Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Turkey: Blue Waters and Ancient Ruins

We explored the southwestern portion of Turkey, which features the stunning blue waters of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and the incredible Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Hierapolis.  Click the link to read more about our visit, to see a photo of me looking crazed as I leap off a two-story boat, to see videos of two very different Roman-style gladiator duels, and to learn of the departure of a beloved member of our traveling gang.

We visited the cities of Antalya and Fethiye, which both border the Mediterranean Sea.  You can only look at the beautiful blue water for so long before you want to hop aboard a boat and sail away.  That is what we did in Fethiye.

Above are pictures from our cruise from Fethiye.  It was hot, and the water was clear and inviting.  It was only a matter of time before we jumped in the water.
This a photo of the sensible way to leave your boat and take a swim.  But Shane, Nick and I are not always sensible.  So below are some photos of how we decided to disembark the boat for a swim....

Although it may not have been sensible to jump off the second floor of our boat, it sure was fun!

Where was Beth?  Well, she did the sensible thing and tried to avoid the harmful rays of the sun.  Arguably, she almost went a little 'overboard' with this.

We have taken some enjoyable boat trips on our overseas adventure, and this boat trip in Turkey takes its place alongside those other great trips.
 You can work up quite an appetite jumping off boats, and we found some great waterfront restaurants.

Above is a sampling of the many delicious meals we ate in the coastal cities of Turkey.  By the way, you may have noticed a number of food photos in my blog posts.  I took a photo of almost every meal I have eaten during the course of this nine-month journey.  (I decided my frequent oatmeal breakfasts did not need to be comprehensively memorialized, so I skipped photographing most of those.)  I have also photographed many of the delightful food markets we've seen on this trip.  The coastal town of Kusadasi, on the Aegean Sea, featured a nice market.  Below is a video and some photos from that market.

We had a great time exploring the Kusadasi market, which was populated almost entirely by locals.  Of course, being tourists, we often found ourselves in places frequented by other tourists.  How do you know a place is marketed for tourists?  Below is a photo of a typical store seen on a tourist street of a Turkish coastal town.
Notice the sign advertising "genuine fake."  Does that mean that they offer both genuine and fake watches and sunglasses, or that all of their watches and sunglasses are genuinely fake?

We visited one of the biggest tourist draws in Turkey, Pamukkale.  "Pamukkale" means "cotton castle" in Turkish, and it contains hot springs and terraces of carbonate minerals left by centuries of constantly flowing water.  In the two photos immediately above, you can make out the flow of water on the hard white ground surface.

In the above photo, there are some ancient ruins barely visible in the distance.  Those are part of the ruins of Hierapolis.

The ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built beside the white terraces and hot springs of Pamukkale.  The Pamukkale hot springs have been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC, where people came to soothe their ailments, with many of them retiring or dying there.  A town was built, which included the above-pictured theater with a seating capacity of 15,000.

Nowadays, Hierapolis is populated by tourists who like to take goofy pictures on the ruins.

As it neared sunset, we left Hierapolis and returned to Pamukkale.  Beth decided to join the many others who were bathing in the reputedly therapeutic waters.  It appears she liked it!

The most famous ruins in Turkey are located at Ephesus.  Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city with a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, making it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world.  As you can see from the above photo, Ephesus is still filled with people today.  Most of these people were cruise ship passengers taking a day trip to see the ruins.

Despite the cruise-ship hordes, we had a good time touring the ruins of Ephesus.  In ancient times, Ephesus was most famous for being the home of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis.  These days, with the Temple of Artemis long-since destroyed, Ephesus is perhaps most famous for being an important center for early Christianity.  From AD 52–54, Paul lived in Ephesus, working with the congregation and organizing missionary activity into the hinterlands.  He became embroiled in a dispute with artisans, whose livelihood depended on selling the statuettes of Artemis in the Temple of Artemis, and he was briefly imprisoned in the town.  It was there Paul wrote the letter of first Corinthians.  Later Paul wrote the Epistle to Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome.  Also, the Gospel of John is believed to have been written in Ephesus, and Ephesus was one of the seven cities addressed in Revelation.  Finally, there are some who believe that Ephesus is where Mary spent the last years of her life, having accompanied John to the city.

Unfortunately for the Ephesians, their city was undone by a flaw in the engineering of their drain pipes, which resulted in the gradual silting of the town's previously bustling harbor.  Now, the coastline is a few miles away.

While we were at Ephesus, we heard the bugles call, announcing a major event.  Roman nobility gathered, and visiting Cleopatra and her friends walked like Egyptians.

Then the Roman gladiators fought bravely, until one prevailed.  The victor waited to receive instructions as to whether the defeated gladiator should be killed or spared.  The spectators either put their thumbs up or thumbs down, and then they all looked to Caesar's box to learn what the final verdict would be.

Thumbs up!

The gladiator's life was spared.  Long live the merciful Caesar, who will rein from the glorious city of Ephesus for all eternity ... or at least until those rotten drain pipes mess everything up.

By the way, if you want to see how that gladiator "fight" really happened, above is video of the whole thing, with a little commentary from Beth.

We also visited the ruins of the ancient Greek and Roman city of Aphrodisias, which was built around a major marble quarry.  If you look at the photos below from Aphrodisias, you'll notice a stark difference between the number of people in the Aphrodisias photos and the number of people in the Ephesus photos.

 Aphrodisias is located 62 miles inland from the coast, and it is more difficult to reach than Ephesus.  Consequently, Aphrodisias sees only a small fraction of the tourists of Ephesus, despite being equally well-preserved.  Perhaps because of the lack of tourists, we enjoyed our visit to Aphrodisias more than Ephesus.  As we wandered the ruins alone, with just the quiet sounds of nature accompanying us, it was easier to image what this city would have been like in its earlier splendor.

One of the most impressive places in Aphrodisias was the remarkably well-preserved stadium, which measures approximately 890 feet by 200 feet, and had a capacity of 30,000 spectators.  During Greek times, the stadium was the site of races and other sporting events, and during Roman times, it was the site of gladiator fights.

The stadium was so evocative that Shane and Beth could not resist the temptation to recreate a Roman duel. Notice that, except for us, the entire stadium was empty--not another tourist to be found.  You will also notice that Beth did not put up much of a fight.  Perhaps she was distracted by the sad fact that she would soon leave our overseas journey to return home to Pennsylvania....

Our merry band of four travelers dwindled to three less-merry travelers with the departure of Beth.  We all miss her sorely ... especially me.


Unknown said...

Good times in Turkey! Sad times without you!

Anonymous said...

This looks grogeous! I love hearing your voice on the recording. Can't wait to see you.

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