Turkey — Day Twenty-three — Selçuk & Tire to Pamukkale

Tuesday, October 30, 2007.

First chore of the day: stuffing every last purchase into an unsuspecting rolly suitcase.  That’s two, no THREE carpets, twelve or more pillow cases, a multitude of glass eyes, three little drums, a number of books including a hardback Koran, two red flag tshirts, a little jar of honey and god knows what else.  
The suitcase weighed quite a bit.  
As we wrestled sixty pounds of creaking, wheeled nylon box down one flight of stairs, we got our first glimpse of how incredibly stupid we were to attempt to haul all this sh*t home ourselves.  If it hadn’t been for that very prideful streak combined with an rancid teaspoon of Scots thriftiness we might have pleaded our case to Urdal or Nazmi and made arrangements to ship at least the big carpet home.  Needless to say, we didn’t, much to our intense dismay over the next five days.  
Breathing hard and a little flushed after the suitcase match (a draw, on points), we left the suitcase in the lobby of the Bella and hauled our sorry rumps back up the stairs for a last exquisite breakfast.  We were honestly not worried about leaving the behometh down in the lobby: not only did we have perfect faith in the Bella staff, but any poor thief would have had a paralyzing hernia before he got it out the door.  
It was a sad thought that we were leaving Selçuk, but we were also looking forward to the Tire market (Tee-ray, not what you drive on) that the Cliftons had raved about.
Thankful that we were leaving our red suitcase of death behind, we walked down the hill from the hotel, turned right and then crossed the street to the left just past where the market had been — ah, the otogar! Just where we were hoping it would be!
It was easy enough to find the Tire dolmuş; it was very conveniently labeled.  For just a few lira, we climbed aboard the empty dolmuş and had our pick of window seats. It seemed like a few seconds later that we saw familiar faces climbing on the bus — the Cliftons! They seemed happy enough to see us, though I suspect that they may have come to the conclusion that we were stalking them… 
The dolmuş crept out of Selçuk, taking every possible opportunity to dart across three lanes of traffic to pull over on the side of the highway to fit one more person in.  It left the main road and wandered around villages so tiny they didn’t have a name, picking up all kinds of people as it went.  It seemed that tourists got on in Selçuk and locals got on everywhere else.
We were glad enough to be popped out of the crush at the market in Tire.  With a small break for the little, clean bathroom by the mosque, we set off up the hill into the market proper.  Now this was an ethnic market!  Having read that Tire was known for its felt-makers, and having had such a lovely experience in Konya, we wandered around the lower part of the hill, looking for them.  
There were blacksmiths and saddlers and finally! felt makers.  Unlike the art creations made by Ikonium, these were practical items: saddle pads and slippers.  Not unlovely indeed, but not nearly as decorative as Ikonium.  We did find one decorative felt-maker but the items were just not up to Mehmet’s standard and we declined to buy.  I was actually very tempted by all the practical items I saw.  If I had but owned a horse (or even a larger dog), I would have gladly bought a bridle or two, or some of the blue-dyed leather collars. Perhaps a giant copper pot, lined with tin?  
The livestock area was a little sadder, though just as practical: droopy chickens in cages, panting goats leaning against a stone wall, and one resigned sheep.  The smell was of droppings and despair, but I couldn’t complain  — not given the quantity of tavuk and kuzu I had consumed over the past three weeks.  All things considered, I am much more comfortable with creatures that live a free-range life, spend an unhappy (but pain-free) day at the market, and then are killed and used in an atmosphere not redolent of the abattoir.  
We decided to climb the hill to see the older part of the market and to see what was around the corner.  This market was incredibly interesting!  I stopped at a few places to attempt to ask for the decorative metal skewers which had served our kuzu şiş at some restaurant or another.  Not only did I covet them myself, but they seemed like a good masculine gifts (Turkish girly gifts being readily available).  The only problem with this was that my trusty guidebook failed me on the matter of ‘skewer’.  The closest I could get was ‘fork’ or çatal, which I requested in several shops and stands.  I was met alternately with the UTS, a quizzical look, apologies (at not having the skewers or not being able to understand me, I’m not quite sure) and, in one case, a man who abruptly left his shop to return five minutes later with plain but serviceable skewers which I respectfully declined.
On a more positive note, I found some delightful chunks of olive oil soap which the man indicated to me was from local olives for something like a lira each, which seemed incredibly cheap.  Since we had run out of Olay, we needed some soap (especially given the non-deodorizing properties of the Turkish deodorant).  
The wonderful thing about the Tire market was that it was mostly there for the Turks, unlike the other markets we had seen, which were mostly for the tourists.  The upside was also its downside, however: if we lived in the area, we would have been buying food and soap and clothes and bridles and chickens and every other thing we saw.  Not living in the area meant there wasn’t too much that was practical for us to purchase and take home — the tourist’s dilemma, for sure.  Just walking around and up and down the streets was a magical experience, even if we left with surprisingly empty hands.  
Empty hands, maybe — empty stomachs, no way!  We found a little hole-in-the-wall which was selling what the L.P. reported to be Tire’s specialty.  It was a little awkward being the only non-Turks (and only non-man) in the shop, but everyone was friendly and a nice farmer got up and moved to a shared table so that Steve and I could sit alone at a table.  We stuffed ourselves on delish kebap and were pleased to see a Turkish couple come in and the woman sat beside me.  I wondered if my presence made it easier or harder for her to come in and eat?  
Emerging back onto the street, we watched the fish sellers for a while.  While most of the other merchants sat back on their haunches, quietly waiting for customers, the fish guys were LOUD.  They yelled at each other, threw fish at each other and every so often broke into song, the lyrics of which I would have given a pocketful of lira to understand.  Their stalls all had electric lightbulbs dangling above the piles of piscine… probably to make them look shinier and fresher, not that they looked (or smelled) bad in the slightest.  
We eventually tired of the fish show and decided to wander slowly down to the dolmuş station and catch our ride back to Selçuk as we knew our train left at five in the evening and it was almost two.  Ok, Steve wanted to get back to Selçuk asap; I wanted to look around and covet things some more. We managed not to spat and found ourselves at the dolmuş station intact.  After lazily inquiring where the Selçuk dolmuş was leaving from, we were surprised to be hustled down the hill and across the street where our intrepid guide threw himself in front of a white minivan to stop the bus.  It agreeably screeched to a halt and we clambered aboard, short of breath and temper, passed our money to the front and… stood.  
The dolmuş was so dolmuş-ed that I ended up sitting in the stairwell while Steve’s bum clung to half a seat at the back.  The reverse trip gradually sloughed passengers by ones and twos and we were both able to sit after not too long.  By the time we reached Selçuk we were even able to sit together, and we were all made up and happy again.  We stopped by the Van to say goodbye to Marco and his brother (who was pining for the German girl) and had a satisfactory short visit. Our happiness continued right up until the point where we walked back up to the Bella and reacquainted ourselves with our luggage — from this point forward to be known as the Red Suitcase From Hell (RSFH).  
Pulling only a few vital back muscles, we loaded our RSFH into the hotel’s minibus and then out again at the train station.  If it weren’t for the unforgiving burden, it would have been an easy ten-minute walk.  As it was, we were grateful all over again for the Bella’s free ride policy.  
Purchasing our train tickets to Denizli was completely straightforward.  We just walked up to the ticket window, asked for tickets and paid our what, 15 lira each?  It was very inexpensive and we were there only a half hour in advance.  It appeared that most tourists took the bus instead: the bus shaved an hour off the trip but cost a little more.  It wasn’t the price that was a factor: our last bus trip hadn’t been the most pleasant ever, especially compared to our last (and first) train trip.  We wanted to stay a little off the tourist trail and see a different slice of countryside.  Plus we like the pace of the trains in Turkey.  Very civilized!
This trip was not to change our mind — other than the disc-rupturing lift of the RSFH onto the train, the stowing it in the aisle (and hanging onto it the entire trip in order to have it not crush the person across the aisle on every slight corner), and the resigned (but not unfriendly) looks of the people who had to squeeze past it in the aisle, it was all very civilized!  
We were able to buy snacks and drinks for cheap and we chatted a bit with a pair of Korean girls who hadn’t made any arrangements for somewhere to sleep or how to get from Denizli, where the train ended, to Pamukkale, where they wanted to stay.  We had been thinking of following in Bill & Nancy’s footsteps once again, but the people at the Bella had recommended the Venus Hotel in Pamukkale and in fact had called ahead to make us reservations for two nights and arranged for the Venus people to pick us up in Denizli.  Since the L.P. concurred that it was a nice, pink, and apparently romantic place to stay, we were game.  
The train pulled in just after ten at night and we were greeted right away when we hauled our RSFH off the train (off is easier than on!) by an older Turkish couple who identified themselves as being from the Venus.  They helped us schlep our crap out to the parking lot, followed nervously by the two Korean girls.  They were suspicious that the kind offer of the Venus people to give them a lift to Pamukkale came with strings, and Steve and I acted as translators as we were most fluent in the only common language.  
Satisfied at last, the Koreans followed the four of us out to a tiny sedan with a tiny trunk.  Apparently the only strings were to be the straps from my backpack straps which I used to tie my precariously-lodged pack to the hinges of the open, stuffed trunk, which the Turkish mum thought was very ingenious.  The mum sat in the front, with at least two backpacks and a suitcase in her lap, and the four tourists crammed into the back, with one Korean on the other’s lap.  It was insane.  Seatbelts were a joke.  The Turks looked very entertained, and indeed it was nothing short of hilarious, at least until the top Korean started looking a little green around the edges.  
Fortunately, it only took some fifteen minutes to get to Pamukkale, and nothing drastic or messy happened.  We popped out of the little car in front of a very sweet looking hotel with an arbor-ed terrace and an empty pool.  It was right across the street from the Melrose Allgau Hotel, which had been our other choice.  The Koreans were invited to go find the hotel of their choice but they sensibly opted to check in at the Venus.  
We were greeted by several large golden retrievers (it seemed like dozens) and the owners, Ibrahim and Karen, a young couple — she’s Australian — who were about our age and incredibly nice.  The hotel was lovely, with fresh tiles, paint and an open airy room with a spotless bathroom and distant view of the travertines, lit up in the night.  We asked for a restaurant recommendation as the snacks on the train were no substitute for a real dinner.  Ibrahim’s mum, who was part of the collection party, made it clear that she was ready, willing and able to make us some dinner instead.  It was late and we agreed eagerly, which was a very good thing — the casserole was delicious.  
We were absolutely beat and so were only enticed to chat with the other guests (Germans), Ibrahim, Karen and Ibrahim’s brother (?) for an hour or so before we hauled ourselves into our comfy bed and fell fast asleep. 

Turkey — Day Nineteen — Selçuk and Priene, Miletus & Didyma

October 26 (Friday)

Steve woke up earlier than me, which should come as no surprise to anyone.  He went up to the breakfast room, which (no surprise again) was on the rooftop terrace and had a chat with Nazmi, one of the owners of the Hotel Bella while I slept the sleep of the just.  He came down to get me just as I was getting up.  
Looking around with refreshed eyes, I was impressed all over again: the room was nice and bright owing to the window that looked out at an old aquaduct across the street.  There were charming wrought-iron bars on the windows, and charming lace curtains, and charming — ok, beautiful and clean — fixtures in the bathroom.  I showered with plenty of hot water and was ready to face our first day in Selçuk.  
We went back up to the terrace, which was amazing, the nicest terrace we saw in Turkey.  Half was open and half was glassed in, and the glassed-in area had comfy divans, low tables, beautiful carpets and a FIREPLACE.  Amazing!  We were asked how we wanted our eggs, and we both selected scrambled with peynir (cheese).  Good choice!  The scramble came out in a little metal dish, steaming and bubbling.  The bread was fantastic, the olives [allegedly] were delish, the fruit super and the jam in pots on the table was superb.  The U.T.B. on a whole new level.  Did I mention amazing? We like the Hotel Bella, which we had heard about from Travels with Bill & Nancy.  We had sent them an email that wasn’t responded to and then called by Skype from Fethiye.  We were delighted that they had been able to accommodate us on relatively short notice and had given us a nice room to boot.
While we were eating, Steve explained that Nazmi had suggested NOT going to Ephesus that day as two cruise ships at Kuşadası had vomited some 5,000 tourists onto poor unsuspecting Ephesus.  When Steve had mentioned to Nazmi that one of the things we wanted to do was rent a car and drive ourselves to Priene, Miletus and Didyma, Nazmi had said he could help with that as he knew someone with Avis.  It was an easy decision to not join the throngs of tourists, but we weren’t sure we’d be able to rent with Avis as we didn’t have a credit card.  Nazmi assured us this would not be a problem as he could vouch for us (though we weren’t entirely sure how, given that we’d been in the hotel for less than 12 hours).  
Not only was renting the car not a problem, but the Avis guy was there with the car before we had finished our excellent breakfast.  We signed the papers (and this time I checked the insurance, which would cover us if we were at fault for a loss, but not if we were drunk or speeding) and realized in a moment of horror that we didn’t have enough cash on us to pay for the rental! We asked for a minute to run out to an ATM and Nazmi told us not to worry, he’d add the 60L to the bill.  Crazy!  
After being shown around the car (a pretty basic Ford Festiva), we popped down the end of the block and across the street to the (semi, because Turks drive everywhere) ‘pedestrian only’ area of Selçuk where most of the shops, restaurants and ATMs were to get some money out for today’s adventures.
The little bit of Selçuk we saw in those few minutes were just wonderful.  I felt immediately that I could live in this place.  The area was clean and bright, and the shops looked prosperous and well kept.  We headed back to the car and our helpful map, hand drawn by Nazmi, with all the rights and lefts marked down on the back of a napkin.  
Our grand loop was to consist of the clifftop ancient Greek city of Priene, then to the ancient Greek city of Miletus, then further down the coast to ancient Didyma.  We’d be getting our fill of ruins today!  All three were members of the Ionian League and Priene and Miletus were at one time seaside prior to the silting of the Meander River — yes, the river that gave all curly rivers their name.  
Cruising down the road, we turned right at Söke and followed the signs to Priene.  The only challenge to driving in this area was figuring out the speed limit.  On the way in, I recall that the bus consistently wanted to go 90kph, only because the stupid bus beeped every time it went over 89km and it beeped a LOT.  I figured 80 was a good safe bet and I didn’t even get honked at all that often.  
We pulled up to the parking lot at Priene and it was full of tour buses.  We couldn’t complain too hard, given our general luck with having ruins to ourselves, so we headed up the walk with a good will towards the Temple of Athena.  As we were climbing up huge marble stairs, a group of Japanese tourists came down, smiling and bowing.  We smiled and bowed back and, around the next corner, smiled and nodded at a group of German tourists.  When we made it to the Temple of Athena, there wasn’t another tourist in sight.  
The standing columns stood in a line against the tree line, and an expanse of smooth marble pavers littered with broken columns stretched to the edge of a cliff that perched high above the Meander valley.  It was an astonishingly beautiful spot and Steve especially was completely taken by its charms.  I liked it very much, but Steve found it positively religious.  He walked out to the prow of the outcrop where the ruins were most tumbled and the trees were twisted by the wind and soaked it all in.
I found myself fascinated in the rough carvings I found in the rock: crosses and what looked like game boards and other interesting graffiti.   
After twenty minutes or more, we heard voices in the distance, and decided to have our last memories of the Temple of Athena be quiet and serene with just us in it.  We left before the people came, and went over to the perfect little theatre, passing an interesting ruined basilica with beautiful tiles.   The theatre was fun and in super condition, with great carved seats.  We walked a little further down and saw a ruined agora but didn’t walk any further into the lower town.  Priene was particularly interesting because you could see the grid lines of the townsite; walking streets through distinct neighbourhoods made me feel as though I would pass a toga-clad Greek at any time.  
We walked back down the marble way to the exit and passed a few busloads of tourists heading up the trail.  We were very pleased with ourselves — our anti-tourist shield was working!
Back in the car, we headed back out onto the main road that headed across the Meander valley.  Driving through several small towns, I was eager to stop and look at some of the little shops and markets but Steve was anxious to get to Miletus (and not go shopping).  If only we could have had days to spend exploring this area!  
Miletus was easy to find, and the parking lot was full of tour buses — again.  We decided to wait and see if the crowds would thin by eating lunch at one of the many cafes that lined the road in direct view of the amazing theatre at Miletus.  We had some adequate gozleme and some delicious juice.. ok, I had delicious, fresh squeezed, portakal (orange) suyu and Steve had grenade (pomegranate) suyu which was slightly less delicious due to the pressing of the rind as well as the seeds.  It was a little bitter, but still good.  We cruised around the tourist area for a minute.  The shops were adequate with some meershaum and nice G-rated as well as slightly rude onyx carvings.  
After a while, we walked up to the amazing theatre.  It was built right into this hill, and it dominated the scene.  Walking across a field strewn with rubble up to the theatre, you could see that it was remarkably intact.  The stairs up to the entry were complete, and you could see the ‘vomitorium’ was also still completely in place.  No — the vomitorium has nothing to do with throwing up.  Rather, it is the access tunnels behind the seats, like where you would get beer and foam fingers during the intermission at BC Stadium.  We were excited about getting in there and running around like idiots, but first we were distracted by scrambling up the scaena (front of the stage) to look at some relief carvings among the fallen stones.
We were met up there by an older British couple who introduced themselves as ‘The Cliftons from Oxford’.  In short order, we found out they were retired (he had been a barrister, and we exchanged a few lawyer/insurance broker jokes), they owned half a share in a restored Greek house in Selçuk and they had guests visiting.  They told us to look for little yellow crocuses that were only out this time of year and recommended a sandwich restaurant in Selçuk. They said they might see us around and we hoped so as they were a lot of fun.  
After the Cliftons left, and with them all the tour buses, we clambered all over the magnificent and ginormous theatre.  We climbed to the top, down to the tunnel entrances, through the tunnels, and climbed back up to the top and we had it all to ourselves.  We looked over the back of the theatre from the top of the hill and it was nothing but a wide expanse of fields, a meandering river, and the dusty hills where Priene perched in the distance.  We knew from reading that the sea had once lapped at the bottom of this hill, which seemed ludicrous given that the sea was a mere shimmer at least ten kilometres distant.  
From the top of the hill, we walked down to the rest of the ruins.  Miletus is a huge area that most tour-bus tourists never see, and we explored like mad.  We found a pool with the remains of a statue (again, it used to be on the waterfront), the agora dedicated to Apollo which everyone thinks is a temple.  Really, just a blessed shopping mall!  The area is a little marshy, and we were a little lazy, and the mud not too deep, so we scampered through a little pool over to get a closer look at the agora.  The hillside was covered in bits of brick and pottery and all kinds of interesting stuff, but I restrained myself from picking anything up.  Over by the baths, a young Turkish man in gumboots approached us and gave us sprigs of lavender.  He seemed at first glance to be a little simple, with his shirt untucked and a rather disheveled air, but when we talked about the ruins, he spoke articulately and knowledgeably about the area.  We got the impression he wanted us to ask him to show us around but, after our experience in Konya, we didn’t really want a guide.  
We made our polite escape, and a few feet along found a tortoise in the path.  We tried to get some pictures, but he decided we were obviously hungry for tortoise kebap and booked it for the bushes.  When I say booked it, I mean he went FAST!   So much for the tortoise and hare trope… this guy would have left any rabbit in the dust of Miletus.    
Back at the parking lot, we gave that amazing theatre a long last look and drove down the little road that ran in front of the shopping and food stalls (where I couldn’t resist jumping out for a quick purchase).  A short distance — 200 metres short — we saw a sign for a turnoff to the Ilyas Bey mosque which was currently under restoration and ‘decommissioned’ from its usual mosque duties.  We were there, and the mosque was there, and we like mosques, so we turned left and headed down the road.  Another few hundred metres along an avenue lined with olive trees, we found the road ended with a little flock of parked workmen’s vehicles.  We were the only tourists there.  
The man minding the white booth where one usually paid an entrance fee waved us in without taking our lira, and, dodging wheelbarrow-pushing workmen, we approached the courtyard of the Ilyas Bey Camii.  
The Ilyas Bey was magnificent.  Even without a standing minaret, the walls, the arches, the stork-nests pom-pomming the spires on the roofs, and the atmosphere of grace and humility was exquisite.  The entire scene seemed shot in soft focus; the sunlight was more gentle, the scents more refreshing, and the sounds more musical than in Miletus; the very air sparkled with something I can only describe as sanctity.  We took off our shoes at the door, even though we didn’t have to, because we felt compelled to grant this place as much respect as we would had there been a bowing Imam at the door.  Before we could even enter, we stood silently and marveled at the carved stone fretwork that surrounded the entrance.  
Inside the mosque, it was hard to know what to look at more.  The ceiling was arched and the mihrab (the niche) was surrounded by a deeply subtle and most beautiful foliate carving in the stone.  The floor was mostly covered in smooth marble flags that felt heavy and cool and timeless under our feet.  All in all, it was one of the most reverent places we’d been and we were hard pressed to tear ourselves away.  To think we could have missed it was just heartbreaking.
In a fit of happiness and largess, I picked a black olive off a tree next to the car and gave it to Steve to eat… I didn’t know, and he didn’t remember, that olives have to be cured in brine before they are edible.  Oops!  At least we had bottles of suyu in the car for him to rinse out his mouth with.  
We pointed the car on the southern sea road and drove down to Didim, where the huge complex that was both the Temple to, and the Oracle of, Apollo.  Next to Delphi, the oracle at Didyma was the most important of the Hellenistic world.  
We nearly drove right by it.  
Having turned around, and found a parking spot next to a little restaurant, we paid our entrance fee and walked down the stairs.  At first glance (at least when not in a car), Didyma is impressive.  It has a few incredibly tall reconstructed pillars and a veritable forest of shorter pillars.  It took walking down the stairs to the excavated area, and then walking up the steps of the temple itself, and being right among the stumps, to comprehend the true magnitude of the partial columns.  Even the broken stumps were well over my head high.  When I looked straight ahead, I got a sense of what it must have looked like when everything was intact and a visitor would have felt completely dwarfed and insignificant in such a place.  Ok, I felt dwarfed and insignificant.  It was pretty incredible.
I found a lot more carvings scratched into the enormous marble pavers: more crosses, more gameboards, and a carving that might have been a Viking ship… or might have been a cervix with a sail.  I kept expecting to find “Herodotus was here” or suchlike.  
After a bit of exploring, we found a downward-slanting tunnel that we followed into a high-walled courtyard that had pieces of relief carvings leaning against the walls.  Some were extraordinary, like the griffins.  We realized that we were disturbing a giggling Turkish couple: she quite conservatively dressed and both of them madly in love.  We wondered how many spooning Turkish teens these ruins had sheltered.  We giggled and held hands a bit too, which was fine as we were alone except for the couple, and they were staying out of sight.  After a while, the sun was getting low in the sky, and we were getting hungry, so we found our way to the exit, passing and taking many photos of the ubiquitous Medusa head (which isn’t a Medusa at all;  I examined her hair very closely and saw nary a snake).  
Up on the street, we dodged a carpet seller and walked a few feet up to the Apollon Cafe that was named in the LP as being good and prices reasonable.  The terrace was lovely, though its view of the temple was from across a busy road and through trees.  We didn’t think the prices all that reasonable either, though we did find the LP to be generally out of date on that front, too.  We decided to order a few mezes, which the waiter provided with barely disguised ennui.  The mezes were definitely good — better than we expected.  The service… meh.  The kedi sitting on the rail next to the arbour was the best part of the meal.  
When we walked back down the road to the car, we stopped to admire another kedi on a cafe  stoop, and the owner of the cafe called out to us to look at the menu (a common occurrence).  We regretfully advised that we had already eaten and it was true — we did regret.  Not that we ate, or that the food was bad, or the terrace not lovely, but we regretted that we didn’t break away from the strictures of the LP and go out on our own.  The LP is often a safe bet, but not always the best one.  
Pointed north, we passed a bizarre kind of amusement park that looked like Disney met a Pueblo indian and they got drunk on raki and decided to build an adobe amusement park sponsored by Crayola. Weird!  And not open, or we might have gone in.
We pulled into a little dirt road beside the ocean and walked down to the shore where we watched the sun set over the Agean Sea.  Steve took a few photos and then we just stood there and cuddled.  You could practically hear the sun set, it was so magical.  
We thought we might have a chance to see Lake Bafa before the light was entirely gone, so we drove like very cautious demons back towards the main road past Söke, passing (cautiously) a police roadblock that (cautiously) waved us through.  Whew!  We found the road which we thought would lead to the lake, and drove along it, past a gated compound that was either military or industrial.  We drove past a suspicious-looking guard in a guardhouse and realized not too further along that we were only just reaching the marshy part of the lake… and it was dark.  We turned around and drove again past an even-more suspicious guard back towards the main road.  
We were almost at the main road, and getting eager to get back to Selçuk where a more substantial dinner might be found, when we found ourselves stuck behind a flock of sheet.  I mean, sheep.  Even though we joked a lot and complained a little, we were happy enough to be in the middle of nowhere in Turkey stuck behind a flock of sheep herded by actual Turkish shepherds, rather than tucked into a comfy resort where we would never get to smell… well, sheep.  
After further adventures with autogaz, which cost us about 50L for the day, we were back at the Hotel Bella, dropped the car keys off at the front desk, picked up our beady yellow key fob, and dragged our sorry selves all the way up the stairs to the terrace restaurant.  There were a TON of people up there — more than I thought the hotel would hold — and the food they were eating looked divine.  We plunked ourselves down on a divan in the corner near the fireplace, and chatted a little with a harried-looking Urdal (Nazmi’s partner) about our day.  The menu looked reasonable but we weren’t too into the prix fixe that looked great but was too much food given our late lunch.  Urdal cheerfully allowed us to order some mezes but going to the display cabinet was too much for me — they all looked so darn good — and I think I ordered five.  Or six.  Maybe more.  They were all delicious, though, and we stuffed ourselves stupid.  
We spent a very enjoyable evening eating and chatting with other guests and eating some more and looking at the very lovely view of the lit-up walls of St. John’s Basilica and the aquaduct.  The other guests we chatted with were very nice: we met an Australian doctor who had a winery and we had interesting conversations about the wine industry.  Keep in mind that my expertise was pretty much limited to having done a few winery tours in the Okanagen; fortunately Steve was better read than I.  Linda, a Chinese Canadian from Vancouver, was there to visit religious sites including Mary’s House.  The evening was very convivial and we ate and talked and ate some more.  
When we finally rolled ourselves into our room, we were struck all over at how nice it was.  The maids had changed our towels and emptied the garbage (which was important, as there was a helpful sign in the washroom that declared the hotel to be in the old part of town and requested we not flush anything paper down the toilet).  
The maids had also, slightly less helpfully, thrown out the plastic bag we had placed on the floor that contained our pomegranates that we had been hauling around since our first day in Çirali.  On the upside, they also threw out the knife we had gotten in Fethiye to cut up said pomegranates… why that’s the upside, I’m not sure, but we were remarkably cheerful about the loss, and we went to bed content.

Turkey — Day Eighteen — Kayakoy and Selcuk

October 25, Kayakoy to Selcuk

Thursday morning we woke to an intensely blue Mediterranean sky, and there was heat in the air even at 8am.  We were up on the terrace for an early breakfast — early enough that the woman had to head out to the store to get the bread.  After she returned, and we ate, she offered 1/2 in English and 1/2 in charades to go down to the town with me and look for a carpet bag like the one leaving today for Antalya with the English girls.
The girl and I, whose name I wasn’t able to figure out, walked briskly down the pier into the little pedestrian-only shopping area which was a maze of touristy shops peddling real and fake designer duds and shoes.  Some advertised their realness but that wasn’t, frankly, all that reassuring.  Much to my surprise, I was led to a purse shop full of what may well have been real Tod’s, Chanel and Prada… nice, but not quite what I was looking for.  I was then taken to a shop that had the carpet bags, but the littlest purse was the 150L I was looking at spending on a luggage-sized piece.  The man was very convincing, and the bags were lovely, but it was too much for me.  She took me then to a succession of bag shops with cheaper and faker bags — to give her credit, she did try to find me a bag, but there just wasn’t the bag I wanted at the price I wanted.  Mind you, I was Very Tempted by one of those Tod’s bags.  I felt badly, as no doubt there would have been a commission in it for her had I purchased, but at least I gave her a justified excuse to hang out and smoke cigarettes and eat pastries on the clock.
Despite my lingering, I was back at the pension in time to get packed up before checkout at 11.  We made arrangements to leave our packs at the pension while we tried to get a trip to the ruined Greek town of Kayakoy in before we had to meet our bus to Selcuk at 4:30pm.
We knew there was a dolmus leaving from the dolmus station near the market area in downtown Fethiye, but my lingering did, unfortunately, prevent us from making that bus.  In a fit of not disappointing Steve from seeing Kaya, I suggested we quick march up the high road over the theatre and meet the bus on it’s way up the Kayakoy road.  We set off in the already hot sun up the upper road.  Did you catch the use of the word ‘up’? Yeah — uphill, at a brisk walk.  Did you see that it was a hot day? Yeah.  
We passed the Horizon Hotel, which had been our choice for hotel.  It would have had an amazing view, but we had heard from somewhere (completely unsubstantiated) that the reason the tourism office didn’t recommend it is because some of the rooms come with girls.  
Anyway, we went up the hill past the slightly lame Ottoman castle, and found the Kaya road, and we should have been in time to meet the bus.  It didn’t come during the space of time that we stopped to catch our breath, and it didn’t come in the time it took to start breathing deep of the hot pine-and-honey scented air, and it didn’t come in the time that we gave up waiting for it and started walking up the hill.  It’s only seven kilometres, we thought.  Did I mention we started walking? Up the hill?  Yeah.  
After not too long, a slightly decrepit older sedan came by, and I guess we must have looked mighty hopeful, because the driver stopped for us.  We told him we were going to Kayakoy, and he looked briefly concerned before uttering a torrent of Turkish that we didn’t understand.  We would have agreed to almost anything that involved wheels at that point, and he gave us a bit of a look and beckoned us into the car. We were in in a flash and were astonished at the sheer number and steepness of the switchbacks that old car swooped us up.  Just over the crest of the hill, he pulled to the side of the road and guestured us to get out.  We thanked him very much as he turned off into a driveway.
We walked a few minutes down the hill towards the valley and were so pleased to see a little cobblestone road heading off the paved road to the right.  We looked at each other and thought what the heck? and left the main road.  
The cobble road wound down the hill through a wooded area for almost a kilometre — one of the nicest kilometres we spent in Turkey.  The pine scent along with honey and dust and heat hung heavy in the air.  The greens of the forest were deep and intensely Mediterranean.  We could see little glimpses of the verdant valley floor and, in the distance, a crest of hills dotted with the white houses: what could only be the ruins of Kayakoy.  
Once down in the valley floor, we walked in what seemed ought to be the right direction, past a few lovely little pensions, orchards and farms.  We got a bit of a glare from one elderly person in a field, but it wasn’t enough to ruin our enjoyment of the beautiful day.  The back roads and fields were exquisite and we wandered and looked and frequently consulted our LP map, which was not incredibly helpful in this situation.  After an hour and some, we found ourselves in a little village area, and turning left here, we approached Kaya itself.  
Kayakoy was a predominantly Greek town and when the Greek-Turkish population exchange occurred in the 1920s, the Turks that came decided not to settle in Kayakoy, which ended up completely deserted.  Over time, the wood from the roofs and floors were taken by the valley dwellers for their purposes, and then there was an earthquake in the 50s that partially destroyed the town.  A lot of it is still standing and there is an air of quiet contemplation among the whitewashed ruins with their hints of blue paint. 
After purchasing our tickets for 5L each as well as a little explanatory booklet for a few more lira, we wandered through some little roads to the Lower Church, which was in very good shape (it had been used as a mosque until the 1960s).  It was really lovely and full of light that spilled onto the arches and domes, and onto the faded icons and cracked mosaic floors.  We were tempted to linger in this spot, but we knew we had limited time — the walk through the valley had taken longer than we thought, and we did have to be back in Fethiye to catch a bus in the afternoon.  
We decided to climb up the hill to the observatory and then through the town to the other side, then perhaps to get some lunch in one of the charming cafes we had seen on our walk, before going back to town.  As we left the church, a friendly kopek joined us on our walk in a very nonchalant fashion so typical of Turkish dogs.  You’re going on a walk? Excellent.  I’ll join you.  Tesekkur ederim.
We walked up the steep and stoney paths towards the top of the hill.  I was finding myself a little out of breath and coughing, so decided to forgo the no-doubt fabulous view of the ocean that would be on the other side of the hill.  Steve and the kopek walked the rest of the way while I hung out on a flat stone in the sun, watching the birds and lizards and resting my lungs.  It only took 20 minutes for Steve and the dog to return to where I was sitting and we continued along across the top of the hillside, through lovely, sad ruins of broken houses.  
Every so often, we would see a hint of the relative immediacy of the former inhabitants: a painted design, a worn tread on a stair, the overgrown remains of a herb garden.  You could see where Louis De Bernieres got his inspiration for the gorgeous “Birds Without Wings” which tells the story of a fictionalized village with both Turkish and Greek inhabitants, right up until the population exchange.  I could just imagine a priest and an imam passing each other on these narrow tracks, exchanging a friendly “hello, infidel.”  
We learned that it was actually very difficult after the Greeks left as the Greeks generally were the professionals — doctors, lawyers, engineers — and when they left, Turkey was left with a bit of a knowledge vacuum for a while.
We made our way over to the Upper Church, was was large and impressive with a beautiful mosaic floor with designs made in black and white pebbles.  It was still very nice, but lacked some of the charm of the smaller Lower Church, but that may have to do with the Upper Church crawling with tourists.  We emerged into the courtyard and saw an older, rather quaintly dressed woman.  It seemed charming until she demanded, in very broken English, money for the privilege of looking at her.  We didn’t pay, which might seem harsh as she was adding to the general atmosphere… but she was rude, and I don’t pay for rude.
Walking back down into the occupied lower part of the village, we passed a restaurant.  Since it was getting on, and Steve was anxious to reach town with enough time to get our bus, we asked when the next bus left.  Most surprised were we to find out that it was going in less than ten minutes and the next one wouldn’t be for an hour or more!  We hoofed it down the road and ran up to the bus stop just as the dolmus was pulling up.  We climbed on, paid our few lira, and settled back for the magical mystery tour.  
The dolmus didn’t take the direct, steep route to Fethiye that we tried to walk up… instead it went through the VERY BRITISH town of Hisaronu.  For example, looking out the smudgy dolmus window, I saw the Red Lion pub, more fish & chip shops than I could count, and a vast number of very disturbing stores which promised to wax everything.  Every sign was in English and every price tag was in pounds.  We rather wished that we had made the Kaya valley our base while in this area rather than staying in Fethiye proper.  Even Oludeniz would have been ok — even though it’s apparently very touristy, at least it would have had the beach.  We still thanked our lucky stars that we did NOT opt to stay in Hisaronu.  What a nightmare!
Back in Fethiye, we walked from the dolmus station to the Ideal Pension, picked up our bags and walked back down to the quay.  As we were tired and hungry, laden with heavy packs, and a little stressed about making our bus, we (ok, I) opted to have lunch in the Park Cafe, since it was very close to the travel agency where we’d be catching the shuttle bus that would take us to the big bus station.  
After a quick lunch and a quick argument (one of the only ones we had on this trip, and entirely the result of being overhungry from not eating in Kaya as originally planned), we walked over to the travel agency with plenty of time to spare.
The slim blonde girl who had originally helped us buy our bus and tour tickets was in the office.  When the shuttle bus to the otogar seemed a little late, she told us not to worry.  When it was quite late, she told us not to worry.  When it finally showed up and we showed some alarm at perhaps not making our bus, she told us not to worry.  Worried, we got on the shuttle.  Only thing was, it wasn’t really a shuttle — it was a dolmus.  We knew this, because it stopped at every dolmus stop to pick up people.  It was more than a little frustrating to be on the milk run when we were late, but about halfway into the trip, the dolmus driver was flagged down by another dolmus driver on the side of the road and appeared to be given royal heck for not getting us to the otogar on time.  The flagger-downer waved and smiled at us, and our driver put his foot to the floor.  
We pulled into the otogar and were met at the sidewalk in front by a bus guy who ran with us to the bus, where everyone was waiting for us.  I managed to gasp a tuvalet request and the driver took pity on me, and waved me off to the WC for a pre-trip pit stop.  
Really, we should have known the trip wasn’t going to go well based on how it started, but somehow we were surprised when the bus left late (later than our late arrival warranted) and dawdled at every stop.  Even though the day was baking, the heat was on full blast and the driver wouldn’t turn it off, even when I asked directly in Turkish using my guidebook.   By now I knew my accent was good enough that it wasn’t a matter of him not understanding me.  Mind you, we didn’t get stung by anything, but it was a hot, cramped, long and uncomfortable trip.  It was our second branch out from Nevsehir bus lines, which we’d taken for every trip but Cirali to Fethiye and this one, and we weren’t impressed.  
We rolled into Selcuk at just after 10pm, an hour later than we expected to be there.  When we emerged from the bus, tired and grumpy, we were greeted by a man who invited us to stay at his hotel.  Fortunately, we had the excuse that we were already booked, and we thought he’d go away.  Instead, he asked which hotel and, when we told him ‘Hotel Bella’, he disappeared for a minute.  When he reappeared, moments later, he told us that he had had the bus man call the hotel and they would send a car to pick us up in five minutes.  
It actually seemed more like two and a half minutes later that a van whipped up and loaded our bags in about a second, and deposited the bedraggled us at the door of the hotel about a minute later.  We were handed our key by a sympathetic looking Australian woman, and hauled our sorry selves into our room at the front of the hotel.  We weren’t so tired that we didn’t notice that the dark wood furniture was lovely, the lace curtains floating in the breeze charming and the tiled bathroom impeccably clean.  Even though we had booked a double, there was an extra single bed in the room, which was great for throwing down our bags on so that we could immediately slide between the crisp white sheets and fall into a dreamless sleep.