Korkuteli and Aphrodisias
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
|Fresh goat cheese in a goat skin bag|
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|
|The theater stage|
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!
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.
|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.
|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
|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.|
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.
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|
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.
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|
|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.|
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.
|And, of course, Rob was again delighted to interact with the animals.|
|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."
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.
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