“Why are the chickens still b-gaa-ing….chickening? It’s already past morning!”
From Antalya, we moved up the coast to a little village between the mountains and the sea called Cirali. We turned off the main road and basically drove straight down a cliff for 7 km to get to the one and only tiny little village at the bottom.
It was just the sort of bohemian paradise I’ve always dreamed about settling in to stay for a while. The village itself has a couple of shops and a line of outdoor restaurants ready for what must be a swarm of vacationers in the summertime. Thick jungly tropical gardens hid adorable little pansyons, ranging in quality from basic campsites to luxury boutique hotels.
We stayed at the adorable Villa Zeytin, owned and run by the enterprising Mehmet, who also has a beachfront restaurant. Our cabin was set in a lovely garden with all sorts of fruit trees – wide leafed banana trees, lemon trees with fruit waiting to turn yellow, date palms, olive trees, and pomegranate trees heavy with bright red baubles only days away from being harvested. Bougainvillea, Bird of Paradise and hibiscus flowers filled in the gaps, and chickens clucked their way around the place.
The cabin was a shiny red wood inside and out, including the walls, floors and ceilings. It had a wide front porch with a table and even a large double sun bed for afternoon naps. The mornings were cool, but it quickly warmed up by midday. But around 3 in the afternoon, the cool trade winds came blowing in to cool everything off and really turn it into paradise.
We ate every meal at that table on the porch, listening to the crickets chirp and the chickens cluck. It was possibly the most immaculately clean lodging I have ever stayed in, anywhere, and they had thought of everything we might need, right down to the bicycles available to borrow, including kids bikes with and without stabilisers, and bikes with baby seats.
We had a built in alarm clock with the cock a doodle doing of the large rooster next door, and if that didn’t wake you up, then the 6 am call to prayer at the mosque right across the road will do it for you.
Cirali’s miles long wide white rocky beach was a 2 minute bike ride away, and when we weren’t climbing over the nearby wonders of the ancient world, we were relaxing on the beach, or biking to the market for more fruit and vegetables. It was nice to be able to settle into a place for a bit, wash clothes, cook meals, and sit down to do some proper road school.
I knew we had made the right choice when on the first night, our city born child tried shutting the big floor to ceiling windows because the “insects are so loud I can’t hear my thoughts.” He was referring to crickets, which, outside of Texas, he never will have heard before. It’s time the kid got used to some crickets.
I could have settled in there for a month, and to be honest, it would have taken that long to do the area justice.
Just a short walk from our cabin, we hiked up to the Chimeara, birthplace of the infamous beast from ancient Greek and Roman mythology.
Natural methane gas deposits under the rock escape through holes and cracks, and combust into flames on contact with the air. The fires rising straight out of the ground have been burning for more than 2500 years, and, depending on the barometric pressure, can be high enough to navigate by from the sea.
It’s a 1 km trek up a mountain to get to the Chimeara. The path is rocky but well maintained. We had read a lot of reviews complaining about the climb and subsequent disappointment at the top after all that work. First of all, know what you’re getting in to, don’t expect to be carried on a conveyor belt, and have some appreciation for a natural oddity that holds a significant place in classical history.
I personally found the climb to be fine. Austin, however, bitched most of the way, and he was shamed into silence after being passed by no fewer than four little girls in sundressses and sandals happily skipping their way up the hill.
Fire coming straight up out of the rock is truly other-worldly, and to know they’ve been burning for thousands of years is just a bit mind-boggling. It’s such a weird phenomenon that the ancient people make up a crazy beast with the head of a lion, tail of a snake and a goat’s head sticking up out of the back!
Despite the fact that the ground is literally on fire, there’s no sulphur smell, since that’s not what’s burning. It’s a popular spot for trekkers hiking the Lycian Way. I mean, it’s a readily available fire with a spectacular view down to the sea, and you know the next part of your walk is downhill. What’s not to love?
Sometimes when you’re on vacation, you just want a family photo, and Mark has no shortage of remotes, gorillas and other apparatus to do it ourselves. He even had a selfie stick before the invention of the iPhone! But sometimes, it’s just easier to ask a passing stranger to take the photo. And then sometimes, it’s not.
Mark scoped out a couple of middle aged men and approached them with his Aussie “scuse me mate, would you mind taking our photo?” Even if they have no idea what he said, it usually results in our photo getting taken. This time, the bloke smiled and nodded in agreement, and walked up to the nearest burning rock, threw back his shoulders and smiled, ready for his photo! So Austin and I moved in for the family shot with the complete stranger, proudly standing there with this crazy family who wanted his picture! Eventually, we got his friend to take the photo, and Mark jumped in for a picture of the McPartlands and their new friend!
We had a good laugh about it, but you know what? We were just a bit down the road walking back to our cabin when they were driving out in their car, and offered us a ride. It was hot, and we gladly accepted. So the moral of the story is that you might get picked up as hitchhikers if you take a stranger’s photo.
At the other end of Cirali is the ancient Hellenistic city of Olympos. We probably should have done a bit more research before going one evening an hour or so before sunset. We thought it was just a few ruins at the end of the beach. In fact, it was a major city from at least the 4th century BC, that is relatively well preserved, and one of the better maintained archaeological sites we visited – no jumping over ancient columns here!
Olympos is famous as a necropolis, and the surrounding hillside is dotted with crypts carved into the rock. It has a pretty little river running through the middle of the city, and we really should have allowed for more time there than just an evening stroll. However, we did get to see a pretty stunning moonrise one day before the October Harvest Moon, so that was worth it.
It’s possible that its a failing of my American education, or perhaps I just wasn’t paying close enough attention in high school or university, but Turkey, not Greece, is the home of much of Odysseus’ journey through the wonders and horrors of the ancient world. We also drove through Troy, and Turkey is also the home of ancient biblical cities such as Ephesus.
I know that Turkey as we now know it wasn’t formed until after WWI, and that it’s been occupied, conquered and enriched by more than it’s share of ancient crusaders. It’s position among still important shipping routes, and it’s served as the geographical and ideological link between East and West for thousands of years, and it continues today.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at each new secret that Turkey has revealed to us about her deep, rich history, friendly and welcoming people, and beautiful landscapes.
Turkey so far has been absolutely brilliant, and 9 days is nowhere near enough to do it justice. We could easily have spent two months here just hitting the highlights, and if you go, I’d recommend brushing up on your Homer before you do!
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