Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Magical Mystical Olympos and the Eternal Flames of the Legendary Chimera

Posted by Melissa

October 8 - 9, 2010
After sailing on a small boat with about 17 people for 4 nights, we were ready for a little more privacy and space. Olympos was the PERFECT hidden gem for us! This idyllic village began life as a hippy hideaway with little tree houses tucked into a forested valley. It's matured a bit, of course, but retains the same, laid back, alternative, hippy vibe. Our shoulder season visit was perfect! Crisp weather and no crowds.

Check out "main street" Olympos. Well, really, it's the only road and it appears it is only passable in decent weather as it crosses a significant wash area in the middle of the village.  The term "village" is used loosely, as the area includes only some treehouse and bungalow pensions, a few cafes, and a couple of very small stores.

The accommodations in the valley are all generally pretty rustic with significant variations in the level of partying.  Some are laid back and quiet, while others have loud blaring music and cater to the late night party crowd.  After reading reviews we decide to stay at Saban Treehouses in a little bungalow.  It sounded like it was one of the quieter establishments, perfect for a couple of peaceful days of hiking and exploring.  Although the treehouses were cute, they were only semi enclosed and the nights were just a bit too cool for that. Our little bungalow also has it's own bathroom which is worth the upgrade to us.

Our expenses here are some of the lowest of our trip so far.  We paid 80 Turkish Lira (about $68 US) for a private cabin with heat/ac, bath, breakfast and an absolutely wonderful dinner prepared each night by the very talented and gracious manager, Meral.  The same delicious meals are available with a treehouse stay for 60 TL, or in a small dorm for 25 TL per person.  Breakfast and dinner are served on the covered patio, in raised Turkish style cushioned platforms, or tables under the trees. 

The valley itself is beautiful and reminds me of a small Yosemite, with tall trees, big boulders, steep rocky walls, and FEWER tourists.  We spotted these climbers across the valley from our cabin.

We explored the "village" a bit, stopping in for an afternoon snack at a little cafe.  Momma prepared fresh gözleme for us while Grandma fed the sweet baby girl.

As we continue our stroll through town, we came upon this little celebration.  We had been hearing drums and music for much of the morning and Meral explained that a local couple was getting married. The celebrations were to continue for two days.  I soooo wanted to join these guys, but it appeared to be a "men only" group so I decided to take a video instead.

Nestled between the treehouse pensions and the Mediterranean sea lie the ruins of the ancient city of Olympos, one of the leading cities of the Lycian federation. What is unique about these ruins is the setting. All of the ruins we've explored in Greece, Egypt, and Turkey until now, were set out in hot, open spaces, devoid of much greenery or wildlife and frequently over run with tour groups. These ruins, conversely are hidden away in a valley, overgrown with wild grapevines, lush fig trees, fragrant bay trees, and flowering oleanders.  The ruins span a quiet freshwater creek and climb up the sides of the valley.  It is so quiet that the only sounds we hear are the birds singing, the breeze through the trees, and the trickle of water flowing through ancient aqueducts.
Roman Bath
With almost no one else in sight, we explore to our hearts content.  At times I feel like Indiana Jones, discovering these magical ruins, some covered in vines, some with their feet now sunk in murky water.  We explore without restrictions, walk through still standing rooms, and peek into ancient tombs (all with holes in them from earlier grave robbers).
Anything still in there Thane?

Crumbling tile mosaic floors
Several times we spot little signs pointing us towards another tomb or building but we soon run out of trail and begin scrambling through the brush. We find many ruins almost completely hidden including this stone structure with it's feet now in dark, murky water.  After 20 minutes or so, we decide we better head back the way we came, it's been too long since we've seen a trail and it's getting a bit late.
Ruins in standing water
We both agree that these are our very FAVORITE ruins - and Olympos is a sweet, relaxing gem.  This stopover makes our Top 10 list of places/experiences in Turkey! 

The next day we set out to explore the rest of the area.  This beach is just beyond the the ruins and again it is very quiet with very few people this time of year.  The water is a bit chilly and we have a hike ahead, so no swimming for us.  We want to see the Chimera and Meral tells us that if we want a bit of a hike, we might enjoy walking along the beach rather than taking the shuttle bus.  Sounds like a good idea, so off we go.
Olympos Beach
We find several small cafes, beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, and
Cafe on Olympos beach
kayaks for rent along the way.
Kayaks on Olympos beach - Mt. Olympos in the background
The hike turned out to be a bit longer than we anticipated (maybe because we took a wrong turn or two), but a stop at a little store along the way for a snack and drink provided us with the stamina to continue. 

After about a 4 mile hike along the beach and another 1/2 mile up the hill we spot several bunches of flames bursting from the ground.  The Chimera are natural gas flames that sprout from the rocky flanks of Mt. Olympos. Centuries ago they were much taller, easily visible by sailors who used them as a landmark. The story of their origins though are not so mundane. This spot is considered to be the very place where, according to Homer's Iliad, the hero Bellerophon battled the mythical Chimera, a fire breathing monster that was terrorizing the local area. The flames that erupt from the flanks of the mountain today are proof that Chimera remains, still dangerous, under the mountain.

A short video of the flames - get your marshmallows ready!

Thanks for traveling with us! 

Up next: Settling in to our new, temporary home town and our sweet little apartment in Kaş.

1 comment:

Kathi and Bob said...

Thanks for your wonderful pics and commentary. What an amazing time for you both. Take care as your travels continue.