I was headed further along the coast to Patara today, a tiny resort located next to yet more Roman ruins, and I had resolved to make the most of it by splitting the journey half way at the small town of Demre. The road wound round the edge of pine dotted mountains still tumbling down abruptly to the sea. The small agricultural town of Finike was remarkable only for its giant tomato and ancient tombs in the park, and as we approached what resembled a delta flood plain from high above, literally thousands of industrial sized greenhouses carpeted the land like a white patchwork quilt. Demre was a small and not unpleasant town which had the bonus of being just a short stroll away from the rock tombs of ancient Myra, a complex of burial caves hewn from the sheer pink sandstone rockfaces towering over the town to the north. What I hadnt known to expect though was the adjacent and remarkably well preserved Roman theatre with the grand entrance tunnels and ramps still intact and dotted with many very well preserved reliefs. They were mainly human head carvings and anywhere else would have been the pick of a museum. Walking the 2Ks out there I was surprised to find that the greenhouses actually permeated rıght throughout the town, with incongruous blocks of flats and single houses dotted either side. I also came across my first pomegranate tree loaded with ripe fruit growing wild in somebodies back yard. An electricity substation around here had been tarted up in pastel colours and bore motifs of a tomato on one wall and Santa Claus on the other. Considering this was an overwhelmingly moslem country that might have been considered strange, but not here in Demre. Despite what Finland or Greenland might say, this was Santa's home town and there was even a statue in the town centre to show for it. Saint Nicholas was born here in the ..... and had moved to Patara where he became
I got up with the birds in order to meet Betty, then we walked out past the Roman ruins towards Patara beach in time to beat the opening of the ticket booth and hence save a few bob. Since both the ruins and (turtle nesting) beach are off limits outwith daylight hours the scruffy hamlet of Patara had been settled inland and it was a fair wee trek but worth it, us posties being used to early morning walks anyhow! We reached the sea at one end of a beautiful stretch of sand that went on for a cool 14.2Ks. Fortunately the rain just about stayed off and we had a rainbow as a small compensation for the gloomy complexion. It was still a pity though, this place must have been stunning in good weather. We had a scramble through the ruins on the way back, which though still evidently undergoing excavation were already impressively intact in places and spread over a large expanse. You could clearly make out lines which indicated where the sand had been freshly cleared from its encroachment and I found it amazing that such sizeable structures would ever just be allowed to be swallowed up by nature. It's reckoned it could even rival Ephesus in time which is really saying something. I treated Betty to her brekkie once back in the village and we went another wee tour round the houses and out along the approach road. Betty seemed to know the place almost as well as she knew Saline. It was a bit scruffy and disjointed and I'm not sure it would have been my destination of choice for regular holidays but it was certainly an escape from the normal package resort treadmill. We met back up for our dinner and then a beer at Jimmy's, the local boy who ran me up to the bus stop where I hugged Betty a Fifers cheerio.
As the coach picked me up out of the darkness, at the last moment I decided I'd better go to Selçuk rather than past it to Izmır, but the bus didn't stop there in the end so Izmir it was. It wasnt quite the night boat to Cairo but it was certainly madness. In a coach holding only half a dozen folk the concierge tried to usher me to sit next to another guy on the redeye, I palmed off his gestures and sat elsewhere. Pretty soon we came to a police "Kontrol" where the boys in blue boarded the bus and took a special interest in me and took my passport away. As they checked me out thoughts of Midnight Express somewhat appropriately crossed my mind, but assured I was not a PKK gunrunner we carried on. Later on I spied another sight which I'd never before encountered, a fake 2 dimensional police car propped up by the roadside, complete wıth blue light on top. Certainly more effective than a speed camera sign I thought, I just wondered if it was mobile.
Turkish coaches are on a par with the best in the world. The market is highly competitive and the onboard concierges never stop, taking your fare when neccessary, dishing out free drinks, snacks and the ubiquitous lemon Cologne hand rub you fınd all over the country, then they collect the rubbish and even pass by with a squirt of air freshener. The boy was very smart in his shirt and tie uniform and the bus was kept just as pristine, hosed down at every major stop. It was around now that I noticed for the first time the ultra modern traffic lights to be found in Turkey, LED lamps with a numerical countdown to let both drivers and pedestrians know just exactly how much time they had to wait or otherwise, a great innovation.
We had a rest stop in Mugla where the coach received another hosing. I bought a tin of Extra strong beer which did the trick in knocking me out and I awoke right on cue as we arrived at Izmir Otogar at 0515. To match the size of the coach business in Turkey the bus stations tend to be commensurately big and hence located well away from the city centres, sometimes still even outwith the suburbs. It was a journey in itself just to get there. Suffice to say I got dropped off at platform no.154 still 9Ks from the centre. It didnt matter though, after a couple of Nescafes I decided that since I was out here I might aswell just jump straight on another bus and make for Selçuk, so I left at 7. Its the first time I had seen a toll booth at a bus station, they had to pay to exit which I thought was a novel way of saving the council the expense. The boy behind me kept repeatedly nodding off only to be jolted awake again as his head banged against the window. I knew the feeling.