Thursday, 6th December
For all photos for 6th December, click here to view them on my dropbox site. If you don’t have Dropbox, use this link to sign up and you and I will both get a bonus amount of free storage space.
I think I have died and gone to heaven. I have just checked in to my room at the wonderfully named “Charisma Deluxe” hotel on the shore of the Adriatic in Kusadasi near Selcuk/Ephesus. When I say “shore”, I mean directly on the coast. I am sitting out on the balcony of the room smoking my pipe overhanging the ocean below. The chill is beginning to set in now that the sun has gone down (it is 5:15pm) but when I arrived it was very pleasant outside (no breeze to speak of). To think that this morning in Pamukkale it was near to freezing and raining and grey for most of our journey here this afternoon! Turkey has as many weather zones as Australia!
As I said, we left Pamukkale this morning after a cold and wet night at 8am, and travelled to the other side of the mountain range (out of the Lycos Valley) off the beaten path a bit to get to the ancient site of Aphrodisias. As the name suggests, the city was named after the fertility/love goddess Aphrodite (and her little mate, Eros), to whom there was a major temple. It had been settled earlier, but the Greeks converted it into a major centre in the Hellenistic period, and it continued to be honoured by the Romans. You can guess that in a city named Aphrodite, a major form of “worship” included temple prostitution, and there are very large baths on the site dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian. A beautiful small pool near the baths has a nice marble of statue of a male nude. When Christianity became the state religion under Theodosius in 381, the name of the city was changed to Stauropolis, or “the City of the Cross”, and the temple converted into a Christian church and the surrounding precinct into a centre of Christian learning. The bishop took over the “palace” and the little theatre-like meeting room of the town became a place for ecclesiastical meetings.
The whole site is incredibly beautiful, at least at this time of the year. The grass is green all around, and covered in oak and pomegranate trees (the pomegranates left on the trees were all over-ripe and split open, but tasted very sweet – much better than the sour piece I tried in the hotel this morning). One of the most arresting sights is that of the tetrapylum, a structure at the entrance to the Temple of Aphrodite, designed along the lines of a cross roads covering. Nearby is the grave of the principle excavator of the area, Professor Kenan Erim, who died in 1990, single and childless. He asked to be buried here since the site was his home and every statue he uncovered were his children, and truly, one could hardly hope for a more serene resting place.
Absolutely breathtaking, however, is the stadium on the very northern edge of the city right up against , which Hakan jested is called the “O my God” Stadium, since that is the usual reaction of visitors who enter it for the first time. It is as large as the hippodrome in Istanbul, fully constructed of solid marble, and – without any reconstruction necessary – is virtually complete. I was tempted to run a lap of the stadium, but the danger would have been tripping over a half embedded lump of marble. In addition to this, there is a marvellous theatre, and an agora with a recreational pool in it about twice the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
Hakan left us to our own devices after showing us around the site, and I used the time to tramp over the temple/basilica area and then around behind the baths. I enjoyed just being out in the country side, really – it was a bit like being back home except for the 2000 year old ruins sticking up all around the place – and this was such a beautiful site. I spent so much time on the site itself that I didn’t have time to go into the museum at the entrance as other members of the tour group did. The museum contains much of the statuary found on the site, and other artifacts, which would have given more insight into the history of the city, but I don’t regret having spent my time outside. We gathered back at the entrance and boarded the tractor-trailer transport that had brought us here from the bus stop. Hakan then took us around to a local “rustic” Anatolian restaurant for lunch. This was an extremely nice way to mark the feast of St Nicholas – with a feast! The host came out with a tray of the dishes that he would prepare for us, and went through them, what they were and their prices. While he took our orders, hot bread was served from where they were prepared and baked in the wood fired oven at the back of the restaurant. I chose the soup and the trout, but others had pide, or mushrooms and cheese or fried cheese rolls – all very nice. I have been a bit bored with the hotel buffet style food for the last few days, and it was good to have something a little different and more interesting again.
Then we began our journey toward Ephesus, or, more strictly, Kusadasi where we are staying the next two nights on the Adriatic coast. We rejoined the main highway to Izmir, and then travelled down the Menderes River valley – in ancient times called the “Meander”, from whence we get our word. So you could say we literally “meandered” our way toward the coast. It rained for a good part of the way there, and it appears that we are in for rain for the next few days too.
We arrived in through the town of Selcuk, to which I had been before in 2007, passed by the site of Ephesus, and then pulled in at a leather goods sales room. This was an optional stop along the way, but as I was the only one who didn’t want to take the option, Hakan arranged for a man to drive me to our hotel. this is really a very nice hotel, right on the coast as I said above. I am glad I didn’t waste a moment of time elsewhere as I just wanted to enjoy the location for a bit. It looks like the sea can get pretty rough here at times – there is an expanse of decking below the hotel over the ocean that is undergoing repairs – it appears to have been wrecked by a storm.
I spent some time writing up this entry to my travelogue before the others arrived, and then went with them to mass and dinner. After dinner, I was feeling quite tired, so I went to bed early, about 9pm. There was a thunderstorm brewing in the west…