Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Farewell to the Lycian Coast 16

Today is set aside for sailing, swimming and relaxing, and that is exactly what we do. After breakfast, I stroll around the gulet. Our captain is trying to get enough wind to hoist our sails but we are not very lucky this morning. We stop for a swim in a private cove that makes me feel we are the first visitors ever while on the other hand it emanates that kind of old wisdom that so many have been here before us.

After lunch, we set out again in Fethiye Bay and this time, the weather gods are with us. All the sails are out, the motor is silenced and the comforting sounds of wind and water take over. I have nestled myself in a solitary spot at the bow, savoring my front row seating and panoramic view. The deep ink blue sea is dotted with paper-like sailboats. On port side, the mainland of Fethiye is shrouded in a haze and I wonder if this is dust or pollution? It is an unforgettable sensation to be at the mercy of the winds billowing the sails and pushing us towards our next and final destination, Göçek.

All too soon the spell is broken. This is where it all ends. Our gulet is moored among hundreds of other boats. The town’s noises of music, people talking and laughing, merchants selling their knickknacks mingle with the smell of food. Our trip has come to an end. We all find it hard to return to reality and we are glad that our poet has found the right words to summarize the impressions we all share. He wrote them down in the ship’s log but he personally read them to us after our last dinner on board:

L Y C I A N    D A Y S

Warm thanks to the crew of Almira
And Peter, our eloquent guide,
And the skills of our undaunted drivers
On many a hair-raising drive.

We’ve trekked over pine-scented hillsides,
And swum in a wine-dark lagoon,
And relished fine dishes of mezes
Under a pale crescent moon.

We’ve visited hill towns and harbours,
Where the ancient Lycians arose,
Who buried their dead in stone boxes,
And sat in stone theatres for shows.

The oracle temple at Sura,
Where fishy predictions were granted,
And the Ottoman castle at Kale,
By the glow of the sunset enchanted.

The grand council hall at Patara,
New revealed by the deep-delving spade,
Sidyma, Tlos and Pinara
Of these names are rich memories made.

John Onley October 2007

Click on the Label Lycian Coast to read my full travel story

Friday, February 22, 2008

Unexpected visit to Tlos - Lycian Coast 15

Because of the storm earlier on our trip (see Peter Sommer Travels), our entire program has been pulled one day forward. As a result, we wind up with an extra day at the end of our tour and Peter is giving us a choice: either take a two-hour walk behind Fethiye or visit the archeological site of Tlos. We all agree on Tlos, which makes me personally very happy – of course!

First, we go to Fethiye, that is after a quick dip in the sea for my companions. Our bus pulls up around 10.30 a.m. to take us there as our boat will join us later on. We will have about 1 ½ hour in town for shopping and I set off straight to the Archeological Museum (where else?). It is a small museum, a little old fashioned but it shows a couple of items that make it worthwhile for me. For instance, this is where I can find the mosaic from the Temple of Apollo in Letoon (4th century BC) and the stele with the law inscription of Pixodaros, satrap of Caria, in Greek, Lycian, and Aramaic, dating back to the time of Artaxerxes – both originals that I have seen in Letoon earlier this Spring. A smaller stele from Tlos, unique in its way, mentions how its citizens paid for the city repairs after being hit by an earthquake. There are, of course, the usual and more common items like glassware, pottery, coins from different times and in different metals, golden jewelry and parts of statues, mostly Roman. As always, I’m happy to see these items with my own eyes. After this most pleasant visit, I have time left for a Turkish coffee and I find a kind of Konditorei that serves it with pistachio baklava on the side, right on the main street. Great! Just what I needed!

Fethiye stands on the site of the ancient Lycian city of Telmessus, whose remains include spectacular rock tombs and sarcophagi dating from the 5th-4th century BC. Other landmarks include the remains of a Byzantine fortress on top of a nearby hill, but somehow I missed noticing it. Much of the town is new, however, having been rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1958. There seems to be a Lycian sarcophagus well worth visiting, the so-called Tomb of Amyntas dating from the 4th century BC built in Doric style. So I’ll have to come back to Fethiye also.

Our meeting point is in front of the Roman Theater at the far end of the main road – easy to find and I am there early enough to make my inspection tour. Fethiye’s theater has been excavated from 1992 to 1995 but still looks very confusing and overgrown. Built in the 2nd century AD, it has been modified in Roman times and even converted into an arena with high walls around the orchestra to protect the audience from wild animals’ attacks. Part of the skene and proscenium has also survived but it all looks very neglected. It provides, however, a sweeping view over the harbor, separated from the sea by a tranquil park where an oversized bronze pilot stares up at the sky. This is Fethi Bey, Turkey’s first aviation martyr, who crashed near Damascus in 1914 in an attempt to fly non-stop from Istanbul to Cairo. In honor of his heroic exploit, the city changed its original name from Meğri to Fethiye.

The Bay of Fethiye is very wide and large, and it seems to be a favorite spot for tourist and fishing boats alike. I spot the Almira with her green trimmings in the middle of the harbor and moments later I see our zodiac approaching with Peter on board. He carries our lunch for today and it is about 1 p.m. when we set out for Tlos. This is a pleasant drive land inwards and I am all excited entering the Xanthos Valley again for this is Alexander territory.

Tlos, known as Tlava or Tlave in Lycian language, goes back four thousand years, and it seems that even the Hittites referred to Tlos as Dalawa in the land of Luqqa. Tlos, was one of the six cities that had three votes in the Lycian League, remember? The devastating earthquake of 141 AD hit the city severely, and once again we have to thank our friend Opramoas of Rhodiapolis as well as Licinus Langus of Oenoanda, another rich Lycian, for the denarii they donated for the reconstruction. After being a diocese in Byzantine times, nothing major happened here until Ali Aga ruled over this region in the 19th century and built his stronghold right on top of the old Acropolis, where it still stands.

We park on a narrow local road and Peter and Ivşak carry our lunches into ancient Tlos where we find the most exquisite picnic place: a series of blocks from the bathhouse that have been aligned in its shade with an eagle eye’s view over the historic valley below. We spread out the food as on a table and help ourselves. This is really something special, sitting here among those ruins savoring the food in a place where Romans, Greeks, Lycians and earlier civilizations lived in centuries past. The ancients must have spotted this place too and maybe savored their own snack watching the scenery. It always makes me feel very privileged to sit in a place where people from times bygone have done so before. What were they seeing? What were they thinking? Whom did they talk to? This is beyond imagination, of course.

After clearing our tables, we take a closer look at this Roman Bath complex. The archeologists have been working here in the past few months and much of the soil and rubble has been removed from the Solarium where apparently precious mosaics have been found and are now covered with plastic and dirt to protect them from the elements. It is remarkable how thick the layer of removed soil is over here, I would say 1,5 to 2 meters? It also shows how white the original building stones were. The different rooms of this bathhouse have not been mapped yet, all we know is that there are several more but it is too early to know their exact location and function.

We pass the Byzantine Basilica where all the trees and bushes have been cut down very recently for the heart of the trunks and branches is still whitish. The overall plan is now plainly exposed and we distinguish three wide naves with a central row of columns lying as they collapsed with even a few traces of plaster left on the walls. This Basilica might be standing on top of an older temple, only time will tell.

Next to the Basilica stands the theater where the loose stones are already inventoried and may some day find their original position again. Parts of the skene and proscenium are still standing to the right with a remarkable window to the outside and that may have been framed by a column on either side and covered with a protruding roof.

Inside the theater, the lower rows of seats have been cleared of rubble and soil. The big blocks are piled up near the skene and the debris is neatly heaped up in the middle of the orchestra waiting for a way to carry it outside. The benches of each row are still neatly aligned with at the corner the lion paws at their feet. All around the top of the theater high slabs are preventing the visitors from falling down as the theater’s back is not leaning against the hillside. The original construction is definitely Greek and adapted to Romans needs in later times like they did in Fethiye and in Patara. The bashed and battered VIP seats are now in the ambulatorium, meaning that here also the theater was turned into an arena. The vomitoriums on either side are still filled with fallen stones and rocks, reminding me of Letoon. It will be interesting to return here in a couple of years to see the results of these excavations and restorations.

There is a group of Germans in the theater and the guide is reciting the history of Lycia for the world to hear. We find this very disturbing and huddle together at one end of the seating rows, hoping that he’ll cut his oration short. He doesn’t and goes on and on about Chimaera and the Hittites and the Persians; where or when Tlos or this theater is fitting in his story remains an open question. Peter whispers a few facts and figures about this theater, and we all are very much relieved when the German group finally moves out. The poet in our group has decided it is time for a proper performance and treats us to some appropriate lines of Brutus from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Wow! That is something else! We all watch and listen in awe. A lonely tourist taking detailed pictures stops in his tracks and watches him with respect. When at the end we all applaud, he shares our enthusiasm and claps with a broad smile on his face. Wonderful!

On the other side of the modern road, the Stadium has been unearthed, showing several rows of seats over the entire length, leaning against the Roman city wall. The floor itself is being used by the villagers for their good looking crop of corn, but the spine of the stadium has been cleared and is plainly visible. It is easy to imagine races being held here, something like in the Ben-Hur movie.

The rocky hillside behind the Stadium was obviously a favorite spot for the Lycians to build their tombs, many showing the early wooden door patterns. I even discover one tomb that still has its sliding door in place! We try to move it but it doesn’t budge. Maybe it needs some waxing to make it slide again, I wonder?

We climb higher up to the Acropolis, past a few typical very weathered Lycian sarcophagi. The Acropolis itself has little to offer from antique times, only the 19th-century walls of the fort that Aga Ali, also called Bloody Ali built here. Yet the view over the Xanthos Valley is breathtaking! We can easily locate the old cities we visited on earlier trips: Sidyma, Pınara, and Patara further south, with at the far horizon the glittering Mediterranean Sea. This was definitely a most fertile valley, and it still is today with the many prosperous fields and healthy fruit trees, not at all touched by fall colors in this part of the country. This is mid-October, isn't it?

Well, so much for Tlos. We return to Fethiye and at the foot of the Roman Theater we say our goodbyes to Ivşak, whose hand is still swollen and itchy from the bee sting but otherwise, he is doing fine. Our poet has composed a short but warm thank you poem and Ivşak is rather moved by the entire event. I guess he did not expect such honor! Well, if you have a poem written especially for you and read to you in public, you would be moved too, wouldn’t you?

We return aboard the Almira and leave Fethiye harbor for a more remote and quieter anchor place, just a little further up north. By the time we get there, darkness has set in already.

Friday, February 15, 2008

In the heart of Butterfly Valley - Lycian Coast 14

Today’s walk will take us to the other side of Butterfly Valley, i.e. to the north. This will be our longest walk since the one to Phellos was canceled. It is a beautiful morning, ideal weather for walking, very pleasant indeed.

The climb starts right away, steadily widening our view over the Blue Lagoon. Early paragliders are hovering above us and in their descent I notice that one of them is close to hit the mast of our Almira – or is my perspective playing tricks on me? But at our next stop I see that the Almira has moved to the side of the bay, safely out of the way of these big toys. Thank God!

The weather is as clear as yesterday’s and we are so lucky to climb this side of the mountain entirely in the shade. It is even so cool that, after finishing our early lunch in a shady spot, we are glad to be moving into the sunshine. Peter and Ivşak carried a wonderful picnic from the boat: stuffed bellpeppers, şigara börek and beans in tomato sauce. Delicious pomegranates, apples and pears for desert, juicy and sweet. All I have to carry is water and believe me that is more than enough for me!

We proceed to the high tree line of the Baba Dağı, the Father Mountain. The whitish rock looks very friable, reminding me of the Sierra Nevada (California) or dead travertine deposits from Pamukkale. The paragliders with their colored canopies keep fascinating us. We hear them yell when they jump off in ecstasy somewhere behind the top or when they perform one of their twists and twirls, free as a bird, soaring through the clear air above us.

The trail now runs among huge boulders that have come down in earlier times, flash flooded river beds filled with debris and where tall pine trees have safely anchored their roots. Occasionally we see rows of beehives, neatly aligned on a ridge and we try to walk around them at a safe distance. In one of the clearings a beekeeper is sharing his picnic with his family and we get a plate filled with pure fresh honey. Basically I don’t fancy honey, but being here in the middle of nature with a treat of this nectar as fresh as can be, I feel I must at least try it. We spot a kind of table rock and with a few smaller stones we build a little shrine to receive the amber-colored plate holding our treat. We gather around and savor the honey dipping our bread in the nectar. What a relish!

And onwards we go! We pass another few rows of beehives where the beekeeper is dressed in his protective suit to gather the honey. He stops when he sees us coming nearer and we march by in a single file in as wide a circle as possible. Unfortunately the bees have been disturbed and buzz around us. All of the sudden we are in the middle of a mass attack! Everybody scrambles, jumps, waves and dances around in a futile effort to chase the bees away. Our guide, Ivşak is the first victim, and then it is my turn. I can’t get rid of the zooming bee, I think it is in my ear but I don’t feel it – just hear the zooming close by. I’m desperate and try to knock it off, running, turning, waving, smacking my hat in the air, but the bee is still buzzing like mad. I cry out for help when I realize that the nasty thing is entangled in my hair but I have no idea how or where. At last I run my fingers through my hair above my ear and eyeglasses and then the frightening sound is gone. My face is afire now. Is the sting still in there? I have no idea. It hurts like hell! When I look around again, our orderly marching line is in complete disarray. Everybody is gesticulating and talking erratically. One of my fellow travelers has been stung in her hair and another one has several stings in his arms.

Luckily Peter is prepared for any situation and he calmly takes the sting out using the small scissors from his emergency kit as tweezers. O good, that is that. The bees are still flocking around us and we all take a run to a safer distance in the shade of the trees to assert the damage. Some antiseptic gel should soothe my pain and after a while it does just that. Ivşak however develops a serious allergic reaction, his face is swelling and his throat feels dry. He is very worried. Out of nowhere, a bus comes riding up, like a being from another planet for we happen to be on the sole stretch of asphalt road for miles around. Strange how things work out at times. The bus stops at the head of our shattered group. We must have been quite a sight for any bystander! The driver and Ivşak exchange a few words and the latter accepts the ride. Peter makes sure we are all capable to continue our walk before the bus pursues his route to town. Later that afternoon we hear that Ivşak has made it to the hospital and got a serum shot. He is OK.

All is under control now and we can continue on our Lycian Way. Are we still on it? Yes, of course we are! Although the walk is longer than yesterday’s it does not feel like it. Maybe the weather is just perfect, maybe I am getting used to the pace, or maybe the terrain simply becomes more familiar – who knows? We now reach the downhill part and realize that Ivşak took off with our food. So we “borrow” a pomegranate here and a bunch of sweet grapes there, doing very well overall. Rather suddenly we have reached the end of our trail, where our bus is waiting for us. Great! It takes us for a short drive to what is called George Restaurant, a plain clean place serving tea and beer overlooking Butterfly Valley, with floors made of broken slabs of marble. Two simple wooden cabins provide lodging for an occasional traveler at the incredible rate of 25 YTL/day, including breakfast and dinner.

We stroll to the very edge of Butterfly Valley, a steep abyss that resonates with the sound of water, somewhere in a hidden downfall. It may be the quietness of the place, or the golden light of the late afternoon sun, but it comes to me like a corner of paradise, a pristine world hidden away from 21st century’s intruders. We are very privileged to witness this!

The drive to the boat takes us over the same road as yesterday, just a little earlier in the evening and we miss the sunset altogether as the magic orange glow disappears behind one of the smaller islands. Time for a good hot shower and another delicious Turkish meal that Fatuşa has put together. Yes, I am hungry!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Exploring the Butterfly Valley - Lycian Coast 13

The engines are started shortly after 7 a.m. to take advantage of the favorable winds, heading for Kabak, way up north along Lycia’s coastline. The sea is still very choppy and exceptionally breakfast is served inside. We move closely together around the long wooden table across from Fatuşa’s kitchen. It takes some juggling with plates and trays but it is fun for a change.

DOLPHINS! We all jump up to have a look overboard. This time, the graceful flippers swim quite a while alongside the gulet, diving and jumping like I have seen in movies, but this is real. There are two of them, larger than I expected and ash gray rather than silvery. We all enjoy their fast swimming as they try to stay ahead of the boat, keeping us company, playing hide and seek. My camera is downstairs and I hesitate to run for it. I may miss the show, you see? But as the dolphins play their act over and over, I decide to make a dash for my camera. I manage to take two quick shots, not the best ones, however. Well, I clearly saw the dolphins this time and I have the proof in the pictures! So there!

It is about 10.30 a.m. when we anchor next to the Blue Lagoon in the Ölüdeniz area and Peter unfolds the plans for today. In fact we are back on schedule, just one day ahead of the initial program. We’ll have an early lunch and leave around 1 p.m. for our 4 ½ hour walk to Butterfly Valley, a steep canyon of about 350 – 400 meters deep with a small triangular valley floor. It is located at the base of the Baba Dağı (1970 m), a zone that is protected by the World Heritage Foundation because of its abundance of unique butterfly species.

We get ready with our walking stick, camera, sunscreen, hat, water and more water and the zodiac brings us in two trips to what seems our private gravel beach under the empty eyes of a lonely wooden shack. It is not easy to jump on dry land without wetting our feet in the long thin waves but we calculate our coup well and we all manage.

We start straight uphill over a rather rocky path winding among the pine trees. The air is filled with the familiar smell of warm pines and cool sea breeze. We stop at regular intervals to catch our breath and enjoy the view back to the waterfront where our Almira is faithfully waiting for us. As we climb higher the view gets wider. Near the top of the ridge, we stop at a wonderful oasis, the Olive Garden. We enjoy a glass of pure fruit juice in the shade of a wooden roofing which the owner has built here between two square terraces arranged in Ottoman style overlooking the valley and the sea below. He made a work of art of his flower and vegetable gardens too and even built three wooden houses for any traveler crossing his road and wishing to spend the night here. To judge by the toilets, the place is kept extremely clean. Peter explains that in Turkey, no permit is required for building any wooden structure and this is why these guesthouses and terrace sittings are made of wood rather than brick or stone. After this lovely refreshing stop, we move on to the very top of the shoulder.

The panorama up here is absolutely superb and the saying “on a clear day you can see forever” is definitely true here. We can see both promontories holding Fethiye in the foreground (Dokubasi and Kurtoglu), the long headland of Bozburun under Marmaris with the small bump of Simi Island right behind it and even the clear outlines of Rhodes. It comes to me like an aerial view or walking on top of the world. Even Peter is all excited about it; he never saw it as clearly as today - that is how fortunate we are!

Our path twists and turns with more viewpoints, where we keep recognizing new contours of the lands in the west under a soft blue sky. Gradually our road is descending towards the gorge of Butterfly Valley and the paragliders we spotted earlier today are swirling over and around us to finally touch ground near the red marker on the beach below. Our bus is waiting at the edge of the gorge and we move on right away to take advantage of the last daylight on this tricky twisting narrow road down to Sun City. Good timing, for as we reach sea level, so has the sun and the last bright red blob sinks behind the horizon. Fascinating! By the time the dinghies have us safely back on board, night has fallen.