by Recep Peker Tanıtkan and Hüseyin Buğdaycı
Beaches, boat trips, islands, pine trees, walks and activities, ancient civilisations and legends The southwestern district of Fethiye has them all not to mention a lively town centre, ample facilities and the astonishing Dead Sea zone. These pages are a guide to the not-very-difficult art of holidaying in the area.
It first became famous in ancient times as Telmessos, the city of soothsayers. But none of the wise men of the pre-classical age could have predicted all the history that Fethiye was to witness. Nor could they have foreseen how their town would become the centre of a district visited by tourists from near and far who appreciate its well-preserved natural treasures.
The ruins of the city of soothsayers can still be seen on an extensive site stretching from the hill slopes to the gulf. The monumental fourth century BC Lycian Tomb of Amintas is easy to spot from below, in the form of a temple with two Ionic columns. On the left-hand column bears the inscription, Amintas, son of Herpamias.
Many sarcophaguses and rock graves can be seen in and around the town. The most important of these monumental graves, also belonging to the Lycian period, is located near the Turkish Post Office (PTT) building. The sarcophagus is decorated with bas-reliefs symbolising warriors.
The ruins of a castle thought to belong to the Knights of St John lie in the Telmessos Acropolis, on the high ground in the south of the city. The castle was also used during the Ottoman period. A short climb reveals the rampart ruins, cistern and little rock graves on the eastern side of the hill.
The amphitheatre of Telmessos was discovered during excavations just above the quay. The theatre was constructed during the early Roman period and was restored in the 2nd century A.D.. It has a capacity of 5,000 seats and was used as an arena in the Byzantine age. At present, Telmessos Theatre has a capacity of 1,500 seats and preparations for its restoration are under way.
Among the works of the Ottoman period are the Old Mosque and Fethiye Hamamı (Bath-house) built in 1791. Both of these buildings are to be found in the Paspatur Bazaar. The bath, which was established over six aqueducts and has 14 domes, is still in use. In 2001, a monument was unveiled in commemoration of the Fethiye men who lost their lives during the War of Liberation, at Çanakkale, in Korea and in Cyprus. The reliefs surrounding the pedestal depict the soldiers who died during these wars.
There are numerous other beaches around Fethiye. The Kıdrak and Belceğiz beaches on the Ölüdeniz (Dead Sea) are known not only in Fethiye and Turkey but also throughout the world. Hamam Bay is continuously visited by day-trippers, while yacht parties making the Blue Voyage spend the night here. The ruins of a Byzantine monastery, partly submerged, can be seen near the harbour. The location is ideal for a stroll along the shore or into the forest, where arbour restaurants serve the yachting community. Visitors willing to attempt the half-hour uphill walk from Cleopatra Bay or Yavansu may also visit the ancient city of Lydae.
Gemile Island, situated opposite the bay and beach of the same name, was formerly known as Aya Nicola. It is known for its ruined early Christian and Byzantine churches with well-reserved frescos. There are ruins of cistern along the shore. As a result of the earthquakes in 240 and 241, some of the ruins now lie two metres under the sea. Most interesting of all is the 500-metre tunnel which connects the two churches. Parts of the tunnel are intact. On the stairs inside the tunnel are 17 stopping places said to represent the points where Jesus Christ rested on the way to his crucifixion.
The so-called Dead Sea has become one of Turkeys best-known touristic images. It can be reached by boat from Fethiye. Alternatively, a rough 14-km road through the forest suddenly opens out on Belcekız Bay, and the Sea comes into sight as you walk towards the beach. The Sea appears to be under a spell, for there is no movement whatsoever. There is not the slightest trace of seaweed, and the seabed is covered with white sand. The light under the water is turquoise, enriched by the shadows of the pines.
Belcekız was the name of a love-struck girl of legend who threw herself from a cliff when her lover did not return. In ancient times, ships would cast anchor here and the crews go ashore in rowing boats to fetch drinking water. One day, the handsome son of an old captain goes ashore and sees the beautiful Belcekız living there, and falls in love with her and wins her heart. But the boy must take the water, the ship must sail and Belcekız must wait for her beloved on the shore. The next time the ship passes, he will come to fetch water again, and they will make love. These visits are repeated many times. One day, a storm blows up as the ship is sailing in the area. The boy tells his father that there is a well-protected bay where they will be safe. But aware that his son has fallen in love, the old captain suspects he is willing to sacrifice the ship for the sake of a visit to his lover. The two begin to quarrel. With the ship about to strike a rock, the captain pushes his son into to the sea and grabs the wheel. And what should he see just then but a calm bay ahead? The son drowns, and the place of his death is known as the Dead Sea ever after. The girl perishes on the rocks and her name is given for eternity to the spot where she expired.
The Ölüdeniz is a dreamland preserved in all its natural beauty. But vacations here need not mean simply lying on the beach or around the pool. Thanks to the arrival of paragliding, you may also set eyes on the Dead Sea as you slowly descend from a height of 1,969 meters. From this elevation, you will also see the neighbouring resorts of Patara Beach and Dalaman, and it is not unlikely that you will catch a glimpse of Rhodes.
Fethiyes Tuesday bazaar is clean and lively, with separate sections for fruit and vegetables and for clothes and handicrafts. However, if you miss the Tuesday bazaar, there is still plenty to see at the Paspatur shopping centre opposite the district governors office. Within the last two years, this bazaar has become an important attraction, thanks to the efforts of the Municipality, offering fish, fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and clothing to Turkish and foreign tourists alike. Prices are reasonable, and there are plenty of kebap, pide and home cooking options on hand should you become a little peckish.
In central Fethiye, fish is to be eaten at the restaurants around the Municipality Park and down by the quay. Seafood is also available along the newly-modernised coast road in the direction of Çalış Beach. Those who want to eat seafood in Ölüdeniz should go to the well-designed restaurant on the steep slope below the road to Kıdrak beach. Finally, there are numerous hotels, holiday villages and boarding houses in the centre of Fethiye and at Çalış beach, Ovacık, Hisarönü, Ölüdeniz, Kayaköy, Göcek and nearby bays.
(DIPLOMAT - August 2005 - Ankara)