Lebanon Cedars in Turkey

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Mediterranean Coast,
Thursday, June 5, 2008

For about a week, I explored around the Turkish Mediterranean, in search of rare Lebanon Cedars and a couple places to relax on the Mediterranean.  Finding the cedars was not so easy, but relaxing was.

At first, I searched online for a place where I could find the cedars in Turkey.  This took a while, but eventually the town of Elmali seemed a good place to begin the search.

Why was I searching here?  In Lebanon, most of the cedars have disappeared.  Around much of the Mediterranean, the old forests that once covered vast areas have been deforested by Romans, Greeks, Israelites, Phoenecians, Byzantines, and Ottomans.  The prized cedars were used for King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and for the sturdy boats of the Phoenecian navy and merchant fleet, who controlled much of the waters of the Mediterranean for many years, while battling Egyptians and the sea people from Greece.  The Lebanon Cedar, along with oaks, was also used to make boats at the Sea of Galilee during the time of Jesus.

In essence, the Lebanon Cedar was a symbol of the ancient Mediterranean forests, which are now limited to sacred mountains and monasteries and places difficult to reach.

The Taurus Mountains were the latter place: rugged and inaccessible to timber harvesters, economically speaking.  Now the remnant forests here are protected, found at about 1700 meters around the Chamkuyu Plateau and covering a broad area, considering they have disappeared elsewhere, for the most part. 

Not knowing exactly where to go, but following Turkish instructions from the hotel manager, I boarded a bus heading to Finike, then was dropped at the side of the road in a place called Avlan.  The bus driver pointed up towards a ridge when I asked where the "sedris" were.

After an hour of hiking along a dirt road heading in a strange direction, a bus full of people came.  I thought it was a public bus so waved it down, but it was a group of Attaturk Party members heading to the cedar forest for a picnic.  They gave me a ride and sang patriotic songs on the way, clapping.

Attaturk founded the Turkish Republic just after World War I.  His face is everywhere and is printed on every coin and bill, showing his importance to people.  "I love Attaturk," said one woman before they began another song.  One man talked to me: "we don't like America...I mean the American government.  But we like Americans."

In the cedar forests at the top, I hiked around, enjoying the peace of the forest, then climbed further to a juniper woodland, near treeline at about 1800 meters.  After the hike, I joined the Attaturk group for a picnic, where we had a drink of raki, a strong anise-liquor. "Sherife!" (cheers)

In late afternoon, we headed back down.  They dropped me at the crossroads and said "goodbye."

Next, I traveled along the coast, staying at Turkmen Treehouse at Olympos on the way.  The buses drove along the azure waters and around switchbacks.  In Olympos, I met Rohat who was in the bungalow across the way, amongst orange trees.  Later I would meet her in Istanbul (see that entry).  Roman ruins peeped from the woods in this enchanting place, as a path wandered towards a cove on the Mediterranean Sea.

A quick stop in Fethiye led me through the immense weekly market and along the tour-boat-studded harbor.  I ate another honeydew melon with the pensiyon family and bought a tee shirt at the market, as continually washing and wearing one long-sleeve Syrian shirt was a little much for the hot summer.

Soon, I left for the Aegean, leaving the Mediterranean and the Lebanon Cedars and the Attaturk Patriots and the "treehouse" bungaloes behind.
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