Zeus – Master of Olympos

1 May

Photo of a carved face within a ruin in Olympos

Olympos, Turkey

Today I headed down the beach by foot towards the Lycian Way, a series of trails that have been the “roads” of ancient civilizations dating back earlier than 350 BCE (pre-Hellenistic era).  Just a few kilometers past Cirali is a small river with crystal clear water flowing from a valley nestled within the Taurus Mountains, which are mostly covered in a blanket of pine trees & rock formations.  This whirling little stream, that is seemingly uncontaminated as there does not appear to be any discharge of grey or black water or any garbage, flows out into the Mediterranean Sea.  The mouth of this little river is the entrance into the valley, and the ancient lost city of Olympos.  Little was known, and much still unknown, about the city of Olympos until about 1990 when the government of Turkey began to explore.  Along the banks of the river are the remnants of civilizations lost over the past 3,000 years – and still granite arches stand tall and tombs remain untouched.  Young tree saplings, ferns, and vines have managed to find elements of life (water, soil, & sun) in the cracks and crevices of the ancient building blocks.  The power of nature, in this case natural succession, is quite remarkable.

Ancient unearthed sarcophagous

As I meandered through the forest, I could hardly believe what was before more.  On the ground lie pieces of fallen columns intricately carved with scrolls and other decorative design, all weathered by time and the elements.  It could almost be a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, but it’s not – what lays before my eyes is real, I can touch it, feel it, and smell it.  I stumbled by a pre-Hellenistic stone sarcophagus resting on the forest floor.  It had a hole in the front of it, as most that are unearthed do, from grave robbers long ago.  Maybe it was the pirates? Or the Greeks? Or the Romans? In these bits of unknown history lies the mystery.  I continued on and found the ruins of one of the first Christian Churches (Byzantine) known in the region, and still this dated back to the 5th century CE.  I walked along the “floor” inside this ancient house of worship and it came to life in my mind – these walls held a place of devotion for many people.  I could envision people walking around the church, wearing sandles and simple clothing.  And next thing I knew I found my way to a Roman Temple, and quite possibly even pre-Roman era.  Hidden among trees and other flora, was the towering entrance way to this even more ancient spiritual place.  This “temple” pre-dates nearly all known recorded history of religion.  I couldn’t help but stop and marvel in its grandeur and intelligence.  Yes, intelligence.  The Romans, and pre-Romans, were truly masterful in how they cut, created, and assembled each of the massive marble blocks into solid structures.  And their refined building skill actually reminded me of the precision and detail held by the ancient Mayas in Tikal (2000 BCE to 900 CE) and the Incas in Machu Piccho and other sites (400-1500 CE).  Could this temple be the house of Zeus – Master of Olympos?  I will never know and that in itself is the magic in this place.

Color photo of an ancient temple with the Taurus mountains through the doorway

After several hours exploring Olympos and the Lycian Way I continued on wards into the “modern” village of Olympos.  And to my surprise it was a haven for young Turkish teens escaping the cities for the weekend – in a very rustic way I might add.  Along just one side of the small dirt road were a few tree houses, pansyiones, and basic traditional eateries – yes tree houses and how cool! much like the kind we build for our kids in our backyards.  I crossed over the river by foot to check out the less accessible ruins and came across a lot of bright red poppies, croaking frogs, and a myriad of unearthed ruins.  I couldn’t help but think that someday our modern cities that we know so well may somehow not withstand our civilization, or perhaps the opposite – that perhaps we will not withstand ourselves, and in effect will become lost cities to future civilizations.  I picture history made in my own “backyard”, the Capital of the US – Washington DC.  Much of our buildings are made of marble & granite, grand with architectural detail borrowed from the pre-Hellinistic era, Greeks and Romans alike.  I do not see this in the near future, and even if I did, It is not necessarily a bad thing, afterall evolution is a natural process – much like succession in the forest.  The real question is, what lessons will we ensure are carried forward from this life & era to the next?

Realizing the sun was going to set in about one hour, I started to head back and stopped at one of the little huts serving fresh food and drinks.  Realizing how little I’ve shared with you about the food so far, it’s about time I give you some detail.  I stopped at a place serving Turkish tea and Gozleme.  I sat at a small wooden table and before me was the kitchen.  A wooden platform hosted a large dome-like metal cooking structure (I think it was heated with hot coals or something of the like), 2 wooden circle tablets, and 3 people – 2 women prepared the Gozleme dough and one male handled cooking it on the dome cooking structure.  The two women, one in her 50s and the other one in her 70s or 80s, sat Indian style in front of the wooden circle tablets preparing the dough.  One formed the dough into round balls while the other use a wooden stick to roll the dough out into perfectly-uniform paper thin pancakes.  She carefully placed the filling of choice (in my case fresh spinach & feta cheese) on one half and then closed the extra thin pancake in half forming something resembling a quesadilla but only better.  She then rolled this filled pancake up on the wooden stick and placed it on the metal dome cooking structure.  The man carefully watched my Gozleme cook for a few minutes on each side, turning it with a flat wood tool.  He then cut it up into four piping hot pieces and vwalah!  Divinity on a plate served with cold natural yogurt milk (Ayarn) to wash it down – another typical Turkish beverage – all for less than 5 bucks.  What made it even better? Well from my seat I could see the family’s garden plot where all the lush spinach grew, alongside peppers and arugula, and their goats which they milked to produce the cheese.  Truly and organically from farm to table. What made it modern?  Well they had one refridgerator that kept the Ayarn and a few Coca Colas cold for its customers.  You can’t ask for much more in a day’s journey!

Color photo of the Gozleme experience

And well, here is my version of a modern-day Zeus.  Equally grand in his own demeanor.  Blessings to my animal kingdom at home.

Color photo of my Zeus

2 Responses to “Zeus – Master of Olympos”

  1. Denise Mummy May 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    interesting sites, Rebecca. Glad you are enjoying it.

  2. Keylor Castillo May 2, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Very interesting! It makes me want to go there!
    Love the way you are expressing all the details in your journey. Sounds like an awesome trip so far! Can’t wait until the next blog!!!

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