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Tılsım Tour Kusadasi/Aydın

BAFA LAKE - LATMOS - HERAKLEIA

For birds and monks Crested pelicans, cormorants, flamingos... a deep bay on the Aegean coast from early times; the place where monks from Sinai sought refuge; the lake and its lost fish. There is nothing in the unrelenting flatness of the Soke plain to anticipate the dramatic sight of the peaks of the 'Five fingered mountain (Besparmak dag) LATMOS which appear after a sudden twist in the road.

In the early morning the mountains seem softly pink, becoming purple towards evening, but always changing and never exactly the same from day to day. Often misty from the summer heat, these fingers seem to point to heaven, or Olympus, with the authority of long geological ages.
In early times there was a deep bay here called Latmos Bay but The River Meander created the rich alluvial plain of Soke by meandering all over the valley and causing the inhabitants of Ephesus, Priene and Miletus to dredge, relocate and finally abandon their towns as the harbours silted up.
An enormous earthquake in AD 17 finally cut of the gulf off from the sea and Lake Bafa was born. Lake Bafa is 25 kms from Soke and is S.E. of the River Menderes delta in the Milas-Bodrum direction. It covers an area of 7,000 hectares and is 25 m. deep at its deepest point with typical Mediterranean vegetation along its shores. The source of the 560 km long River Menderes which feeds the lake is 1,000 m up near Afyon's Dinar town.
It has numerous tributaries and flows to the Aegean near Soke. If You are travelling by public transport, take any bus going to Bodrum. If you want to get to Herakleia by road, get off at Camici (the first village after the road leaves the shoreline of the lake), look for the yellow signpost and then hitchhike (it's a long, hot, dusty walk). Directly opposite the restaurant are the remains of a Byzantine monastery, originally built on an islet. It is now possible to wade out to it (or have the boat ferry you across) as the water level of the lake is low in the summer.With the morning chill in the air, the sun's golden light is shining on the tranquil waters of the lake.
As the sun rises, so the lake's islands become visible, the biggest of which are Ikiz Island, Menet Island and Kahve Asar Island. Travellers using public transport are advised to get off at the sign marked Kamping where are a simple restaurants with basic camping-pension facilities and a small boats which can be hired for a tour of the lake, or to take you to Herakleia. There are many different choices of accommodation facilities at the lake side. Such as small hotels called pansiyon in Turkish (or pension) or bungalows.
"Çeri'nin Yeri" a very known one probably the oldest at the Bodrum - Izmir high road. Directly opposite the restaurant are the remains of a Byzantine monastery, originally built on an islet. It is now possible to wade out to it (or have the boat ferry you across) as the water level of the lake is low in the summer. There are a number of Byzantine monasteries-chapels in the lake. The tiny islands which hold the ruins are now probably of more interest to bird watchers than art historians.
The lake used to be important for its marine life but it has been lost through bad planning. In 1987, 328 tonnes of fish were caught yet just four years later the figure had dropped to 14 tonnes and now the fisherman are delighted to find even a couple of grey mullet in their nets. In 1985 the govt, built a flood barrier but thereafter there has been little rainfall, coupled with above average summer temperatures. The ceri'nin yeri fishermen started a co-operative with the support of the government but it became bankrupt through ill management. As a result the level of the lake has fallen by 2m. Farmers were irrigating their land with the water but as the level has dropped so the salt level has increased, so they can use it no longer.
The lake is also listed as a bird sanctuary. In winter hundreds of thousands of ducks and aquatic birds migrate here. Of the 208 species that live here, 68 also breed here. Crested pelicans are the most important as they are nearing extinction with only 2,000 left in the world and this is their third biggest colony. So, what should be done? The borders of the Dilek Peninsula National Park have to be extended to include Bafa; an overall plan has to be drawn up for the water -the duty of the universities, council and environmental protection groups; the lake must regain its former level with a channel bringing water from the mountains.
However, there is some light. The area has been declared a nature park of some 12,281 hectares. It will become a haven for nature lovers with picnic areas, camp sites, bird-watching posts and trails but uppermost on the agenda is replacing the fish stocks. Local fishermen maintain that a species of eel migrates across the Atlantic ocean from the Gulf of Mexico to spawn in the waters of Lake Bafa, swimming upstream through underground channels of river Meander to get there.
Next to the lake is an ancient town called Herakleia which dates back to the 5th century BC. It was a member of the Attika Delos Sea Union and was used until the end of the Middle Ages. Around 1000 BC a small town called Latmos was established here but was engulfed by Herakleia during the Hellenistic period (300 BC). There is a long tradition of mysticism surrounding the area. In pre-Greek times the highest mountain was called Mount Latmus, at a time when 'Lat' was the name of the moon goddess. According to Greek mythology a handsome shepherd called Endymion lived on the slopes of Mt. Latmus.
There are several versions of this tale, however a common one is that Zeus - the top god - suspected his wife Hera of having an affair with the beautiful young shepherd. In jealous rage Zeus cast Endymion into an eternal sleep on Mt. Latmus. The slumbering shepherd was then spotted by Selene, the Moon Goddess, who fell in love with him and bore him fifty daughters without waking him up.
 

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