The Lost City

Olympos, Turkey, April 2003: While the US and allies were invading Iraq in April 2003, I was making my own sort of invasion route to neighbouring Turkey for the first time. It was a rather circuitous route, island hopping from Athens down to Crete- a long and very rough boat ride east to Rhodes- and a quick jump over to Maramaris in Turkey. I was already 3 weeks into my journey when I made it to the backpacker oasis of Olympos.

The ancient Lycian city of Olympos is situated in a valley that runs down to a spectacular beach. In Hellenistic times it was a wealthy city-state, and being right on the coast a regular target for pirates.

I was chatting to a friendly local man one day who went by the name of Smiley- for obvious reasons…Anyway, we were talking about the history of the place when he mentioned what he called “The Lost City”. From notes and what I recall, he told me that the people of Olympos were sick and tired of their city being constantly plundered by pirates, so they decided to build and safe-keep their riches in a secret city way up in the mountains. Smiley then proceeded to draw a vague map of the route on a paper table napkin…

This really got me interested, I just had to find someone to accompany me as I didn’t fancy running into snakes or crazy locals by myself. Then I met Rod, a big Australian builder who was taking some time out to travel and had just started working at a local bar. He was keen to check it out too as he’d hardly left the valley.

So late one morning we headed off down the valley and up past the Necropolis to the start of a vaguely marked goat track. We were soon in a steep climb upwards. Sometime later, Rod who was leading at the time yelled out. He’d just about stepped on a large black snake sunning itself on the path. We found out later that this particular species was very dangerous. After about three hours following the goat tracks up through pristine pine forests we saw a ruin on our right. This was marked by Smiley on the paper napkin, the Lost City was supposed to be close by…

A bit further up the track leveled out a bit and then we ran into a couple of other trekkers. They were from New Zealand aswell and were doing a long distance hike along the vaguely marked track, recently called the Lycian Way. I explained we were looking for some ruins and they said they’d seen what looked liked walls further up to the left. We set off again and I headed off the track and up a steep hill, slipping on pine needles and tripping over tree roots. At the highest point of the hill I found the ruins- we had found the “Lost City”.

The ruins were spread over an area of three to five hundred square meters and mostly consisted of crumbling stone walls.

There were a few structures in better order, the remains of what looked like a chapel -a later edition- and various stone linned pits or wells.

I found the shattered remains of some terracotta pottery strewn around the inside of what was probably a kitchen or bakery.

We explored the ancient city for an hour or so, then headed downhill towards the clearing Smiley had marked on his map. It was in a broad clearing between with views down to the valley below. There was a small stone hutt situated at one side with a smouldering fire.

He appeared out of nowhere, a big smile showing through his beard. He spoke good english and offered us a seat on the carpet near the hutt…

Mustafa then proceeded to pick wild daisy flowers, putting them into two cups and topping them up with hot water. It tasted surprisingly pleasant…

Mustafa was allegedly up here in the mountains checking out the possibiliy of selling drinks/food etc to the odd passer by. I didn’t fancy his chances. Besides, I thought the reason he was up here was for an entirely difference reason… We thanked him, bade farewell and made a fast retreat down out of the hills and back to Olympos…

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