Webmaster's Note: Because the BikeAbout team is traveling in smaller groups for a little while, we have changed the format of the journal slightly. The dispatches for Turkey will be presented in geographical rather than chronological order. To view the chronological order, go to the itinerary.

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While Corinne and andrEa are cycling from Izmir to Bergama and then Bergama to Akçay, Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic are traveling along Turkey's Mediterranean coast:

topics: Turkish ravioli (food), St. Nicholas, Diocletian, Lycia, Myra, history, Chimera, Mount Olympos, scenery; jump to dispatch

Rider Notes: February 21–22, 1998

Food of the Day: Turkish ravioli

Given our constantly calorie-deprived state, we are always on the lookout for new sources of carbohydrates. Tonight we discovered Turkish "ravioli." Unlike the Italian ravioli to which we are accustomed, the Turkish variety is simply small flour dumplings wrapped around meat filling. Steamed separately, the ravioli is often served in a soup-like tomato-and-yogurt sauce.

Word of the Day: Kas(h) — both a place and a thing

Not only is Kas(h) click to hear an audio clip the name of the town in which we stayed, it also means "eyebrow" in Turkish.

Tech Fact of the Day: Chimera

In Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fearsome fire-breathing monster that had the head of a goat, the neck and chest of a lion, the torso of a she-goat, and the tail of a dragon! This mighty goat-like creature terrorized the region between Antalya and Kas(h) until slain by a Greek hero named Bellerophon (with the timely aid of the goddess Athena and a flying horse named Pegasus). Today all that remains of the terrible Chimera is a naturally eternal flickering flame that can still be seen in a cave near the shore. Another possible solution is that the flame is a result of volcanic activity in the area.

Person of the Day: St. Nicholas click to view a photograph

Today, Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic visited the Church of Saint Nicholas in Demre and, in its illustrious patron saint, found another good example of the (little realized) contributions of the Mediterranean world to modern Western culture. Yes, somewhere behind the myths, the legends, and the claymation Rankin-and-Bass Christmas TV specials, lies an actual man, Saint Nicholas.

Born in the third century AD in the city of Patara (just west of Demre), Nicholas apparently lived most of his life in Asia Minor — what we today call Turkey — not at the North Pole. His white beard, bowl-full-of-jelly laugh, and propensity for wearing red suits remain simply oft-repeated rumors, but we do know that he joined a monastic order and later became Bishop of Demre. The more reliable accounts claim that Nicholas was martyred (killed) during the persecutions of Christians under the Roman emperor Diocletian.

Well known for his good deeds even before his death, since his passing, Nicholas seems to have become one of the hardest working saints in Christendom. The patron saint of all of Russia, St. Nicholas has also been adopted by sailors, merchants, thieves, scholars, prostitutes, virgins, pawnbrokers, and, of course children. In the modern era, he has kept even more lofty company. Presumably because of their close proximity to one another, his feast day (officially December 6) is often celebrated at the same time as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ (December 25). However, Nicholas's startling success after his death has come at a price. In the 11th century, a group of Italian merchants sailed to Demre, raided St. Nicholas's tomb, and returned to Bari with his sacred bones. Once they had safely returned, they established a special tourist site with these relics serving as the main attraction.

The custom of gift-giving on his feast day, which in many Western countries has translated to sharing presents on Christmas day, probably dates back to England during the Middle Ages and might have its inspiration in Nicholas's famous generosity and kindness towards children. One well-known story suggests the origins of other traditions: A poor man, without money to supply dowries for his three daughters, planned to sell them into prostitution. Hearing of this, good St. Nick hoisted himself (though apparently without the aid of a reindeer) up to the roof of the poor man's house and threw three bags of gold down the chimney. This good deed spared the daughters a life of prostitution and encouraged a wide boom in chimney building throughout Asia Minor (we made up the boom in chimney building part). Like the image of St. Nicholas himself, the whole gift-giving process has been considerably refined through the ages. Many young people now prefer to register for gifts at local merchants rather than rely on chimney-fed respites from prostitution. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that "Santa Claus" is an American derivation from the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, "Sinter Klaas."

[Note, when questioned, most Turks had no idea that Mickey Rooney had provided the voice for Saint Nicholas on television's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and "Year Without a Santa Claus." However, further questioning revealed that few Turks are familiar with any of the works of the diminutive former child star.]

Place of the Day: Myra

On the way to Kas(h), we stopped by to visit some of the ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Myra.

The region of Turkey the boys have pedaled through the last two days was once called Lycia. At one time Myra was one of the main cities of Lycia and some signs of its earlier importance remain. The two most impressive remains are those of a Roman theater which backs up onto the mountain click to view a photograph, and a Lycian necropolis (graveyard) carved into the side of a steep cliff. click to view a photograph

The theater, though small, is fairly well preserved, and its setting makes it particularly beautiful. click to view a photograph But, being boys, Ethan and Padraic marveled most at the size of stone blocks piled inside the theater. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph

The necropolis was pretty curious. Instead of burying their dead below ground, the Myrans chiseled remarkably ornate tombs into the sheer rock face high up on the steep cliffs around which their town was built. The facades of these tombs were made to look like little houses, or big sarcophagi, with columns, impressive doors and decorated panels. click to view a photograph The insides of the tombs look like tiny one-room caves today, but originally they were decorated with paintings and inscriptions.

Group Dispatch, February 21–22

picture of Padraic

A leisurely breakfast and an emergency trip to a bike store for parts (Anthony had destroyed practically every tire on all three bikes [Anthony's note: this is a blatant untruth; Anthony's superior speed and aggressive climbing technique had resulted in only one destroyed tire and one that was just plain worn out]) delayed Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic's departure from Antalya until nearly noon. Given this late start and the leisurely (again!) lunch they enjoyed on the beach in Beldibi, the guys had no real chance to cycle as far as they would have liked. Instead they decided to end their ride just before what promised to be a long climb around Turkey's Mt. Olympos (not the famous Greek mountain of the same name).

The nearest town that seemed to have plenty of places to stay was the oddly over-developed little town of Tekirova. The glittering new shops and ubiquitous construction on the main (and only) road make this former little fishing village seem artificial, particularly at this time of year when few tourists are around. However, the development did nothing to deter from the fantastic views of Mount Olympos click to view a photograph, or, later, of the beautiful starry night sky above.

Waking much earlier the next day, the boys set off on what promised to be a long hilly ride ahead. They were not disappointed. After a tough climb up from Tekirova, they reached the roads that would take them down to the coastal towns of Olympos and Chimera. Afraid of the dread beast, the Chimera (see the Tech Fact of the Day), the boys dared not venture down the road to the coast. Or perhaps they were just scared of having to climb back up the mountain to the main road. So, instead, they simply stopped to take a look back at the other side of Mt. Olympos click to view a photograph and quickly pushed on.

Eventually the road brought them back down to sea level where they enjoyed yet another leisurely lunch in the charming little fishing town of Finike (where Anthony made the inevitable remark about being a finicky eater). From Finike the road tightly hugged the coast for the next 30 km, continuously curving in and out to reveal hidden coves and beaches.

Once the boys had reached Demre (also called Kale, also called Myra) and explored the ruins of Myra (see the Place of the Day) and the Church of St. Nicholas (see the Person of the Day), they decided to take a bus to Kas(h) rather than risk arriving there after dark. From their bus seats they soon saw that they had made the right decision. After Myra, the road climbs sharply up to a mountainous plateau before dropping straight down into Kas(h). A beautiful ride, but one that would have taken hours.

Of course, the same mountains that would have made for a very difficult ride also give Kas(h) a great deal of its natural beauty and charm. At the foot of a range of mountains, overlooking a beautiful bay with islands (belonging to Greece) just offshore click to view a photograph, Kas(h) is one of the most picturesque towns on Turkey's so-called "Turquoise coast." click to view a photograph.

It was so calm and peaceful that the boys even pushed back their bed time a few minutes to step out onto the balcony and savor the star-lit views over the bay. In a perfect world, they would have stopped for a week to explore the beaches, caves, and ruins of the area, but the next day had them back in the saddle moving up the coast to Fethiye.

Meanwhile, the ladies have cycled from Izmir to Bergama and then Bergama to Akçay. You can read about their journey in their February 21-23 dispatch.

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