Date: 20 September 2017
Location: breakfast table, the Happy Caretta (happy turtle!) pensione.
It feels like a video game. The instructions are: Find the little lady who rows a boat across the Dalyan. She will take you to a cafe and they will try to make you have gozleme. You must buy something, or she’ll make you wait longer for the rowboat back later on. Get water, for the walk up is long and hot. Turn left and start to climb. Buy the fresh pomegranate juice from the second lady. In about forty minutes you will reach the ancient city.
But it’s not a video game, it’s TripAdviser providing directions to the ruins of Kaunos, a city founded in the 10th century BC and abandoned in the 15th AD. I follow the directions. Finding the little old lady isn’t easy but I eventually do and wave her across the river. I pay her 5TL and she rows me over in a few minutes. Aside from the family at the tiny riverside cafe (I buy water) there is not a soul around. I start to walk. There are so many baby animals to coo over and photograph — kittens, puppies, chickens, goats — that my iPhone battery drains quickly. The walk is hot, and I buy the pomegranate juice. I eventually find the hilltop ruins and buy a ticket from the lonesome ticket lady. She and I are the only people around — except Chico, a little mutt who bounds over and enthusiastically follows me as I explore the city. (I’m immature, I climb up stone steps I think are too big for him, jump gaps that I don’t think he’ll dare tackle, and yet he follows me. Doggedly.) The ruins are beautiful in the setting sun and it’s a proper, sprawling city, much like the more famous Efes. There’s an agora, baths, a Main Street, a temple, an acropolis, and family of alarmingly nimble goats inhabiting the theatre. (I’m actually quite intimidated by being so alone up here and so far from the village, so I’m ridiculously relieved when a German couple turn up.)
The walk home is much easier but I’m fried. This is because of some poor planning. I knew I wouldn’t get up to do Kaunos before the heat of the sun caught up with me, and I knew I couldn’t do it in the middle of the day when it was at its scorching best so I’d chosen to tackle it in the afternoon, as the sun faded. This was fine but (a) the sun here is killer, even at 3pm, and (b) I’d spent the early afternoon at the hammam getting squeaky clean and, also, covered in massage oil. I crisp up like a french fry.
I wander back home by way of a vegetarian mezze bar, Saki, with no menu (it’s amazing), try a few things and a local craft amber ale, and then fall home and into bed.
I adore Dalyan. From where I sit now I can watch all the little boats chugging tourists down the river to see the Lycian ruins (thanks, but I have a great view from my breakfast table) and then further down to the sulphur mud baths and Iztuzu beach to spy on the loggerhead turtles. This area is so green: the voluptuous gardens, the river reeds, even the river itself — which, when I jump in, is surprisingly salty — and shot with red, as the Turkish flags flutter in the breeze.
And I sit here for ages, lingering over my Turkish breakfast of bread and honey, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, Nescafé and then tea. Loads of tea. (At one point I see a loggerhead turtle surface and said tea comes out my nose with surprise and delight.) It reminds me of India for some reason. Perhaps it’s the Kerala backwaters I’m thinking of. Or perhaps it’s because, as in India, it’s a small village that’s realised it’s beautiful and created some tourist infrastructure — but not very much, so you’re never far from someone’s home and English is sparse. My Turkish is rubbish but with a bit of pointing and Google images I get by.
On a related note, it’s time for a quick dip with the turtles — very quick, because I’m irrationally scared of the dark opaque water and whatever lives in the reeds — and then to pack and navigate the local co-op bus system again to make it to Ölüdeniz, the electric blue and the still waters of the Turkish ‘dead sea’. It’s one of Turkey’s best paragliding spots. I think I want to….