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The International Writers Magazine :Turkey

The Drive to Olympos
Sean Hastings
"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen" - Benjamin Disraeli

As I sit to write about the next phase in this journey of solitary abandonment, I find myself in the sleepy seaside town of Fethiye. The situation is thus that tomorrow I must yield to the pressure of depleted budgets and depart this country for more financially fertile climes. Due to my non existent work permit, finding work in Turkey is extremely difficult. The best offer you can find, and to some it is the perfect 'free' holiday, is that you don't get paid but your employer will pay for your accommodation and some living expenses.

Luckily, the EU and my British passport are best friends so it's off to Greece for an unplanned vacation in my vacation. But enough of my woes. Let me tell you about the days that have gone by after leaving the Martian landscape of Cappadocia.

As my reflection found itself occasionally stabbed by the lights of a passing car also winding it's way across the vast and desolate tundra of Central Turkey, I settled into a thirteen hour bus ride comforted by the assuasive sounds of Janis Joplin. A strange feeling it is, to have a balance of rousing revelation stemming from a new destination upon the horizon and the lugubriousness of leaving well met individuals with whom a common ground was forged through the barriers of language and culture.

The ordinal destination was Olympos for no other reason besides that the name had been mentioned repeatedly in many circles since arriving in Turkey. I discovered a town where tourism has flourished to what I personally deem uncomfortable proportions. My journey so far has been a blissful saunter through my own emotions, teachings on how life is approached and an eye catching wonderland in which all dreams have the possibility to come true. When you suddenly find yourself submerged in the contradiction of ancient civilizations, ruins, sunsets of unequivocal beauty and the hoards of prepaid, group package holiday teenagers, who are either chanting away the hours during the daily ritual of drinking games or glued to the idiot box for their hit of electronic heroin, you tend to find it's quite a shock to the system. I was blessed, however, to acquire a small bungalow at the very back of one of the hostels where only the echo of chanting was deemed respectably audible.

The drive into Olympos is spectacular if you can ignore the unprotected ravine that the minibus driver is hurtling past whilst on the phone. The rock strata here is poignantly marked with the remnants of ancient civilizations. Ruined churches that have their roots in the second century and can be found for hundreds of kilometers up the coast had a tendency to put you in a retrospective mood. To imagine the power behind a civilization which managed outposts in such a dramatic and distant demesne keeps one in the clutches of awe. Unfortunately, even in these settings, Olympos held very little in the way of inspiration for me to be honest. I'd like to lay blame on the hordes mentioned earlier but that would be unfair. Everyone has their own journeys to adhere to and the steps you take on those paths are for the individual to decide upon. It had to be experienced though, as all things in life need the balance of good and bad, but the expanse of the Mediterranean leading into the Aegean Sea lay at my feet... I made a rather hasty departure and set my sights in search of whatever I may find.

I've always believed that to make set plans and rigorously stick to them, belittles the opportunities that may present themselves, whereas leaving yourself open to fate, rewards the individual with every emotion available to the human heart. It was with the latter in mind that I arrived in a small tourist village built for the British called Oludeniz. Leaving myself in the hands of fate in finding accommodation, I made my way to the nearest Internet cafe where I was greeted by Danny John-Jules' double (Red Dwarf – 'The Cat'). Intergalactic smile and all! I soon discovered that Oludeniz is for the 'well to do' tourist. Only hotels sprout from this vacationist fertilized ground. The universe has funny ways, however, of rewarding those who hold faith and keep their hearts open. 'The Cat' as it turned out, had a contact on one of the tour boats through friends of friends and cousins many times removed. I spent a few day sleeping under the stars, indulging in bad bottles of red and being rocked to sleep by the motion of the ocean.

My morning here were bliss. Leaping into the sunrise for my morning swim brings a new meaning to how a day should be started. On one occasion I was able to join the tour which take you on a discovery of the secluded coves, one of the most picturesque being Butterfly Valley. According to the brochure, it is the only place in Turkey where you can watch the sun set directly into the water without land being in the way. Alas, we didn't spend enough time here for me to indulge in such sights but I was able to walk this valley of butterflies to its conclusion where I found a waterfall which I promptly decided to climb. About half way up it crossed my mind that, surely my insurance company wouldn't have a clause that covered stupidity...

As I said earlier, I now find myself in Fethiye, catching up with friends from home, making new friends and indulging in the fantasy of owning my own Turkish Gullet, the luxury wooden boats that island hop up and down the coast. Fethiye is predominantly a port town with one of the larger marinas in Turkey. It's not an easy thing to turn your back to the sight and smell of the sea but there are rewards to be found for the curious. A short minibus ride into the hills bring you to the ghost town of Kayakoy. Once a prosperous Greek village with a population of around 24,000 inhabitants, now a void of vanished people. It was in 1923 when, through the governments mandated population exchange with Greece, that this village was deserted. It is an eerie silence that is now the sole inhabitant in this place where the dead keep their own small metropolis.

From Kayakoy, the legendary Lycian Way starts. There was more chance of a touch of frost on Satan's' toes than me walking the 500km of breathtaking beauty but along the way you can find secluded coves that are only reachable by boat or foot. I found my very own about 5km down the way where I bared my gluteus maximus to the Mediterranean sun. The thing was that when you are in such a seemingly remote region, the last thing you expect is to be interrupted by a random individual selling ice creams from a dingy! It is a reminder that there are few places left in the world untouched by the footsteps of man.

There are two things that I find myself questioning when I think about my time in Turkey. Actually, there are many but I'd like to bring these two to the fore: firstly, I curiously noticed in my travels in Turkey that there is an abundance of half finished buildings. Skeletons of abodes that could have been where the slow cataclysm of neglect relishes with stately abandon. Turkey has been described as "a country with God-given advantages and serious man made problems." In the past, it has experienced some economically traumatic years and it's my guess that these crumbling abodes are the relics of these testing times. The second is that in most towns I visited and Fethiye in particular, there are very few if any rubbish bins. At first I thought that maybe it was due to the fact that Turkey in a lot of ways still has a third world infrastructure, however, I soon found out that back in the 90's there was a spate of bombings where the humble rubbish bin was used as a vessel of disguise. Is every corner of the world occupied with people so filled with hatred that they must vindicate themselves against perceived wrongs, even if those wrongs were no more than an honest defense against their own encroaching evils? I sometimes find myself loosing faith in humanity, but then I meet individuals who restore that faith.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Mehmet for his wealth of knowledge and couch. A true gentleman. Also, thanks be to the crew from the 'Gift Shop' whose gifts went beyond the material and the boys and girls from Deep Blue Bar for their rock and roll, hangovers and laughs.

So, with fond memories I take leave of Turkey, but only for the briefest of times. Mark my words, I will be back and back with vengeance for there is a wealth of knowledge and experience yet to be gleamed from this country of the star and crescent moon.

© Sean Hastings - 9 August 2008

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