Today, I walked 8 kilometers over uneven and slippery terrain to an attraction of sorts. It took 2 hours-ish of steady marching to get there, and I stepped on a discolored, bloated, and (I think it’s safe to assume), used diaper, which sent me scurrying into the water to rinse off my foot. At around noon, I pulled up to a man seated underneath a red and white striped umbrella. Next to him, there was a small picnic table above which was posted a sign that read “Chimera Yanartas- Entrance Fee: 2 Euro/4.5 Lira.” Having reached my destination, I sat down and fanned myself with my slipper for a few minutes while chatting with a group of friendly Turks. Then, I slugged back some water, got up again, and walked right back in the direction I had come- the 8 km back to Olympos. The Turks and ticket-seller stood slack-jawed in my wake.
The Turks were baffled (and, I think, not just a little disgusted by my frugality), and the ticket-seller was flat incredulous.
Let me explain myself.
The site, located on the coast of Southern Turkey, was Chimera Yanartas- a flame that has been burning for millenia. It is fueled by a diminishing supply of methane gas from a hole in some scary-looking rocks.
Have you heard of it?
I hadn’t. I had no idea that this place existed before arriving in Olympos. The flames, once large enough to guide ships at nighttime, are, eh,… pretty small.
Yeah, I know- 2 Euro is less than 3 bucks, and I know, I’d walked a total of 16 kilometers to go there.
My point is this: There’s a heck of a lot of stuff to see and do in Turkey. It’s a very, very old region, and I’m probably, at any given point, within a 1 mile radius of something that’s been around since before dinosaurs, fire, and probably even oxygen. Your mind could never handle seeing everything, and that 2 Euro could be spent on supporting a local musician, or, fuck, just having a beer at the end of the day– something you’d appreciate far more than a flame the height of your knee.
The thing is, when you’re in a place that’s THIS OLD, a lot of those attractions look, well, kind of shitty. Trust me, the innumerable conquering peoples that have inhabited this land over the millenia didn’t exactly place a high value on preserving the (at the time, only) centuries-old monuments of their soon-to-be subservient and downtrodden peasant class.
The more I travel, the less I’m willing to go see (a post is coming up on this in the near future). It’s not that I’m oh-so-inured, and I certainly hope I’m not becoming just an arrogant prat, but nearly everything that anybody would care to see comes with a price tag. You can’t afford everything, and so there’s a lot of picking and choosing going on… especially with regard to “sights.” Some of them are well worth the money and would be well worth even double or triple the amount (Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Kelimutu – truly “WOW!!”). Some are worth it, kinda, and you are glad that you went to see them, but mostly because you don’t want to have to explain why you didn’t (Taj Mahal, Valley of the Kings– what??). But some, though these are in the minority, have flat out pissed me off, and given me the sensation of having been “had” (Peles, the Grand Palace, and pretty much every museum in Africa).
So yes, I declined to spend 2 Euro to see a sight that I had walked 16km and 5 hours for. … but I’m OK with that. I don’t think that the sights are always the best ways to fill one’s day. Quite honestly, I had a better time playing on the beach and making this:
Some travelers get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that they’ve “done” a town and seen everything, but for me, that really isn’t the point. It’s more about the feeling of being completely free- having no one and nothing else to consider when making decisions, and feeling like I can, at any time, jump on a bus headed to somewhere I’ve never heard of, or tell everyone I meet for a day that I’m from North Korea. I can stay up until 5am playing “Would You Rather?” with people I will probably never see again, and get away with wearing cornrows and pretending to have a Scottish accent. I love that at any point, I can abscond from the internet and communication altogether for as long as I damn well please… and know that no one anywhere could find me unless I choose for them to… – of being able to walk 16 kilometers for no reason at all, and passing up a “sight” just because, dammit, I didn’t feel like it.
Oh, also- I met a peacock!
“The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose.” – Thorton Wilder