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x0x Turquoise delight

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    x0x Turquoise delight Patara, Turkey: it s got one of the longest beaches in the Med, Roman ruins and a wonderful hotel that won t break the bank Annie Mills
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 6, 2000
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      x0x Turquoise delight

      Patara, Turkey: it's got one of the longest beaches in the Med, Roman
      ruins and a wonderful hotel that won't break the bank

      Annie Mills

      The Guardian

      Saturday August 5, 2000

      I glanced down and saw a baby tortoise crawling past my toes. His shell
      was a murky green and his tiny head no larger than my little finger. I
      picked him up, whereupon he stretched out his head, eyes open, and peed. I
      put him down and turned once more to the scene I'd left behind. The sun,
      low in the sky, was throwing striped shadows across the broken columns of
      Patara's Roman amphitheatre. Scores of local schoolchildren, transfixed in
      the stone seats, listened to an archaeology professor spinning them
      stories of the city in which they sat: Xanthos - whose terrible massacres,
      wars, glory and heroism have been described by Homer, Herodotus and
      Plutarch.

      Patara is a small village on the south-west Aegean coast of Turkey, known
      as the Turquoise Coast, and is famous for having one of the longest
      beaches in the Mediterranean. Its 18km of sand provides plenty of raw
      material for armies of children to build metropoli of sandcastles, as well
      as a nesting place for turtles, which between June and August emerge at
      night to lay their eggs in the sands.

      Patara is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and, when the Roman empire
      was at its height, it was one of the most important harbours in the
      western Mediterranean, sheltering ships from all over the ancient
      world. You can still find the remains of merchants' bath-houses, their
      roofs open to the skies. Fallen Porphyry columns lie beside the largest
      avenue that the Romans ever built.

      Most atmospheric of all, though, is Patara's Roman amphitheatre. Once it
      seated 10,000 citizens, now half of it lies buried under an enormous sand
      dune. Shelley could have had this place in mind when he wrote his famous
      sonnet, Ozymandias - "Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless
      and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away".

      In 1992, when tourism was just beginning to make its mark on Patara, the
      Turkish government slapped a preservation order on the town to protect the
      ruins. The locals were furious, and one miscreant hotel builder (his
      creation is the only scar on the wooded horizon) has been sent to prison
      for building without permission. But for the visitor, it is a godsend that
      this peaceful refuge cannot be developed further.

      The most wonderful thing about Patara - ruins, turtles and beach aside -
      is the Viewpoint Hotel, owned by Muzaffer Otlu. Despite sounding like a
      B&B in Eastbourne, the Viewpoint is a very special place. This is not
      because of the accommodation, although the rooms are perfectly
      adequate; nor because of the amazing food, but because of the years of
      toil and thought that have gone into it. The tables, bar, flooring - even
      the ashtrays - have been fashioned from the same white-and-black marble
      quarried in central Anatolia, according to Muzaffer's personal
      specification.

      Behind the two-storey building is a terraced orchard, planted with lemon,
      orange, fig and apricot trees. "Eat as much as you like," says
      Muzaffer. But the Viewpoint's pièce de résistance is its Ottoman terrace,
      roofed in bamboo, the sides open to the stars. In the evenings, guests
      recline on the low cushions - in one hand an aperitif made from Turkish
      almonds, in the other a pair of backgammon dice. The sweet smell of
      burning cedarwood wafts across the terrace. I spent every evening out here
      listening to the crickets.

      Muzaffer also runs tours. One day, we set off for a boat trip along the
      coast, stopping on the way to see the tomb of St Nicholas. That's right -
      Santa Claus, otherwise known as Lapland's most famous son, who was born in
      Patara and spent much of his life as a bishop in Myra.

      We boarded a wooden boat with a sundeck roof. From the sea, the Taurus
      mountains looked like the backs of dinosaurs; the dark, blue ridges
      curving into the water one after another, so that there were 10 horizons
      visible at once. We passed pirate hide-outs - caves formed by centuries of
      waves lapping on limestone outcrops - and stopped in a secluded bay to
      dive into the cool, clear, aquamarine water. The captain cooked a barbeque
      on the beach. Then we set off for Kekova island. In the 5th century BC,
      before the water level rose, there was a thriving city here. Stairways,
      foundations of houses and the arch of a temple are still visible still
      under the sea.

      On another trip, winding up into the Taurus foothills, we came upon the
      Saklikent gorge, through which a river flows down to a sun-filled
      plain. Walking down a footpath above the rushing torrent, you come to a
      shady clearing, and from the feet of the cliffs, as if from the rocks
      themselves, splurges of spring water gush over boulders to join the river.

      Enterprising locals have built bamboo platforms a foot above the torrent,
      upholstered in cushions of Turkish carpet. I lay upon one, splashing the
      icy water on my face, watching the kingfishers play mating games in the
      fig trees overhead. What a place for a midnight encounter, in August, when
      the figs are ripe.
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