and herders stood by goats on the side of the road, preventing them from crossing into traffic. If we didn’t have two sleeping boys in the back, I would’ve asked Chris to stop for pictures: (‘my’ kind of picture: goats standing next to satellite dishes in a front yard…. culture…. way of life). But we drove on to our place, which was fantastic, and instantly reminded us why we like to get away from it all….
We took the steep hill down to the rocky beach. At the small neighboring hotel, there were ladders built into the rocks to get in and out of the water. TURQUOISE coast is what they call this, …we get it!
Chris and the boys ‘bouldered’ around a bit, Chris and Jack wet the line (too windy to really fish), and we all took in how quiet it was. (off-season has its benefits….) You could get a sense of how this same area might be packed with Brits sipping cocktails in sun loungers during mid-July….This is Cooper, fetching his shoe from off the roof of the bar (after flinging it off his foot, one of his favorite pastimes– ….?)
That night we grilled hamburgers (Chris will remember that experience, as the ‘coals’ were wood chips, and it took 2 boxes of matches to get them lit), played cards and relaxed.
The next day I was glad I made coffee before the power went out. The caretaker at the house wasn’t surprised when I called him, responding: ‘Yes, this happens here– it is better later today’. OK then!– beautiful country, with a less consistent power grid. After attempting breakfast (I bought buttermilk, which doesn’t taste as good on cereal or in your coffee….), we headed into Kas to explore..
We sat right on the edge of the town square for lunch. Jack noticed the amount of stray dogs and cats right away. At one time, there were 4 cats under our table. The boys will remember the pushy manager that coaxed us into his “Italian” restaurant, who said it wasn’t possible for Cooper to order pepperoni on his pizza.
Jack and I visited this particular shop a few times. Here he is doing some consumer research on a chess set. I love having another shopper in the family, (Cooper and Chris were next door having a drink).
After the power outage that prevented the boys from checking Instagram that morning, I pointed a few things out regarding resources….note the solar panels with the clothes line , the man carrying a couch on his back…
I guess many people wouldn’t think this is beautiful. They would use words like ‘run-down’, even. I guess I disagree. The boys had tired feet, so at one point we dropped them at a spot in the street and kept walking.(I love this cat watching…).
Then home: to sit by the pool, visit with our own stray cats…(who enjoyed the buttermilk more than we did) and play cards. Our caretaker picked some ‘mushmala’ from the tree in our yard for us…a delicious fruit that is about the size of a plum Construction going on at the house next door provided a little background noise poolside…. (ask Cooper to do his blowtorch imitation, it’s pretty realistic!).
We stayed up late so the boys could beat us in spades that night. Hmph.
The next day after a breakfast involving the milk we were used to, fresh bread from our caretaker, and GORGEOUS strawberries (a flat of which cost less than ice cubes), we headed to Kaputas and Patara Beach– which I had read were “sandier”.
Kaputas was located at a hairpin turn in the road, where a deep gorge had been cut in the rocky cliffs. Steep stairs led down to a small beach The boys thought it was a good idea to bounce the football down the stairs. I might’ve shared a thought on the ball bouncing over the railing into the gorge to be never seen again (or at least played with that day-?) .… but I don’t tend to win these arguments very often.
We spotted some beautiful sea birds as well, and a man venturing out to collect mussels from the rocks There weren’t any facilities at this beach, so before it got too close to lunch, we decided to head on towards Patara, which was supposed to be more developed.
Patara is not only the longest sandy beach on the Turquoise Coast, but also a famous nesting site for the protected Loggerhead Turtles. I was also excited that for 5 Turkish lira a person (with a discount for Jack), our admission also included entrance to the Lycian and Roman ruins. History and the beach! Nice.
It wasn’t long after getting out of the car that we realized how windy it was out here on the long sandy beach… Chris took cover in the beach shack/restaurant, but the boys would have none of that– they buried each other in the sand. It looked fun from inside
Chris and I ordered a beer, and pretty soon the boys came in to have a burger too. Brotherly love On the way out, I noticed the markers for the turtle nesting sites, and the rules posted to protect these creatures that have such an interesting (and risky) way of reproducing. When the sea turtle babies are born they cannot see but instinctively turn toward the light, or the ocean side. People are prohibited to build fires on the beach beyond the markers, and no development is allowed on that side, for fear the turtles will turn in the wrong direction and not make it to the water, where they will live the rest of their life. Interesting, and made for a beautiful, relatively undeveloped coastline.
We drove to the ruins next, which were very impressive. After being in Rome in October, I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between the Roman ruins in a large city-center, and the ruins here. Not only did we purchase admission for the equivalent of 3 or 4 US Dollars (with the beach!), but this natural, (lots of goats grazing) site was quite extensive….. and you were free to walk about wherever you wanted. The boys enjoyed the amphitheater, and took lots of panoramic photos.
In Kas that evening, Jack purchased the chess set, and we shopped a bit for ourselves and friends as well. I like to browse, but I don’t usually buy a lot of things while we are traveling. I consider my photos my memorabilia. Turkey is one place I wish we had purchased a few more things. Cooper even found a cool set of graduated elephants carved out of stone. We walked the town again, stopping in a hookah shop for a drink.
The owner was very excited we were there, as he had just opened his doors for the season. When we left a small tip, he told us he would give it to the teachers he hired for the summer, so that they could have more money to bring back to their families. (yes, I did want to give him what was left in my wallet, but I refrained…).
We explored the harbor, and booked a boat tour for the next day to the sunken ruins of Kekova.Skipped some stones and relaxed as well We ate at a recommended restaurant that night, “Jimmy Jokers”…supposedly the best burgers in Kas. All three boys ordered one, and interestingly enough, it was actually a steak, served on a bun. Different, the boys thought, but still delicious. While we were eating, Jack was surprised to see a cat being fed by a shop owner, and took a photo. He called it ‘the loved one’…and thought the other strays in town must be a little jealous.We knew the next day would be full, so we headed to bed fairly early. No mosquitoes….very good.
We were picked up at 9 by a van that took us (and about 15 other people) to the small harbor town of Kekova, east of Kas. It was about a 45 minute drive, and our guide shared some information about the people and the area along the way. We learned that the nomadic goat herders in the region are usually farmers that grow crops on both sides of the mountain ridge, bringing their goats back and forth seasonally to pick apples on one side, and grow eggplants on the other, eg. Because of this, there are towns with the same name on the coastal side and the inland side of the mountain– settled by the same groups. We saw some herders as we were driving– there was a bit of a ‘goat jam’: We also learned that the crops grown in the region are sent to Istanbul, where 70% of Turkey’s population lives in/around the city. LOTS of veggies in the Mediterranean diet. This explains the ridiculous amount of greenhouses we saw, for sure.
We stopped at this small, very rickety dock to begin our walk on the Lycian Way, an historic footpath along the Turkish coastline, named for the ancient civilization of Lycia. As the hand-painted sign indicates, we were headed to the Aperlai Ruins. Our guide told us in order to follow the Lycian Way (all 540 km) of it, just look for red and white waymarkers, painted on the stones We were provided with A LOT of historical information, and I probably should have brought a notebook. Instead I listened, and took pictures of what I was told were 2000 year old olive trees. Chris and I were pleased when we could tell the difference between a Lycian, Roman or Byzantine ruin, (it’s the shape of the stones used…) — the area we were navigating was built, raided, built again, shaken up (by earthquakes), built again, on and on through the centuries.
By the time we got to the Aperlai ruins and listened to more history (this happens when you are in such an old place), the boys were excited they could stick their feet in the water to take a break. Our guide joined in as we skipped some stones (this “wheel” is an ancient olive oil press) Then we headed back to the boat, stepping around a few more cows. and had a fantastic traditional Turkish lunch as we headed to the sunken ruins.
We anchored in what was once a bay. There were people snorkeling, seemingly the best way to see the sunken ruins. It was easy to see the foundations of buildings that were once Tersane, or dockyard, of the ancient city of Xera. A 2nd century earthquake caused it to fall below sea level. Like many other areas, this was also rebuilt during the Byzantine Empire, so there were remains of a Byzantine church (Cooper, Chris and I swam over to check it out, Jack took pictures from the boat). Despite it being a little chilly, Jack also joined us in the water. Floating ice cream salesman….classic.
The next stop was the island of Simena, (or Kalekoy in Turkish) which has no roads, and is only accessible by boat. Approaching, you could see its most prominent feature, a Byzantine castle built during the Middle Ages to fight pirates from Kekova. We did not go into the castle, but it is famous for a small theater, which was carved from one piece of rock.
Simena was another place I could’ve done a photo essay– I loved watching the people in this remote community…. We walked to the top of the island, and saw several more Lycian tombs. The Lycians buried people with their valuables, so grave-robbing was common (which explained the damage we saw to most of the tombs).
Back in Kas there was a celebration going on with a street fair — Turkish independence and children are celebrated on the same day in April every year, because they believe the children hold their future. We had a traditional meal, complete with mezze, and Turkish bread that was so large the waiter ‘flew’ it in from Turkish Airlines. The boys were offered ice cream in the back for dessert…. (sometimes I wonder if food-related things make more of an impression than the sunken ruins…but that’s OK….).
Chris left the next day due to work, and the boys and I would follow early the following day out of Dalaman. We spent the day relaxing, swimming and cleaning up the house. I think the boys will forever tell interesting stories about the “Burq Hotel”, the very quiet (abandoned?) airport hotel where we stayed our last night…the empty pool had huge cracks and plants growing in it, we had broken furniture in our room, and of course there was the man sleeping on the couch in the office when we checked out in the morning. Chalk it up to life experiences, I guess (!) We did end our trip with another fantastic meal at a local restaurant. (Did I mention I love Turkish food?) Its head through the window, this pup asked for some handouts from the table next to ours….
Turkey was without a doubt one of my favorites, and a place to which I would love to return. Thanks for listening, and sharing its beauty with us…. perhaps this inspires you to visit some day as well!