Written for Fethiye Times and with photos by Mike Vickers
Feature photo above: Just downstream from Saklikent. This is what professional photographers would describe as ‘a moody juxtaposition of light and shade’, but I’m not a professional, so I describe it as ‘cloudy and blooming cold!’
As the end of this enforced period of isolation scampers tentatively into view – unless there’s an extension or two, of course – I have no doubt many of you will be planning to shrug off the residual effects of lockdown lethargy and make plans to stretch your legs, perhaps locally to begin with before striding out more confidently to explore further afield. Whichever it is, be assured Turkey is a country blessed with an inexhaustible supply of stunning views and wondrous places to visit. Throw in the ever-present possibility of encountering some charming eccentricity on the part of the locals and your day will be complete.
Jan and I love living in Fethiye. It’s a beautiful location, but to be frank, at this particular moment in time our eyeballs are just crying out to see something a little different, so if, like us, you’re in the market for some post-lockdown pottering about, here’s a selection of photos that may – or may not – help you decide where to go and what you might like to see. All in this album were taken outside Fethiye itself and although some are still fairly local destinations and within a easy drive, some most definitely aren’t, but whether close to town or not, I’d recommend making the effort as every location is very much worth the effort to visit. Also thrown in the mix are my usual nods to the delightful and unexpected.
I’ve tried to arrange these photos in a vague order of distance, starting with the locations nearest to Fethiye and ending up way over in Cappadocia! As with the previous albums, most of these photos were taken before the untimely arrival of Covid last year.
One of several cracking views from the launch point high up on Babadağ, but you’ll have to exercise patience if you want your photo to be devoid of squadrons of paragliders. I loitered for some time, but the results were worth the wait. I have a strong suspicion that it gets quite windy up there – those blue cedars have abandoned all hope of growing up straight. There’s a fair amount of communal huddling into the mountain going on here.
Is this the New Forest, or possibly the Forest of Dean? This can’t be Turkey, surely. Well, it is, and don’t call me Shirley! Although this place certainly looks green enough to be in good old Blighty, it’s not. This is the beautiful woodland near Günlüklü beach, on the way to Göcek, and these are günlüks, also known as Turkish sweetgum or liquidamber trees. The whole place was magical in the bright sunshine, the trees in early spring leaf with just the distant call of some unidentified bird to break the silence. Truly lovely.
While we’re on the subject of spring, I came across these amazingly delicate and graceful flowers growing in a forest glade near Inlice beach. Unable to identify them myself, I asked friends back in the UK if they could help and Sally came up with the goods, pointing me to a page on the website of the Friends of Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve. It’s a starry clover, common in the coastal areas of the Med, but in the UK it’s thrice as rare as platinum hen’s dentures! This plant can be found only in one or two locations, primarily on Shoreham beach, having arrived in 1804 after hitching a ride in a load of ship’s ballast. Thanks, Sally, much appreciated.
This lovely old traditional mosque is in Seki. I’ve only ever visited once many years ago but unfortunately on that particular day we were unable to enter as the doors were locked. Consequently, I was reduced to glimpsing the interior through a window – but what I saw was captivating!
We can’t leave Seki without a mentioning its famous annual oil wrestling festival, where men of stout physique slip on their tough leather britches, douse themselves from head to toe in extra virgin olive oil and attempt to wrestle their equally muscular and lubricous opponent to the ground. It’s obviously difficult to get a firm grip on a smooth-skinned well-oiled human, but when hands disappear up to the elbow beneath the britches, they do seem to find something to hold on to…
We’re used to seeing Babadağ just from the Fethiye side, so here’s an expansive autumn view of our favourite mountain taken from Kadıköy in the Esen valley, with Mendos off to the right. This valley is wonderfully fertile and produces a wide range of crops as the river guarantees good irrigation all year around. This was the secret strength of the ancient Lycians all those centuries ago – civilizations only flourish when you have a secure food supply. This whole area is well worth exploring.
Iztuzu beach, looking down from a lofty Radar Hill. The camera was on maximum zoom and I was braced against a tree, but it’s still a little fuzzy, so my apologies. I was about to dump the photo – then noticed the two tiny figures walking together along the water’s edge…
Ah, now, I’m proud of this one. I was extremely lucky to capture this shot of the famous but exceptionally secretive Electric Cat of Akyaka. The few remaining members of this species are rarely seen nowadays, but I managed to snap this one recharging his batteries. No guesses as to where he plugs in the power lead…
Here’s one of the Lions of Altınyayla. We just dropped by on our way to Kibrya and discovered a veritable pride of four or five venerable lion-carved sarcophagus lids dotted around the centre of town.
Jan admiring the Medusa mosaic at the ancient city of Kibrya near Gölhisar. The site is well worth a visit and this is by far the most beautifully designed mosaic I’ve ever seen. Not only is her serpentine hair and expression of despair captured in haunting detail, but the surrounding pattern is also a masterclass in geometric perfection.
I saw these plump girls sleeping peacefully in Çiralı, on our way back from visiting the Chimaera flames. They were perched on the back of this bench and as they fell asleep, their heads drooped and their necks slowly got longer and longer. I was impressed – when it comes to a body-to-neck length ratio, I reckon Turkish chickens come a respectable second only to giraffes. Or maybe camels.
A crack in the earth’s crust at Pamukkale has allowed mineral rich waters to well up from the depths and flow down this hillside for millennia, creating the famous white travertine terraces. These natural hot springs attracted the attention of our ancestors who, addicted to bathing as they were, promptly constructed Hierapolis on the site. It must have seemed like such a good idea at the time, but this is what happens if you could only afford to build on land at the cheaper end of town. By the way, the water’s still lovely and hot, as my feet well remember.
The ancient city of Aphrodesias was a renowned centre of sculpture, as you can tell from this exquisite bull’s head.
The wonderfully peaceful tomb of the Persian Sufi mystic, Rumi, at the Mevlana in Konya. We always stop in Konya on our way to Cappadocia. It’s a really lovely city and the Mevlana, with its glossy green-tiled tower, is well worth a visit.
We’re a long way from Fethiye now. The famous area of Cappadocia is a two-day drive east and the landscape here is barren and littered with thousands of these graceful fairy chimneys, or hoodoos,, each comprising a column of crumbly tufa rock ejected from the nearby Erciyes volcano and capped by a much harder basalt hat. The soft tufa is ideal for excavation so everyone dug out their own troglodyte houses and retired underground to keep warm in winter and cool in summer. Once the locals got the bug, they really went for it, chiselling out beautifully painted early Christian churches and even entire underground cities – as well as this unique and charming Jandarma station.