29.04.2010 - 21.05.2010 25 °C
I finally made it to the Mediterranean coast, and what better place to dip my first toe in the water but in Olympos, an ancient city dating back to the 2nd century BC. It was invaded and settled by several groups until the Romans conquered it in 78 BC. This means there are plenty of Roman ruins through out the valley and most of them lie within an open air museum located between the beach and the town of Olympos. Not that Olympos is much of a town, it consists mostly of a single main road running through a steep valley. Along side the road is a small stream which runs completely dry for a large part of the year. On the other side of this road you can find a long row of pensions (guest houses) and a sprinkling of small general stores here and there.
It took three buses to get to Olympos from Cappadocia but it was well worth it. As soon as the last minibus started making its way down the winding road down to the valley of Olympos I knew it was going to be hard to leave this place.
I arrived at Saban Pension where I had booked three nights based on the recommendation of a Dutch guy I met in Göreme. Saban describes itself as a tree house pension catering for people who want to relax amongst the peaceful surroundings. This is in contrast to several other bigger pensions there which attract the "young party people". It was perfect for me because for the first time on my trip I was beginning to feel a little jaded. The tree houses weren't really tree houses, more like cabins on stilts "amongst" the trees, not that this mattered to me because the surroundings were beautiful and I chose to stay on a ground level bungalow with an ensuite thinking I'd move to a tree house on my second or third night.
The pension is owned and run by three siblings, Meral (the sister) and her two brothers Ali and Hussein and they were some of the nicest hosts I'd come across on my trip, especially Meral who looked after me so well during my stay.
Some of the tree houses and bungalows at Saban Pension in Olympos
The view from my bungalow at Saban Pension
It felt like I was at a school camp but without the annoying children, actually for that matter there weren't any annoying adults either. It was the end of the low season so there weren't that many people staying there. The place oozed of relaxation with scattered çadras (raised wooden booths with cushions), picnic tables and hammocks nestled amongst the trees - not to mention that the beach was only a five minute stroll down the road.
Relaxing in a çadra at Saban Pension - My table tennis skills vastly improved by the time I left Olympos, I even got the hang of the Asian style (chopsticks) grip
The stream that runs through Olympos
The river mouth that meets the Mediterranean sea
Part of the beach at Olympos near the river mouth
Looking back inland along the river from one of the hill top Roman forts
View of the bay at Olympos from the Roman fort
There was lots of interesting wildlife in the area, including lots of lizards, frogs, tortuses, sea turtles and almost translucent spiders the size of small rodents, including one that decided my bungalow was a nice warm place to stay one night. Strangely there weren't many birds around which you'd expected in such an isolated forest environment. On most nights for a period of about 15 minutes just after sundown, a swarm of slow flying insects descended on the valley, they didn't bite but they were attracted to sweet smelling objects like drying washing or recently shampooed hair (luckily for me I was quite lazy at doing laundry and shampoo is a foreign concept to me).
Olympos has a fine pebble beach and even though it was extremely fine pebbles, in places near the shore-line they were quite large and it was usually impossible to make a graceful exit from the water. Though it was quite funny to see the tough muscly guys exit the water stumbling and sometimes squealing like little girls. During the week the beach was nice and peaceful, but in the weekends the crowds exploded as it was a very popular holiday destination for Turkish teenagers.
Relaxing at the peaceful beach in Olympos
Some of the Roman ruins at Olympos
One of the best things about Saban pension was the food; I'd go as far to say it was the best food I'd had on my trip so far. Because Olympos is so isolated there are no restaurants therefore dinner was included by most if not all of the pensions in Olympos. Meral was the genius behind the menu and along with her cook and small army of helpers, they prepared a delicious spread each and every night.
Queue for dinner at Saban Pension - the food was absolutely delicious
The after dinner bon fire at Saban Pension
Olympos was also a great place to meet people because instead of the situation you get in a large city where everyone from a hostel goes out all day visiting distant sight-seeing spots, at Olympos there's a campsite atmosphere and aside from going to the beach or wandering around the ancient ruins, a popular activity was to hang out at the pension and relax with a few cold Efes (a popular Turkish beer). Everything about the place was telling me to stay so I kept on extending my stay by an extra night. By the time I'd been there over a week, Meral just told me I was welcome to stay for as long as I liked and for me to just give her notice the night before I was ready to leave.
So many good people came and went while I stayed there, there were virtually no days where I didn't have someone to hang out with and if there weren't any other guests to play with, I just hung out with Meral drinking Turkish coffee.
Paxton (a fellow programmer and all round good guy from Canada), Paul (South Africa), Tianca & Cambi (Aussie twins - could be the other way around) and me after dinner at Saban Pension. Paul, Cambi and Tianca were travelling together - they were the first people I met in Olympos. Paxton stayed there for quite a while too and we hung out for the best part of a week.
Paxton, Paul and Tianca smoking some sheesha in a çadra
One night when Paxton, an Irish guy and I went to a different pension for a change of scenery (the bar had closed at Saban). There we met a bunch of crazy drunken Koreans and a lovely Turkish girl called Ayşegül who was there with two friends from the UK. I found out she was a sports referee who amongst other things, does marshalling for the Turkish Formula 1 Grand Prix. For me it's unusual to meet people who also follow Formula 1, let alone one who is female and never before had I met someone who actually works at the events! Needless to say I bored her with endless questions about her job. At the time I was toying with the idea of going to the Grand Prix in Istanbul so we exchanged contact info so we could perhaps meet at the race.
On my second week there two nice Kiwi girls, Eve and Caroline, turned up at the pension and naturally we ended up hanging out for a few days. They were the first Kiwis I'd actually spent any time with during my trip and it was quite nice to hear the Kiwi accent again after so many months. We formed a nice little group along with another girl, Jesse from the US.
Jessie, Ali (pension co-owner), Eve and Caroline enjoying a few wines after dinner at Saban Pension
A good sight-seeing spot near Olympos is the eternal flames located in the neighbouring village of Çıralı and about 200 meters above sea level. The eternal flames called the Chimaera may be seen issuing from the ground. The fuel source for the flames is natural gas seeping through cracks in the earth. Legend has it that they've been burning constantly for over a thousand years. I must admit it was quite a strange sight to come across after climbing this small mountain in the pitch black darkness. It looked like dozens of large but completely silent campfires in the middle of a rocky outcrop.
One of the Chimaera flames shooting out from the ground
Me (barely visible) standing next to the glow of one of the Chimaera flames
Except for my strolls around the Roman ruins and walking to the beach and back, I wasn't really getting much exercise in Olympos, so when someone suggested going sea kayaking, I happily agreed. So early one morning a group of about ten of us from different pensions set off down the river and out to the Mediterranean sea. We travelled near and around the coast line at a fairly decent pace. The views were spectacular but as one can imagine it was difficult to take photos whilst in a kayak given that everything got absolutely drenched. In fact our cameras were inside a sealed water-proof container and the only time it could safely come out was when we stopped half way through at a deserted bay. By the time we got back we'd been paddling for about three hours and my arms and back definitely felt it.
The sea kayaks on a deserted bay near Olympos
A large blister on my hand from the kayak paddle
Me, Eve, Caroline and Jesse having lunch after our kayaking trip
Caroline, Me (with cheesiest smile) and Eve outside one of the bungalows the night before Eve and Caroline left Olympos
My bung eye - I got something in it at some stage and it blew up like a baloon for about a day, I took this photo as it was getting better
After the Jessie, Eve and Caroline left, three separate couples turned up, Scottie & Charlotte and Rob & Jane from Australia as well as a young couple from England and we hung out during my last week in Olympos
Scottie, Jane, Me (looking even more tanned than after Goa), Rob and Charlotte around bon fire in middle of a "nightclub" open air dance floor (a couple of the pensions in Olympos had nightclubs) - we were the last ones to leave before it closed which is why it looks so empty
Jane, Rob, Scottie and Charlotte looking cold and miserable on Olympos beach during our painful wait for the sunrise after a long night out
On our way back to the pension after sunrise
Me and Meral (pension co-owner) - she looked after me so well during my stay, making me countless Turkish coffees, making me breakfast (even when I had slept in and missed breakfast hours) and on several occasions she cooked my favourite dishes for dinner
By the end of my stay in Olympos - I'd become part of the furniture, it had been over three weeks and I thought perhaps I should move on so that I didn't miss the rest of the summer in Europe. Besides I had plenty of places to still visit in Turkey and Scottie and Charlotte invited me to join them on a day trip to Saklikent Gorge near Fethiye further west along the coast of Turkey.
So I packed my bag and said goodbye to paradise...