The Lycian coast and Cappadocia

5 Jun

For me, traveling solo is a good way to disconnect with the world at home, to break all the routines, to be completely free. It forces you to get more involved with the people and the places you encounter. You lose yourself and see things from a new perspective. Sometimes, you lose yourself a bit too much, things go wrong, you wonder what brought you to that moment and that place. Also, sometimes, traveling alone means traveling with many people, intimating and sharing experiences with them much more intensely than you do at home. In Turkey, after some days of mostly visiting and touring, I’ve had all this mixture of lonely, absurd, exciting, and above all enriching moments I call traveling.

The Lycian coast was a natural continuation to my visits of the Greek ruins in the Ionian coast. It is further south, scattered with somewhat less famous ruins, Lycian tombs and towns. Its pine forests and beaches look just as the ones I find in my beloved Costa Brava in Catalonia, but its cliffs and mountains are quite higher. This makes it more impressive, more exotic, less cute. I hiked part of the so called Lycian way during several days, starting in Fethiye, crossing a strange combination of touristy towns ruled by English people and abandoned villages and ruins. I had some good hiking boots and my reflex camera, I was happy. But when I arrived to Kabak, it was different. After a few hours of hiking I found myself in a town with two or three hotels hanging from a cliff and a dead end road. My hiking and my curiosity were already satisfied, I wanted people and I was in the middle of nowhere. To continue east I had to go back west, and I was exhausted. The situation got even more absurd when one of these political propaganda vans came in annoying with its loud speaker, shouting to no one but me. About a political party, in Turkish. They even got out of the van and gave me sweets. It was a while I had not stopped myself to open the guide and plan a bit. After more hours than expected I got myself to Kas, a cute town, good to do some snorkeling and photograph the sunset.

More buses and dolmuses brought me to the beaches and ruins of Olympos. The bungalows were I stayed brought me back to the world —friendly people, homemade food, and cozy rooms—. It was also cool to hike here, volunteers in the bungalows knew well the way around, and lower temperatures and dives in beautiful lagoons made it more fun. I began to eat proper traditional Turkish food, outside kebabs and touristy fast food places. It was about time. When you rush from one place to an other it can be hard to appreciate the country’s cuisine, specially in touristy areas. In Olympos and in the rest of my days in Turkey I traveled much slower, appreciating simpler and better quality soups (lentils, tomatoes), lamb casseroles and stuffed vegetables (aubergines, peppers) and many different mezes. This was important for me, it made me love this country a little more, and praise more justly the Mediterranean diet. One must never lose hope on that, even it’s the other side of the Mediterranean.

The following days I traveled with Ameer, a Palestinian guy I met in Olympos. The first stop together was Antalya, a hub city to visit the South coast with a pretty port and an old city center. We tried some foods and got into a boat, more for the fun of bargaining and the low price than the ride itself. At night we went to Goreme by bus, our base town to visit Cappadocia, a land of brown, red and white valleys. Hundreds of fairy chimneys —everyone calls them penises because of their shapes— have been eroded into this volcanic plateau by the rivers and the rains of the centuries. Houses and churches were carved into these pillars, just like the caves of the Flintstones, making up the different villages and monasteries of the area. Also whole cities full of traps were built completely underground, serving in part as shelter for the early christians. More recently, houses, hotels and restaurants are also built inside these chimneys, which makes the landscape even more surreal. We spent the days in Cappadocia hiking around the valleys, chilling out in the nice terraces and meeting new people everyday. I kept asking for one more night at the hotel until I had to go back to Istanbul.

This time I stayed in the neighborhood of Kadikoy, in the Asian part of the chaotic city. The atmosphere was much less touristy and the food quite better value. I did some shopping, watched the sunset behind Hagia Sophia, and said goodbye to the country.

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