Before leaving our 2 month home base here in Calis, Fethiye, we wanted to take a road trip to see the sites around the area. So we rented a vehicle for 60 Turkish Liras (about $38 US) for the day and filled our tank half full with gas. Ironically it cost us 50 TL for 12.5 L of fuel. Petrol here in Turkey is very expensive, costing approximately $2.50 US per litre.
Our first stop was to see the Tlos Ruins and Lycian Tombs. Tlos is one of the oldest and important cities of ancient Lycia dating back as far as 2000 BC (that is a little over 4000 years ago) and has been inhabited by people of the Lycian, Roman, Greek, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras. In fact, this historical city remained inhabited until the early 19th century. Tlos is also known to be the home of the Greek mythological winged horse Pegasus.
One of the great benefits of travelling during low season is the lack of the tourist crowd. Aside from the grazing cows, sheep, goats and their shepherdess, we were the only tourists there. We found ourselves free to explore and take in the beauty of this antique city in peace, with no sense of feeling hurried or shuttled from one line to the other.
We climbed up the flowered path towards the ruins which sat regally on top of a hill overlooking the fertile Xanthos Valley. From the path we peered into abandoned sarcophagi which pointed us toward the Lycian tombs carved into the side of the rock. We all enjoyed the climb, exhilarated with reaching the top to take in the breathtaking view of the patchwork design of farmland below and majestic snow-capped mountains surrounding the valley. Inside we peeked into each accessible rock tomb and discovered each one to contain very smelly pebble sized animal excrement covering the floor. We decided that bats could possibly be the inhabitants of the rock tombs.
The path led us to the top of the acropolis and we spied a shepherdess and her husband and 2 young children picnicking among the ruins while their sheep and goats grazed. We sat there in awe of the view before we descended down towards the ruins of the public baths, Byzantine church, stadium, and theatre. Susan enjoyed testing out the acoustics by singing and dancing for us while we sat high up in the theatre’s seats. The boys scaled up and down the stone seats while I watched them nervously, trying not to helicopter parent, but instead trust in their physical abilities to avoid tumbling and falling.
On our way back to our vehicle, we stopped to watch 2 women making flat bread using a large convex iron surface on top of an outdoor fire. They gave us some delicious fresh bread to sample, and we returned the kindness by giving their adorable toddler one of our little toys.
From Tlos we headed to the Saklikent Gorge located only 13km away in the Akdaglar Mountains. We walked along the wooden boardwalk into the gorge and listened to the calming sound of cold rushing water. The children played with the mud and threw pebbles in the river while Brian and I watched, breathing in the crisp mountain air.
We stayed only a brief time at the gorge when hunger required us to leave in search of a late lunch, and stopped at an idyllic outdoor restaurant on our way to Patara Beach. Nature Restaurant had colourful cushioned seats and low tables which decorated the banks of a small lively stream with lazy hammocks hanging above the water. The children were so delighted to pet the large dog and feed the beautiful white ducks while we waited for our order of Gozleme, a Turkish pancake similar to crepes. We feasted on shish kebabs, and chocolate and honey gozleme before heading off to the beach.
Arriving at Patara beach around 4:30pm, we stayed for an hour to let the children dig the fine white sand to their heart’s content. Patara is well-known for being the birthplace of St. Nicholas, a Byzantine bishop and saint of the 4th-century who is known by the world as Santa Claus. Behind the 22km of this wide sandy Mediterranean beach lies the Patara ruins famous for its temple of Apollo and was once a major port city which St. Paul and St. Luke once visited. We stayed long enough for the kids to dig their deep holes into the sand and catch the beginning of sunset on the water.
On our way home we caught a sign pointing to Xanthos and Letoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Xanthos was once the capital city of the Lycian Empire and Letoon the grand religious capital. Frolicking among the ruins, we caught the remainder of the sunset as we stood beside a grand roman theatre, feeling chilled with the eeriness of the silent night.
In the darkness we drove home on the smooth curving highway. The children fell fast asleep in the backseat. Quietly, Brian and I discussed our enchantment with Turkey; the country which holds more ancient ruins than Greece and Rome put together. Turkey has been a cradle of several sophisticated ancient civilizations and home to famous historical and biblical figures such as Homer, St Paul, St John, Virgin Mary – Jesus’ Mother, St. Nicholas (Santa Claus), Noah and his Ark.
Although, the kindness and heartwarming beauty of its people is the best gift Turkey has to offer. This country which holds awe-inspiring landscapes of luscious hills, majestic mountains, fertile valleys, and pristine indigo waters and turquoise coasts has rooted itself into our hearts. Turkey has been good to us and we are grateful to have the opportunity to call it home these past two months.