Exploring Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
Continuing on with yesterday’s theme of beach and sunshine, we spent most of today exploring the crystal clear, turqouise blue waters of the Turkish Riviera. This is definitely a highly recommended activity for anyone seeking extreme relaxation.
The Turkish Riviera is the stretch of coastline that runs along the South-Western edge of Turkey. It is also known popularly as the Turquoise Coast due to the incredibly blue waters of its many bays and inlets. We’re currently staying in Fethiye, one of the bigger resort towns along the Turquoise Coast, in a small hotel right on the harbour. It was amazing waking up this morning to see the sun glinting off the water and painting the surrounding mountains green and gold.
As nice as the township of Fethiye is, it doesn’t have a beach per se. So we caught a local bus to the nearby village of Ölüdeniz in search of one of Turkey’s most celebrated beaches and lagoons. The so-called “Blue Lagoon” is actually a sheltered bay, situated right at the point where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet. As the name implies, the water there is blue – very, very blue.
It was a balmy 27C today so we once again got to go swimming, which was awesome. The water was a little chilly, but so clean – we could see fish swimming all around us. The lagoon is famous for its shades of turquoise and aquamarine, and is frequently rated among the top 5 beaches in the world. It’s also an immensely popular summer vacation spot for Russian, German and British tourists, for obvious reasons…
We wanted to go to Ölüdeniz not just for the magical beach, but also to walk some of the Lycian Way and see the ghost town of Kayaköy. The Lycian Way is a 500km walk that runs all along the Turquoise Coast, stretching from Ölüdeniz to the large resort town of Antalya. The walk takes hikers up through the hills, past numerous Lycian ruins and through a number of small seaside vilages and towns. We don’t have time to do the whole walk this time around, but would love to come back to Turkey some day and spend 10 days doing the entire Lycian Way. For today we had to settled for just doing a couple of hours worth of walking, up from Ölüdeniz to Kayaköy.
Kayaköy is an empty village where Greek speaking Christians lived until 1923. The ghost town consists of hundreds of run-down Greek-style houses. The town used to have a population of about 2,000 but was abandoned after a population exchange agreement* was signed by the Turkish and Greek governments in 1923.
*The agreement essentially meant that all Muslim, Turkish-speaking peoples in Greece were forcibly relocated to Turkey and visa-versa for Greek-speaking Christians living in Turkey. The population exchange caused a lot of issues for both the Greek and Turkish governments and has a left an unpleasant legacy in both countries.
Today Kayaköy village serves as a museum and is a historical monument. Around 500 houses remain as ruins and are under the protection of the Turkish government, including two Greek Orthodox churches. It was quite eerie walking through the ruined town, thinking about the hundreds of families forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods so suddenly.
From Kayaköy we returned to our hotel here in Fethiye for an afternoon of quiet contemplation. While Shane was busy relaxing I took the opportunity to visit the local hamam of Turkish bath. I’m a bit of a sucker for anything that involves some self-indulgent pampering and/or purported health benefit. If you stick the word “traditional” in front of it, I’m definitely in! That’s how I ended up getting involved in the whole Russian banya experience, the Finnish sauna and yesterday’s Turkish mud bath debacle. Today’s experience takes the cake though – that was one intense “bath”! For obvious reasons there are no photos of my experience, but suffice to say it is not for the aint hearted. In brief, if it’sanything like my experience, a visit to a hamam will involve the following:
- You will be invited in and shown a change room where you are given a Turkish wrap to wear. An attendant will then take you to the (often gender-segregated) sauna.
- After a good 10-15 minute broil in the dry sauna you will be dosed liberally in cold water by your friendly and rather large attendant. And by “large” I mean both tall and broad, and preferably a bit on the rotund side too. Think Olympic shot putter or weight lifter and you get the idea.
- This is then followed for another 10-15 minutes of broiling, this time in a steam room so steamy you can barely see a foot in front of you.
- More near-drowning with cold water ensues.
- At this stage the attendant leads you to the central marble or granite stage where you lie down and she attacks you with one of the world’s roughest loofahs. Designed to remove a lifetime’s worth of dead skin in one treatment, the scrubbing part of the treatment is vigorous, intimate and horrifying when you see how much dead skin sloughs off.
- More cold water is then poured all over you, just to make sure you’re awake.
- Back to the stone slab after that for a foam massage. This involves being covered in soapy bubbles and basically having the sh*t scrubbed out of you. No body part is spared it seems – the hair gets a firm wash and even ears get a good clean. The process involves a fair bit of firm massaging as well, just enough to leave you feeling like a piece of over-worked dough.
- By this stage you know what to expect next: liberal amounts of cold water, by the bucketful, are applied to your personage. It’s important to time your breathing right so you don’t end up swallowing lung-fulls of this water, by the way. I’m sure people have actually drowned during a hamam treatment.
- Vigorous towelling off then ensures you’re dry.
- Finally, you get wrapped in fresh towels and led to a quiet area where hot tea is pushed into your limp hands and you’re left to recline and recover from your ordeal.