Archive for June, 2016
From Marmaris it’s just a short ferry crossing to Rhodes, another place that was on our bucket list. So it was easy to add a week there to our Turkey trip.
We’d booked to stay four nights in Rhodes Town, giving us three days to explore. We spent the first day in the medieval city, which was for some 200 years controlled by the Knights of the Order of St John. We strolled down the Street of the Knights, where there were different inns for each langue; they were grouped according to the country they came from, and the language they spoke, but all owed allegiance to the Grand Master. We visited the Palace of the Grand Masters, though this has been controversially restored – or rebuilt, some would say.
We enjoyed strolling round the narrow streets of the old city, with their many arches supporting the buildings. It was however crowded with tourists, and many streets were full of cafés and souvenir shops – it was good to find quieter areas away from the constant hassle. (The only problem here is that you assume it’s pedestrianised, and then a car suddenly appears, and you have to flatten yourself against the wall to allow it to get past.) We walked round the dry moat, and admired some of the gates in the extensive city walls. In the early evening the sunlight on the stone buildings was attractive. We climbed up the clock tower, and got some good views.
Next day we focused on the new town, where our hotel was situated. We walked round the northern tip of the island; there were rows and rows of loungers on the beach, but the sand was not appealing and we were not tempted. We saw the Italian forum and the Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation with some impressive 20th century frescoes. We walked along the jetty to the St Nicholas Fort, passing the three windmills to get the classic view of Mandraki Harbour. Then it was back into the old town to visit the archaeological museum.
As we’d exhausted the delights of Rhodes Town, we decided to do a day trip to Symi, a nearby island. The boats make two stops. First for us was Panormitis Monastery, at the southern tip of the island. There was nothing much of interest for us except the ornate bell tower. So we were glad it was our first stop, otherwise it would have been a real anti-climax.
Because the other stop – at Gialos, the main port of Symi – was wonderful. The harbour is so picturesque, with pastel coloured houses on the hillsides all around. We walked up the stone steps (350+!) that lead to the castle, and up another path to a church on the other side of the harbour. Amazing views – we could not stop taking photos.
On to Lindos
Next day we picked up a rental car, and set off to explore the rest of Rhodes island. We drove across the island, stopping en route to visit the Filerimos Monastery. After reaching the east coast, we drove south and then up to the Tsampika Monastery. Even from the top car park, you have to walk up 300 steps to the monastery, which is tiny, just a small chapel, but with great views. Afterwards we relaxed on Tsampika Beach below.
Then it was on to Lindos, where we’d booked accommodation for the next two nights. This was on a hill, with a great view of the Acropolis on the hill opposite. To get there you had to walk down a steep path into the village, and then up again – but the village itself was very picturesque (all whitewashed houses) and lively in the evenings, with restaurants mainly on roof terraces.
Next morning we were able to get to the Acropolis early, before the tour parties arrived. We also walked to St Paul’s Bay nearby – more great views! In the afternoon we did a loop westwards into the interior. We stopped first at Tharri Monastery, where there are good frescoes in the church, but photos are not allowed. On to Asklipiou, where we looked in the church (more frescoes!) and walked up to the castle ruins. Stopped at a beach on the way back, though it was not great – shingle rather than sand.
South and west
On Monday we drove round the south of the island, but found little of interest. We detoured down to Prasonisi Beach, the most southerly point. There is a sandspit which is apparently covered by the sea in the winter: this makes an interesting view, but could explain the tons of rubbish littering the beach! Later we looked at two other beaches, but they were both frankly horrible and we were not tempted to stay. We did however visit two ruined castles, both picturesquely situated and giving us great views of the west coast.
Ian had struggled to find suitable accommodation on the west coast; we prefer to be in the centre of towns, but there are none on the island apart from Rhodes Town and Lindos. He’d settled for a hotel which we thought was in a village, but it turned out to be in the middle of nowhere, so we had to drive out to get dinner. That night we ate in the village taverna, where the food was good, cheap and plentiful. There was too much even for Ian, but he had seven cats to help him out with the fish.
Tuesday was our last full day on Rhodes. As if to prepare us for home, the weather – hot and sunny until then – went pear-shaped. There was a thunderstorm in the night, and more rain at breakfast. After that it was fine but cloudy, with gale-force winds. We went first to the ruins of Ancient Kamiros, one of the major archaeological sites on Rhodes. The site is unusual, as it comprises mainly houses rather than public buildings, but the wind was so strong, it was difficult to move around.
Next we drove up into the hills – a steep, winding and frankly scary road. Eventually we reached the village of Profitis Ilias. The plan was to do a walk from there, but the wind was so strong, we had to give up. However, we looked at Mussolini’s villa, now derelict and vandalised. Our final stop was at the so-called Valley of the Butterflies (actually, they are moths, and there are very few of them). It is a pleasant walk through a landscaped valley, and on that day it was the ideal place, as we were sheltered from the awful wind.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a wine-tasting place. We sampled five varieties, and liked them all, but decided we could really squeeze only one bottle in our case!
After abandoning the Lycian Way walk, we continued our journey west, with a few more stops on the way.
Patara and Tlos
The next place we’d planned to visit was Patara. This is the birthplace of St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra/Santa Claus. It now boasts one of the longest stretches of white sand beach in the Mediterranean, and there are significant remains of the ancient city near the beach. The accommodation, however, is in the village of Gelemis, two kilometres inland. We’d booked a room, and arrived about noon, so we had time to walk to the beach, stopping to visit the ruins of ancient Patara on the way there (and on the way back).
This was all good, BUT we were not impressed with our ‘hotel’, or with the village where it was based. We’d booked for two nights, but decided one was enough – we were not sure what we’d do the next day! – so decided to press on. We’d planned to visit ancient Tlos on the intervening day, but were not keen to return to Patara. So we struck a deal with a local man who arranged transport: he (or his son, as it turned out) would drive us up to Tlos, wait for us there and then take us to our hotel in Fethiye, our next stop. This worked well. Although by this stage we’d visited many ruined cities, the dramatic location of Tlos made it well worth the detour. The tombs cut into the rock are amazing.
Fethiye and around
Fethiye was a late addition to our itinerary. As we’d cut a day off our Lycian Way walk, and a day off our stay in Patara, we had two days spare, and decided that Fethiye sounded an interesting place. We were right, and really enjoyed the time we spent there.
Fethiye has a beautiful picturesque harbour, and our hotel was ideally located close by. On our first afternoon there we walked around the harbour, and visited the small but interesting museum. There are yet more rock tombs on the edge of the town, and we climbed up to see the most famous, the Amyntas tomb. In the evening we took a sunset cruise. Although there are plenty of boats in the harbour, many advertising sunset cruises, some were not running (because of lack of passengers) and others did not suit our needs. So we ended up with a small boat all to ourselves, and watched a beautiful peaceful sunset out on the water.
On our full day in Fethiye, we ventured outside the town itself. We took a bus to Kaya Koyu, the so-called ‘ghost village’. Back in 1923 the Greek Orthodox Christian inhabitants were forced to move to Greece, in the compulsory exchange of populations that we’d learned about in Cappadocia. The Macedonian Muslims sent to Kaya Koyu decided the land was too poor and moved elsewhere, so the village was abandoned and has an attractive if somewhat eerie atmosphere.
From Kaya Koyu we followed a path suggested in our guidebook, down to the village of Oludeniz, Turkey’s most photographed beach. The path was difficult in places, but gave us great views of the coast. All round the beautiful blue lagoon, there are private beach clubs where you can eat, drink and hire sun loungers. We did just that, relaxing for a couple of hours before walking on to Oludeniz village itself. The beach there was disappointing, in our view. But Oludeniz is one of the top spots in the world for paragliding, and Sandie could not resist the opportunity to take her third ever tandem flight. This was the highest she’s done (starting from 6,500 ft) and the longest (30 mins in the air), yet it was also by far the cheapest. And for her it was wonderful – even if Ian thinks she’s crazy!
On Tuesday 7th June we had to leave Fethiye and go by bus to Marmaris, to catch our pre-booked ferry to Rhodes. Since we had plenty of time, we decided to take a walk up to the ruins of Fethiye castle (the one place of interest we’d not already visited) before setting off. We had a pleasant stroll and got some good views over the town, but did not quite make it up to the castle itself, as the path was so difficult and dangerous.
On to Marmaris
One thing that struck us forcibly in and around Fethiye was the prevalence of English. During our previous month in Turkey, we’d heard little if any English spoken. Prices might be quoted in euros, and if we were lucky we might get a menu in English, but that was it – no English-speaking tourists, apart from a few Australians here and there. So it was something of a culture shock to arrive in Fethiye and find lots of British tourists, with tastes and prices geared to their needs. It took us a while to realise that prices were being quoted in pounds rather than euros. Not only were there things like ‘full English breakfast’ on offer, but there were supermarkets obviously designed to make Brits feel at home, without infringing any laws. On our way to Kaya Koyu, we spotted examples of Azda, Saintsbury’s and Morrissons (sic).
It was much the same in Marmaris, when we arrived there. As we had our luggage with us, we had lunch in a harbour café, and then took it in turns to have a brief look around the town. Then it was time to head for the ferry; our five weeks in Turkey had come to an end.
Our Turkey trip was to include two self-guided walking holidays: Cappadocia and the Lycian Way. Cappadocia had offered spectacular scenery and mostly good walking, although there were some difficult parts. We expected the Lycian Way to offer great coastal scenery and easier walking, since it follows a long-established footpath. How wrong we were!
Tuesday 31 May
We were collected from our Antalya hotel and driven about 50 miles to the start of our first day’s walk. This was meant to be only 5 kilometres, no distance at all. However, it proved to be a very difficult walk. In fact, there was very little walking involved – it was mainly scrambling over rocks, uphill and then (even more difficult) down the other side. We are not good at rock climbing, so did not enjoy it much! Moreover, the walk was mainly through forests, with no sight of the coast. So we were very relieved when we reached the Flames of Chimera, and the ruined church, which meant we were almost at the end of our walk. The final stretch was easier, and we found the car waiting to take us to our hotel.
That night we seriously debated whether to abandon the whole walk, but were reluctant to do so (apart from having paid in advance, we didn’t want to admit defeat!). So we decided to at least try the next day’s path, and see how we got on.
Wednesday 1 June
We were driven to the beach, from which we could easily reach the entrance to the ruins of the city of Olympos. Yet another ruined city! Like Termessos, this has not been restored, but is differently situated on the banks of a small river. After exploring, we needed to find the Lycian Way footpath to start our walk. This proved to be quite a challenge, but eventually we decided that a particular footpath (not very well signed) had to be the right one, simply because there was no alternative.
Again, this involved clambering over rocks – not easy, but doable, until we were confronted by a solid rock wall, about 2 metres high. Climbing over it would have been difficult, to say the least. But Ian managed to look over it, and could see no clear path ahead. At this point we decided to give up!
We phoned the travel agency to report, and arranged an alternative plan. There is a cable car up Mt Olympos, but no time for it in the official walk itinerary. A driver came and collected us, and took us to the cable car. We went to the top, and enjoyed the fantastic views, although it was rather hazy that day. Then we were driven to the next hotel, at a little seaside village called Adrasan.
Thursday 2 June
Today’s walk, per the official itinerary, was round a peninsula, passing the Gelidonya Lighthouse at the tip. It was the longest and most strenuous walk of our tour. We did not like the sound of it, and the guide who plans the walks felt it would be too challenging for us. However, we found a happy compromise.
The official walk went out on the east side of the peninsula, and back on the west, which seemed a much easier path. So we arranged to be dropped at the end point, and did a return trip along the west side, to the lighthouse and back. To begin with, we followed a dirt road, which later became suitable only for 4WD vehicles – not that there were many around – but was easy walking. After 6 km we took a footpath up towards the lighthouse, which was easy to begin with, later steep and stony, but always walkable – no need for scrambling over rocks! The lighthouse itself was not the most attractive we’ve seen, but there were good coastal views along the way, although blocked by trees for much of the time.
Friday 3 June
We were driven first to the city of Demre, site of ancient Myra, which we were given the opportunity to visit. It was quite a long drive – well over an hour – so we were able to see the countryside, which varied from flat and boring to mountainous, with the road following narrow ledges along the sides. But what we saw most was greenhouses – many, many huge greenhouses packed with tomatoes. What do they do with them all? Some of them, we know, are given to tourists, since we had tomatoes every day (no kidding) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Myra is famous because its fourth century bishop later became St Nicholas = Santa Claus = Father Christmas. His church is in the centre of Demre, but we did not get a chance to visit. The Myra remains are however impressive – yet another theatre, well preserved, and some amazing tombs cut into the rocky hillside.
A few miles beyond Demre we were dropped to begin our walk. The first part was interesting – passing the ruins of yet another city (Istlada) – but not terribly easy, as the path was extremely rocky. We descended to a small bay where we had our picnic lunch; soon after we came to a bar with comfortable seats and a tempting list of drinks – perfect for thirsty walkers – but there was nobody to serve us. Later we detoured up another rocky path to see the medieval fortress of Simena, and here we were fortunately able to get drinks.
Three kilometres further we reached the village of Ucagiz, our base for the night, and theoretically the night after as well. But although we’d coped with the day’s walking, we hadn’t really enjoyed it much, so there was little point in doing another (reportedly similar) walk the next day. So we decided to bid farewell to the Lycian Way, and move on.