A Tale in Red: An exclusive beach, a ghost village, and the Tomb of Amyntas

It was Thursday; I woke up early and cast my eyes over the news. The Egyptians were protesting at the Mubarak regime for the seventeenth consecutive day. A suicide bomber had attacked a Pakistan Army base. India and Pakistan had agreed to resume the peace talks that were broken off after the 2008 Mumbai attacks…The world was still turning. Outside it was still winter. I was feeling a bit lonely that morning, anxious to return to the road to begin the journey again.

Dalyan was a pleasant place, but I knew there was much more to see, to experience, to understand. Fırat woke up an hour after me; we closed the luggage and went to have breakfast. The bread, çay, honey, fruit, and cheese were appreciated in silence. I had been taking breakfast with him for twenty days, now, and had learned not talk before he had smoked his first cigarette with his second cup of çay. I filled the silence by observing the other guests, looking at the beautiful mountains, or simply planning my day.

On this part of the journey, we were passing through the ancient region of Lycia on the southern coast of Turkey, where, today, there are the provinces of Antalya and Muğla. Dalyan had been the first stop, now we were about to drive to Fethiye. Finished with breakfast, we put our luggage in the car and took to the road. The day was astonishing. Blue cloudless skies, but cold, the temperature was around 9º C, and a bit windy.

The first hour on the road was all about silence and Trance. The CD was one Fırat had burned especially for our trip. After an hour and a half, we entered a village. Not a traditional Turkish village, something more posh, more westernised. Fırat told me the region was known for its British and German residents, and for the rich people from Istanbul. Many houses were their property. Looking for a place to have a çay and smoke a cigarette, we headed to the marina serving the condominium of beautiful houses. Unfortunately, it was winter and everything was closed.

Returning to the road, our next stop was a beach. Not just any beach, it was Ölüdeniz. Entry to the beach is controlled and protected by the Turkish government. To access the beach, you must pay. So we did. Before I left the car, I had to hear Fırat’s sermon about protecting myself from the cold, and taking care not to get my shoes wet. “You could catch a cold!” – Even my mother hadn’t been that concerned about my health! To reach the beach, we walked along a path, the sides lined with puddles. The vegetation wasn’t exuberant, but the bamboo and aquatic plants were still green even in the winter.

Ölüdeniz Beach or the Blue Lagoon was breathtaking. I hadn’t previously seen a beach with sea that blue, even in the Caribbean or in Brazil – the geographical surroundings transformed the blue bay in a sanctuary of peace, beauty, and in winter…solitude. The beach, itself, was very similar to some British ones: covered with white pebbles, which Fırat had a fine time throwing into the water. After enjoying half an hour on the beach, we returned to the car and followed the road to Babadağ mountain to appreciate the village from above. Fırat said that in the summer this was a place from where para-gliders take to the skies.

Our next destination had an unfortunate history involving how war can change lives in a very rough and undesirable way. Kayaköy or Rock Village was an abandoned place, known as a kind of ghost town. The town was known in antiquity as Lebessos and was a Greek-speaking town in the province of Lycia. The Anatolian Greeks continued to inhabit the city until 1922 when they either perished or fled to Greece during the Greco-Turkish war. It is estimated that 900,000 Greeks arrived back in Greece that time. In 1923 the governments of Turkey and Greece signed the “Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations” in Lausanne, Switzerland. This involved the movement around of 2 million people, 1.2 million Greeks living in Asia Minor, Eastern Thrace, Trabzon, the Pontiac Alps and the Caucasus moving to Greece, and 400 thousand Muslims to Turkey. Many of those people lost everything, being de jure denaturalised from their homeland. It was another sad story. Prejudices and war always have a profound impact on the lives of individuals.

We arrived in Kayaköy around lunch time, but before eating anything, we decided to visit the ruins. Walking through the church, and between the abandoned homes, a profound sense of sadness overtook me. I could almost see children playing games in the narrow streets, women washing clothes, or preparing meals, a man opening his business or others working in the fields around the town. It was sad; even so, there was some kind of dark beauty in the abandonment.

Fırat was hungry, and we tried to find a place to get a meal. The only restaurant was closed, but the young woman said she could share with us the leftovers of the lunch she and her sister had. Fırat looked at me, waiting for my approval – that I gave with satisfaction. I was there for this, to open direct connections with the ordinary Turks; people who built the country with their hard work, only valued by the government when it is election time.

Sitting on their traditional Turkish cushions, at a little table covered with some red and white table cloths, we waited while one of the women prepared some rice. She brought us bread, olives, and cheese while we were waiting for the main course. To drink, there was a homemade ayran – a beverage made from yoghurt, salt, water, and sometimes flakes of red pepper. The rice and the vegetable stew were delicious. I enjoyed my time there, and took a photograph of  the young woman, her sister and I. From Kayaköy our final destination was Fethiye.

Modern Fethiye is situated on the site of the Ancient Greek city of Telmessos, with the Tomb of Amyntas located on the south side of the town in the mountainside. The impressive looking tomb was built in 350 BC. I could see the inscriptions that named the grave, where, written on the side, we can read:  “Amyntou tou Ermagiou”, which, translated into English, means “Amyntas, son of Hermagios”. Climbing to the tomb was our first activity in the city.

From the tombs, we went to the Ancient Greek theatre from where there was a beautiful view to a park in front of the sea. Afternoon gave way to evening. The approaching sunset made the air colder, and we went to a cafe for a çay and a beer. It was night when we found a hotel room with a beautiful view of the port.

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