Submerged antiquities

Trip Start Sep 07, 2005
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Trip End Aug 18, 2006


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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Our time in Turkey, this crossroads country between the Western world we know as our own and the Eastern and Middle Eastern worlds we have come to appreciate on this trip, has been fantastic, but as is often the case for us on this trip, far too brief. Turkey is the navel of civilization; one of the few birthplaces of humankind, so with only 14 days in the country when we took stock of what we had seen and what we had not been able to see on our crescent shaped arch across the country, we agreed that someday we would again return to take another crack at the big brown bird. We are more than willing to do this, particularly given the amazing warmth and hospitality of the Turkish people. Rarely have we encountered such kind and friendly locals during our peregrinations. Just a few examples: when Cori sneezed a few times in a local internet cafe (covering her nose and mouth, of course), the man working in the cafe got up to offer her a handful of tissues; when we watched some bags for a young couple who were waiting for the same overnight bus as we were but who needed to venture off to find bathrooms, they returned with candy bars for each of us as thanks; after wandering into a cafe to escape the mid afternoon heat in Istanbul and only ordering bottled water, the old lady in the shop placed a dish of grapes on our table, just to be hospitable. And the list goes on - Turks were always polite and kind, always ready to give directions or help in some other way, and they demonstrated unfailing hospitality.

From Kas ("Kahsh"), our next and last pause point before heading further west into the Greek Isles, we planned to launch a brief tour of the Turkish coast that included a bit of beach time and a little time marveling at the one thing in the guidebook that got both of us very excited: submerged antiquities.

Sadly, about 15 minutes before our bus to Kas pulled into the station, Cori's back and neck decided that they had had their fills of each other and simultaneously decided to go their separate ways. One second everything was fine, Cori was reading Zorba the Greek to Steven and we were both periodically enjoying the views of the rocky, dry and sun drenched Aegean coast, and the next thing we knew Cori had an enormous crick in her neck that made every bump in the road and curve on the coast a painful experience. Our bodies were telling us that they had taken their last overnight bus rides and that it was high time we started treating ourselves in a more civilized manner. This time we got the message.

When we did pull into Kas Steven got a brief taste of what other travelers must go through on a regular basis. With his own bag on his back and Cori's bag strapped to his chest, he quickly came to appreciate our decision to pack so lightly. As we plodded up a small hill on the way to our hotel we calculated that the 50 or so pounds that Steven was now carrying was still probably a bit less heavy than the loads we have seen on the backs of almost every backpacker we have come across. True, the large unwieldy bags that others tote around often limit their movement and make it a bit easier to justify a week or two in one spot, but when they are forced to relocate the process must be a real pain. It is no wonder that such a large portion of the older (read 30+ years under their belts) travelers we have come across admit to having some sort of minor issues with their backs. A few extra changes of clothes and another unwanted-souvenir can't be worth limited mobility later in life, no matter how much fun it might be to commute to the bingo parlor in your very own rascal scooter.

Fortunately this is not one of those unfortunate yarns that ends in a Turkish hospital because with a little good food and a full night in an actual bed Cori was up and ready to get back on the trail the next morning. A delicious dinner of authentic Turkish style ravioli (Steven is always looking for an excuse to eat pasta) and a savory and exotic meat concoction called (honest) Sultan's Balls, went down well and surely contributed to a speedy recovery. Our plan was to see how the Turkish beaches compared to other Mediterrian and Aegean locales we had visited in the previous few weeks and we figured that we might also want to set up a tour for the following day to the Sunken City of Kekova. We are pleased to report that after a later than anticipated start that morning, we accomplished all of our objectives.
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Once again, our verdict on Mediterrian beaches is that they are over-rated. Cori thought that the crystal clear water that kissed the rocky shore was almost perfect, but in an unusual display of fickleness Steven pronounced the water to be too chilly for swimming. Both of us agreed that on the whole this particular beach was not a very pleasant place to spend an entire day and thus reconfirmed what we already knew: despite our many repeated attempts to enjoy a little fun in the sun, we just aren't beach people, particularly when the beach in question is composed almost entirely of rocks and stones.

What we did like on the Turkish coast, however, was the wonderful little town into which we had stumbled. Kas itself is a lovely hamlet with a quaint peaceful harbor, steep rocky cliffs on all sides, and a fragrant tinge of orange blossom wafting through the air. Flowers of all colors abound in almost every nook and cranny of the town and against the otherwise drab stone and brick buildings that make up the central district of the city the place looks like a little slice of paradise. The little thatched patio right outside our room even had grapes growing on it - how picturesque. But far better, in Steven's mind, was the free reign exercised by dogs of the municipality; they trotted hither and thither, often in and out of eating establishments, and then they'd plop down in the middle of the square to loll about, looking for some volunteer to scratch their bellies. At night, all the hounds would carouse together, running around the town center in a large pack, benignly terrorizing the tourists and the kids (one particularly intransigent canine stole a boy's soccer ball and proceeded to sink his large teeth into it, deflating and then destroying the ball in turn). At any rate, either in spite or because of these squirrley dogs, before we make it to Greece our list of favorite 'little gems' will have to remain open to new additions, but from what we have seen so far Kas seems worthy at least an honorable mention.

Our boat trip the next morning began as planned, that is, with a short bus ride that made Cori break out in cold sweats the night before as she contemplated it. But neck more or less in the same condition disembarking the bus as when she boarded, we were soon off without incident on a small two storeyed skiff to skirt a short bit of the Turkish coast where the waters of the Med and the Aegean mix and mingle. Just about as we were sensing that our miserably pale hides (yes, we've now been in the Mediterranean for two weeks and are still the laughing stocks of locals and tourists, alike) were getting crispy, the boat pulled up in a protected half cove for a half an hour dip.

We will not lie and tell you the water was blissfully warm, or that the shore was the very picture of beachy beauty, because neither are true. The water had a good chill to it - one was well advised to keep moving if one didn't want to get too cold - and the shoreline was rocky, covered in the typically dry, chalky white clay soil we associate with the Med on which it seems nothing could possibly grow except, of course, the myriad olive trees and scrubby shrubs of sage that burst forth in profusion there. But the water was incomparably clear - we floated in depths of twenty feet and had a crystal clear view of what was going on at the very bottom (precious little, it turns out, but that's not really the point).

The water clarity came in particularly handy during the next stop, at which we could get out and swim amongst a small portion of the sunken city of Kekova. Donning our newly acquired (and rather crappy) goggles, we set out to investigate what lay beneath. Again, not too much, but we did spot some cobblestones of a small path that led up to what must have been the foundation for a small house or shop. Gleaming white marble corinithian-topped columns these ruins were not, but we nevertheless experienced a slight thrill as we peered down on these milennia-old stones, envisioning what they might have been way back when.

The majority of the sunken city, however, is a no swim zone, so we eventually loaded back into the boat to make a slow drive-by of the most important sector of the ruins. We saw dozens of submerged foundations of the old city, along with a host of amphora shards scattered among the deeper stretches of water on the city's periphery. Perhaps more impressive, though, were the ruins that evaded water's edge, ruins that afforded glimpses of what life might have been like on the shore: water spouts directing rainwater toward large communal urns; a rough-hewn arched doorway of a destroyed church; a wall, partially intact, with windows looking out to the bay. These ruins may have not been the most spectacular of our journey, but they were evocative nonetheless.

Our last stop of the day was at the tiny village of Simena, a town, we were told, that has no access to roads and is therefore entirely dependent for its survival on marine traffic. Crowning the village's heights perched an old crumbling castle with very attractive turrets. Nearby, in the village's shallow bay were Lycian sarcophogai, cracked by invading Romans who pried open their lids to find interred treasure. In a similar vein, a true blue pirate's cove was tucked into a rocky face on the village's outskirts; a small rig could sail right in and remain undetected for weeks whilst the pirates counted and divvied up their loot.

The last stop of the day was at Goat's Cove, where, as one might expect from the moniker, several goats clustered around the shoreline, bleating their complaints to passersby. A dog joined in with some plaintive barks, but he refused our invitation to join us for a swim and even darted away skittishly when some of the other tourists on the boat made a landing on shore.

One final series of episodes bears to be repeated, if for nothing more than as a paean of thanks to the luck fairies who were watching over us that night. We were to take a seven thirty bus to Fethiye; we arrived at the bus station at seven twenty five, just in time to catch it. We were then to transfer to the last bus to Marmaris at nine thirty; our bus rolled into Fethiye at nine thirty two, but the vehicle to Marmaris was still there, waiting; having caught the bus, in Marmaris we lost our way to the local hostel at twelve thirty at night, but the hostel manager spied us passing by and flagged us down to show us where to go; and finally, the next morning, without any real confirmation to back up our online booking from the ferry company that we could indeed get to Rhodes that day, we managed to board a fast catamaran without reservation vouchers, ensuring that our last border crossing would be painless and efficient. Had any of these small connections been missed, we would have been sunk, and probably still stuck in Turkey. As it was, we sailed smoothly into the morning sunrise toward Greece, the last country on our world tour.
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