Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chimera's eternal flames

Driving east from Finike, I'm heading for Chimera and Olympos. I find the car park at the foot of the hillside, next to a small café selling refreshments as mentioned in the Sunflower Guide “Turkish Coast, from Antalya to Demre”, as well as the clean toilets and the booth to buy my entrance ticket.

Chimera, once ornated with a Temple of Hephaistos, the Roman Vulcan, and god of fire, is now known by its Turkish name Yanartaş, meaning “burning mountain”. This is where the famous Bellerophon defeated the Chimera, a mythical fire-breathing being, partly lion, partly goat, partly snake, with the aid of his winged horse Pegasus. The Chimera may have been an important religious place of pilgrimage, dedicated to the blacksmith god – the legend going back to 1200 BC at least. The Chimera is the place where gasses from the entrails of the earth escapes through cracks and holes in the rock and spontaneously start burning when in contact with the outside air. It is said that in antiquity the flames were higher and brighter, an ideal beacon for the seafarers. Alexander definitely must have seen this "fire mountain" in the shade of Mount Climax where the waves bowed to him.

Once again, I am the first visitor of the day. Originally, I planned to visit Olympos first and walk up to the Chimera from there, but I think it is wiser to do the climbing before the heat of the day picks up. According to my Sunflower Guide, the trip should take me between 20 and 30 minutes, at first ascending over a track and then over a stepped, well-maintained footpath through pine forests, following the red and white flashes of the Lycian Way. This information is entirely correct. The Lycian Way runs over a distance of more than 500 kilometers all across Lycia. It is comforting to know that this is not an isolated trail and I am glad I took my walking stick to help me up the high steps.

It is a rather strenuous climb and in between my huffing and puffing, I take the time to admire the spectacular Lycian landscape while sipping my water. I try to catch the moment with my camera too but the outcome is poor. Everything is green, the grass and the weeds, the trees on the hillsides and the pine trees with shiny needles in the foreground. The sharp rock formations are dull gray and the overall view is hazy because of the moisture in the air left by the rain of these past days and which the sun is trying to burn off. Somehow I am reminded of the sugar rocks around Rio de Janeiro, just as steep but not as green as here, I would say. There are however plenty of flowers, white and yellow ones mainly but also big wild lilac anemones. When I catch my breath again I can even hear the many birds singing in chorus. How wonderful!

A big rock along the trail carries a red painted message “400 m” and I wonder what it means. Have I climbed to a height of 400 meters, have I walked 400 meters of the trail, or it is still 400 meters to the first flames? It surely has something to do with the Lycian Way running over this path, but that does not solve this enigma. Well, whatever. I scramble and groan my way further upwards and quite suddenly I reach an open rock space where I see the first flames. I don’t remember what I had in mind but the flames are definitively brighter and bigger than I expected. Strange things in the landscape, that’s for sure!

Shooting my pictures, I am amazed to see how clearly the flames are burning with a soft hissing sound and I even notice a faint smell of gas. At times there are clusters of two or three holes next to each other with flames licking the blackened rock around them. Turning around and to my left now below the flames, I see the ruins of a Byzantine church that must be standing on top of the ancient temple dedicated to Hephaistos. In fact, all I can see are the walls and cupolas still carrying clear traces of paint, but the building is mostly buried in the debris and I cannot find any indication of Roman or Greek architecture. Around the lowest fire, there are some lose carved blocks lying around that may refer to the altar that once stood in front of the Temple of Hephaistos. Who knows?

By now more visitors are reaching the flames. Time for me to turn around! Going down is much easier although I have to move with care as the steps are higher than you would think. Back at the parking space, I wonder if I could have some tea. This is Turkey after all, isn’t it? Yes, I can if I can wait that is for they just started the fire. I look at a kind of wood-burning stove with a high stovepipe and three (tea?) pots hanging from the hooks around it. A strange contraption that I don’t try to figure out. I settle for ice cream instead.

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