Lotus-eaters

Those who ate the honey-sweet lotus fruit no longer wished to bring back word to us, or sail for home.
They wanted to stay with the Lotus-eaters, eating the lotus, forgetting all thoughts of return.
I dragged those men back to the shore myself by force, while they wept, and bound them tight in the hollow ships, pushing them under the benches.
Then I ordered my men to embark quickly on the fast craft, fearing that others would eat the lotus and forget their homes.
-Odyssey book IX

 

So, a little exhausted from two night buses in three nights, I made my way down to Olympos to meet two Americans I had met in Cappadocia.  My plan was to stay one or two nights and then go on to more places along the coast.  But transferring buses on the side of a highway on the ridge of a mountain overlooking the sea, I was already a little enchanted by the place.

Olympos is an enclave of backpacker tree-houses.  All of the guesthouses are to the left of a river just behind an abandoned Lycian city which in turn is on a turquoise blue bay on the Mediterranean.  The name of my guesthouse is Bayram’s – their motto is “Come for a day, stay for a week”.  This is definitely describes the reality of this place.

The first day was spent at the beach swimming in the perfect water around anchored schooners and in to grottos surrounded by Roman ruins.  The night was capped off by a trip to an eternal flame that has been burning for thousands of years on the side of the mountain.

The second day was much like the first, but with more and cooler people entering the gravitational pull of a social group that had amazing chemistry.  There were maybe ten of us who were doing everything together and clicking on so many levels.  We all came for short periods but decided to stay longer and longer.

From a Turkish-German who we made friends with, we learned the Turkish word keif, meaning to relax and enjoy little things like a cup of tea or sitting with a friend.  It’s a lifestyle of lounging and playing backgammon and playing cards.  It’s a lifestyle of simple pleasures.  We took in this lifestyle at Olympos.

A day came when I decided I just had to leave – I couldn’t spend my whole time in Turkey in just this one place, no matter how beautiful and enchanting.  My friend Michael (another New York who was doing an overland journey from Korea) had packed his things each of the nights he had stayed there but decided last minute to stay.  We had to guilt each other in to leaving – for we both had places to be in the near future and so much to see in between.

While we were waiting for the bus on that last day, I had serious doubts whether I had the strength to leave Olympos.  There was a sign on the bar “Help Wanted” – they wanted English speaking people to work the bar.

I could do that.  Why don’t I do that?  What would be wrong with working here? Was I having anxiety about returning home that this place allowed me to escape?  Had I eaten the lotus flower and forgotten all thoughts of return?

Michael and I successful convinced each other to get on the bus up to the highway and we headed to Antalya.  Our plan was to go there, take in a hammam at a 700 year old bath-house and then catch a night bus to Istanbul.

But again there was temptation.

We met a beautiful Chinese nurse who needed help finding her hostel.  We successfully navigated the beautiful ancient streets of that ancient city and got her to her hostel.  We walked together to a cliff overlooking one of the most marvellous views I’ve seen.  The city rested on high cliffs over looking beautiful blue sea and in the distance, massive mountains.  Waterfalls streamed down from the cliffs and unreal puffy white clouds floated across a  brilliant sky, occasionally blocking the sun to give the place a celestial glow.

The nurse, who had been travelling by herself for some time, was so happy to have met such friendly people as my friend and me that she asked us to stay one night in Antalia at the hostel.  We looked at the view and we hesitated.  She began pleading with us to stay.  This unreal view.  This gorgeous girl.  And another enchanting city.  Why don’t we stay? Just one night?  What are we doing?  Where are we going?  Have we lost all thought of home?  Have we?

We finally diverted our eyes from the view and from the girl and remembered we have to travel.  We have to go to the places over the horizon.  We have to go home – in our different routes.  One night here would surely turn in to another.  Why wouldn’t it?  We said good-bye to her and went to the hammam  at the 700 year old bath-house and we caught a night bus to Istanbul.

I am sad to be away from that coast but happy that I escaped it.    I don’t know how I did it.

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