Since we leave on Friday, I had been hoping for one last trip to somewhere new before I had to spend the day cleaning and packing. Yesterday wasn’t possible so M had promised that we could do something today. Unfortunately the boys were less than keen and started moaning about having had enough of beaches. What?
I tried to persuade Fatso that it would be exciting because we could visit Silifke castle. But he seemed to be in a negative mood, declaring that he’d ‘seen enough history’. This is the boy who loves history and we haven’t seen that much this holiday. In fact we avoid it mainly because it’s all open air with little shade and way too hot. I think the Knidos experience may have stuck with him.
In the end we managed to get everyone in the car and head out to the castle. It’s about an hour’s drive from our flat and looks quite impressive – high up on the hill. Hmm, we should have checked though because it was closed. Turns out there was restoration work and an archeological dig going on. Many of the archeologists in Turkey spend their year as university academics and their summers on digs. It doesn’t always mean the closure of an entire site but the combination of restoration work meant this time it did. Restoration is a word that makes my heart sink here because I have been to many places where it has actually meant destruction in my view.
It was a bit of a bummer but the views across Silifke and down towards the coast, across the plains, were definitely worth it. Sadly the site was littered with the usual filth. But we weren’t deterred as we had also planned to try a new beach: incekum. Back in the car M mentioned that there was another historical site called Azize Thecla. I didn’t realise that this was the underground church I had tried to look up a few days ago so was in two minds about going. What the heck, lets go. It was closer to the castle than I had thought and definitely worth it.
The site itself is managed by the local council and its free to enter. Officially there is an old cistern, part of the old church that was above the ground, and a few caves which were the main attraction housing Saint Thecla’s church. In reality there is far more to see. Walking round the back of the cistern you can see two stone wall pillars still standing and if you walk round the gorse bushes to them you can see the ground drop away to a sort of valley filled with walls that clearly belonged to the old settlement. We also found two archways that were almost completely filled with soil now but you can still clamber inside one of them. M took some persuading to join our expedition. Fatso ran off to the other side of the valley to clamber on the walls and raise his newly found stick. He can’t go anywhere without finding a new stick to act as a sword or some other weapon. M wasn’t too impressed when he felt over and scraped his elbow but eventually he, Smelly and Lai were busy discovering new things. I even managed to get him down to the lone olive tree that was clinging on despite the ground under it’s trunk having eroded.
The views again were spectacular but it was hot and the boys started to get thirsty and grumpy after a while. We headed back up to the main site with Fatso not doing a great job of avoiding being scratched by the gorse bushes. Tired and grumpy they retreated to the car, while M and I followed the official path a bit further to find Azize Thecla cave church. It may be small but it’s a real treasure.
Our next part of the trip was to see what incekum beach was like. It’s a bay just before the naval base (which never seems to have any ships) and Bogsak is the bay after the base. The beach turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and quite crowded. It was pebbly and the sandy part was not very accessible because of how everyone had parked. We decided to head to our safe place instead, so back in the car to Bogsak.
When we got there the tide was right up so I wasn’t sure that we would be able to drive along to get to our usual spot. M was undaunted and we made it. The boys had a great time but definitely needed the picnic asap to sort out various grumps and grumbles. This time though, before we left, instead of just packing up and heading home we decided to have a wander. Quite a few people come and camp round the rocks and hills at the end of the bay. this is wild camping as there are no facilities. The trouble is not all these wild campers are very keen to keep the place clean. But ignoring that the boys were off, with Fatso out front clambering over rocks and trying to get close to the sea. Smelly and Lai weren’t far behind in hot pursuit and keen not to be outdone.
A sudden scream made us think Fatso was hurt but he’d actually made a discovery: a rather large lizard. It took a bit of explaining that he needed to be quiet if he wanted us to see it as his screams would scare it off.
The paths we followed were pretty much only easy for donkeys or goats but the boys wanted a greater challenge so clambered over the sharp rocks. We walked quite a way round and got a better view of Bogsak island, as well as the castle within the naval compound. Sadly that means off limits to non military families. Closer to the sea the rocks were jagged and had holes so the sea made a gurgling sound as the waves pushed the air out.
Thankfully no more injuries despite the gorse and thistles. One camping couple popped up to ask us the time. And Smelly is now determined that he will come and camp there for a few nights.
By the time we got back to the car we were all hot, sticky and still covered in salt from hours in the sea earlier. M needed to pray so that meant a chance to pop by the local mosque and clean up a bit. As a general rule I no longer enter mosques as I refuse to cover my head but one of the great things about village mosques is that outside prayer times they are completely empty. This one was a real treat and beautifully decorated inside with ornate tiles, colourful glass windows, and lovely painted ceilings. A bit or peace and calm before the mad drive home.
Our original plan may not have gone as we’d hoped but the back up was well worth it. We’ll just have to hope the castle is open next year and that the restoration is sensitive rather than destructive. If not, there are still plenty of places yet to explore around Mersin.