If you ever drive a car in Turkey, don’t fret when you see a police car behind you with lights flashing–just drive on and they’ll probably pass you. And it’s ok if you overtake a police car ahead of you, again with lights flashing.
How do I know this? Because on Monday, we rented a car and drove down the coast.
I was a little worried, but driving a car in this area of Turkey hasn’t been bad at all. Except that the traffic police drive everywhere with their lights on.
I’m sure the story is different in a big city like Istanbul.
We’ve been able to see so much more in a car, it makes me think about renting a car at all our destinations.
Kas is a little town on the coast about 3 hours away from Antalya. It’s beautiful. The old Town is situated on a steep slope that slides down into the Mediterranean. The narrow streets are cobbled with rough-cut stone. Little shops and cafes everywhere.
There is a much higher concentration of British and German tourists here.
With a car, we were able to visit beaches and other sites outside of town.
Turquoise water and a coarse sand beach.
In Turkey, the price of everything is negotiable–even the price of goggles and a mask from the vendor on the beach.
Nolan and Jane could have spent all day watching fish in the shallows.
The forecast Wednesday was for some showers, so we skipped the beach and drove up the coast to see some Lycean ruins.
At our first stop, we intended to visit a museum. Tickets are sold near the parking lot, but the museum is about a quarter mile walk from there on a path that wind among Lycene ruins along the way.
Although it had sprinkled some before that, as soon as we started down the path, the rain and hail really started, and within a few minutes we were soaked.
So we aborted the mission, ran back to the car and headed to our next stop–Santa Claus’s hometown.
Nicolas was born in Turkey between 260 and 280AD.
As an adult, he became the bishop of a town called Myra (now called Demre).
Having inherited a large sum from his parents, Bishop Nicolas wanted to help the people he served, but he wanted to do it anonymously.
So the agile bishop would climb onto the the rooftops in the town (so the story goes), and drop coins down the chimneys.
After he died, he was made a saint–Saint Nicholas.
Centuries later, he grew a beard, gained weight, moved to the North Pole, and started cavorting with elves and reindeer.
In any case, in Demre, the town where he served as bishop, a church was constructed in his honor.
And we visited the ruins of that church.
Since Turkey occupies a geographic region of significant strategic importance, it had been the home to many great civilizations and cultures.
And it’s amazing how many ruins there are around.
Just driving down the road, you can see stone sarcophagi, the ruins of old stone buildings, and crumbling stone arches.
Jane noticed one such site while we were driving down the highway, and since Nolan was in need of a bathroom break anyway, we turned off and into a small town.
The ruins she noticed were carved into a cliff, just like the famous city Petra in Jordan, but not on such a grand scale.
Since these ruins were not part of anything official, we weren’t sure if it was okay to climb up to the them.
After a short conversation (ok, mostly gestures and about the only words in Turkish I know–hello, is it ok), we decided it was ok to climb up to them.
To Jane and Nolan’s chagrin, if there had ever been any treasure hidden in the carved recess, it had already been pilfered. All that was in the tomb (I assume that’s what it was) was about a six-inch-deep layer of goat droppings.
On Thursday, we took a boat tour.
After a 30 minute minibus ride down a winding mountain road to the next bay over, during which 2 of the 5 in our party lost their breakfast, we boarded a large wooden vessel and motored into the Mediterranean.
Our first stop was a hike to more ruins. We learned how to differentiate who built the ruins based on the size and shape of the stones used. The three civilizations that built the stone structures were in order of antiquity: Lycean (large stones of varying sizes), Roman (large stones all cut to a uniform size), and Byzantine (smaller stones with less working of the stones).
One thing that took me aback was the amount of broken pottery along the way. We passed thousands upon thousands of brown earthenware shards. Our guide told us they were broken Byzantine vessels used mainly to hold olive oil.
The next stop was a little cove where the turquoise water was clear and calm, and we snorkeled, swam, and ate lunch.
Our captain then took us to another perfect spot to swim and snorkel in a small bay surrounded by more ruins.
Since we had to swim from the boat to the shore (we towed Margaret and Nolan on pool noodles),I didn’t bring a camera. This is unfortunate as Jane and I found the coolest stone building, AND Nolan caught a puffer fish.
The building Jane and I found was of Roman build (based on our previously gained expertise). It was rectangular, approximately 40 feet by 20 feet (using the scout method to pace off the distance) with 2 windows and a a few rooms partitioned off using stone walls.
What made the building super cool though was that the roof was intact. It was an arched roof, the center of which was about 20 feet high. The roof was stone and cement and it appeared to be supported only by the four walls and by a central stone arch; the rest of the arched roof looked like it was just loose stone imbedded in cement. I don’t understand how it stayed up at all, let alone how it has remained intact for all these centuries (and many earthquakes). I really wish I had a picture.
From that little inlet, we rode past a sunken city. Where there had once been a thriving community, an earthquake had caused the steep slope along the seaside into which the city was built to slough off into the sea.
It had obviously been a large city at one time. It makes me wonder why, if it was such a desirable location, the remaining city was completely abandoned and to this day not rebuilt.
Our last stop was Kekova island, famous for homemade ice cream and a castle on the hill.
Friday was a market day and a beach day.
On Saturday, we hit up a beach in Patara called Turtle Beach. Apparently sea turtles regular clamber up into the beach and lay eggs, although this only happens in the dead of night and the beach is closed then. So, we didn’t see any sea turtles, but we did have a good time in the wind, the waves, and the sand.
Greece for a day on Monday.
Just off the cost of Turkey near Kas, lies the small island of Meis. Although much closer to Turkey than to Greece, the island belongs to Greece. We rode a ferry to the island and back and had to pass through passport control both ways.
Like everything on the coast of the Mediterranean, the island was beautiful.
We had just over four hours on the island and in that time we ate lunch in a small cafe, spotted several sea turtles, visited a sculptor’s gallery, got stung by a tropical fireworm (well, Nolan did anyway), climbed the hill to a church and a castle, and made it back to the ferry.
On Tuesday, we packed up and said goodbye to Kas. On the way back to Antalya, we stopped at one of the many unofficial beaches along the highway, then finished the drive.
There’s one Arby’s restaurant in the city and so we ate American fast food for the first time in Turkey.
Today, Wednesday, we roused the kids at 5am and headed to the airport to catch our plane to Istanbul.
After dropping off our rental car, I got the following video and a bill for 50 Euro.
The explanation: “Extra cleaning fee. You left car very dirty. This is not normaly.”
I don’t know what you’re talking about, bro. In my family, this is very “normaly”. You should see our car at home.
But we made our flight and successfully navigated the streets of southern Turkey, so I guess we’ll count it a win.