Magnificent Mud Monsters

Mud monsters
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.

During our stay at the mashed potato mountain (Saklikent Gorge), Colin and I met another Canadian couple with a toddler. They were traveling on the cheap, camping and getting around by dolmuş (private minibuses with crazy drivers). I was impressed that they were traveling not only with a kid, but with all that camping gear and stroller etc. On our way out we gave them a lift to Fethyie via some interesting backroads. Now that we are headed back to Izmir, I’m taking us by some different routes so we can see new things. So far: lots and lots of farms.

After dropping them off we continued to Köyceğiz, a cute little town on the edge of a beautiful big lake and wildlife preserve. On the road in I spied a cute store selling knee-length dresses and sleeveless shirts made in Turkey, things that I had trouble finding in Istanbul given the headscarf/turtleneck/trenchcoat/jeans that most women there wear. I bought a lovely dress for 10 tl which is perfect for the 30+ weather here. Then we walked along the lake with a friendly stray, who showed us a hidden path into a marshy area where it dug around looking for frogs. On the way back we met some uk expats who had just moved to town and were launching a little sail boat, which got me thinking we could spend some time in a little town like this, and got Colin wondering whether the wind was right for kiteboarding.

The next morning we left early to beat the crowds to the main attraction of the area: mudsprings! For 4 tl you can coat yourself in (magical, healing, yadda yadda) mud, hang out and let it dry off while you pose pictures of eachother as swamp monsters, jump in the lake to wash the mud off, then follow it up with a good soak in the (magical, healing, yadda yadda, and very sulfury) hot springs. The nicest pool was a huge marble one with pebble floor, and another pool built into an ancient wall suggested people had been coming to these hot springs for a very, very long time. We had just about the whole place to ourselves, and left right as the first busload of tourists pulled in.

Later that afternoon after several hours of driving through hot valleys and mountain passes filled with gravel trucks, we stopped at Bafa Lake to cool off. It was once part of the Aegean and is still very salty today, filled with clams, muscles, seaweed and presumably crabs (lots of crab traps anyway). And just offshore, an island covered in the ruins of an old fort! We swam out to it then climbed around on the rocks for awhile, discovering several well preserved buildings and a lot of prickly bushes (I forgot my shoes). Colin made it to the top of the tower nonetheless and it made for a good, cooling break.

That night we ended up back in Selçuk where we spent our second night. We are staying in the Barim Pension which I like much better than the Kiwi where we stayed the first time. It is built into a huge old house and decorated all over with wrought iron (made by the owner) and ivy. There is a large peaceful courtyard and (like many high things in Selçuk) the chimney has a stork nest at the top. Our bedroom is decorated with antique furniture and a four poster bed, and is partially open to the outdoors. Lying in bed early this morning I can hear the swallows chirping and the stork making a crazy noise like a distant jackhammer.

We decided to stay in this setting for an extra day and leave early the next morning rather than spend another night in big-city Izmir. That gave us lots of time to check out more ruins right in town, then visit the Ephesus museum where they have some spectacular statues of multi-boobed Artemis and that guy with the big wang, both things that you can buy miniature replicas of (I was tempted!). I also learned that the cherub making out with a woman that I saw a few weeks ago was probably Eros and Phoebe, not just some guy’s weird fantasy. Next we visited the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 Wonder of the Ancient World… which today is just a big mud pit with a single reconstructed column (and of course a stork nest on top). I am positive we’ve seen some of the missing 180– marble columns in the 7-9th century ruins around here; those guys were not shy about using “recycled” building materials. In the afternoon we went for a long walk on the beach then drove up to “Mary Mania”, the ruins of an old house where people believe (for no logical reason) that the Virgin Mary once lived. A million people make a pilgrimage here every year because some nun once had a vision that Mary lived here. The house has apparently been carbon dated to 400 years after Mary’s time. So… yeah.

Today will be planes, trains and automobiles, although not in that order. I woke up far too early, even beating the 5am call to prayer, and the sun is just now starting to rise. Maybe I’ll see if I can get breakfast before we head off. Most pensions including this one include a free Turkish breakfast of bread, jam, honey, tomato, cucumber, cheese olives and an egg. I’m pretty fond of it, particularly when I discovered you could mix the soft cheese and honey and it tastes just like cheesecake. But Colin has had all the Turkish breakfast he can take and went hungry the last couple days. Hopefully the fruit we bought yesterday will do!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.