Brian Walton, myself and his VW Bug set sail from Haifa, with our destination Antalya, Turkey. As we approached Antalya, we saw a snowy mountain rising directly up from the coast. “Let’s climb that”, I said to Brian. We pulled in to the small harbor, and a row boat came out to greet us. There were two heavy-duty planks laid across the boat, from gunwale to gunwale. The VW was lowered onto those planks, and was rowed to shore. Antalya was a quiet little town, with a gorgeous beach of multi-colored pebbles that stretched straight away down the coast, and there was hardly any tourist development in sight. That has changed. Antalya is now the 8th. most populous city in Turkey, and “large-scale development and governmental funding has promoted tourism. A record 12.5 million tourists passed through the city in 2014.” (Wikipedia).
We drove towards the Bey Mountain (10072′), at first following an unmarked road up into the forest. We passed a group of woodcutters and not long after drove into a grassy meadow. We then promptly sank the Bug to it’s axles. We walked back down the road and asked the woodcutters for a hand. They lifted the Bug up out of the muck, and when we tried to give them some money as a reward, it was refused. We back-tracked and drove around to the other side of the mountain, to the vicinity of Elmali, where we parked the car at the end of a road and started hiking. We climbed the mountain, and began our descent by a slightly different route. The first people we encountered were goatherds, living in small tents that were actually goat-wool blankets laid over a framework of sticks. The tents had a base course of stones blocks, which proved, upon examination, to be building stones from nearby Roman ruins. The men were knitting wool socks as we arrived, and invited us in for some yogurt. We had passed, in an upper valley, strange-looking circular stone towers, with enclosures on top, and wooden pegs that spiraled up the structure, to serve as a stairway. We asked these guys (as best we could) their purpose, and they answered (as best they could) that they were for protection from wolves. As we continued our descent, we came into a valley filled with Roman ruins, with columns sticking up here and there. Finally, we were met by some kids, who escorted us to their village. The whole village came out to see us, and then they took us to their meeting house, which had Roman building blocks serving as cornerstones to the building. They served us dinner and everyone watched us eat. Then they turned on the radio, which was powered by a generator, as the village had no electricity from outside. They tuned to Voice of America, and we heard an American astronaut (probably John Glenn) talking from space. We were then ushered into the house of the richest man in town, where we spent the night. In the morning, after breakfast, the village elders came to meet with us. They wanted us to convey to our leaders that they wanted the US to provide Polaris missiles to Turkey, to protect them from the USSR. They didn’t like Khrushchev. One of the men named him, and then made a gesture of crushing him out under his heel. A delegation walked us back to our car, and off we went. The Bey Mountain is now a National Park, set aside in 1972 – Beydağları Coastal National Park.
We drove north, past a big beautiful lake, the Beysehir Golu,
and on to Konya, on the Anatolian Plateau, where we visited the famous Alaeddin Mosque. Konya is the center of Sufism (Islamic mysticism) and it’s practitioners, the Whirling Dervishes. From there we drove east to Nevsehir and the Valley of Goreme, in Cappadocia, an area of volcanic tuff pinnacles that had been excavated for homes and other purposes, and occupied since the late 6th century BC.
Not far to the east was Kayseri, which had a snowy volcanic mountain directly to its south, Erciyas Dag. We climbed it and had great glissading on the way down. I did a head-first stomach glissade for a very long ways.
We then headed northeast, to Erzurum. What a great name! I remember buying some ekmek (flatbread) there, right out of the oven. It was cooked on a bed of hot pebbles, and the bottom-side of the bread retained the impressions of the pebbles. Next up was the Turkish/Iranian border crossing, with 16,900′ Mt. Ararat rearing up just a few miles to the north. We indicated to the Turkish border guard that we wanted to go up there and climb it, but we were denied! It was located too close to the Soviet Union (the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia), apparently, to let us foreigners venture in that direction. Then we entered Iran, which will be seen in the next chapter.