Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe the beauty of a place. I am enchanted by Turkey: rolling hills strewn with limestone, birds flitting in and out of almond trees – which are in blossom – and daisies blanketing the ground. It is all-beautiful to me. I joined the Link crew a little over a week ago after spending three months traveling in the Palestinian Territories and Israel, and it is good to rejoin my family.
Yesterday was day four of our hike along the Lycian way. I was pulled from a deep sleep as the call to prayer rang through the hills and echoed through the dark morning. I swung my legs out of bed and winced as my tender feet touched down on the cold stone floor. After quickly packing and pulling on damp and dirty clothes, I stumbled my way down to the 800-year-old sycamore in the courtyard of the mosque. My plan had been to climb up into the branches of the great tree and watch Gökçeören (“Gook-che-oer-en”) alive, but when I got there, the courtyard was already occupied. There, strategically placed below the tree, was my dad, equipped with a microphone and speaking to Ali and Axel.
These two friends had stumbled upon our group in Patara while we were shopping for ice cream, cookies, and other lunch materials a couple of days back. They are making a documentary on the renovation of an ancient Lycian amphitheater in the old city of Patara. The founding principles of our nation (the USA) were first borne in Lycia, and apparently President Obama may come and give a speech at the amphitheater’s inauguration. I guess Ali and Axel took a liking to us, because we have run into them a couple of times now. They are two of the sweetest and most genuine people I have come across. They took an interest in our group and our study of Christian Science and spent some time interviewing the crew. It was an unexpected and enjoyable part of the last week. Who knows, we might end up in a documentary with President Obama!
We strolled out of Gökçeören mid-morning, through the fruit trees lining the road and on down through the canyons. A goat herd passed us with two shepherdesses and their pack of bear-like Mastiffs. A stream gurgled in the creek bottom. Pine trees swept and swayed in the breezes and the hot still air was infused with the rich scent of damp earth. We climbed up and out of the valley bottom and crested a ridge over a thousand feet later. My eyes drank in the view; the Mediterranean glittered in the far distance, a deep and inviting blue. Emerald green hills graced the middle ground, and directly in front of me, the ancient temple of Phellos crowded the hilltop.
That evening we spent the night at our guide, Ayden’s home. His place is a veritable sanctuary for any weary traveler, and he had 19 of us stumble through his door looking for hot showers and food. It seems like everyone except for me was able to acquire a hot shower and we all feasted on food grown in his terrace garden. When I think about what makes life great, the thing that immediately comes to mind is good food shared with a group of friends in a beautiful place. Well, last night was definitely that. As a bonus to a great day, Bodum, Ayden’s mammoth-like mastiff guard dog that prowled around the buildings at night, attacked no one on their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
I wish I had more time to explore this country, but as I write, our bus is speeding me away to the airport for a final hurrah in Istanbul and then a flight home. Although I have now written 634 words (as my handy computer tells me) I still have not found the perfect word to describe Turkey. The closest I can come is enchanting – make of it what you will.
– Jess Lewis