Over a Sunken City

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September 3rd 2007
Published: December 20th 2008
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Space InvadersSpace InvadersSpace Invaders

Don't worry! I know it looks like a laser blast from space, but it is only a time-lapse photo of the red flare that marked the end of the fireworks show in Kas.
Westward we went into the famous lands of Lycia. The road wound its way through the thick forests of the coastal range. From time to time we got stunning glimpses of the rugged Mediterranean coastline from high up on a mountainside or down in the coastal plain. At other times we got sweeping views of wide valleys filled with agricultural complexes. We stopped in several of the towns along the way to exchange passengers or stretch our legs. One of those towns, Kale (modern day Myra), had a very interesting claim to fame - It was known as the birthplace of Saint Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus. A large red and white statue of Santa seemed oddly out of place on the warm Mediterranean shore, especially in a Muslim country. I had no idea that Santa was Turkish, so I wanted to stay and explore his hometown for a while, but when it came time to get back on the bus I took my seat and decided, instead, to come back someday and stay awhile. Right around lunchtime we came around a bend in the road and started to descend. Below us the lovely town of Kaş stretched down from
A Lycian SarcophagusA Lycian SarcophagusA Lycian Sarcophagus

This one was located in the center of town.
the cliffs we were on all the way to the sea. The bus dropped us off at the otogar on the outskirts of town and then continued on its way.

We spent the next hour looking for a place to stay. The first few places we found were full, though one of them offered us a discounted rate to sleep on the roof - We would have accepted his proposition if the roof didn’t also serve as the eating area and lounge. We eventually found a nice place on the top floor of a building at the edge of town. The rooftop lounge had excellent views of town and the rugged coastline and it was only a short walk from Kaş’s ancient amphitheater. We dropped our bags in the dorm room and then we went out to find some food. We were a little late for lunch and very early for dinner, but we found a nice restaurant in a network of extremely touristy, cobblestone alleyways. The waiter was eager to serve us and the menu looked great so we took a seat and enjoyed a delicious meal and then we set off to explore a bit of town.
In the Ancient AmphitheaterIn the Ancient AmphitheaterIn the Ancient Amphitheater

This was Kas's lovely restored amphitheater.
Everywhere we looked there were huge pedestrian thoroughfares and well kept cobblestone streets and welcoming shops filled with the usual tourist town trinkets. We found a huge stone sarcophagus high above the street on a stone pedestal, standing as a reminder of the ancient city that the modern town of Kaş was built on. We walked along the waterfront and we explored our options for diving or kayaking - The diving was amazingly expensive and none of them could take us to dive on the sunken city just down the coast, so we decided to join an all day kayak trip that went over the sunken city, which our host at the hostel had told us about, instead. It was clear that the town was preparing for a huge party of some sort that evening, so we decided to head back to the hostel for a while and then continue exploring later.

Just after dark several of us from the hostel headed back down town. We learned that the big party was the Kaş-Lycia Festival. There was a large pedestrian courtyard-like area on the waterfront in the center of town that was absolutely packed with people. There were lots
One Particular HarborOne Particular HarborOne Particular Harbor

This is the small harbor at the end of Kekova Island.
of children running around laughing; there were venders selling just about anything you could imagine; there were musicians playing - It was a festive scene. We snacked on some of the different street foods and then we sat down at a place that had some lovely looking baklava and we gorged ourselves on the tasty little treats. We followed the waterfront into the marina area where there were several live-aboard diving boats tied up to the docks. There was also a huge movie screen set up at the end of the marina and there was a huge crowd of people there. We decided to see what the screen was for, so we passed through the security area where we were all patted down and then we joined the throngs of people in front of the screen. We walked around in the crowd for a while, but nothing ever came on the screen. The music was loud and the crowd was young. It looked like we were in an open-air nightclub, which didn’t really interest us, so we decided to leave and go back to the hostel. Along the way we paused at an overlook with a sweeping view over the
The Byzantine ChurchThe Byzantine ChurchThe Byzantine Church

This was the ruined church on the small island of Kekova. The goats were lovely.
city and we admired the lovely rock-cut, Lycian tombs that were carved into the spotlighted cliffs above town - It was a lovely sight! About an hour later we were back on the roof of the hostel talking. Suddenly a massive explosion, coupled with a huge flash, shattered the silence. Reds and greens and blues were streaking across the sky in huge starbursts of light. Our decision to head back to the hostel had given us front row seats to the lovely fireworks display over Kaş. After a while, a single red flare slowly sunk down to the sea signifying the end to the evening’s festivities. The man at the hostel told us that there would be more fireworks the following evening - It seemed like we had picked a good time to visit Kaş.

We had a quick breakfast the following morning and then we hopped into a waiting car and sped our way through Kaş’s deserted streets to where a bus was waiting for us in the center of town. We climbed on board and took our seats. While we waited for a few more people to arrive we got acquainted with the rest of the group
A Lovely FaceA Lovely FaceA Lovely Face

The goats were very personable on Kekova.
and then we headed off to Üçağiz, a town to the east where our kayaking trip started. The bus climbed up the road above the cliffs over town and then wound its way to the east. After a short drive we came to a stop in a lovely little sea-side town and we got off of the bus. A short walk brought us to a waterfront restaurant where we took a seat and discussed our day’s excursion. We then went around back and pulled all of the kayaks off of the racks they were on and got geared up. A short while later we were floating next to the dock in our boats going over a bit of kayaking technique for the beginners in the group. When everyone was comfortable we pointed our bows into the unknown and started paddling.

Our destination was the uninhabited island of Kekova. Ruins on the island dated back to Lycian and Byzantine times. Kekova’s modern claim to fame were the ruins of the ancient city of Dolchiste, which sunk beneath the waves in the second century AD during a huge earthquake and is now visible partially submerged along the north shore of the

This is one of the small cisterns on the island of Kekova. It would have been easy to fall in.
island. We paddled across the small bay and followed the rocky coastline of the peninsula on the far side. The calm water was crystal clear and we could easily see down into the depths along the rocks. We followed the peninsula to the mouth of the small bay and then paddled between the headlands and a small island in the center of the opening. The group we were in was very lively and we were having a lot of fun as we paddled. From time to time our guide would rein in those of us who were paddling too quickly and other times he would stop us in our tracks to explain a detail in the landscape, or to make sure we were watching out for the plentiful power boats streaking across the water. The stops generally escalated into a big, paddle-splashing melee where nobody escaped without getting soaked. We paddled out into the middle of the huge channel between the mainland and Kekova and we stopped for a moment. Our guide explained that we were going to be landing in a calm bay on the west end of the island and that we were free to explore the ruin
Submerged RuinsSubmerged RuinsSubmerged Ruins

Note the rectangular foundation under the water.
strewn shore or swim in the bay, but that when we left the bay and headed to the sunken city we would be required to stay in a close group and that we had to be cautious around the submerged stones. We pushed on towards the island and our small turquoise harbor.

When we arrived the small bay was already filled with old gulets and power boats. We landed our kayaks on a lovely stone strewn beach in the shade of a few trees and the mysterious ruins of a Byzantine church. I immediately put my goggles on and swam out to explore the bottom of the bay. The water was crystal clear and the bottom was strewn with pottery shards and blocks of stone, but nothing that jumped out as spectacular. Near the shore I found the rectangular foundation of a sunken building, but there were no columns or carved stones. I climbed up out of the water and started exploring the land. The ruined church was nothing more than a few partial arches and some toppled masonry, but in the abandoned setting of the island it was spectacular. There were a few odd looking goats basking in
Stone MasonryStone MasonryStone Masonry

This was one of the more intact buildings in the small harbor on Kekova.
the shade of the ruin and they were quite friendly. The further I got from the beach the more plentiful the pottery shards became. At first I was doing my best not to walk on the ancient fragments of baked clay, but it was an impossible task - Parts of the hillside were paved in the stuff! As I walked I kept my eyes to the ground looking for interesting artifacts and it was a good thing I did. I found several lovely pieces of pottery, including a few large sections with mouths and handles still attached, but I also found two large cisterns carved out of the rock - Had I not been looking towards the ground I may have gotten the chance to explore the bottom of one of the tiny, manmade caverns. I made my way to a lovely, rectangular stone building that stood over the bay and I looked down to the water. The boats, the kayaks, the ruined church, the sunken foundation and the stunning island scenery all combined into a powerful vista - Kekova Island was a lovely place. We all congregated around the ruined church at the appointed time and then we got
The Sunken CityThe Sunken CityThe Sunken City

While most of what can easily be seen at the 'sunken city' is above ground, there are still quite a few things to see beneath the waves.
back in the Kayaks and said farewell to our lovely little harbor.

We paddled east along the north shore of Kekova. The clear blue water was very calm, almost still, which was perfect for the exploration that was ahead of us. The rugged coast of the island loomed above our right shoulders. At times the green, scrubby slopes of the island came all the way down to the sea, but most of the time they ended abruptly in sheer, rocky bluffs that disappeared into the water. We stopped in a small bay like feature in the bluffs and our guide reiterated that we had to stay together in a group and that we couldn’t pause for too long in any one spot over the ruins - Apparently the Turkish government is reluctant to allow even kayakers into the area due to the sensitivity of the site (Diving and swimming are absolutely forbidden without permits.) We then discussed a bit of what we were going to see as we gently flowed in and out of the small cove on the tiny swells. When the guide finished his talk he led us out of the bay and we continued eastward. Over
The Ancient StairwayThe Ancient StairwayThe Ancient Stairway

The town of Kalekoy was lovely and quite ancient.
the next twenty minutes or so we slowly paddled along the rugged coast. There were several ruined structures sitting right at the water level, or just below. Our guide pointed out some amphorae that were deep and difficult to see. We paddled along several sunken building foundations and a long section of wall that had once been a wharf or dock. In places we also spotted stairs descending into the water. My imagination had built a much grander picture of the underwater city than we actually found - There were no toppled columns or well preserved structures to be found. We finished our paddle along the sunken city, which was nice and then we headed back out across the channel to the mainland.

Ahead of us loomed a small sea side town watched over by a huge Byzantine castle on the hill above town. Kalekoy, as the tiny village was known, was nothing more than a small group of ancient looking stone buildings that rose up from the water’s edge to the picturesque, hill-top fortress. Kalekoy was built on the ruins of the ancient Lycian town of Simena and the ancient town’s large necropolis occupied a nearby hillside. We

This is the extent of what I was allowed to see in Kalekoy due to our strict 'schedule'.
tied all of our kayaks up to the shore and we went to explore the quaint little town. Sadly, we were only given ten minutes, so there wasn’t time to explore the necropolis or the castle. I spent my time walking around the waterfront area where there were a few very nice buildings that appeared to be of ancient origins. A lovely staircase climbed up the hill along a large stone wall that had some nice carpets draped over it. I watched with a smile on my face as one of the local children walked down the staircase wearing a bright blue ‘Ghostbusters’ shirt - I am often amazed by the mysterious means by which some of the more obscure elements of American culture, such as a t-shirt from a wonderfully odd ‘80’s comedy, make their way into some of the most unexpected places throughout the world. Our guide appeared out of one of the teahouses and told us it was time to leave, so we all headed towards the kayaks. My friend Errol was missing and the guide started getting angry, grumbling about having a schedule to keep and looking all over the place for him. By that point
Who You Gonna Call?Who You Gonna Call?Who You Gonna Call?

The Ghostbusters of course!
I was floating out in the water and I looked up to the castle where I saw my friend staring out across the bay from the castle’s ramparts. I waved up to him that it was time to go and he started down. The guide, still grumbling, decided to leave without him and he started urging us all on. I stalled a bit until my friend appeared on the old staircase and then I followed the group.

Our next stop was just around the corner in a sheltered area of fairly shallow, crystal clear water, bound by a few islands and the low bluffs of the mainland. In the center of the area a monumental sarcophagus rose up out of the water on an ancient stone pedestal. Our guide explained that the coffin was in a sunken portion of the ancient Lycian necropolis of Simena. I waited for all of the other kayaks to clear out of the way and then I sat back and took in the lovely scene of the seemingly floating tomb. Not wanting to incur more of our guide’s wrath, I dug in and paddled as quickly as I could through a lovely, narrow channel
The NecropolisThe NecropolisThe Necropolis

This lovely sarcophagus was out in the middle of the partially submerged city of Semina.
between the rocks and then rounded the corner into the large inner bay where I caught up with everyone else. We had an enjoyable paddle back across the blue water to the restaurant we had started at, bringing an end to our nearly five mile paddle through history. The day’s kayak exploration had certainly been interesting and it was a lot of fun, especially due to the lively people in our group, but the sunken city would have been better as a diving site - Perhaps Turkey will someday allow supervised diving in the area, because that is the only way to admire the majesty of a sunken city.

We all gathered around a few of the large tables beneath the roof of the open air restaurant and sat down for a late lunch buffet, which was included as part of the day’s outing. The food was wonderful and laughter and great conversation filled each of the tables. After our huge meal we strolled back through town to where the bus was waiting. I collapsed into my seat and the driver shut the door and I closed my eyes for just a second… The next thing I remembered was

This is the narrow waterway I had to paddle quickly through to avoid the wrath of my guide.
the bus driver shaking me to let me know that it was time for me to get off. It was like I had passed through a time warp, because I had no recollection of the half hour drive back to Kaş!

That evening I decided to walk over to the town’s ancient amphitheater to watch the sunset. After a short walk through a lovely section of natural parkland on the western edge of town I found a huge, tree-shrouded stone wall looming up in front of me. I followed a faint trail up over several massive blocks that had fallen at some point in antiquity. The path led me to the top row of seats near the center of the semi-circular theater. From there I gazed out over the lovely concentric symmetry of the well restored theater. It was a famous sight that I knew well, yet it was the first time I had seen one of the ancient theaters that dot the classical world with my own eyes (excluding the theater in Olympos, which was so badly ruined that it doesn’t really count.) I took some quick pictures while I still had appropriate light and then I walked
Watching the SunsetWatching the SunsetWatching the Sunset

It wasn't a big crowd, but it was the best place in town to watch the sunset.
over to a spot in the bleachers where several other people were sitting. There I found a friend of mine named Alana from the hostel. We sat and watched the sunset over the ancient stones and then we headed back to the hostel where we gathered up some more people and then we headed into town for dinner. Later that evening we watched another excellent fireworks show from the roof of the hostel and then I was off to bed.

Errol and I were up and packed early the next morning - It was time for us to move on again. Kaş had been everything I had hoped it would be and I could easily have spent several more days there, but we both had places to be in the coming weeks and a lot of ground to cover before then. After breakfast the guy running the hostel gave us a ride to the otogar at the edge of town and left us with a friend of his who helped us to quickly find a bus heading where we wanted to go. Errol and I were heading in different directions. He was moving on to Bodrum on the coast

A view of the town from the amphitheater.
and I was heading to the famous travertine pools of Pamukkale a bit inland - I would be going to Rhodes, Greece in a week to meet up with my Norwegian family and I would have to catch the boat in Bodrum, so I wanted to get a bit more exploring in before then. It ended up that we were on the same bus until we got to Fethiye, a little further west along a scenically rugged section of seaside road. In Fethiye our paths diverged, bringing an end to our grand adventures together that had started back in Cappadocia two weeks before. I quickly found a bus bound for Pamukkale and I was on my way again.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


The Night they Lit Up the SkyThe Night they Lit Up the Sky
The Night they Lit Up the Sky

The surprise fireworks show over Kas was wonderful from our hostel's roof.
A Colorful ExplosionA Colorful Explosion
A Colorful Explosion

The fireworks above Kas.

2nd January 2009

Lovely photos as always. I love your panoramic shot at the top! Really beautiful. If you don't mind my asking, what camera do you use?
2nd January 2009

For all of the pictures in Turkey I used a Nikon D80, but I have used two other point and shoots for some of the earlier blog photos.

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