The GPS is oblivious to the inadequacies of our rental car and the rugged terrain. It insists that I turn left and go straight up the steep hill that rises 800 feet above the Yavu plain. There is no road. Somewhere at the top lies the Lycian city of Cyaneae. Or at least the ruins of what used to be a city in antiquity. Most of the remains date from the later Roman period, and Cyaneae is actually a Greek name that means “dark blue”. Denoting anything from lapis lazuli, clouds, or the skins of Africans, my little guide book tells me. Exotic, ruined, steeped in mystery, and hidden somewhere out of sight at the top of the hill.
We have spotted a sign further up the main road that indicated a turn-off for Cyaneae. We turn around to try our luck down that road. It winds through a rural landscape that seems to be inhabited by goats alone. The road is gravelly and the vegetation dense. I park the car under an enormous tree that provides deep, dark shade. Despite the fact that the afternoon is drawing closer to evening, the sun is still pleasantly hot. We keep following the road on foot. The weather is perfect for walking. The sky is a deep blue, and the layers of mountains stretching beyond the horizon, remind me of cardboard cut-outs for a children’s play. We are unsure if we would even find the ruins we are searching for, but walking in a place where there are no other people, and the rustle of dry leaves is the only indication that we are not completely alone, is both invigorating and calming.
I fill my senses with the sky, earth, and air. Cut blocks of rock play hide-and-seek in the shrubs. A tomb appears to the left, and then, suddenly, the road spills out onto a flattened space that opens up to incredible vistas. We poke around the tombs and ruins we can easily reach, and languish on the highest seats of the theatre. It is a place I am reluctant to leave when the shadows start to lengthen.
I close my eyes for a brief moment and imagine the landscape under a bright full moon. Silvery and full of shadows. I hear a tsunami of laughter rising from the theatre, punctuated by rowdy applause. I smell the dreams and longings of the people that linger like perfume on their skin. I taste the bitterness of wood-fired food on my tongue. My hand caresses the cool, smooth surface of an ancient stone. I open my eyes, and I am back in a world that cannot be found in a Lonely Planet Guide Book. There are no ticket booths, no other tourists, and I am pleased. Pleased to have had this spot to ourselves for a couple of precious hours.
trul what a find! and a tortoise ? does this mean that somewhere there was water. this is travel at its best … fantastic and thankyou : }} Trees
Thank you, Trees. Yes, the tortoise was really a delight to find. We often saw a lone tortoise amongst the ruins we visited in the area. Truly special. There must be water in the area, although nothing that we could clearly see.
This is written so well… “I smell the dreams and longings of the people that linger like perfume on their skin. I taste the bitterness of wood-fired food on my tongue.” You are so correct in that such experiences cannot be found in any book or movie, but only where you are ~ feeling the stones and ancient ruins that once held so much life (and with imagination still do). Beautiful post!
Thank you, Randall. I love how history and life lingers in the stones long after civilisations have disappeared.
You put it very poetically 🙂 Life Lingers in the Stones (a great name for a book!)…
I love this post. I felt like I was sitting next to you and savoring every moment. Shear peace and quiet. Chuckled over the GPs, have had that same experience many times. I prefer the old paper map. I love one folded and re-folded and a little bit up from use in finding the back roads. Thank you for a break in a crazy day to take me somewhere mysterious and beautiful.
Glad I could provide you with a short reprieve, Terri. I love paper maps too. Especially to find all those back roads. On this vacation the GPS was great in taking us on all the back roads. We saw and experienced so much more in the process.
Beautifully written and you have introduced me to another culture. I just had a quick read up on the Lycians. Very interesting!
Thank you, Gwen. Glad I could introduce you to the Lycians.