May 12, 2008

Olympos, Turkey

After traveling through the history rich, roman-ruin-scattered region of the Middle East I was looking forward to a short hiatus someplace where there was not much to see or do but relax and catch up on reading and writing. I chose Olympos, Turkey for it’s reputation as a backpacker’s retreat in a remote one road town nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, so I was a bit surprised when I first arrived and found out that the path to the beach was a “museum” through, what else, but more roman ruins. The universe decided to teach me a humbling lesson, though, when it saw me roll my eyes and sigh as if I had suddenly forgotten how fortunate I am to be on this trip and have the opportunity to witness the remains of thousands of years worth of human invention, industry and imagination; the not-very to moderately preserved ruins of Olympos, scattered randomly and peacefully throughout the forest were some of the most enjoyable I have explored. It was not that they had a pilgrimage worthy importance, but rather that they were precisely the opposite; sparsely surviving structures melting into the rock, grass and trees, practically devoid of any other tourists which allows you to combine an intimate walk in the natural landscape while stumbling upon marble doorways, aqueducts and sarcophagi and imagine, quietly, what life was like millennia ago. And it only takes an afternoon to complete so the rest of the time was right on schedule with plenty of lounging on the stone beach of the bright blue sea and reading in the “treehouses” of the rustic lodging.
The i’m-at-summer-camp environment had a social effect on me and the mostly Australian guests and there were some great new friendships created from my 4 day stay, some of which were solidified on a post Olympos yacht ride along the coast and some of which I will continue my travels with by breaking my itinerary and visiting Bulgaria. It certainly was not hard to meet people especially once the evening fire pit started blazing and the international crowd started gathering for relaxed conversation washed down with the local Turkish beer, Efes. And next time I get huffy in paradise I am going to get myself to the nearest museum, find the Byzantine section and remember that life is full of pleasant surprises.

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