Kas to Cirali (Lycia, Turkey)

We set off in the camper van. Our goal is to find somewhere to stay that’s close to Mt Olympos, which we want to hike tomorrow.

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We’re running low on supplies so drive through Kas to find a supermarket. But there’s something better waiting for us: a farmers’ market. The market is set up right next to ancient tombs. It’s amazing that ancient ruins are so common here that the locals will just sell tomatoes standing in front of it. Not bad amazing. Seriously cool amazing.

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These are the real farmers’ markets where you can buy honey straight from the bee hive, cheese straight from the bucket in which it was made and vegetables that look a little battered because they are not genetically modified to withstand lengthy transport. We buy all sorts of vegetables and fruit for the princely sum of about 5TL ($AU2.50). We have egg plant, tomatoes, capsicum, apples, pomegranate, lemon, parsley, dill, zucchini, cucumber and a few other things that will last the three of us for the next few days. It’s both a bargain and an experience.

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Fridge and pantry restocked we drive up the cliff in the direction of Mt Olympos. The views from the road out of Kas are spectacular. We drive to Demre. The approach is strange. It’s like we are arriving at an alien planet because the whole river delta is covered in greenhouses. I’ve never seen anything like it but there’s no point trying to take a photo because it won’t turn out. There’s just sea of white plastic filling the space between the mountains from which we are descending and the sea.

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But Demre is an interesting place to stop because it is the place where the Basilica of St Nicholas (yes, here comes the continuation of the Santa Claus story) stands. St Nicholas looked nothing like Santa Clause, as the many statues in his honour show. St Nicholas is also the patron saint of both Greece and Russia. And this explains the Russian tour buses, Russian lettering on all the shops and the Orthodox trinkets for sale in the shops.

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The Basilica has been magnificently preserved. It includes some stunning frescoes. I enjoy being here.

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Demre (and the Basilica of St Nicholas) used to be part of the ancient city of Myra. This city was occupied by a range of races throughout history. The Lycians left behind these amazing cliff-side tombs. They dot a mountain up behind the city. The cliff tombs that you can access as a tourist are limited but still worth seeing.

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In the same area as the tombs there’s a huge Roman amphitheater. I am not tired of amphitheaters yet. I know that to some people they are like temples in Thailand: something you enjoy the first few times but then don’t need to see again. But I loved all of the hundred or so temples I visited in Thailand and am also loving all the amphitheaters in Turkey.

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We drive on and stop at a place called Saray Cigkofte (Raw Meatball Palace). We buy some drinks and are given a free cig kofte (raw Turkish meatball that tastes better than it sounds). Mum and Dad love it and ask for a second, thinking we can purchase them (it turns out at the end that the restaurant will not accept payment for them). We also eat kanafe (cheese fried in shredded pastry soaked in syrup and topped with crushed pistachio). These were made fresh to order and are absolutely amazing. The cheese almost tastes like semolina and the shredded pastry is almost like coconut. It brings smiles to our faces.

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We end our day at Cirali. It’s a tiny village made famous by the eternal flames that burn from the rocks. Mum and Dad chill out at the beach reading and enjoying an afternoon drink. Meanwhile, I head out on what should have been a short half hour run but ends up being a two hour geocaching adventure. On the way back I pass the mosque and notice how beautiful it is.

We walk into town and decide to eat at the Lemon Restaurant. It’s one of the few authentic Turkish restaurants we find. The service is friendly and the food tasty and cheap. I eat my first Turkish pide (Turkish pizza) while Mum and Dad enjoy some casseroles. It’s a good night with good company.

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And to end it off, I lay out under the stars to sleep. I love sleeping out under the stars.

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