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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Old Kaş

Water-logged Front Yard

Tracing Your Talisman in Kaş

Kaş is one of those towns that is made for relaxing. In itself there are no spectacular sights but it is surrounded by plenty of outdoor delights. We couldn't have picked a better vacation from the vacation. 

Old Kaş


Spicy View
It was another sunny and warm day as we walked towards the old part of Kaş.  We visited a spice shop and saw men playing backgammon.  The restaurant-filled main square has verdant green mountains as a backdrop and a crystal-clear turquoise harbour as its front yard above.  Some hikers, who just finished their trek on the Lycian Way, were relaxing on a bench and enjoying the harbour view. 

Greco-Turkish Separation

Tracing Your Roots
Many of the buildings are white-washed stucco that have a Greek village look.  This is no fluke since most of the population was of Greek ethnicity up until the "separation" in 1923 
Following the Fall of Constantinople (Byzantine Empire) to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, most of Greece came under Ottoman rule.  After a war of independence, Greece became an independent nation in 1832.  During World War I, the western Allies and especially Britain, had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire because they had supported the wrong side, the Germans. The Greeks had seized large parts off the coast.
The Turkish National Movement, led by Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, arose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.  The Greco-Turkish War continued until the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne recognized the independence of the Republic of Turkey and its sovereignty over Asia Minor, Istanbul and Eastern Thrace.  Ataturk became the first president.  The Greek and Turkish governments agreed to a population exchange.   At that point most of the Greek residents left for Greece. 

Ottoman Kaş

Ottoman Kaş

Old Kaş is really a very small area to the east of the main square.  One pedestrian-only street, in particular, is lined with Ottoman-style buildings with wooden balconies and windows overhanging the cobblestone road.   

Way before being a Greek city, this was an old Lycian town and there are some Lycian Tombs right on the streets of the old city, especially the King's Tomb (4th century BC) at the top of this street. I think it is named Doğru Yol Sokak.  

Is one Evil Eye talisman not enough?

 Evil Eye Talisman (Nazar) 

Suddenly we see a white-walled house with a dark blue door with evil eye symbols in the doorway. Then we see they also put them in the street.  The evil eye trinkets are so popular with tourists you will see them for sale everywhere.  My sister, who visited Turkey a year ago, even asked me to bring back some more for her.  So where does this symbol come from? 
No Digging for Blue Eyes!
This is even a more ancient custom than Saturnalia-ChristmasIt appears in the Old Testament and originated in the early days of Jewish, Arabic and Persian cultures when people believed that someone could cast a malevolent look and cause you, or especially your children, bodily harm.  From these areas, nazar spread to Turkey, Europe, and India.  So when you buy one of these you are getting a talisman to ward off the evil eye, to protect you from jealous or envious people.
Old Kaş
So why is the eye green or, in Turkey, mainly blue?  Light coloured eyes are rare in the Middle East. And blue-eyed Northerners are more likely to transgress local customs against staring or praising the beauty of children. 
Ataturk's Square
A few people we met gave us a talisman, which was more special than buying one.  I hung one of them on the rear view mirror of our car.  It seemed like an appropriate place needing protection.  To "give one an evil eye" is a common expression in English with the same origin. 

Last Post:  Kaş Perfect Hideaway
Next Post: Kaş and Kekova

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Kaş Perfect Hideaway

Kaş - a Vacation from the Vacation

Kaş (pronounced cash) is a delightful, small town that we used as a base as well as chance to stay put for a few days, a vacation from the vacation.  There are many outdoors activities, Lycian Way Trail, boat tours and sightseeing to do within a short trip from Kaş.  

Turquoise Coast near Kaş

Shimmering Sea, Kalkan
From Patara the road heads inland and rejoins the coast at the resort of Kalkan and continues providing nice views the rest of the way to Kaş.  As usual the main highways are excellent in Turkey: the only problem is the lack of pullovers when you want to take photos. 

Captivating Kaputaş Beach
Definitely stop at the famous Kaputaş Beach.  Kaputaş (pronounced Ca-pu-tash) is another beautiful gem of the Turquoise Coast. However it is a narrow, cozy beach in a cove so it ranks behind Patara and Iztuzu Beach.

There were only two people here – ourselves – enjoying the gorgeous colours on a warm, sunny day. Supposedly, it is not that busy even during the season. The road is on a ledge above on the mountain side so there is very limited parking and a long set of stairs down to the beach. You can take a dolmuş or a taxi from Kaş.  

Kaş Cascading to the Sea

About 20 km (20 minutes) after Kaputaş Beach, we exit the main highway and get our first views of Kaş flowing down the coastal mountains to the harbour. 
Kaş Calling to You

 There is a nice little hillside park on the road heading down to the harbour where we stopped for a view. 

Ahmet, Hideaway Hotel, Kas
Ahmet, Hideaway Hotel

Hideaway Hotel, Kaş

Currently ranked the fourth best hotel in Kaş, we loved the Hideaway Hotel.  As we stated on our Trip Planning page, we prefer to stay at smaller family-run hotels and pensions. Unfortunately, we never met Marie and the children as they were away in Belgium. However, we had a great time talking with the owner, Ahmet, about many different topics.  At the end of the day we would meet Ahmet in the "living room" on the top floor next to the terrace.  

Kaş Cascade from Hideaway Hotel
Kaş Cascade from Hideaway Hotel
The terrace provides a view to go with your breakfast and the delicious cappuccino.  It is a great place to meet people, such as the young couple from Istanbul who came here just for a weekend to do some scuba diving.  In fact, Kaş is one of the top spots for scuba diving in Turkey. 

We had a very good room with views towards the sea through windows on two sides of the room.  The Hideaway Hotel is one of the best places we stayed at in Turkey so we highly recommend it for your perfect hideaway.

Last Post: Patara and Saturnalia: What does Patara have to do with Saturn? 

Next Post: Old Kaş

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Patara and Saturnalia

What does Patara have to do with Saturn? 

Nothing... and everything!  The little village of Patara had a major impact on many of today's democracies.  But Patara has had another major impact. What is Patara's link to a festival in honour of the Roman god Saturn, after whom we have named a day of the week (Saturday), a planet and a car.

Patara's Most Famous Citizen

Patara had one famous citizen that everyone knows. Born on 15 March 270 CE, several legends abound about his charity ‒ but who knows which are true. Perhaps the most well-known was his anonymously helping a man who did not have a dowry to marry his three daughters. In those days if you did not have a dowry, they would not have married but would have become prostitutes. 
Knowing the father would not accept charity, he left a bag of gold in the man's house for each daughter as they came of age.  To avoid being found out he dropped the second and third packages down the chimney.  One variant said the bag fell into shoes ‒ or was it stockings being hung to dry?
He became bishop of the city of Myra (called Demre today). He helped convene the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, which formulated the New Testament, and later was made a saint.  Patara was the birthplace of Saint Nicolas. Our present day name comes from Sinterklaas, Dutch for Saint Nicolas.  He is known to us as Santa Claus.  So Santa Claus has a Turkish origin ‒ wow!  


Harvest Festival
In fact, Christmas is not Christian in origin.  The Roman festival of Saturnalia celebrated the harvest and the end of ever shorter days, the winter solstice.  Saturn was the god of agriculture and wealth.  The Temple of Saturn in Rome was the treasury of the Roman Empire ‒ food was wealth in ancient times. 
Saturn (or Cronus in Ancient Greek) was the god of agriculture.  One of his main symbols is the sickle of Father Time, which is not only an agricultural tool but a remnant of Cronus, which means time.  That is because delineating the seasons (time) is very important to agriculture. 

Saturnalia consisted of gift-giving, partying, drinking, and singing in the streets.  Romans even served supper to their slaves and gave them gifts. Homes were decorated with wreaths and greenery.  It was a Festival of Lights except that candles were used.  People spent weeks preparing and buying for Saturnalia.  Sound familiar?  Conspicuous consumption is not a modern invention. 

This festival was so popular it grew from one day to one week, taking in the winter solstice on December 24th (after the calendar was adjusted) and ending with Sol Invictus on December 25th.   As this was the beginning of longer days it is apropos to think of this as the re-birth of the sun god, Apollo, whose influence we have already seen in the Didyma and the God Apollo post.
Nativity Scene, Santa Maria d'Aracoeli, Rome

In the year 375 CE, Pope Julius I declared the birth of Jesus as December 25th.  Was this done to align it with the birthday of Apollo? Perhaps, but it is more likely to align it with the most powerful alternative religion, Mithraism.  

Saturnalia was just too popular to stop. It was easier to convince pagans to convert to Christianity by recasting Saturnalia as Christmas. This policy of cultural assimilation is reinforced by how many pagan temples became churches.  The Vatican itself was built on the ruins of a Mithraic Temple.  Why not build churches somewhere else?

Thotsakan, the Green Giant, Wat Arun
If you are still skeptical, just look at how often this happens around the world.  Look at how the Buddhists incorporated spirits and superstitions in Thailand and Burma.  So demons like Thotsakan in the photo of Wat Arun (Bangkok) became defenders of Budhha.  He is the King of the Demons from the epic Hindu story, the Ramayana.  Buddhism included major aspects of Hinduism into their religion.  This was a strategy for converting people to their faith.  It is very common to all human culture.

Pantheon, Temple of All the Gods
In order to convert the pagans, the early Christians in the Roman Empire took over many pagan customs, festivals and temples.  They reinterpreted these customs so they became a vital part of Christianity Thus the people could continue the festival of Saturnalia that they loved so much, which became Christmas.    
The pagan mother goddess became Mary.  The most famous and still in use building of Ancient Rome, the Pantheon, or Temple of All the Gods, became the church of St. Mary, Mother of God.  An ancient festival of the dead became Halloween.  All Popes use the title Pontifex Maximus, the title of the chief priest of the Ancient Roman religion. 

The Pantheon was also the first use of concrete in the world!!! 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Patara Turkey

Is Patara a Must-see?

Patara Beach and Ruins | Turkey | Terra Encounters for in-depth travel advice
Sand Dune "City"
Patara is a popular stop on the Lycian Way hiking trail. More like a village than a town, it is not the spot for night clubbing. It is also off the main highway and remote from other towns if you do not have a car. So is it a must-see? That would be a resounding yes.

The Patara Beach has wide open spaces with 15 km of soft sand dune beach. As described in Turquoise Coast Gems, Patara Beach is probably the best beach in Turkey. You can only reach the beach by walking through the Patara Archaeological Park, which prevents any commercial development. The park offers a weekly pass if you are staying here to enjoy the world-class beach, which was voted top beach of the world in 2005. 

Patara Archaeological Park

Patara Park
Most of the time we keep leftovers from breakfast for lunch but alas there were no takeaways today. Unfortunately, sometimes we get hungry! And here we were going to the Patara ruins around noon. There were no open restaurants to be seen - it is low season: places open in April.

In March it was sunny with temperatures around the low 20's °C, so it's very comfortable. But in the summer it will be very hot and there's very little shade. During the high season it is best to go to the ruins in early morning or late afternoon. Patara ruins are well worth visiting. In fact, these ruins were until recently covered with sand from the beach. 

The Arch of Modestus

Arch de Triomphe Patara Style
The Arch of Modestus is a typical Roman triumphal arch but sorry, you no longer march through it on your way to conquer the beach. It was built during the reign of the Emperor Trajan around 100 CE to honour the first Roman governor of Lycia. Lycia was fiercely independent and was the last region on the entire Mediterranean coast to be incorporated as a province of Rome and even then the Lycian Union continued to function independently. 

By the way, the Arch of Modestus was not the entrance to the city nor was there a road through the arch. So it is not a gate but actually was part of an aqueduct that carried water to the second largest city of Asia Minor after Ephesus.  

Patara's Main Avenue

Road to the Sea
At 12.6 m wide, the Main Avenue was not only one of the largest in ancient Anatolia (see description of Anatolia in the Dalyan post), it was decorated with a colonnade. The feeling of grandeur has been resurrected with the restoration of the columns on each side of the ancient Roman paving stones.


Assembly of the Lycian League
Previously hidden by sand dunes, the pièce de résistance is the Bouleuterion. It looks like a brand new theatre but it dates from first century BC! Because of its importance, it has been restored and you can go inside. It was the meeting place for the Assembly of the Lycian League. Like the Ancient Greeks, the Lycians lived in a series of city-states in the area of the Lycian Way. Unlike the Ancient Greeks, the Lycians cooperated through a federated government.   

Patara's Impact on the World

The "Brand New" 2500 Year Old Parliament
However, the Bouleuterion is not just a pretty building. Patara has had a major impact on the whole world. By the "world", I don't mean that the chambers of the American Congress place rows in a semicircle just like the stone seats in the Bouleuterion. 
Montesquieu (1689 – 1755) was a philosopher famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. He was also highly regarded in the British colonies in North America. Montesquieu had a powerful influence on many of the American founders, especially Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, who discussed ancient Lycia as a model for the United States in their letters called The Federalist Papers. Some of the influences used by the USA and other countries are government by elected representatives, representation in proportion to size (population) of each member state, and strong national government. 
The Lycian League had 23 city-states as members. Large city-states like Patara had three representatives, mid-sized cities had two and small cities had one. Montesquieu described it as the best As well as first example of European democracy. In other words, the Bouleuterion is the parliament building where the elected representatives of the Lycian League met. 
We discussed the Lycians in the Dalyan and the Lycian Tombs post.  Their influence is now even more significant as not only one of the founding fathers of the European peoples but also democracy. 
Last  Post: Turquoise Coast Gems
Next Post: The Festival of Saturnalia - Patara's Other Major Impact 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Turquoise Coast

Is the Turquoise Coast a Real Gem?

Is the Turquoise Coast a real gem? Yes, as long as Turkey prevents over-development and over-commercialization. The Turquoise Coast has golden beaches, turquoise waters, ancient ruins, and hospitable guest houses. Even if you have other priorities, travelling along at least part of the coast should be included in your Recommended Turkey Itinerary.

Turkey: Island-studded Bays
Island-studded Bays
 It is day 14 of our big trip and we finally make it to the southern Turquoise Coast but only parts of the road are right along the sea with glorious views – there is something special about island-studded bays. But there are very few pullovers and even when there are, there are no advance warnings. So this makes photography challenging.

The word Turquoise sounds like French, which it is, but it actually means Turkish.   Although the gem came from Central Asia, the Silk trade routes ended in Turkey.  As described under the Ottomans and the Topkapi Palace, the Turks were not from Turkey!  They were a horse riding tribe from Central Asia so they were familiar with the widespread belief that turquoise had the power to protect riders from injury due to falls. 
So it is fascinating that the colour of this coast and the gem turquoise are a major influence of Turkey not only on the west but also on the east.  We saw many priceless Turquoise necklaces worn by women in Ladakh on our trip to India and the Annapurna Circuit Trek in Nepal.  It served not only as a symbol of wealth but as an actual bank account in ancient times.


Turkey Turquoise Treasure
Turquoise Treasure

Ölüdeniz is a beach resort close to the even bigger tourist trap of Fethiye. Is Ölüdeniz worth going to? The water is not as turquoise as the over-saturated pictures on the over-saturated web. In person the turquoise colour of the sea is a faint and narrow band. But this still is a scenic spot. Drive past the town on the road to Babadağ Mountain to get some nice photos but unfortunately that road also takes you further away.  But the view from above brings out the gorgeous true colour of the Turquoise Coast. 

Yes there is not a single soul in my photos. I did not wait five hours to take each photo. It was off season but also the sea is too cold to swim in the spring. For off-season swimming come in the fall. The Mediterranean has warmed up all summer.

Distant View of Oludeniz Peninsula
Distant View of Ölüdeniz Peninsula
The famous turquoise peninsula in the distance below is a national park and the entry fee costs as much as the major archaeological sites – I didn't know it costs so much to maintain a beach. There also is a public beach all along the town with easy access to bars and restaurants.  There were no tourists today but it would be unbearable in the hot summer.

The other reason to come to Ölüdeniz is to use it as a base for the surrounding area. We personally chose to use the more laid back Kaş as our base. Others may prefer an even less commercialized place like Patara. If you want bars and night life or to vacation in cities, then stay in Fethiye or Ölüdeniz.  Chaque à son gout – it all depends on your preferences.

Lycian Way

Snow-capped Coastal Mountains
Snow-capped Coastal Mountains
Ölüdeniz is also the starting point for the Lycian Way, a long distance hiking trail that skirts the mountains along the Turquoise Coast.  Or you could just do parts of the trail as day trips. The first segment of the Lycian Trail leads to a view above the Ölüdeniz beach and Kayaköy, an abandoned Greek village. There are Lycian Tombs all over the region of the Lycian Way, including right in Ölüdeniz. There is a mystical aura around the Lycian Way.
We know so little about the Lycians other than they lived here around 400 BC. But where did the Lycians come from? We actually do know that! The full story is revealed in Dalyan and the Lycian Tombs.


Patara Beach
The Ölüdeniz beach has lots of pebbles and lots of tourists, so what are the alternatives? We have already seen an equally scenic and sandy Iztuzu Beach, Dalyan (Day 13). One of the best beaches along the Turquoise Coast is at Patara with its wide stretch of soft golden sand. This is a world-class beach.  It is protected from development from the ruins of a an important Lycian city, an archaeological park. So if you do not have a car you have to walk to the beach but it is a beautiful and peaceful stroll.  The Lycians also did something quite remarkable that we still do today. But that story must wait for the next post on Patara.