Friday, December 3, 2010

Istanbul, Oylmpos, and the Chimera Beast

Turkey, a land where howling prayers echo though the streets and over the mountains three times a day. Where the men bath in fountains before entering a mosque and the woman cover all but the face in shrouds. Where one eats Kebab breakfast lunch and dinner (breakfast might be an exaggeration) Where the Cafes are lined with leathery men smoking nargile (hookah) and playing backgammon, and where to be beat by the likes of me (a woman) is very unlucky. A land where chestnuts roast on every street corner, and the bridges are lined with fishermen.  A world where the Mustache rains, and nobody got the memo that the 80-'s where over.

Matt and me flew into Istanbul on the 27th and stayed with some new couch surfing friends there for 3 days.  By day we explored the city on our own, navigating though crocked streets lined with cons and rip offs; and by night we dissolved into the local life of our host, smoking nargile and drinking salep. For our first step into Istanbul we made our way to the blue mosque. In contradiction to its name it is not blue, it gets its name however from the blue motif of the tiles inside (make's it a bit hard to spot for the likes of our American eyes :P) Right across from the Blue Mosque we stumbled upon, and luckily not into the Basilica Cistern. This was a huge water storage chamber for the Great Palace of Constantinople, now called the Topkapi Palace. Together Matt and me walked down into the Cistern which was one of the most unforgettable images we have found on our travels, a chamber of approx. 450 feet filled with nothing but darkness, 2 feet of water, and rows upon rows of marble columns.  In the far back corner of the Cistern we found two columns which were resting on Medusa's head. Many of the columns and heads a like were said to have been stolen off of old Roman building and brought by the Ottoman Empire to "Constantinople" Istanbul.Matt and I also witnessed the burning of the Historical Train Station. Strolling along the old city walls though the Topkapi Place Gardens we crested a little hill only to be stunned by the sight of the Old Train Station burning from the other side of the Bay.

After a few days in Istanbul Matt and me hoped on the Kamil Koc (pronounced couch not cock) which is an over night train that took us to the southern Mediterranean region Antalia. Matt wants me to let you know that after a long hard journey on the Kamil Koc our bums were very sore, unfortunately it's too true. We had a tip from someone to come to the little valley of Olympos in the middle of no where. We arrived 'there' at 8:30 AM after a 12 hr journey, and when I say 'there' i mean on the side of the road 15 Miles above Olympos with a stack of bags. Luckily this was a common occurrence and due to the regular dismayed backers left on the road a small cafe had opened up. Through our nonexistent Turkish and highly developed expertise of body language we gathered from the owner of the cafe that a mini shuttle bus would come to the top soon enough and we could catch a ride to the bottom of the valley then.

In Olympos we found accommodation at the Hotel California... well that is the name of our room. The place it's self is called Kadir's Top Tree Houses and it's really very special. It's a funky little adventure resort which looks like a mix of  "The Swiss Family Robinson" and "Butch Casady." (if these references are lost on you go ask your parents.) We have our own room here and get breakfast and lunch included in the fairly low price of 20 lira per person. Olympos it's self is amazing, Now it has perhaps a population of 50 but It once was a powerful ancient city filled with hustle and bustle from Hellenistic Period (just after Alexander the Greats conquests.) In the 1st century AD it was invaded by Cilician Pirates, run down and abandoned by anyone with dignity. About 100 years later a Roman commander accompanied by Julius Caesar took the city after a victory at sea. And so the city became part of the Roman Empire and stayed that way until during the civil wars that eventually crushed the roman empire and the city once again fell into the hands of the pirates. In the 10th AD the city was brought back to power by the christian crusaders who built fortresses along the coast. But though all this history and different societies that lived here, Olympos was abandoned by the 15th century. And today there is a little village here supported by tourism from people like me and matt who think the idea of strolling though the ancient ruins and artifacts, sitting on the Mediterranean beach underneath a 500 year old castle, surrounded by renegade grape vines olive and bay trees is about as close to perfect for the time being as one could get.
Matt and me are absolutely loving exploring here, as one could guess. There as no fences, or keep out signs, we're just able to wonder though the old roman ruins of temples and bath houses etc. Climbing though windows and touching the ancient carving in the stones.

Olympos was also home to the great Chimera beast; she had the head of lion, body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent (perhaps the front feet of a bird as well?) It is here that the beast was slain and in the spot of her death the flames of her anguish will forever burn. Science on the other hand has given light to the natural phenomena as being methane gas seeping out from the crevasses  in the rock and this is what causes the eternal flames of Chimera. Anyway you slice it it is very cool. Matt and me hiked about 6 kilometer though the valley and up the cliffy mountains to see the Chimera flames, when we finally arrived at the top of the mountain there they were as they were 2000 years ago. Homer actually wrote about Chimera in the Odyssey. It was truly amazing, an eternal gas stove glowing away in the sunset. We had heard it was a two beer minimum location for anyone who could stomach the climb so at the top we had a nice picnic of snacks and a couple brewskies. Matt actually light one of the flames... the gas seeps from the rocks and a few of the obvious normal flame spots where out so leave it to our Matty boy to take a lighter to them and test his luck. To our suprise one of the holes made a gurgling noise and then shot flames from it's mouth. We tried and tried to recreate this experience with no success. The flame had been light and the excess gas had been used so you will not get to see a video of this but you can hear the story alone.

I think i could tell you stories of the dogs we've adopted here, or that have adopted us; or of the climbers we've met and the people we've stayed with but i'll leave it at this for now and let you dwell on the Chimer Beast yourself. Perhaps you will make it to Olympos one day and then we'll all know that it's not some fairy land that Matt and me created for your enjoyment.

Until we wright again, much more to come...

1 comment:

  1. The Chimer Beast, quite a story, kinda sad. Science, bah humbug. Try, if you can, to keep Matt away from lighters after a couple bruskies. I sat with a glass of red wine and really enjoyed your story, almost felt like I was there with you guys, have fun, be safe!!
    Dan (old dad:)