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Barry's Blog # 66 - Burning rocks at Olimpos

If you've been keeping up with our weekly blogs and videos you'll have probably realised by now that I get excited about visiting ancient places. My imagination runs wild and it's almost as if I can transport myself back in time to when the ruined buildings of a great city stood proudly and ancient peoples went about their daily business with no awareness of the legacy they'd eventually leave behind.

The second thing that excites me is exploring the natural world. So you can imagine my excitement when Aannsha cryptically said "We're going to visit an ancient site, that is also a natural wonder of the world and to get to it we need to hike up an unspoilt valley."

Our destination, about a 2 hour drive east of Kaş, was where naturally occurring eternal flames have been burning for thousands of years on a rocky mountainside above Cirali village, near Olimpos in Turkey. The fire emanating from the ground is said to be the fiery breath of the mythological Chimera.

The myth of the Chimera

The Chimera

The Chimera, according to writers, was a fire-breathing hybrid creature composed of the parts of more than one animal. It is usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ends with a snake's head. A sighting of the Chimera was interpreted as an omen of storms, shipwrecks and natural disasters, particularly volcanoes.

The myth, which is still recalled to this day, goes like this;

The King of Ephyra’s sons, Hippones and Belleros, are out hunting when Hippones kills his brother and takes the name Bellerophontes, which means 'The one who ate Belleros'.

Because of the killing the king of Ephyra sends Bellerophontes into exile where he takes refuge with King Proteus of Argos. King Proteus also wants to get rid of Bellerophontes, but because he was so loved by the public, accusing him of anything negative would most likely backlash on the king and it was also an offense to the gods to do any harm to a house guest, so his options were limited. He eventually tricks Bellerophontes into delivering a letter to the Lycian King Lobates.

King Lobates, who is now burdened with an unwanted house guest decides to ask Bellerophontes to take on a series of quests. The King believed the quests to be so dangerous that he would soon find himself without a house guest and still not anger the gods.

Bellerophontes' first quest was to kill a monster known as the Chimera and he was able to defeat the monster by shooting her from a safe distance as he rode high in the sky on the winged horse Pegasus. The killing blow from Bellerophontes' lead tipped lance then inters the Chimera to the underground, but even in death the Chimera goes on scattering flames. These are the flames we see today and also the flames that were used as a landmark by ancient mariners voyaging along that part of the Mediterranean coast.

Aussie BBQ in Turkey

The gas, from which the eternal flames burn, is naturally occurring methane which finds its way to the surface through cracks in the rocks and it burns quite hot and almost smokeless. So what do two Aussies do when going to visit an eternal flame? They bring along snags (sausages) and BBQ them over the open flames of course. You can see us doing just that in this Saturday's (Episode 056) YouTube video.

Just like everywhere else we've been in Turkey there was an obligatory wild (domestic) cat that befriended us, who also made a play for one of the snags, but got a warning from both of us. A few minutes later the cat inadvertently put itself right in front of one of our running cameras and was quickly helped out of the camera shot by the end of my shoe. It's a funny video moment and no cats were harmed in the making of the video.

More ancient ruins

As well as the eternal flames, just 50 metres down mountainside, there are a few ancient ruins which date back a few thousand years. One of the buildings was a grand temple dedicated to the fire god Hephaistos. Sadly the ruins are quite overgrown, completely unprotected and will surely disappear completely in the not too distant future. Aannsha and I did have fun exploring them and wondering at the skills of the ancient stone masons.

We also found a curved alcove which still had the intact remains of the original decorative painting in now faded colours. This was most likely the remains of the more recent Byzantine church. That was very fascinating.

Worst in 5 years

There's a running joke between Aannsha and I whenever we hear news of another big wind heading towards Kaş or when the grey clouds gather overhead and begin yet another week long downpour.

"Come to Kaş in Turkey. The winters are beautiful. Sunshine, no wind, nice and warm."

These were the words Mike used when we were sailing A B Sea together from Spain in September 2018 and he was persuading us to over-winter in Turkey rather than in Greece.

What a view

Don't get me wrong, we love Turkey and the people, and most of the Turkish people we meet are as bewildered as we are with the amount of rain that's fallen this winter and the prolonged cold temperatures. We're also told that a winter like this may come along every 5 years or so and that next winter will surely be wonderful and all back to normal. However that won't be any good to us as we're still planning on moving on from Kaş by mid-March and will probably be leaving Turkish waters by late May/early June enroute to Greece.

We just hope that winter 2019 in Greece will be full of sunshine and warmth.

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