Photos by Jack A. Waldron
Leaving Letoon in the late afternoon, I put myself on a mission to find a campsite on or near the infamous Patara beach, which stretches 12 kilometers from NE to SW. This mission turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated, as the coastal dunes are massive, which makes it impossible to transport a fully loaded bike to the seaside.
The small road that traversed the dunes from Letoon offered the occasional offshoot road leading toward the beach, and on a few occasions I attempted to follow them, but they went on and on, and became somewhat worrisome, as these were fairly new roads littered with tree branches, garbage and broken glass . . . , all abandoned. Slowly, the road began to curve toward the beach, and nearing the final stretch, I noticed a long stone wall hugging the foot of the mountain on the the other side of a large wetland. I snapped a couple of quick photos along the way, and then continued toward the sea.
When I finally met the sea, there was a public campsite about 100 meters off the beach, and it was free! I was greeted by some friendly summer vacationers, and directed to a decent campsite (decent means, workable) Of course I was curious about the ancient wall I had seen, but the sun was setting quickly, and it takes time to setup camp . . . , and I was starving! The next day I enquired about the site, and was told by the only person who knew it was there, that it was an old prison. I was forced to investigate the site before I would discover its significance.
I crossed the crystal clear water of the Orlen stream (pictured above winding next to the fortress), which does not appear to be sourced from the Xanthus river, but from massive springs that come out of the mountain near the village of Karadere. Following the small road away from the sea for a little less than a kilometer, you begin to see the towers along the ancient wall rise above the thick forest. This must be among the least visited ancient sites in Turkey.
With the ancient site of Patara located about 10 km away from Pydnee at the SE end of the beach, and ancient Xanthus located between Patara and Pydnee at an equal distance inland from the the sea, the ancient naval fortress of Pydnee is strategically located to help protect this major shipping route for import and export of goods (see map below).
The rare visitor to the ancient site will first notice some sections of wall peeking through the forest, though with the heavy overgrowth, it is difficult to find a direct path to the ancient fortress.
Eventually, the polygonal masonry begins to rise from the slope, and goat paths make the approach a little easier.
Though some inscriptions found at the site date from the Imperial Roman period, other inscriptions from the Hellenistic period, along with the polygonal masonry, point to a construction date some time during the 4C BC.
The rectangular towers located at the corners and midsections of the wall appear to number between eleven and twelve (see the satellite view above).
The tops of the inner walls are easily accessed via staircases that are located throughout the circumference of the wall system, and appear to number between seven and nine, with the towers also providing wall access.
Looking at the walls from outside give a view that has changed little over the millennia (pictured above), however, when looking out over what once was a large bay with sea access is now covered with greenhouses full of tomatoes and eggplants (pictured below).
Other than a Byzantine person church, there are no discernible structural remains within the fortress. As an outpost or fortress, the ancient housing and administrative buildings would have been less permanent, of a stick and mud construction in accordance with the period.
Most of todays visitors to Pydnee arrive via the Lycian Way, a series of paths that connect the ancient cities around Lycia, and which have been in continual use over the millennia.
The fortress as a whole offers a fascinating look at the architectural design and function of a defensive wall and tower system. Each section offers some unique design feature, which makes the hike along the fortifications an exploration into the ancient past.
I am still amazed that Pydnee stands in such a great state of preservation, and I am hopeful that it will not be discarded as an unimportant antiquity.
During my wonderings around the site I often came across fresh pits that had been dug by treasure hunters.
A Byzantine church can be found near the lower portion of the wall (pictured below). This would suggest that there was a community in and around the fortress, and that the strategic location did not lose its importance over a long period of time.
Perhaps like the moat surrounding a sandcastle, the walls of Pydnee provided a sanctuary for locals who could retreat within the walls for protection from Arab raids, piracy, or the odd attack.
Unfortunately, in a world that is becoming smaller and smaller, and with attacks that are taking place on a global scale, no moat appears to be wide enough to protect the species of the planet from the collective assault that humans are perpetrating on our home.
The monumental sandcastle pictured above is where the Orlen River (which flows below the fortification walls of Pydnee) meets the sea. Unfortunately, this uniquely designed sandcastle lacks any semblance of a modern sewage disposal system, therefore, the waste is simply deposited directly outside the moat (the light brown feature!). And yet, there is a toilet located only fifty meters from this site.
So, for Earth Day 2017, I offer some stunning photos from the geographic center of the infamous coastline known as the Turkish Riviera (pictured above and below). I hope these images showcase just how small and fragile our planet is.
The garbage that is left behind every day on this beautiful beach by the swarms of bathers is either pushed higher up on the beach or taken out to sea by the daily tides.
Pictured above, the accumulation of garbage pushed further up on the beach, while below, a fresh daily deposit awaits the tides.
Such disrespect for the planet and the wildlife that share the environment has reached a level that does not bode well for our long term survival as a species. The daily extinction rate and collapse of the web will eventually claim the human species as another casualty as more and more strands are clipped away.
This site is not surprising to anyone who has taken a bus ride within the country, as plastic pet bottles are tossed out speeding windows like the flick of an ash off of a cigarette.
The slogan used here to address such actions (as pictured above and below), which is repeated on a daily basis is, 'inshallah' or 'mashallah', which translates into 'god willing", or, 'if god wills', in that, gods will supercedes human will, therefore, humans are not responsible for said acts: and upon hearing this I always retort, 'me-sala', 'you-sala', 'they-sala', 'we-sala', because from my view point, god has nothing to do with it.
Disposable diapers (pictured above and below) are a common site along many stretches of beach around the world. As you can see in the distance in the photo below, there is a garbage dumpster just fifty meters from this diaper.
There is no Return For Deposit on glass and plastic drink beverages in many countries around the Mediterranean, and the result is disastrous! Further, plastic store bags are taken without any thought, often for a pack of gum or a candy bar, only to be thrown on the sidewalk.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)