Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two down off my Bucket List destination this trip, one more to go before heading back, again, to Istanbul. 

Antalya turned out to be good and Olympos was fantastic.  Two reasons why I really want to pass by Fethiye are - to get to the picturesque beach of Oludeniz and see the rock-cut Tomb of Amyntas.

Fethiye is a low-rise building city which has attracted a lot of British permanently living there or at least consider it as their second home, reasonably so owing to its nice location along the Aegean sea, less expensive lifestyle, good Mediterranean climate, and friendly local residents.  Although it is a city, it has retained its charm brimming with natural and historical attractions. 

It is the location of the ancient city of Telmessos, the biggest city in ancient Lycia and a member of the Delian League, the confederation of Greek city-states (with Athens as its governing state) that fought the Persian Empire somewhere around the 5th century BC.  The city was devastated by an earthquake in 1957 with the ancient city of Telmessos left unscathed, thus the existence of antiquities right within the city center. 

Where else can you find ancient tombs oddly strewn around – and standing in the middle of – the streets of a city?  That sounds like right out of a zombie movie, ain't it?  An unfamiliar sight, but that is how vintage this place is. 

 The Tombs of Amyntas carved out of the rock mountainside stand facing the city from the southern edge which can be reached on foot from the city center.  There are three imposingly huge and beautiful Lycian rock-cut tombs and smaller ones grouped on the sides.  

These tombs were built in 350 BC by the Lycians.   One can get near the tombs paying the entry fee although it isn’t necessary as it can visibly be marveled at close proximity just standing along the sloping roadside.

 Not far from the Tomb of Amyntas is a road leading to the mountain where the remains of the medieval castle stand. Although nothing much is left of the castle built by the Knights of Saint John from Rhodes and the Genoese except for some walls, yet it’s worth getting there to have a panoramic view of the bay and the whole town of Fethiye.

 A unique sight in Fethiye are numbers of sarcophagi lying around, in small grassy parks, along or in the middle of the road.  

The largest example in good condition and labeled with information can be found near the Fethiye Belediyesi Kultur Merkezi (Fethiye Municipality Cultural Center).  The tomb is located at the back of the statue of a man handling a baglama or a Turkish guitar. The vault-shaped Lycian sarcophagus dated 4th century BC is embellished with carved reliefs depicting scenes of war which suggests the social status of the owner as a heroic warrior.  It is one of the best examples of Lycian tombs with all its characteristic features and preserved in its original location.

 The ancient amphitheater of Telmessos built during the Hellenistic period around the 2nd century AD, but was abandoned during the Arab invasion in the 7th century, is centrally located right up the street along the quayside facing the marina.   

It was excavated in 1992, the theater has 28 seating rows and can accommodate approximately 6,000 spectators.   Several broken columns can be found lying down at the bottom beside the main road and a Lycian tomb standing below on the right side of the theater.  To get a full view of the marina and surrounding area, get to the topmost level of the theater which can be accessed from the side uphill street.

The simplicity of Fethiye makes it an attractive city, no tall buildings, shops and boutique stores lining the cobbled streets rather than contained in large shopping malls alongside crawling-vines-shaded-restaurants and caf├ęs, several municipal parks and has very neat streets.  There is a beautiful promenade stretch beside the bay where you could take a walk or jog or sit at one of the benches and watch the firshermen and yachts coming in and out to the nearby coves and islands.

 The gulet Blue Cruise departs from Fethiye harbor heading to several destinations like the Butterfly Valley, Oludeniz, St. Nicholas Island, the Aquarium Bay in Kalkan, Kas, Sunken City, Simena Castle on the way to Olympos.  There are also several affordable day cruises for those having limited time in Fethiye.

For the ultimate dining experience, the fish market is a must.  Take a pick out of the fresh seafood and have it cooked and served with delectable mezzes, dips and freshly baked pita bread at any of the restaurants in its surrounds.  I like this place a lot and have dined more than a couple of times during my stay in Fethiye.

Here is a little trivia:

Fethiye is named after Captain Mehmet Fethi Bey, who was born on 1887 and was a young pilot of the Turkish navy who made a mark on the country’s aviation history by flying the first long distance route between Istanbul and Cairo in 1913.  He gained his training as a pilot in England in 1912 – 1913, and was awarded the Silver Merit Medal during the Balkans war.  However, in 1914, his flight to Alexandria crashed between Damascus (Syria) and Tiberias (Israel).  Fethi Bey and his first lieutenant on this flight died and were buried in Damascus.

Getting to Fethiye from Olympos:

From the laid-back village of Olympos, I took the dolmush (shared van) up to the highway junction and waited for the bus there on the way to Fethiye.  It was an enjoyable trip, the scenery along the way is beautiful, passing by mountains and valleys.

Arriving at the main bus terminal in Fethiye, I jumped on the minibus with a “Karagozler” sign in front of Carrefour located outside the terminal, paid TL1.50.  

I stayed at the Fethiye Guesthouse which is a little way up from the marina.  It’s cheap, clean, and the breakfast was surprisingly good.  The staff - Ali and an aussie lady named Beck – were friendly, and the location is perfect, it’s along the main road where the minibuses pass by, everything is within walking distance.


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