"Cruising the Lycian Shore" is our first cruise in Turkey since October 2019, On this occasion, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a kind of travel diary. Every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
I am writing as happy guests are once again admiring the moon and contemplating a very happy day.
We left our cove on Lycia's east coast, and cruised a short distance southwards to the coast of ancient Olympos, where a sandy beach is overlooked by stupendous cliffs, the opening of a gorge and - at second look - various ruins teetering on steep rocks. Our guests were fascinated with some of those and explored them, along with two sea caves, by kayak, swimming or zodiac. What they saw and found exciting were the outskirts of the region's most unusual ancient city: Olympos.
We went ashore in the afternoon to see the place. Unlike most ancient settlements here, which tend to be set on hills, slopes or in plains, Olympos is strung out along both sides of a mountain stream running through a narrow valley, in places a gorge.
We don't know all that much about ancient Olympos. The name may be derived from a nearby mountain - but this is not to be confused with Mt Olympus, home of the gods, which is in Northern Greece. Lycian Olympos appears to have thrived between the third century BC and the fifth or sixth AD, as indicated by a series of rather monumental graves and sarcophagi and various buildings, among them at least one large Roman temple, a theatre, and numerous early Byzantine churches. There are quite a lot of additional structures associated with the latter, probably due to the site being the seat of an early bishopric. There was also a rather substantial Roman bridge spanning the river, of which the central support survives (shown in our image). The city must have had its role in coastal trade - and it is reported, at times in piracy!
The antiquities of Olympos are interesting in their own right, but it's the setting that makes them unique. On either side of the river, there is a jungle-like dense thicket of trees, reeds and other plants, interspersed with streams (many of them channelled in antiquity) and pools. Everywhere, ancient architecture, walls of large stones or of bricks, arches and vaults and gateways stick out of the undergrowth, often indicating lost buildings of impressive dimensions. For many of them, we have no idea (yet) of what they were, although a major survey by Turkish archaeologists is helping to clarify the picture and enlighten. The sounds of wind-rustled leaves, of birds and of frogs and the aromas of fresh cold water, of damp and moss, are characteristic of this strange and otherworldy place. It is strange to think that a community existed here for so many generations.
In our normal plan, we would also have visited the nearby natural flame known as the Chimaira (or Chimaera), but this September, access to that site was not possible. We're sure we'll return to it and its mythological tale of the monster whose name it bears on future trips.
Later, we cruised further south for another cove, another place of peace and greenery, near Cape Gelidonya. Tomorrow, we'll retrace our route westwards and find the home of a famous character...