Conquering the Chimera of Olympos

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The mysterious flaming gases are the subject of many myths and legends.
The mysterious flaming gases are the subject of many myths and legends.

In southern Turkey, just a little off the beaten path, a gas seaps from the ground and as it hits the air, bursts into flame (well, really it’s a continual flame, but that’s not quite as impressive, now is it?).

Because of this unusual phenomenon, there have been many myths and stories that have grown up around the Chimera.  One story is about a young brash prince who commits a serious infarction.  The king decides to teach him a lesson, and sends him to do battle with the fire-eating beast to prove his worthiness.  Apparently he does succeed, since he makes it back down the mountain in one piece.  After going there, I can see how he was successful, but can also hear the tale he weaved in order to impress the king, and dare I say, the ladies!

To slay the Chimera, you must really want to go, because it is not easy to get there.  Dolmus’ (bus taxis) can be caught to the town of Olympos, but then it’s either a hike or a ride on a rented bike.  It is not at all near the town.  Having your own transportation probably works better.

After driving for about 40 minutes off the main highway, and over some dirt roads (little more than tracks), we came to the end of the road.  There was no one in the ticket booth, but there was a man with a makeshift table sitting in the middle of the walking path.  We paid our 3 Tl. and asked him how much further it was.  He told us 15 minutes, but as we were reading the informative sign, another helpful man told us it was a tough climb to the gas field.

He was right!  We climbed, and climbed and climbed.  Thankfully, it was evening and it was starting to get a little cooler, so we weren’t completely misearable.  (I’m not a fan of sweat.)  Getting to the top, we were a little dissappointed.  It was one of those things, we’d read the myth, we’d climbed the mountain, then we saw…well, flames, and not that many of them at that.  It was worth going to…once, but I definitely wouldn’t have tried to climb that slope in the dark, so don’t follow the guidebooks on that one.

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