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Dalyan in Turkey is not a typical holiday resort. The city is located at a river which connects a lake with the river delta. For that reason a lot goes by boat. Rumour has it that parts of the movie ‘African Queen’ with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart has been shot here. Of course you can also go by a rowing boat to the other side of that river. But it’s no Hades over there. Up in the rocks you see enormous sculptured tombs. That starts to make curious. But the tombs are not easy to climb and it’s forbidden nowadays. Fortunately there is another ruin city to visit: Kaunos. Ruins usually mean that tourists run around between stones and buy souvenirs. But here things are different.
Behind the hill, the terrain falls. The view opens onto a lake, with its fortifications, the remains of a small harbor, the market square adjoining it, a miniature temple and remains of houses. With a little goodwill you can imagine a once thriving city, which was first mentioned in 456 BC. As the harbor has been silted up, the city has also perished. But many hundreds of years later.
In the meantime the Greeks had been here, once in a while been attacked by the Persians. The Persians could be repulsed under violent battles. Based on that experience Dalyan joined the Delian Union and had to pay some talents for defense. The King Mausoleus (yes, exactly that one) built enormous city walls which don’t fit to the rest of the city.
But one day it was over and the Persians conquered the city. Nevertheless it was occupied back and became Hellenistic again. The harbour got full of sand because some miles away one of the most beautiful beaches had piled up: the nowadays protected breeding place for turtles called Iztuzu.
It looks like a so-called mini half referring to the structure of the coasts of Parliament. Several Westerns could have been shot here. But fortunately is the beach after a long fight protected so far against attempts to build a hotel and other commercial hanky-panky.
Due to the lakes enclosed by the beach, the Delta is a particularly good breeding ground for mosquitoes. This ultimately led to the demise of the city of Kaunos. A large part of the population was created. Herodotus already mentioned that the population has been hit by malaria and runs around somewhat pale and weak. After the Greeks came the Romans. That tells us a bathing house from the 5th century. The Romans were Christianized. Kaunos even became seat of a bishop. That explains the somewhat unsuitable leftovers of a church from the middle of the first millennium. The stadium, which is well preserved and probably still would fit about 5000 people, is more impressive. Directly next to it rises the mountain up to an Akropolis that was fortified with walls which made it seem medieval, as the Turks were now master of the city. The 152m high mountain can be climbed by the untrained which is not fully free of Vertigo. Just follow the red dots. The circular view from the top is worth all the effort. You can see the turtle beach, the delta, Dalyan.
The history of Kaunos ended in the 15th century when the inhabitants had enough of the mosquitos. On top of that there was a decent earthquake.
The best time to visit Kaunos is in the evening. Then it is quiet, the sun goes down. You can try to talk to the turtles, cows, lizards and sheep that cross the path every few minutes. Or cross the bushes and search for the city walls.
On the way back, you can have a honey pancake or a beer before you cross the Styx again.
It is also possible to take your mountain bike with you to cycle from Kaunos directly into the mountains. At the other side of the mountain there is an Ottoman bath from the 14th century. Small fish is looking forward there to heal your feet. Or you roll in the sulfur or mud bath.
By the way: In Dalyan Greeks and Turks lived peacefully together till the population exchange in 1923.