My husband, Bishara, and I were excited about our drive from Old Antalya (Kaleici) to the Mediterranean town of Kas. We had spent a remarkable spring day exploring the sights of Kaleici, a historic and popular tourist destination with restaurants and curio shops harbored in restored Ottoman homes, enchanting boutique hotels surrounded by orange and olive trees, and incredible views of the Mediterranean.
Our drive began auspiciously enough. After becoming hopelessly lost on the cobblestone streets of Old Antalya, despite having a GPS, we stopped to ask for directions on how to exit the old town. Persevering and turning a tight corner, our rental car careened into shelves of neatly displayed shoes, sending footgear flying along the street. The shopkeeper, barely concealing a grimace, stayed surprisingly calm, and simply flagged us on. Moments later, as we were departing the old town a man, frantically waving his arms, cried out at us in Turkish as we turned right on a road we thought was the way out of town. Apparently not, as we soon discovered we were on a tram line with a train visible in the distance and headed our way. Adrenalin flowing, Bishara’s eyes like saucers, we turned off the tram line as quickly as we could. The GPS lady, remaining calm as ever, continued with “recalculating” our route. Her directions, however, took us north towards the mountains rather than east along the Mediterranean compelling us, once again, to stop for directions. The detour did allow us a more extensive viewing of the snowcapped Taurus mountain range, which was glorious.
Our five hour drive from Antalya to Kas, located on the southwest Mediterranean coast of Turkey, found us taking another diversion along a picturesque mountain road towards the ancient city of Olympos in what used to be the region of Lycia. Lycia was part of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires, and ultimately the Turkish Republic in 1923, although antiquities suggest that the region dates back to the Bronze Age. In Homer’s tale, The Odyssey, the Greek deity Poseidon, perched in the Olympos Mountains, blew up a storm, in what is now the Mediterranean, to thwart Odysseus’ escape from Calypso’s Island.
While on the road to Olympos, we spotted a Turkish woman on the side of the road baking bread dough on an oversized inverted dome called a saj. We were both feeling grumbles of hunger, and decided to stop. The woman’s son, tall, 40ish, and wearing a western style casual suit, stood nearby, and served as our translator, as the woman spoke no English. After selecting cheese and spinach on saj bread for lunch, the Turkish woman took to kneading a ball of dough on a raised circular wooden platform. When massaged to the shape and thickness of thin pizza dough, she placed the flattened mixture on the saj grill. The woman half sat and half squatted, as is so common in this general region of the world, as she stoked the wood timbers inside the grill while tending to our saj bread on the heated dome. When the dough was sufficiently cooked, the woman sprinkled a mix of white cheese and spinach leaves on top. We ambled across the two lane road to a covered outdoor majless, our saj sandwiches, salads, and Turkish black tea in hand. Settling in, cross-legged, on colorful cushions, Bishara and I savored the food and lush surroundings.
By mid-afternoon, we were back on the road to Kas reveling in mountain and vast sea views along the way. We arrived in Kas at dusk and found our hotel, the Kekova, located a short distance away from the town’s marina. Due to limited vacation time, our original plan had been to stay one night in Kas and continue the next day towards Selcuk and the historic Ephesus. The next morning, the dazzling view from the breakfast room terrace of the Mediterranean Sea nuzzled within the Taurus mountain ridges, coupled with the not so gentle nudging from the hotel manager to allow for another day of rest, convinced us to stay a second night.
After our breakfast of cheese and breads, sliced cold cuts, hard boiled eggs, local green and black olives, and apple tea, Bishara and I strolled through the town filled with quaint, touristy shops and cafes to the harbor. Our first stop was at the boat docks, as we wanted to ensure we reserved a boat for a private excursion. One of the boat captains, attired in bright orange overalls, agreed to take us for an hour long boat ride for 75 TL ($ 38) in the early afternoon. In the meantime, Bishara and I decided to stop in at one of the many seaside outdoor cafes to share sheesha (huka) and Turkish coffee.
Our boat ride was superb, a blend of sparkling aqua blue waters sporting mild swells, ancient Lycian structures forged into sheer cliffs, charming coves with sandy beaches and rustic restaurants, and tiers of red tiled roofs atop whitewashed buildings embedded in green laden bluffs. An unscripted recitation of points of interest by our captain whose great spirit matched his limited English, kept our outing entertaining and informative.
The afternoon continued at a languid pace, with visits to souvenir shops brimming with colorful ceramic Turkish coffee sets, a sumptuous lunch of creamy mushroom soup, chicken salad, apple crepes, baklava, complimentary black tea, a backgammon game, and a prolonged walk through a patchwork of cobblestone streets framed by olive trees, grape vines, and apple trees.
Walking back towards our hotel in the early evening, Bishara spied a hilltop restaurant with a blackboard menu highlighting sea bass as its special. We went inside, climbed some stairs, and found a delightful terrace arranged with informal seating, along with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean and an impending sunset. A man, seated at one of the tables with a woman and young children, popped up when we stepped onto the terrace, informed us this was his new restaurant, we were his first guests, and we must sit for some complimentary tea. Bishara and I sat for a while, sipped our tea, and soaked in the beauty.