Saturday, September 12, 2020


I have neglected the blog to the amount of travel I did in 2019 that kept me away and now the issue of COVID-19 that has distracted me.  Had great plans with the free time resulting from the various travel cancellations in 2020 but did nothing; but will try to recover while the pandemic endures.  This was my second trip to Turkey since 1994 and what I saw on the return, was a modern country with airports and major roads that put the USA infrastructure to shame. I returned to visit the ancient cultural sites not seen before and revisiting others. Turkey is probably the “real” cradle of civilization.

September is the best time to visit because the tourist crowds are gone and the hot summer temperatures milder. Visited about 26 archaeological sites by land, water and air and on foot and took 2605 photos. And that is one of the challenges with this blog.  Instead of writing following the travel itinerary will do it alphabetically.

ANKARA. Is the capital of Turkey and has grown exponentially with excellent highways with traffic jams as all other of the world’s big cities.  Surprisingly the Anadolu Medenniyetleri Museum is exactly the same as I remembered it from my first visit and was not crowded. Two examples of its collection are below.

The streets are busy with vendors sitting waiting for customers, some with what looks like prayer beads in their hands while, pushing a cart with cantaloupes, one sitting patiently waiting for some tourist to buy his cooper wares and others just sitting with friends remembering their wild days of youth.

APHRODISIA.  This my second visit and consider it my favorite site…since I was there last the archeological diggings have revealed new treasure and still going on.  What I remember from 1994 is that it was still inhabited with small houses with gardening plots among the ruins and goats all over the place; these are gone. Now there are open spaces between the major ruins.  Below is the frieze in the Portico Tiberius as one first enter the ruins.

The Sebasteion or Augusteum was an imperial Roman religious site and similar ones are found in other cities of antiquity. Dedicated to Aphrodite and constructed between 20 and 60 AD.  The 3-storied Corinthian Temple walls were covered with about 200 reliefs of which about 80 have been found.

The Roman Theater with an estimated capacity of 7,000 and still remains in good shape. The following image is of a face carved into one of the seats, perhaps identifying the owner--and it was not the only one seen…I assume that these were permanent reserved seats. 

The Baths were dedicated to Emperor Hadrian (yes, the same one who built the Hadrian Wall in England) during the 2nd Century AD.  The photo shows the raised floors of the hot rooms and between the supports the tunnels used to direct the hot water/steam conducting the heat. Baths were important social and cultural centers at the time perhaps comparable to a beer joint today. The holes in the limestone blocks forming the walls supported the extensive marble friezes and statuary decorating the baths.

Aphrodisias was a Roman city that due to the nearby marble quarries became home for sculptures that created the numerous sculptures and statues that survived to the present. This was probably due to its isolated location saving it from the medieval turmoil and recent wars. Below is a view an area called the Gaudin’s gymnasium; some of the base of the columns has carved Christian crosses...could these be considered graffiti? 

The stadium has 30 rows of marble seats all around and could accommodate about 30.000 and it is one of the best preserved and among largest with a length of approximately 900 feet by 200 feet wide. I could not fit the whole view because I was lazy and did not bother to carry the big wide-angle lens along…big mistake.

The Tetrepylon or monumental gateway leads into the main north-south street leading to the Temple of Aphrodite and is the most completed restored building in the site completed in 1991. This structure was also vandalized during the Christian period of Anatolia.

The museum stores most items previously located in the Sebastion and other assorted artifacts from the area. The Aphrodite of Aphrodisias is connected to Artemis of Ephesus both wearing a 4 banded tunic separating motifs with the Three Graces in top who are her closest attendants. Next are the Moon and the Sun, continuing down herself on a seagoat with tritons, and last closest to the ground Erotes with children and others performing a sacrifice.

Following is a large carved head at the entrance to the museum and next an image of Pegasus with a warrior and finally a wounded warrior been helped. Most of the excavations were conducted by the University of New York and Oxford University.

ARSAMEIA.  At the foot of Mount Nemrut was the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom around 260 BCE.  Below is the God Mithras wearing a Pirghian cap with sun rays radiating from the head, since he is a sun deity. Next is the handshake between King Mithridates and the naked Heracles who can easily recognized by club to the right.

These inscriptions are above the entrance to a dead end tunnel of unknown purpose about 450 feet long. They describe the history of Arsemia, religious rituals and names of famous rulers.  Its excellent shape is due to it been underground since antiquity.

ATATURK DAM. The largest dam in the Euphrates River completed in 1990.  It was built to generate electricity as well as irrigation water for the Harran region. It also created the Ataturk Dam Lake popular for fishing, water sports and sailing. Ate fish from the lake in a nearby restaurant; what kind?  Who knows but tasty and not too bony. 

BAZDA MAGARALARI.  Was a stone quarry active back in the 13th century used for building around Harran.  The quarry consists of long tunnels and galleries; now some are currently used for grain storage.  It is close distance to Sanliurfa.

BODRUN.  This is not the Coats of Arms of the City but a street manhole. 

Formerly known as Halicarnassus, a prominent city in ancient Greece where the ruins of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was located—the Mausoleum of Mausolus who was a satrap of the Persian Empire. Currently is a pile of ruins with a small museum.

Almost across the street is the local amphitheater still in use and while there the was a special show dedicated to Zeki Muren, a famous Turkish singer, actor and poet nicknamed “The Sun of Art”.  He retired in Bodrum and died in 1996. The show was done by another current famous singer and the crowds and the ladies went wild falling all over him. Below crushed VW in the courtyard of a fancy bookstore.

The Milta Bodrum Marina is really a long esplanade around the bay separated from the tourist main walk by a park with multiple monuments and decorations.  Allow the locals to relax, sell their trades and watch the walking sights Anchored at the piers and seaside the Gulets are the dominant type of sailing boat that cater to the tourists for the day or longer periods to navigate among the Greek Islands.  And while talking about the sea there is also is a monument honoring the sponge divers, a dangerous profession faded in history due to the overharvesting. And since it gets really hot, an Irish Pub is just across the street to kill the thirst and dance a jig.

The Castle of St. Peter was built by the Knights Hospitaliers back in the 15th century and as in most ancient cities; some of the stones from the ruins were used in the construction. It contains a mosque and an underwater archeological museum. The internal square provides an escape to relax, sit and dreaming of the old days.

There is a collection of old Greek statues at the entrance to the castle. As to whom they are, I guess that the one with the book is Herodotus who lived in Halicarnassus.  He wrote “The Histories” and is considered by some as the first historian and the father of ethnology and anthropology. Some of his descriptions of ancient places were later corroborated during archaeological diggings in the 19th and 20th centuries. Another man ahead of his times.

There numerous ancient ruins in Bodrum such as the Myndos Gate one of the few remains of the city walls and windmills.

SANDIMA.  Is an abandoned Greek village vacated  due to a population exchange resulting fron the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-22. Nuris Sanat Evi a local artist, lives in the vicinity of the village and extended the courtesy of visiting his home whose images are below.  A very esoteric and imaginative style reflects the carefree living of the artist. 

Nuris also raises goats in the side and these are very docile and beautiful. While there late in the afternoon, they descended from the ruins near the home to drink water.  A few had bells and stopped to intensively watching this guy with the funny box in the hands.

CEDENRI  BRIDGE. Near Mount Nemrut is a roman bridge named after Septimus Severus a Roman Emperor (193-211 CE). It replaced and earlier bridge built  by Emperor Vespasian (69-79 CE) who was the conqueror of the Kingdom of Commagene. There were originally 4 columns in the bridge donated by the “Quattuor Civitates Commag” but the one named Geta, a sister of who Emperor Caracalla had her assassinated; and as it was the practice of damnation of memory at the time , the column with Geta’s name was removed. The others have the names of Septimus Severus, Caracalla and his mother Julia Domna whose statues were at one time at the top pf the columns.  Severus before he died told his children “Live in harmony, enrich the soldiers, and despise the rest of the people”.

APOLLO TEMPLE.  There are many by this name but this one is in Didin and reconstructed around 49 BC after an earthquake, said under the guidance of Alexander the Great.  It was a site for Oracles where people traveled long distances to consult the priestesses and make sacrifices. 

Below is a fallen column that looks to me like a partly unrolled Lifesaver's candy, these circular stones are huge, probably about the height of a man. Following is a Medusa with its whirling snakes and it it said to be the most photographed.

EPHESUS. Probably the most visited ruins in Turkey since they are the best preserved and archaeologically explored.  As you enter, there is a main street leading down to the Library with numerous buildings in both sides. It used to be a port city but the sea now is about 3 miles away due to silting.

There is an excavation complex that was not there the first time I was there in 1994 consisting of terrace houses in the side of the hill and still undergoing preservation. It is mostly covered by a glass enclosure and to reach the various sections, the steep ladders and stairs require some effort to climb.  Extensive walls decorations that showed the great quality of live enjoyed by the elite of the city that can be seen below. 

Below is a detail of the far wall seen in the above image showing images of women dressed in different outfits. The walls have all kinds of decorations also including paintings of animals and humans. The last image is that is a tile floor depicting Neptune with a seahorse and a mermaid.

Continuing the tour of Ephesus, below is a view of from a hill overlooking the library of Celsius that is obscured by the flowers followed by an image of the library and the main colonnade leading to the museum.

Another view of the colonnade follows and finally is the amphitheater, one of the largest of the ancient world with approximate 25,000 seats.

The Ephesus Archaeological Museum has a large collection of statues and the famous Artemis statue resides there but there is a museum by the same in Vienna where still a larger collection of statues collected between 1896 and 1906. It underwent extensive renovations since when I first visited in 1994 and a worthwhile visit.

EUROMOS.  The Temple of Zeus was built during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD).  Originally there were 32 Corinthian columns of which 16 are still standing and remnants of the rest are scattered around the site. In the center are the ruins of a sanctuary. It is suspected that the temple was never completed since the city was abandoned around the second century AD that may attests for its grade degree of preservation.  I was very impressed as those columns remaining standing after so many centuries and not carried away.

Will stop here and continue the travel log later this month; promise to complete it before October. 


1 comment:

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Extremely well written and interesting Jose. Thanks for the hard work you put into it.