Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Olympos is a backpackers’ haven with a hippie vibe, it has retained it's somewhat mystical ambiance.  Don’t expect to visit museums housed inside concrete buildings or an open-air fantastically restored ruins like in Ephesus.  But in my opinion, that is exactly the allure of the ruins of Olympos.  It isn’t organized, not meticulously assembled, a lot of structures not labeled or totally cleared, it is “raw”, set amidst dense forest.

Some of them have been cleared partially, or at least starting to clear, but most of them are inside the wilderness overgrown with thick bushes, reeds and the creeping branches of trees.  There are several tombs, ancient bath house, churches, and so many protruding marble slabs buried on the grounds either within the area of the paved footpath and waterways near the flowing river or the inner more obscured part of the forest.  So before you even embark on your adventure, be sure to wear proper footwear, bring a bottle of water as there isn’t any shop once you get to the ruins, the last place to buy it is probably the small store and restaurant called Muzo on the left side after the entrance.

I arrived in Olympos yesterday and settled at Orange Pension which is quite ok with my wooden cabin amidst an orange orchard which is pretty much like most of the accommodations around the small town or village.  The breakfast was good at the pension, beside the usual “kahvalti” of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, eggs and white cheese, they have added other stuff on the buffet breakfast table.  It was filling and I guess would last me for a long good hike.

The entrance to the ruins - which is also the same entry point if you’re staying at one of the pension houses in Olympos and you want to go to the beach – is at the end of the dirt road.  My accommodation is about 5 minutes walk to the entrance.  You can get a room at any of the pension houses beside the gate if you really want to be near, less walking.  You pay the same TL5 whether you want to get to the ruins or just the beach, it’s the same path and the staff will not make any distinction.

The ancient city was founded during the Hellenistic Era and is part of the 6 leading cities of the Lycian League.  Its name was taken from the lofty Mount Olympos or Tahtali Dagi which can be seen in the distance.  It was invaded and settled by Cilician pirates during the 1st century BC and was taken by the Roman commander Publius Servilius Isauricus with the then young Julius Ceasar and incorporated it into the Roman Empire.

Too much of Lycian and Roman or Greek accounts of a place makes it historically interesting and at some point confusing.

Beyond the turnstiled entry gate, there are arrow signposts of the different section of the ancient city ruins and some of the structures have brief information on them

Here are some highlights based on my walking tour of the sprawling ruins of Olympos.

Tombs at the North Necropolis.  Oddly enough, consider me as one of those with impulsive wild imagination and getting startled at the slightest movement or sounds -  but it may be justified when you’re the only soul wandering inside the woods with crawling branches forming shades above your head and you’re in front of a tomb!

There are several sarcophagus scattered around the 1st and 3rd century AD necropolis, and one of the popular ones and the centerpiece is the Lycian-type Sarcophagus of Antimachus.  Nearby along the cleared path beside a stream is the tomb complex of Marcus Aurelius Archepolis and his immediate relatives.
Sarcophagus of Antimachus.

The Roman Temple and a Byzantium Church.  Dated during the second half of the 2nd century BC, the biggest structure located on the north side of the Akcay Creek is the monumental gate of a Roman Temple.  Just before the temple is the remnant of a Byzantine church dating back to 5th or 6th century AD.

Roman temple gate.

Building with Mosaics.  The Mozaikli Yapi or “building with mosaics" is assumed to be a place of worship or religious function dated 5th century AD.  Most of the mosaics are no longer visible but traces can be seen from the broken flooring on the ground level of the two-storey edifice.

Floor mosaics.

The Harbour Monumental Tombs.  The harbor monumental tombs are located along the main cleared path on the way and right at the entrance to the beach beside the guard house, 3 sarcophagus are displayed here inside a steel fence, built by Marcus Aurelius Zosimus of Olympos, son of Euporistos, for himself and his wife, and the sarcophagus of Captain Eudemos.

Harbor tombs.

The Roman Bath. Located along the creek side - where it probably is getting its supply of water - are the arched walls, remnants of an ancient Roman bath. To get to the ruin, cross to the other side through a shallow portion of water where the river meets the ocean water just along the beach.

Ancient Roman bath on the other side of the creek.

There are so many crumbling walls deep into the forest which do not have any information labels on them, perhaps dwellings of the ancient inhabitants of the city.  When you get to the beach, gaze up on the mountains encompassing the shoreline and you will also find some structures.

I didn’t actually notice the time I was meandering getting lost several times until I felt I was  really starving, then I looked at my watch, I must have been roaming there for about 4 hours!

I headed back to the main entrance and stopped by that restaurant beside the gate called Muzo, and ordered "Gozleme" with cheese, a turkish pancake.  Sat at one of the raised wooden lounges adorned with kilims and soft couches under an orange tree while the friendly owner is shaping and twisting the mass of flour and cooking it on top of a convex steel, more like an upside-down wok.  I paid TL5 for the delicious pancake and a can of soda.

Gozleme (chewy turkish pancake)

The main gate is open from 8:00am until 7:00pm but some people are taking advantage of the free entry before and after that timing.  If you’re staying longer at Olympos, ask for the weekly pass at the ruin/beach entrance.


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