Saturday, November 29, 2014

11/24/14 Day 312 Turkey: Fethiye & Kayaköy

Fethiye is the first city that felt like it wasn't built up solely for the tourist, locals actually live here as opposed to most places where all of the houses are up for accommodation of tourists. In the summer it swells as a takeoff point for many surrounding island and resorts, but in November it is perfect with 80 degree F temperatures and empty harborside bars. We take a gorgeous peninsula hike with views that we only have to share with the local fisherman. We spend four days drinking and dining with Mel our CS host who has traveled extensively in a time that we can not even imagine, a time before some of the more special places were still only word of mouth, still unknown to the "off the beaten track" guidebooks and the reward was the beauty of seeing a place and a culture unchanged by traveling tourists. Traveling to these cultures is such a fickle thing because selfishly we want to see these places and people and things, but every time we travel we degrade them a little bit more. She shared so many stories with us on her balcony overlooking Fethiye, high up on the hill where we watched the sun set. 

In the 1920's Ataturk Turkey's beloved first president ordered an ethnic changeover; for all Grecians living in Turkey to return to Greece and all Turkish living in Greece to return to the boundaries of Turkey. Kayaköy is a deserted village from when the dust settled after this turbulent time. It has since become an empty site lonely in the valley, next to a few sparsely populated farms nestled among the mandarin and pomegranate trees. From Kayaköy the hike takes 2 hours through the forest and down the hill towards the Oludeniz lagoon, a famous white strip of sand known for paragliding. We walked along the glorious turquoise waves plodding along the white pebbles dimpled into the sand and watched as four paragliders soared above us from the top of Babadog all the way down to the beach. Only halfway to our optimistic goal of reach butterfly valley we continue on and up the steep mountain carved roads. By the time we reached the top of the valley the sun was already low in the sky and it wouldn't be possible for us to make it all the way down and back up through the valley before the light completely escaped, so we enjoyed the view from above and followed a few of the last straggler butterflies of the season before we hitched our way back to Oludeniz for some beach time.  

Fethiye Harbor

Turkish coffee, muddy as can be, meant to be drank very slowly so that the ultra fine grounds can settle to the bottom, not to be consumed, also from the ground it is possible to take a fortune reading

Our hike in Fethiye

While relaxing on the balcony a huge storm rolled in, flooded the city, booming thunder and lightening
And then as if it had never happened the sky cleared but the streets continued to flow with water flowing pouring from the valley
Our host Mel
The abandoned Greek village of Kayaköy 

The view on the hike from Kayaköy

Oludeniz beach

Our view down into Butterfly Valley a gorgeous narrow strip of beach with boat access or a steep climb down as the only options
Mosques everywhere all the time even the smallest village usually has three or four
Oludeniz sunset
Our host Semih in Kayaköy on a beautiful small pomegranate orchard and Mischief his new kitten

11/21/14 Day 309 Antalya and the Not So Secret Hippie Haven of Olimpos

We arrived to Antalya late and exasperated after a thorough day of hitchhiking 550 kilometers. We were stoked to learn our very first ride was going to Alanya, only 40 kilometers East of our destination Antalya but his English was minimal and he kept repeating Alanya, we would retort we go to Antalya and then he would say no, no Alanya, and we would name both cities and motion for a split, he goes to Alanya and we go to Antalya, easy, done! It was not until the last 40 kilometers things took a turn for the frustrating, he could have continued on the main highway and reached th fork where we would split way in about 40 kilometers, but instead he turned for the alternate route East through a mountainous pass. Map in hand Kevin and I tried to explain this way was much longer, but he just kept saying Alanya (I think he wanted to be sure we knew he wasn't taking us further West). Based on the heart jolting jerks of his shifting, he clearly doesn't drive as much as we do, and obviously doesn't understand mountain passes either, not only did he actually drive further backwards North but t he road added at least 100 kilometers and 2.5 extra slow hours to all of our journeys not too mention he almost ran out of gas twice (he seriously should not drive). We were glad to be on our way again and got picked up and told the driver we were heading for Düden Waterfalls, that flow into the sea, he knew of the place and offered to take us there, perfect. Until he dropped us off at the inland waterpark where the secondary set of larger waterfalls named Düden were located just 20 kilometers from the falls flowing into the of those days for us for sure. One more try, and another fail, as our next ride takes us to the train station, actually the taxi rank. Almost hopeless by now as it is dark and we are tired, one last attempt. This time a nice old man picks us up in his company delivery truck and after explaining in broken English our goal he drives us a little ways, and drops us off saying what we think is maybe wait here, confused we start our trek it is not our day to hitchhike for sure. Startled by a honk from behind us we spin to find the old man! He has come back in his personal vehicle and drives us right to the waterfall (he just couldn't go that far on company time)! Hitchhiking in Turkey prevails yet again! After peeking at the gushing giant all lit up under the starry sky, we set up our tent right near the waterfall on top of the beautiful cliff falling asleep to the sounds of the rushing waters. The waterfall (selalesi in Turkish) by morning light is completely worth venturing all the way out to Antalya and satisfied we say adieu to the city. The rest of the city is kind of a pass as a has been tourist strip full of built up high rise hotels and not much for entertainment or beaches. It is however on the way to Olimpos which I have been told is a must. It is pretty far out of the way I think a 35 Lira Dolmus (minibus) gets you to the top of a really steep 7 kilometer road that you then take a joint taxi down to the bottom for another 15 Lira or so. We lucked out and got a hitch all the way to the bottom! Olimpos began as a hippie commune but has evolved into a chilled out backpackers lounge; definitely far from off the beaten path. There is a phenomenal beach you can walk on for the 2 kilometers to the next village Cirali, which contained slightly fewer people, (although both resorts were pretty deserted as winter is upon us! After dinner we started the 5-6 kilometer walk to reach the eternal flames, the fire breathing mountain, Yanartas in Greek, Chimaira in Turkish. For only 5 Liras each we had the mountain to ourselves, a spectacular sight with approximately a dozen flames spurting flaming methane gas from inside the mountain above the ruins of the Temple of Hephaistos (Blacksmith of the Gods)! These flames have been going strong since Ancient Greek Mythology and although they fluctuate and wane they have not extinguished for thousands of years. 

Sunrise tent view

Düden Selalasi, flowing straight into the Mediterranean Sea

The view of the Antalya tourist strip
Just a little chicken noodle soup cat feast in the park
Whole roasted chicken and salad only 20 Turkish Lira (10$)
Here is a listing of accommodations in Cirali only, a tiny village only 5-10 kilometers square
Dinner right on the beach
Camping half way between Cirali and Olimpos

Sunday, November 16, 2014

11/12/14 Day 300 The Struggle Getting to Istanbul

Our last days in Europe are spent in a valiant effort to hitchhike across the border to Turkey. In a decision based on logic we decide that the 300+ miles from Thessaloniki to the border would probably take way too much time so we opt for the student priced Trainose rail again, only 7.40€ each for 7 hours of slow train transport to Alexandroupolis station. Our plan, to hike from here the 4.5 kilometers to the E90 highway and hitchhike from there the remaining dozen kilometers out of Greece. Unfortunately for us the highway had almost no traffic for us to flag down besides the occasional Greek car mostly driving up to the next village. I don't think we waited much more than 40 minutes before we picked up our bags and trudged the 4.5 kilometers back to town, defeated. We had to wait 6 hours to catch a train for only 1.60€ each to Peplos the last village before the border where a remarkably foggy creepy, deserted farm village awaited us. After determining that yes every crevice in the town including the naked mannequin decorated farmyard was too weird we hustled another couple of kilometers to the highway boundary where we found a perfectly hidden hillside to slump our tent near for a few hours of sleep. Crossing the border between Greece and Turkey requires a vehicle through the 1 kilometer no-mans land crossing the river. We walked up to the Greece controllers and attempted to explain ourselves out of our obvious overstay in the Schengen, (due to the fact that we drove an Irish car out through the ferry, England never stamped us out and France never stamped us in, and because we had no Schengen stamp entering Croatia they wouldn't stamp us upon entry or exit, and again because of...ferries?! So Italy never stamped us back in, leaving us with a 4 month grey area void of stamps. We received a dirty look accompanying a reassuring question about our intentions of coming back to Greece after Turkey, no sir we will be in Thailand. With a stamp and a nod he sends us on our way through towards Greece where we were able to flag a car to drive us the 1 mile to the Turkish border, and with no hassle at all thanks to our online E-visa we made it to Turkey.
Since our flight leaves from Turkey we decide to spend more days in Istanbul at the end of our trip, leaving us only one full day in the city, it is enough time to see most of the touristic things in the city. We stroll through the Grand Bazaar, make it to the Blue Mosque, walk through a nice park, and managed to eat lots of street food. We ended our Istanbul wander with a hole in the wall restaurant that served us; lamb skewers and vegetables, a salad, chicken garbanzo bean and rice pilaf (a common street food served for only 2 Lira/<1$), Fanta and Turkish tea for only 12 Lira (less than 5$!)

The train in Greece

Peplos in its eerie fog
Pide, Turkey's version of pizza
Homeless cat house in cat town, even the kitties have opportunity housing
They seriously do not have it so bad

The Grand Bazaar...full of expensive flashy jewelry, completely lacking any sign of locals

Fresh pomegranate just for 1$ and orange juice for .50¢. Yes please!

The Blue Mosque in all of its minareted glory

Bead inlaid gourd lanterns, what a beautiful inspiration