Wednesday January 16, 2008

 

After one last night of exploring Antalya, the Hollins crew was up early and on the road headed for Myra. On the way we drove along the Turquoise coast and were treated with the most spectacular views of the Mediterranean! The color of the water makes it clear why it is called the Turquoise coast. We saw a tiny island that is called Mouse Island, but none of us (including Mehmet) can understand why it is called Mouse Island as it looks nothing like a mouse. Mehmet was telling us that we were lucky a new road had been built in recent years because the old road was narrow and winding. Considering our luck with motion sickness I think it was a good thing!  We eventually came into the area called Lycia, which means “land of sun” and the sun was so wonderful and warming.  On the pass through the mountains we learned about Chimera where natural gas deposits burn. It is said at one time they could be seen from the sea as sort of a natural lighthouse for sailors. A welcome stop at a rest area rewarded us with spectacular views of the snow topped mountains and the myriad of greenhouses below in the valley. In addition to the views we were introduced to some “advanced Turkish technology” as the gentleman working there called it; a wood stove that had a fan on it to blow the heat into the room before it rose up the chimney. We passed through Kumluca, which means “rich with sand” and grows wonderful produce for the area. A stop along the coast just before we got to Myra allowed us to take a few minutes to bask in the warm Mediterranean sun.

We arrived at Myra before lunch and saw the statue of Santa Clause that has been changed in recent years to an “Americanized” figure in the red suit. Most of us preferred the statue of the original St. Nicholas just outside the Church of St. Nicholas. The real Nicholas was bishop of Myra who was born in 300AD. He was known for his generosity and piety. He had originally been buried at the church in Myra but his bones were eventually moved to Bari, Italy in 1087.  We were able to tour the church and see the wonderful frescoes as well as the mosaics on the floor. After touring the church we had a delicious lunch at Ipek. It was fun watching the local traffic and several of us made friends with a local dog and cat that tugged at our hearts and shared our lunch. Even Yücel was not able to resist their sweet faces! After lunch we visited the ruins at Myra. The Lycian tombs are carved into the mountainside and are a sight to behold. The theatre is well preserved and we were able to see many carvings of the theatre masks. Most interesting were the carvings of Medusa and Helios.  Everyone had fun exploring the theatre, but no gladiator to sword fight with this time.

After Myra we prepared for a long bus ride to Pamukkale. The drive took us through the Taurus Mountains once again. We passed through Elmali, where many apples are grown. There weren’t many stops along the way so when urgent needs came about Yücel was kind enough to find us a gas station - much to our relief!! You should have seen the mass exodus off the bus! Everyone clamored to purchase Cokes for a lira and Doritos to snack on. Sometimes American food is very welcome. As darkness fell we drove into a foggy valley. Yücel handled driving in the thick fog like a pro. The sight of fog in the valley was so mystical. Along the way we were fortunate enough to meet one Temel, the butt of Turkish jokes, and a flatulent Wisconsin cow (thanks to Mehmet who has a wonderful sense of humor!).  One more stop for urgent needs just outside of Denizli resulted in a lot of pushing and elbowing for a stall in the WC (water closet) since another tour bus arrived at the same time as us. Everyone finally made it and we headed to Pamukkale. It was after dark but the travertine terraces were beautifully lit. The thermal bath at the hotel was so welcoming after a long, long day of travel! Legend has it that the thermal springs take 10 years off your age; so many of us may not be recognizable after this!

Tina Badger