Turkey isn’t a small country. But it is an ancient one…what we measure in hundreds of years Turkey measures in thousands (Imaginary conversation: How old is that ruin: Californian: really old, over 200 years old; Turk: Not old, only 2000 years old).
Today I was trying to sleep (that jet lag is not an imaginary condition), when at 6am the call to prayers started and I have a speaker as it turns out, right outside my hotel room (earplugs tonight perhaps). The call to prayer is several times a day, the last time around 8 or 9pm.
My tour guide picked me up at 8am sharp, as the drive to Afrodisias is about 2.5 hours. We drove through some largish towns (up to 250,000) and past lots and lots of olive and fig orchards, saw some strawberries, tobacco, quite a few pomegranates and a few grapes. Turkey is pretty dry, and has a Mediterranean climate, but the trees seemed to be unirrigated and are much more spread out than orchards are in California. Beyond the trees (and not far beyond) were hills covered with grasses and pine trees. It’s a pretty country.
Afrodisias began around 5000 BC and became large and prosperous because of political favor and a large marble quarry.There was a marble working school there too. It was abandoned sometime in the 12th century and a Turkish village developed over it. There was a big earthquake in the 1950s and the village was then moved; since then there’s been archaeologists working on the site.
What was really impressive were the huge coliseums. One was for chariot races and held over 30,000 people. It was one stadia long which is over 200 yards. The smaller theater was used for plays and entertainment, it held about 7000. A third, small stadium or amphitheater was used by politicians for debates. I also saw the ruins of the large Roman baths, which had three parts, hot, tepid and cold (a plunge pool it looked like) for the rich. Lining the center of the town at one time were lots of shops (Agora or Forum). And of course there was the site of the Afrodisias temple, later a church. There’s also a nice museum on site. It’s a somewhat remote site so there weren’t tons of tourists and it was pretty peaceful.
Next we went to lunch. Pide is popular and unlike “Pita” it isn’t just a word for bread, it’s sort of Turkish pizza. The dough is formed into a canoe shape, long and tapered at each end and topped with cheese and other things such as meatballs, egg, or crumbled sausage. I had cheese and crumbled meat and it was really good.
Next up was Parmakkule and Hierapolis. Hierapolis was founded in 190 BC and abandoned in the 1330s after an earthquake. It had huge Roman baths, a Roman theatre and shops. However, the real draw to this area is Parmakkule, which means Cotton Palace. It’s one of the World Heritage sites in Turkey. It’s this big marble mountain, travertine, mostly white and water runs down it and forms a lot of pools all the way down. It looks like a glacier. I walked down it (you have to go barefoot), and most of the way the marble is smooth and pretty soft feeling.
It was a really interesting day; tomorrow Ephesus (Efes in Turkish) and then on to Ali Bey.