Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Turkey - Antalya and Olympos

Dedicated to the similarity between bad cups of tea and deaf puppies


I should have sent a post, but somehow did not get around to it. I spent the day exploring a few of the most spectacular ancient sites around Antalya with two other Australians, Kay and Shaun from North of Noosa. The morning took us up the shady side of one of the awesome Bey mountains to the isolated city of Termessos. This place dates back over 3000 years, and famously repelled Alexander the Great's armies. (They declared the state an "independent ally" instead). Given the high altidue, tiny road and massive walls, it's not surprising that Alex gave up.

The theatre site is the most well-preserved ruin, and set against a breathtaking backdrop of a sheer mountain summit, long drops to valleys below, and unending forest. The other ruins are set as crumbled piles and occaisional standing structures deep within the forest. Finding the tomb of Altheus (sp?), the successor to Alexander the Great, was like something out of Indiana Jones.

Next was the Karain Cave, Turkey's most important and largest paleolithic cave site. Thought to be continously inhabited for over 25,000 years, this place was huge and eerie. There were vast views out over plains and the Bey ranges from the doorway, and a small museum of finds from excavations in the cave from the 1940s. Most impressive was the portrait (or perhaps just an iconic face) gazing out from high on the central pillar - who knows when it was carved or for what purpose, but it is clearly old and provides no hints. Very spooky.

We finished up with a walk through Durdain (sp?) Falls, a complex of cascades with caves hidden behind some of the largest. A very beautiful area indeed, with opaque turquoise water from the calcium picked up from the subterranean course of the river.


Spectacular breakfast from the roof of the hostel, looking out over the harbour and staggeringly sheer Bey mountains.

I checked out the Antalya museum, after a long walk through stinking hot conditions. Although expensive, it was worth it. Their displays of the better finds from Karain Cave, their ancient ceramics and their marble statuary were better collections than any I had yet seen in Turkey. (Gaziantep still wins for mosaics). They also had the largest collection of sarcophagi I have seen, many with labels explaining how they were repatriated from European and US museums, or discovered by the museum after police intercepted smugglers at the Turkish border.

After the second-worst bus ride of my life, I finally arrived in Olympus. It is a short but tremendously beautiful drive down a vast forested valley from the drop-off point on the main road. There is no real sign of an "Olympos" village, but the main street to the beach is lined with competing Pansions (hostels). Some have been here for decades, and most contain treehouses set up in orange orchards.

Check out mine here:

It was approaching sunset when I arrived and had unwinded from the rigors of travel. I took an exploratory walk down to the beach, and discovered the most picturesque path I could have imagined. Lined with ruins from the ancient city of Olympos, reeds, trees, jungle-like patches, brids calling, two river crossings, and lots of other young backpackers returning from their day in the sun. No tour groups anywhere!

The beach itself is pebbly and lined with steep mountains, coated in lush green forest, with remnants of castles, towers and city walls peeping through. Although it looks like it would have been crowded during the day, it was just right when I arrived. I sat upon a rock and just watched the horizon and a small white yacht slowly move past on the very limits of my vision. I felt very much like Augustus Earle, but without the dreadful possibility of starvation.

It is one of the most romantic places I have ever been to. I am staying for two nights.

Tonight - off to the Chimera fires, a geological-pyrotechic oddity.


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