While on holiday, I like nothing more than being on the beach, alternating between swimming and sunbathing with a good book. Mike generally joins me in this pastime and will happily spend whole days at a time day reading. Unless, that is, he gets a chance to explore something very very old. Since this was a big holiday,Kurban Bayram, there were no rental cars available in Kizkalesi, so we couldn`t go anywhere else. Not a problem, with 2 castles to explore!
But first, we did our second favorite thing when on holiday – eat.
Since we were at the seaside, it would have made sense to eat seafood. But for some reason, there is not much seafood around Kizkalesi (or Antalya for that matter), aside from calamari rings that are more bar food than seafood. There is, however, good fish. Oh, and unlike in Kayseri, you can have beer or wine with your meal. After living in Kayseri for 2 months (where you can only get alcohol in special liquor stores and or very big supermarkets and it’s never served in cafes or restaurants) this seemed somewhat wild. What? A beer with your lunch? IN PUBLIC? But Mike was undaunted, and, as you can see, quite happy.
And now, about the Kizkalesi Castle. As I mentioned before, it means Maiden’s Castle in English and there is a legend associated with the name, although the legend is not unique to Kizkalesi. According to the legend of Kızkalesi, a fortune teller informs the king that his beautiful daughter will be poisoned by a snake. He adds that even the king is unable to change the fate. Shocked by fortune teller’s words, the king tries to change the fate by building a castle in an island where no snakes live. He sends his daughter to live in the castle. But a snake hides in a grape basket sent from the main land and poisons the princess.
There are three ways to get to the castle on the island – take a tourist boat, rent a pedal boat or just swim. This part of the Mediterranean is quite shallow and 30 meters from the beach your toes are still touching the bottom.
We opted for renting a pedal boat, which aside from getting us to the castle, is great fun in itself even though Michael kept accusing me of not pushing the pedals and complained he was doing all the work while I was taking photos. Taking photos, one might argue, is an important job, too, for where do you think all the photos in this blog come from?
It took us to attempts to get inside the castle. If you came with a pedal boat, you leave it on a small patch of the island free from large rocks and low enough to land, and then you need to go around the castle to get to the entrance. The first route we took is shorter, but more difficult, so we were basically scaling the castle walls, clinging on for dear life and I half-expected a pot of boiling tar to be poured on us.
Finally, someone with as much dedication to taking photos as me!
The next time we decided to storm the castle again, we had to wait for a pedal boat, which gave me some time to chat to the pedal boat operator about the 3 dogs he owned, which were running around on the beach. It was a nice change from Kayseri to see so many dogs around. The previous day I had even struck up a conversation in Turkish with an elderly man which basically consisted of me complimenting the cuteness of his dog and him telling me he was called Aslan (translated form Turkish as ‘lion’).
Our second attempt was more successful, and as Mike hopped from rock to rock with surprising amount of energy, we finally reached the entrance, and after paying 5 lira each, were allowed inside after required one last daredevilish, spiderman-like feat of wall-climbing).
The first thing we saw when we entered the castle was this amazing photoshoot of a bride and a groom on one of the castle wall.
The most amazing thing about the castle were its diverse and well preserved frescoes. You had to walk on elevated walkways to avoid stepping on these ancient wonders, which we hadn`t realized at first and almost trampled all over them.
We climbed into most towers and even up on the castle walls. We were only brave enough to walk on the widest of them – and watched with horror as a pair of young girls hopped around on the narrow wall, giggling and taking photos.
Oh, I`m there – can you see me on the top on the middle of the round tower? I was to scared to stand up so I’m just sitting there clutching the stairs We were so carried away with exploring this charming little castle, we forgot about the tide and got back to our pedal boat just in time – another 10 minutes and it might have been carried away, stranding us in what was sure to become a haunted castle full of chain-clunking ghosts at night.
1. Playing Scrabble and drinking wine in a deserted roof terrace bar, which one of the hotel workers was kind enough to open for us
2. Trying this weird concoction – Mersin specialty, fermented and very spicy black carrot juice. I was only able to take a few sips. We asked the waiter who recommended it if he liked it. God, no! -he responded, grinning cheekily.
Not a highlight: watching as the weather got progressively worse the closer we got to Kayseri. Starting to shiver as soon as we got off the bus and frantically changing from sandals to trainers while putting on a sweater and a rain jacket.