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Moon safari

From myth to reality in rural Turkey. Words: Emma Dowson

his is now officially a moon salari.’ says l.'lan when his I torch dies. But the skinny moon is not bright enough to illuminate the skittery rocks that line the vertiginous path up the lower slopes ol‘ Turkey’s Mount ()lympos. mythical home ol' the l.ycian (iods. Sheer drops are only a stray l‘ootstep away. The inky darkness is thick with moths that brush past like hurrying commuters. l shul‘lle along in silence. wondering why I left l'lan’s cosy beach bar for this midnight climb.

But lil‘teen minutes later. perched on a boulder in a clearing pockmarked with llames. I‘m glad I didn‘t wimp otit. ()lympos’ ‘eternal llames‘ leap lrom crevices in the rock l’ace; some blaze several feet high. while others are the size ol‘ a matchstick. Ancient legend attributes the spontaneous and inextinguishable llames to a lire-breathing monster. the (‘himaera: part lion. pan goat and pan snake. liven today their exact origins remain a mystery.

My friend and l llew in to Antalya. which caters for a growing number ol’ package tourists. on a cheap charter. While our fellow passengers were herded into tour buses. we picked up a hire car and set oil for (‘irali. recommended as a quiet alternative to the larger resorts on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

Driving along the ‘wrong‘ side of the highway at 4am is exhilarating but scary as beaten-up delivery trucks screech past us at top speed. their drivers evidently believing in Kismet (late). The hall-built hotels and cement mixers ol' Antalya‘s outskirts give way to powerl‘ul pine—speckled mountains. Turning oil the highway two hours later. we grind our way along a hairpin-strewn rough track and arrive at (‘irali just as the sun is rising over the long pebbly hay. Soaring headlands and the

piocha C(iltttlt‘cl‘d peak of .\III ympos provitc a spectactt at‘ ' backdrop to the sparkling to

translucent water. a Alth web it‘. )IllV 7; m ~ ‘. - stray goat

when we check in to the Jasmine pansiyon (guest than a haWkel‘ house). the gorgeous young

owner. Nahit. doesn’t bat an

eyelid. 'l‘wenty minutes later we‘re sitting in his garden.

devottring a delicious breakfast

ol’ honey melon. tangy sheep‘s

cheese. bread. tomatoes. black olives. omelettes and minty cucumber salad. All ol‘ the li'esh ingredients come from .\'ahit's lather‘s larm. which backs onto the pansiyon. (‘irali is still a small larming village with a smattering ol‘ simple guesthouses: local conservation policy l‘orbids buildings over two stories high. You‘re more likely to encounter a stray goat here than the usual resort hawker pushing carpets and leather jackets.

We make plans to take a boat trip. and to explore the ruined l.ycian city ol' ()lympos. which is set in a spectacular rocky gorge inland lrom the beach. but lind ourselves becoming la/ier by the hour. ()ur days quickly settle into a relaxed routine ol' swimming. slumping on the beach and li'equent visits to l'lan‘s beach bar. Karaktis. l‘or cold beers and backgammon lessons. ()ur elderly btit lit and sparkly-eyed tutors claim that raki keeps them young. One evening they show tis how to drink their l‘avourite tipple Turkish- style. lnstead ol’ pouring water into the clear aniseed-based alcohol and watching it turn milky—white like l’ernod. we are told to drink it neat and chase the lire down our throats with sips ol’ water.

On our last evening at (‘irali. we gorge ourselves on an utterly delicious but inexpensive sealood least. bel‘ore kissing our new li'iends goodbye. We‘re sad to leave. but glad to lind that among the bustling hotel complexes it's still possible to lind hidden corners ol"l‘urkey unreached. and unreachable. by tour buses.

94 THE LIST " ,z' .",',1)