Thursday, October 28, 2010
After all that storming on the previous night, I thought for sure that the worst was over. Boy, was I wrong! Since there were a lot of non-threatening clouds in the sky, I figured that a visit to Xanthos was in order. I really love this place. It was, back in the day, the capitol of all the Lycian city states. Its history is as illustrious as it is violent and tragic. It was destroyed once by the Persians prior to Alexander the Great and a second time by that noble Roman, Brutus. Well, accounts vary about Brutus. There are two versions. The first says that while trying to raise money for an army, Brutus laid seige to the city because they wouldn't pay up. Apparently the Xanthans were so dead set against helping him in any way that they killed themselves and set the place on fire. The second says that Brutus, being the noblest of Romans, took the city by storm and killed everybody. Either way, the place was a mess for a while, but rebounded as a thriving metropolis just before Jesus was born far, far away. It continued on for another 1200 years or so until it was abandoned due to Arab raids and general lack of interest. The charmless farming town of Kinik now occupies Xanthos' former residential district.
And now we're in the present. I got into downtown Patara (a three-minute walk from my hotel in suburban Patara) just in time to catch the dolmus to the main road. This put me halfway to Xanthos. The strategy at this point was to flag a bus - any bus - down to take me the remaining five miles up the road. The only problem was that there were no buses. And then it began to rain. OK, fair enough. At least it was warm. So I stood there while no buses went by. There were tractors - lots of those - trucks and scooters, the usual, but no buses. Finally, after nearly 45 minutes of getting rained on (and the rain was getting heavier), a dolmus stopped for me. It was eventually bound for Kinik, but first it proclaimed a stop in Patara - where I'd started out. So I completely retraced my steps. Not only that but these vacationing Turks and one creepy old guy of indeterminate origin (he definitely was neither Turkish nor German nor French, because all those other nationalities were present in the dolmus and he just spoke to everyone in very sinister English) persuaded the driver to go all the way to the beach. But hey, I had nowhere else to go. As long as he could drop me in the vicinity of magnificent Xanthos before evening, I was fine with that. I eventually got there. It took an hour and a half to go 10 miles, but I figure that I actually traveled 25 miles, what with all the going back to Patara and meandering and all. But he was nice enough to let me off at Xanthos' front gate.
It was raining moderately when I arrived. Large gray clouds were converging, but I didn't see them or pay them any mind. I resigned myself to seeing this great former city in the rain. That would be a change of pace, since every previous time I'd been there it had always been blazing hot. However, mere seconds after I bought my ticket, all hell broke loose. A thunderstorm came down that made the previous night's disturbance seem like a light drizzle. And I do mean that it came down - instead of being above us, it was all around us. We - meaning the two Turkish guys (a ticket seller and a taxi driver), a few stray Germans from a tour bus, several cats and me - were IN the thunderstorm. We all hunkered down in and very near the ticket shack. And oh, did it rain. Here is a short film about it:
This just shows the rain that fell for a half hour at this pace. What you don't see (or hear) is the lightning and thunder. Three times, lightning struck about a hundred feet away followed immediately by this immense WHAM! of thunder. At first, I didn't recognize it as lightning. I thought that somebody was taking a picture of the rain with a very, very bright flash, because, I mean, Germans photograph everything. But camera flashes don't sound like a whip cracking. And they're also not followed by a tremendous report of thunder. It got so bad that I took all the metal out of my pockets. In my mind, it seemed stupid to just stand there, trying in vain to keep dry and wait for the lightning to strike me. But that's what the lightning wanted me to think. It wanted me to venture out where I would make an easy target. I realized that and stayed put while the storm gradually passed. It took quite a while, but the thunder eventually became fainter and the rain stopped. More gray clouds were on the way, so I cautiously ventured out, ready to sprint back to the ticket shack if the lightning returned. It was at that point when I realized why people prayed to Zeus, a god who Homer (the blind poet, not the hilarious man from Springfield) described as having "a shield of thunder." A storm like that can sure make you forget about a 2000 year-old carpenter and rabbi from the Middle East. For a time, paganism seemed to be the answer. And when it all stopped, every religion was no longer an option. For what it's worth, thanks for sparing me, Zeus.
With the storm gone, I went exploring. Here is some of what I saw:
This slab-like thing directly above is the famous "Inscribed Monument" that is both in Greek and Lycian and is the key to translating their language. As long as you know Greek, you're fine. If you don't, you're screwed. It is the longest passage in Lycian anywhere. I'm pretty sure it was struck by lightning during the storm. Anyhow, here are more photos:
This last shot is of the theater/tomb district. I really had to climb to get it. The taller of those two tower-like things is the famous Tomb of the Harpies. Actually, the real one is in the British Museum "for safekeeping." What you get here are clay reproductions. And speaking of the British Museum, they also have the so-called Nereid Monument dedicated to Poseidon's daughters. Here is what it's supposed to look like:
And this is how it really looks:
Breathtaking, no? And then there was peace in the valley:
All those light-colored things are greenhouses. They grow tomatoes and cucumbers year-round in Kinik.
Anyhow, that was quite an outing. I got back to Patara just before the weather began to improve, so yes, I got rained on again. Once the sun was out, I took a tour of Patara's ruins, but that is a tale for another post. Once again, thank you, Zeus, for not killing me with lightning.