Today we headed to Xanthos, the Ancient Lycian league administrative capital. It’s only 46 km’s away from Fethiye, on the Fethiye to Kas road, above the village of Kinik. Riding up the small rise to the carpark it quickly struck us how impressive the city would’ve been as we passed the ruins of the theatre. The entry fee to Xanthos was only 10 TL ($5 AUD) so still quite reasonable.
We’d read some of the history of Xanthos, in the AA Guide and it was really intriguing. Supposedly the people of Xanthos participated in the Trojan wars, however, excavations reveal the city’s origins are around 800 BC. The Persians besieged the city around 545 BC but despite a dogged resistance the city’s inhabitants realised all was lost. Rather than be enslaved they killed all the women and children, burnt the city before fighting to the death.
Around 470 BC Xanthos was again was burnt to the ground and again in 43 BC by the Roman Brutus. It seems that Xanthos should’ve been built out of less flammable material.
Most of the present day ruins are from the building program under Emperor Marcus Antonius or as we all know him as Mark Anthony.
The most eye catching building which still exists is the theatre. A huge archway gives access to what would’ve been the floor of the theatre and looking up it’s easy to imagine how wonderful the theatre would’ve been in its time.
Nearby the theatre is two pedestals. On the first is a Lycian Tomb and on the second the Harpy Monument. Atop the huge square monolith are carved reliefs of “Harpies” creatures with women’s bodies and wings who’d carry the souls of the deceased into the sky. The originals were removed and taken to the British museum but copies are on display.
We took a wander through the old ruins of temples and villas discovering mosaics and a few columns before ending up on the ramparts overlooking the River Xanthos. It’s hard to imagine what the citizens would’ve thought when they looked down at the advancing Persian army two and one half millennia ago.
After a drink and a break we took a wander back across the road towards the Necropolis. A wide paved roman avenue leads towards the Byzantine church. Along its edges are displayed various pieces of stone and marble recovered from the site. There’s a few which still bear ancient Greek type, Lycian inscription.
As it was so hot we didn’t explore too much of the area, just the church and a few other close by buildings before returning to the cafe area. Whilst we were at Xanthos a few tours came through. We noticed that most tour operators just stop long enough for people to get a few pictures around the theatre and Harpy Monument. In and out in less than 20 minutes.
We got back on the bike and headed around the back of the site where there’s a few Lycian Rock tombs. It’s also an area popular with locals who enjoy picnics amongst the trees.
As it was so hot we decided that a visit to Patara beach and maybe a dip in the Mediterranean Sea would be a great idea. Patara is only a ten minute ride from Xanthos. The ride took us down through hundreds of hothouses which surround Kinik. We were trying to peek in them to see what was growing inside and we saw that a lot were growing tomatoes. There was also cucumbers, and capsicums. Not far from Kinik we turned off onto a road which took us through a gorge and through a seaside village.
When we arrived at the gate we were given the option of either visiting the ruins or the beach. As it was pretty hot we decided that the beach was a better option. The ride down to the beach however, took us past many of the ruins of temples, buildings and the famous gate. Some of the buildings in Patara, much to the disgust of our mate Brian in Uzumlu are being rebuilt. He believes that Turkey’s rebuilding of ancient monuments like at Fethiye and here at Patara, is almost sacrilegious. I’m not entirely convinced because many of the buildings have had much of the elaborate decorations plundered by museums leaving behind just rubble. The building currently under reconstruction will maybe give people a better concept of how the originals looked.
After a slow ride along the cobbled street we arrived at Patara beach. A long wooden boardwalk leads to the beach where there’s a lovely rustic wooden restaurant. The menu was fairly simple and we enjoyed a meal overlooking the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. It was nothing fancy just schnitzel with salad and ice-creams, but it was the perfect setting. As I was wearing board shorts under my bike gear I stripped off and went for a swim. The water was just perfect. At the back of the restaurant were showers so after a swim and a bit of body surfing I was able to wash off the salt water. Luckily I had the bike chamois in my pocket and it became my trusty towel.
As we’d ventured a little further afield the run back to Uzumlu took a little longer. As the roads are really good around the area, we were able to open up the throttle a bit.
Arriving back in Uzumlu we did our cat rounds, and walked the dog before catching up with the gang at the Grape Garden. There’s a bit of a buzz in the air and everyone’s excited about this weekends upcoming mushroom festival. It sounds like it’s going to be fun.