Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Turkey Tour - Part 10: A Journey into the Ancient World: Aphrodisias, Hieropolis, and Ephesus

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Korkuteli and Aphrodisias

Imagine living in a small village surrounded by remnants of the ancient Greek and Roman world and accepting it as completely ordinary...using an old sarcophagus as a horse trough or planter, setting your tools on top of a broken temple column, sitting to chat with a buddy on a stone bench that had once been used by citizens of the Roman Empire.  This was the daily reality of the people in the small Turkish village of Geyre until one day in 1958 when a Turkish photography, Ara G├╝ler, returning home from shooting a project, stopped in the town for a rest.  He noticed two men visiting on a stone bench with arms carved like dolphins and realized that he was looking at an artifact of the ancient world. 
Men in the village of Geyre chatting on an ancient Roman bench
As he explored the village, he discovered evidence everywhere of a huge ancient city.  He snapped some photographs and sent them to Kenan Erim, a Turkish archaeologist at Princeton University.  Dr. Erim was so excited that he jumped on the first plane back to Turkey and devoted the rest of his life to excavating the remarkable city of Aphrodisias.
Planting vegetables among the ruins

A sarcophagus makes a handy storage bin.
The last four days of our Rick Steves Tour of Turkey took us to Aphrodisias and a cornucopia of other sites from ancient world.  We would spend these four days near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where the early Greeks built outposts for trade, and the Romans extended their vast empire, building roads and cities all along this coast.   The last four days also brought the worst weather of our trip, with rain and unseasonably cool temperatures, but I was so excited by the sights that I happily shivered my way through most of the journey.  

We departed Anatalya in the morning and soon arrived in the village of Korkuteli and its bustling covered market, which sold everything from fresh produce and fish to household goods and farm implements.  One of the more interesting items for sale was the fresh goat cheese - served in goat skin bags!
Korkuteli Market

Korkuteli Market

Korkuteli Market

The Korkuteli Market sold everything from soup to nuts...and brooms

Fresh goat cheese in a goat skin bag

Our guide, Mert, had notified all of the men on the trip that Korkuteli was a great stop for a real Turkish shave, so we had a rather scruffy group of gentlemen get on the bus that morning.  
Ben is ready for a shave.

And so is Mert

Rob and Matt look forward to their trip to the barbershop

As soon as we arrived, they all headed for the local barber and enjoyed the experience of being lathered up, shaved with a straight razor, and being "spanked" with a flame to burn off any leftover fuzz.  The experience ended with a nice facial massage and the pleasure of connecting with the Turkish people and culture.
Rob gets lathered up

A close shave with a straight razor

The final step..."spanking" with a flame

During Rob's shave, an Ottoman soap opera was playing on the TV in the barbershop

Hey, Mert, be careful with that razor!

Barber, Mert, Ben, and Allen enjoy their new look

The biggest change was Matt, who gave up his lovely beard for the experience of a Turkish shave.

Back on the bus, we enjoyed a little relaxation before stopping for lunch at the Anatolia Restaurant just outside the gates of Aphrodisias.  Trees and gardens containing pens with peacocks and other birds surrounded the charming stone restaurant.  We gathered in a large room filled with long tables.  As lunch was served, a gentleman playing an instrument that looked like a long-necked mandolin serenaded us.  At the end of the fretboard sat a colorful small parrot bouncing along to the music.  My animal loving husband Rob got to hold the bird for a few minutes, much to his delight.  He was even more excited to discover an African grey parrot in the corner, as we were missing our own African grey, Lily.
Anatolia Restaurant near Geyre

A musician and his bird

Rob enjoys visiting with his new friend

Rob gives this African grey parrot a little neck grooming.
(We were missing our own African grey, Lily)

After lunch, we all piled onto tractor-pulled trailers and headed to the entrance of Aphrodisias.  Mert gathered us around a stone bench and called Rob up to sit with him, recreating on the very bench the scene of the two villagers on who led the photographer to the discovery of this remarkable city.
Our transportation to Aphrodisias

Rob and Mert recreate the conversation on the dolphin bench.

The site of Aphrodisias has been inhabited since Neolithic times.  The Greeks dedicated it to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, during the 2nd century B.C.  When the Romans conquered the area, the city became a favored location, renowned for its beautiful temple and marble sculptures, carved from marble quarries just outside the city.  With the rise of Christianity, the temple of Aphrodite eventually became a Christian basilica that stood for centuries until it was finally destroyed in the 12th century.  The city fell to ruin and it was forgotten until the mid-1900s.  The excavations to uncover the remains of the city began in 1961 and continue even now.  

Our first sights along the trail were simply piles of rubble strewn between the mustard flowers that covered the fields, but suddenly the huge amphitheater came into view and we got our first sense of the importance and size of this city.  The theater was built in the 1st century B.C. and could hold 8,000 people.  

Fields strewn with ruins

The agora, or marketplace, of Aphrodisias

The remains of huge stone buildings of Aphrodiasias

Aphrodiasias Amphitheater

The theater stage

Joan and Rob on the stage of the theater

After exploring the theater, we climbed down steep old rock stairs to see the rest of the city.  The captions on these photos will tell the story.  

This kitty looks ready to pounce on Mert as he gives us the history of Aphrodisias

Rob listens intently to our history lesson.

The temple on the left was a recreation of the statues that now stand in the Aphrodisias Museum.

Mert shows us a wall of friezes that once stood along the tops of buildings.

Every face on the friezes was unique...

And some were especially interesting!

Another view of the agora

Ruined columns

We learned that the buildings that used mortar were Roman...

while the buildings without mortar were built by the Greeks

An ancient pool in Hadrian's Baths

The walls of Hadrian's Baths

The Bouleuterion, or Senate chamber, of Aphrodisias

The Bouleuterion

The carved lions' feet on the steps of the Bouleuterion signified the power of its members.

Joan in the Bouleuterion

Columns of the Temple of Aphrodisias

Greek carvings on the temple walls

The stadium of Aphrodisias is one of the largest and most complete left from the ancient world.

The stadium seats still stand all the way around the long track.

The gorgeous temple of Aphrodite

Temple of Aphrodite

A Roman road passes by the Temple of Aphrodite.
(The road appears to head into a wall of dirt.
The original elevation of the city lies below the modern elevation.)

The gravesite of Dr. Kenan Erim, the archaeologist who devoted
much of his life to excavating the city of Aphrodisias.

We ended our visit to Aphrodisias with a stop in the excellent museum where some of the more fragile statues and artifacts are housed.
The Museum of Aphrodisias

The "Blue Horse" of Aphrodisias

It was late afternoon by the time we boarded our bus for a short ride to the town of Karahayit near Pamukkale, where we would spend the night in a large business style hotel.  The cold, rainy day had finally worn me down and following a quick dinner in the large and crowded dining room, Rob and I went straight to our room instead of exploring the hotel's hot spring pool.  But I went to bed with happy memories of a most remarkable day!

Thursday, April 9, 2015 
Pamukkale, Hierapolis, and Kusadasi

I will have to give a second-hand account of today's adventures.  The rain and chill in Aphrodisias had worked their way under my raincoat and into my chest, and I woke up on this morning with a fever and bad cold, so I elected to stay in my warm and cozy hotel room to sleep while the rest of the tour group braved the very cold weather to visit the Pamukkale, a geothermal site, and the adjoining ancient city of Hierapolis.  

Rob tells me that the site has a nice visitors’ center that describes the geography of this natural attraction.  Pamukkale means “cotton palace,” and the reason for the name becomes apparent when you look at the hillside.  Hot springs on the hill above the town contain carbonate minerals, and as they spill over the sides of the hill, they leave traces of these white minerals that have, over the centuries, built up terraces of white, filled with pools of clear, hot water.  These pools attracted tourists all the way back to ancient times - the city of Hierapolis was a spa destination for Greek and Roman citizens from the 2nd century B.C. through the 3rd century A.D.

Naturally, this site continues to attract thousands of tourists in our modern world, and during the 20th century, this tourism caused considerable damage to the area, with hotels built right on the ancient ruins.  The site gained protection when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Tourists can now safely lounge in hot spring pools filled with Roman columns and other remnants of the ancient world.
Geothermal activity

Pammukale - the "Cotton Palace"

Hot spring pools of Pammukale

The white cliffs of Pammukale

It was a cold day, but the hot water warmed cold feet.

The weather did not cooperate, so the pictures Rob took do not capture the intense white and blue we had seen in others' photos of this site, but it was still a unique geologic experience.  

This photo, used with permission from
shows the pools of Pammukale on a sunny day.
After their visit to the Cotton Palace, the group visited nearby Hierapolis, another Roman city.  It was not as extensive or spectacular as Aphrodisias, but the theater was restored to much of its former glory.
Ruins of Hierapolis
Ruins of Hierapolis

The Amphitheater of Hierapolis

The Amphitheater Stage

Sally, Kathy, Lee, and Jean brave the cold rainy weather in Hierapolis

By the time everyone returned in the early afternoon, I was feeling much revived and Rob and I went out for lunch at a little local cafe, where a young woman prepared our lunch – cheese and various vegetables spread on a thin flat bread and baked over an open flame.  
The fountain in the town square of Karahayit flows with water from a hot spring.
The colors are evidence of the minerals in the water.

A Turkish samovar provided hot tea for lunch

Our hostess rolled out a flat break with a wooden rod.

She added vegetables and cheese...

and baked the bread over an open flame.

Lunch with apple tea.

After lunch, we boarded the bus again for our very last stop on this wonderful tour...the city of Kusadasi, on the shores of the Aegean Sea.  Kusadasi has been inhabited since at least 3,000 B.C., but it is a thoroughly modern city today and a hub for Mediterranean tourism in the summer.  We stayed in a lovely modern hotel, the Ilayda Avantgarde, right on the waterfront.  Across the street was Mert's top choice for a restaurant, the Kazim Usta, and he couldn't have recommended a better one!  We had one of the best seafood dinners of our lives - langoustine that tasted like Maine lobster, grilled fresh fish, great dessert.  The rest of our party agreed.  We found them all sitting in another part of the restaurant later.  

The pleasant waterfront of Kusadasi

Harbor of Kusadasi

Dinner starts with mezzas, or appetizers...including the best shrimp we ever ate!

Mert and his lovely wife, Mine.

Our tour group enjoys dinner on the waterfront.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I had dreamed of coming to Ephesus ever since seeing the photos of the ancient site that my parents had taken many years before during a cruise of the Mediterranean.  It was even more magnificent than I had imagined.  We left our hotel in nearby Kusadasi bright and early in order to beat the cruise ship crowds who pour into Ephesus almost every day.

What a delight!  The city of Ephesus has been excavated and restored so beautifully that it was easy to picture myself strolling along the streets of the Greco-Roman city in its heyday - stopping by the public fountain for a drink, worshiping in the important Temple of Artemis, chatting with co-workers in the public baths (and very public restrooms), strolling down to the docks along the columned road, shopping in the agora, reading a scroll on the steps of the Library of Celsus, and enjoying life in this important and thriving port city of the ancient world.
The ruins of Ephesus lie on low hills overlooking the ancient port.
Silt has filled the original port and the modern coast lies three miles beyond the city.

Street of Ephesus

Ancient Frieze

Ruins of Ephesus

The builders of Ephesus carved grooves into the marble streets to prevent slipping in wet weather.

This mosaic street would have been protected by a covered walkway.

Commercial buildings of Ephesus

The Domitian Temple -
the first structure of Ephesus known to be dedicated to an Emperor

Mert walked us through the streets of the city, stopping often to point out important buildings and bits of history.  Founded by Greek colonists in the 10th century B.C. (and inhabited even before that), it came under Roman control in 129 B.C. and prospered as a commercial center for centuries.  This was the city of Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt, and her temple in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  To the people living in this region, Artemis became intertwined with the ancient Turkish goddess, Kybele, whose likeness we had seen in the museum in Ankara.  As Mert was fond of saying, "Culture never dies."
Mert tells us about Artemis, the beloved goddess of Ephesus

Our group members listen to lessons about the past.

The Temple of Hadrian

The Fountain of Trajan was built around 104 A.D. in honor of the Emperor Trajan.

Fountain of Trajan

This diagram shows how the Fountain of Trajan would have looked in ancient Ephesus.

The Heracles (or Hercules) Gate

Curetes Street, one of three main streets in Ephesus,
led from the Heracles Gate to the Celsus Library, and on to the ancient harbor.

Clay pipes brought water into the homes of the ancient Romans.

Latrines in the Scholastica Baths

The iron rod shows how the blocks of marble were held together.

The Odeon, or Bouleuterion, was the Senate House

As in the Bouleuterion in Aphrodisias, the lions' feet represented the power of the Senate.

Our stroll through the city brought back memories of my school days learning about the differences in the capitals, or tops, of ancient columns.

Simple Doric

Scrolled Ionic

Elaborate Corinthian

Greek writing covered many of the monuments of Ephesus

"Ephesian" in Greek

One of the many highlights of this visit was a peek into the lives of the very wealthy members of Roman society.  The mansions of six great families were unearthed beneath a hill on the side of the city and are still being excavated.  Just think what treasures from the past may still be lying beneath the adjoining hills!  The terrace houses are remarkably well preserved, with frescoes still covering the walls, mosaics in place on the floors, and clay pipes leaving testimony of indoor plumbing.
This photograph showed the mound which hid the Terrace Houses.
Excavation began in 1960.

This photo shows the roof that protects the ongoing excavation of the Terrace Houses.

Workbenches indicate the ongoing work on the Terrace House excavations.

Frescos still decorate the walls of these ancient homes.

Elevated walkways allow visitors to peer down on the living areas of the Terrace Houses.

Mosaics covered the floors of many rooms.

Household items were uncovered in many rooms.

Evidence of indoor plumbing

Frescoes in the living areas and bedrooms.

Mosaic floor decorations

Arched doorway into ancient chambers

Rubble from older buildings was recycled to build new walls.

Exposed pipe shows more indoor plumbing

From the Terrace Houses, we could look down on the Agora, or marketplace of Ephesus.

The huge amphitheater of Ephesus could hold up to 25,000 people.  We learned that historians estimate the size of ancient cities by multiplying the theater capacity by 10, so we know that Ephesus had a population of around 250,000 people.  This theater was important for second reason, as well.  St. Paul stayed in Ephesus while on his mission to bring Christianity to the Roman world.  He tried to speak to the crowds in this very theater, but much of the wealth of the city came from the sale of the figurines of Artemis that were made here.  Recognizing a threat to their livelihood, the people rose up and pelted Paul with stones until he was forced to flee.  Of course, they couldn't stop him from writing from afar, so the Bible contains Paul's "Letters to the Ephesians." 

The Theater of Ephesus at the end of Arcadian Street

Mert concluded his tour in front of the Library of Celsus, the most impressive and best-known ruin of the city.  The Celsus Library was built in 117 A.D. as a tomb for Gaius Julius Celsus Polemanaeus, the governor of the Roman province of Asia.   

View down to the Celsus Library

Rob and Joan at the Celsus Library

Celsus Library

 Four statues stand in niches in the Celsus Library facade, symbolizing the virtues of Celsus.
Sophia symbolizes Wisdom

Arete symbolizes Valor

Ennoia symbolized Intelligence

Episteme symbolized Knowledge

This stone held the names of provinces of the region.
We could make out several places we had visited, such as Cappadocia (on the third line)
and other names we recognized, such as Armenia (on the fourth line)

The Gate of Mazeus leads to the Agora.
This gate was built in 40 A.D. by the slave Mazeus for the emperor Augustus,
who gave Mazeus his freedom.

Detail from the Gate of Mazeus

Our fabulous tour members on the last full day of our trip.

When our group tour ended, we had another hour to explore on our own, so I walked down the road that would have led to the docks of this port city.  Over the centuries, silt has filled in the harbor so that the Aegean coast now lies about three miles from the edges of the city.  Ephesus may be a city of beautiful old ruins now, but it is restored enough that as I walked alone down this ancient road, I could feel the presence of the people who had lived and worked here. 

The spring blossoms added beauty to the ruins.

Arcadian Street led from the Amphitheater to the ancient ports of Ephesus.

This was one of several "milestones," markers along the Roman roads.

The early inhabitants of Ephesus may be gone, but the ancient city is still inhabited by ghostly little creatures.  The ever-present cats of Turkey peeked at us from behind stones and pillars.  As we departed, we discovered how they are cared for.

This gentleman comes daily to feed the cats of Ephesus

Cats eagerly await their daily meal.
And, of course, Rob was again delighted to interact with the animals.

That evening, we gathered at a Kusadasi restaurant overlooking the Aegean Sea and the Greek island of Samos in the distance.  As we ate and shared our final evening of fellowship with a truly compatible tour group, we watched the sun set in a blaze of red and orange.  It was a glorious ending to our fabulous trip.
Susan and Lee

Ben and Sharon

Sally, Jean, Mert, Kathy, Eileen, Jane, and Jim

As they say in the old movie house travelogues:
"And as the sun sets slowly in the west, we bid a fond farewell to the beautiful land of Turkey."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I learned from our guide in 2008 that the building across the street, infront of the library was indeed a brothel, and also a tunnel was said to be under the street, connecting the two. So when the aristocratic men would go to the library to study, so to speak, they often left from the house opposite the library....aftr their night of studies...so I have been told. Antony and Cleopatra had walked upon the stones of the main street as well....Facinating place for sure....loved my visit there.