Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Been There And Done That, Or So We Thought!


Kusadasi, Turkey

Today we visited Kusadasi, Turkey. This is a large and very old city which lies on the southwestern side of Turkey bordering the Aegean Sea. It is south of Istanbul and Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

I might comment that several of you have commented on how much you appreciated the map on our first blog posting. Well, when I tried that for Santorini, it did not work. I do not know if that has anything to with the signal on the ship, so I will try again to see if I can get that to work. If not, the photographs are geo-tagged and have a Google map with them which should help in locating where we are travelling.

Since we had been to this area three times previously, we avoided the packaged tours and arranged with the ship to hire a car and guide. We figured that in this way we could explore off the beaten path. Before leaving home a friend provided us with several suggested places to visit, so we ready to go, so to speak. Well that idea bombed! As soon as we told our guide we had been to this and that, but here is a list where we would like to go, the car came to an abrupt stop before we even left the parking lot. He scurried off to speak with someone further up the food chain, and when he returned we got some smoke and mirrors about how that was not allowed. Pooh! So we set off to see two places that we had seen already.

Our drive into the countryside took almost two hours. As we left the city I could not help but notice that every roadside café or coffee shop was filled with older men just sitting, drinking coffee and playing bagammon. They lined the streets in all of the small villages and dotted the roadside along the highways. Meantime the older women could be seen shopping, doing the laundry and working in the fields. I asked our guide and he told us that this is very typical in Greece in the countryside. The habit is starting to change among the younger people as women enter the workforce and become educated, but still the habit is very strong in the country, men talk politics, women work.

As we approached one small village our guide said that his Father had been born there and that his grandfather still lived there. He asked if we would mind if he stopped to say hello, and that we should be prepared to be invited inside for Turkish coffee. That sounded wonderful, and so we did stop. Unfortunately his grandfather was not at home – probably off sitting with his friends. Our guide said that his grandmother had died just last year at the age of 70, and Lisa commented how sad that she died so young. The guide looked puzzled. He said that in Greece, to live to 70 is unusual and that she had a long life. Most people die around 60 to 65! By the way, for what it is worth, they have had government run health coverage for years now.





Our first stop was in the small town of Didyma where the Temple of Apollo is located. As you can see from the pictures it is an absolutely breathtaking sight. IMG_1967This is one of the largest temples from the Hellenistic Period. Here was housed the second most famous Oracle of ancient times, after the Oracle at Delphi outside of Athens. Our guide spoke about how the Temple was “burned.” I wondered out loud how you “burn” a temple made of marble. And so I learned that the entire structure was surrounded with animal skins, which were then soaked with oil and torched. The heat from the fires both cracked the marble and caused the great columns to fall, as well as turning the marble into limestone. So just in case someone falls off a hearse and wants to know, that is how you “burn” a marble temple.

Our next stop was to be at the ancient Roman Theater at Miletus. We had been there before, or so we thought. As we were driving up the road to the colossal amphitheater we spied the unique dome of an old mosque partially hidden behind the roadside weeds. We had driven by this site before and been told that no one was allowed to go there. When we mentioned that to our guide, he had the van stop and said that he would take us there if we would like, since this ruin is currently under reconstruction by the government. Our van could not go down the long road, but we walked probably a half mile to the ruins.



Here we saw the partially restored structure of a Mosque which was build in the Middle Ages. IMG_2004It has a dome roof unlike any other I have seen before, made in part from tiles, and in part from straw, with a very unique “topknot.” After touring the grounds, the guide said that we would walk to the amphitheatre and they van would meet us there. Whoops, I looked up ahead that that was going to be a long walk over very uneven ground is the heat of the blazing sun. What had we gotten into?



I will tell you what we got into to – the best darned part of the day. We turned a corner on the trail, and I noticed that on my right was a field of ruins stretching for as far as the eye could see. Most of the ruins were below ground level which is why when we came here before we never saw them. We then turned another corner and ran smack into a large group of archeologists who were carefully unearthing and cataloging the ancient Baths of Faustina.


These were the ruins of a 4th Century Roman Bath and the nearby market and town. The Baths were named after the wife of Marcus Aurelius, who had ordered their construction. The ruins were in what I thought were amazingly good condition. Our guide explained how all the walls had been covered with decorated marble and that behind the marble was a gap where heated water ran between the marble facing and the stone walls. The ceramic pipes used to fill the baths were clearly visible, and he pointed out that the town itself had running water from the nearby mountains. We spent a long time admiring our “secret” find before trudging on to the Amphitheater.

Built to seat over 15,000 people, it is impressive even by today’s standards let alone in the 4th Century B.C.


So, the Been There And Done That Day turned out to be a stunning surprise and one that was well worth the effort.

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