Friday, 23 July 2010

Research and relaxation

The more times I visit Mavikent, the more layers I discover to the history of the area. We approach the place from Adana, driving past Tarsus, where Cleopatra made her famous visit to Mark Antony, arriving at the city in a gold barge rowed by silver-tipped oars. Then we pass the castle where in 1482 Cem Sultan and the few survivors of his struggle against his brother, the Sultan Bayazid II, slipped down to the sea and set off in a French boat to take refuge in Rhodes.

Korykos and Kizkulesi [ Maiden's Castle]

At Kizkalesi [ Maiden's Castle ] we can set off uphill to an endless series of ancient sites, Greek, Roman and Byzantine, culminating in the sacred city of Diocaesaria, now know as Uzuncaburc [ Turkish for tall columns ] or we can pause at the tiny museum of The Three Graces at Narlikuyu and have a meal in the fish restaurant over the road.

Fish Restaurant [with River 'Styx' flowing into the sea] at Narlikuyu

Then it's on to Silifke, ancient Seleucia, spreading along the Goksu river that comes tumbling down wide and green from the Taurus mountains. There is plenty to visit in this pleasant town, whether we want to study the history of the place or simply visit the shops and wander round the huge Friday market.
North of the town is a monument to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who drowned in a sudden flood in June 1190, while camped on the river bank on his way to the Third Crusade.

Beach and half-hidden village of Mavikent

But we proceed along the Antalya highway until we reach the almost hidden turnoff for Mavikent. We make our way over the top of the hill and down a series of hairpin bends until we reach the end of the peninsula and enter this secret village. Our aim is relaxation and some research for more stories...with an Ottoman theme.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Pirate Coast

The southern Turkish coast, north of Cyprus, is rugged and wild. The Taurus Mountains in the background rise high and jagged, sending everything tilting down towards the sea at a sharp angle. The whole region is fragrant with pinewoods and myrtle. The bright green slopes, the dazzling blue sky and the turquoise and deep lapis of the sea create a rich background to life here. The sun shines on at least three hundred days of the year.

 This area has been inhabited since very ancient times.The ancient entrance to the Underworld, where the River Styx flows, can still be visited [by the intrepid] near the little town of Kizkalesi.You can hear the mainly underground river roaring along as you descend into the grotto, which quickly becomes dark and slippery. This is the Cave of Heaven [Cennet in Turkish]. A little further up the hillside is the chasm of Hell [Cehennem]. Prisoners to be punished were cast down into this horribly deep maw. The only way to get in - or out - alive, is on a rope....

The river reaches the coast at Narlikuyu, and flows into the sea after passing through the Greek and then Roman bathhouse with its mosaic of the Three Graces. This is now a one room museum, opened up as required when tourists arrive.

To preserve the mosaic, the water has been diverted back underground at this point [very close to the sea]. It is said that bathing in the water of this river keeps you young. In olden days the pirates put into the bay to take on supplies of this fresh water where it flowed into the sea. Now the rivermouth is firmly in the middle of an open air fish restaurant, where it is the main attraction.

Pirates are only seen on Sundays when they run hour long boat trips from Bohsak Bay or Tasucu Port along the coast to Tisan and back. Of course, any other activities are kept as secret as ever.