When we hired the car for a week so we could go to Kemer to complete our residency application, I was very excited because it meant we’d have the freedom to explore some of the ancient ruins in the area.
We’d heard that Patara was well worth the visit as it was situated close to a long wide beach reminiscent of an Australian beach, and it also had an extraordinarily well preserved Lycian site that is still being excavated. So one less than bright – but at least not rainy – day, we hopped in the car and headed north out of Kaş on the D400 main road for around 50 minutes, turning left at the well-marked road sign.
As we got closer to our destination we came to the entrance where we paid 30TL for the two of us (less than AU$4 per person) and that allowed us entry 10 times over 10 days. We continued through the entry and passed some interesting looking ruins in the distance on the right that seemed to be nestled in amongst farming land. Eventually we came to the beach, where we parked in a large and empty car park (there were no other visitors that day as it was the winter low season).
The beach was indeed long and being deserted it did indeed remind me of an Australian beach! Patara beach is the second largest Turkish sanctuary for loggerhead turtles which have been laying their eggs there for – can you believe it – 40 million years! There are strict times when you can and cannot visit, and the signs also tell you that you can’t sunbathe on the nesting areas. I was very impressed with this.
After visiting the beach we took the car to another large, empty car park that had a very informative sign outlining the site’s history. Baz has shared this in detail in his blog but suffice it to say that Patara, which dates back to 1300BC was a prominent Lycian city with a population of around 20,000. Due to looting and invasions over several centuries the city fell into decline, and by the middle ages it was just a small medieval village situated on an estuary that was fast silting up. The harbour finally silted up and the marsh became a breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitoes, bringing an end to what was once Lycia's major naval and trading port.
It was only when we began walking towards the ruins that I gained an idea of the true perspective and size of this place. This place was so interesting, we kept moving from one amazing building to the next, and after over five hours of exploring, we reluctantly headed home.
The amphitheatre was large enough to seat 6,000 people and had been modified by the Romans to allow for gladiatorial fighting. Parts of the wall did seem to have lost the battle to a couple of earthquakes but essentially it was intact and I could imagine people from all walks of ancient life enjoying music, theatre and deathly entertainment.
We walked from there via a cluster of excavated building foundations to a restored Assembly Hall. As we approached the Hall, I saw a portion of a pillar. What surprised me was that this was heart shaped. I simply had to take a photo of this!
This is where the elected representatives of the Lycian league met and made important decisions. It contains seating in a semicircle like an amphitheatre, but also has a podium and surrounding offices. The original marble floor is intact and covered with protective glass, so it gave me the feeling of walking in the original building. I even gave a speech to the assembly (Baz) about needing to conserve more grain for winter!
We had a bite to eat back at the car and while Baz flew his drone I found a secluded place to have a wee (as the toilets were locked). Baz managed to crash his drone into a tunnel wall, but not breaking it. It turns out that when you fly the drone through a tunnel it loses the signal from the controller! Good lesson learned with little damage.
While I waited for Baz to complete his drone footage, I discovered a beautiful and peaceful glade by an old tree and sat in the sun on a large rock, meditating on the history of this place.
We then headed onwards, past the Assembly Hall down a path that had the bases of large columns lining one side, which evoked a feeling of walking towards something grand.
And something grand it was.
Walking through an opening in the wall at the end of the colonnade the path opened out onto a wide walkway what must have been main street. It is 12.6 metres wide with a 1.5m eastern sidewalk. About 90 metres have been excavated so far with more underground and submerged by water. This has large pillars on either side, some of them made of granite from Egypt. I loved exploring what would have been shops, some of which had alcoves into smaller rooms at the back. I could almost hear the bustling of people going about their daily shopping and business.
We also explored a Roman Temple, the city’s baths, the cistern that supplied water from a higher point on a hill which even had the original pipework! There was a large and impressive gymnasium building and towards the outskirts of the ruins was a large archway that held the remains of an aqueduct.
Patara was amazing and I’m so very glad we chose to visit there. It was timely going just before Christmas, as apparently Saint Nicholas – who we know as Santa Claus – was born there!
One of the most memorable discoveries for me, was one tile – in many strewn on the streets – that bore the handprint of its maker. Obviously this UNESCO site is protected, so I left it in situ, but here is a photograph that I took to share with you.