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A Visit to Noble and Noteworthy Northumberland

November 22, 2016 by · Comments Off on A Visit to Noble and Noteworthy Northumberland 

I wrote about my surprising adventures in Northumberland, England for My Itchy Travel Feet, a blog for Boomer travelers.  Please use this link to read about this wonderful location:

Exploring Noble and Noteworthy Northumberland

Aphrodisias and Pamukkale: From a Lost City to a Cotton Castle

May 22, 2016 by · 9 Comments 

Aphrodisias is not the most visited archaeological site in Turkey because it lies off the beaten track, a three-hour drive from cruise port Kusadasi or tourist-centric Ephesus. Luckily, my friend and fellow travel writer, Judy Wells clued me in and encouraged a visit to Aphrodisias. To get there, my travel buddy, Judy Shulman and I hired Barefoot Plus Travel to organize a day trip with a car, driver and guide. We also requested a stop at the picturesque white mountain/thermal waters at Pamukkale.

Welcome sign at the gate.

Welcome sign at the gate.

Aphrodisias is one of the oldest sacred sites in Turkey. It was dedicated to the ancient Mother Goddess and then the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of nature, beauty and love.  A magnificent Temple of Aphrodite was constructed to honor her. Later, it was transformed into a Christian basilica by moving some of the columns. Aphrodisias is also known for its renowned school of marble sculpture, at its prominence between the years 1 BC and 6 AD.

Columns from the Temple of Aphrodite.

Columns from the Temple of Aphrodite.

Marble statue now housed in the museum.

Marble statue now housed in the museum.

Today, a visitor finds ancient ruins similar to those at popular Ephesus, but Aphrodisias enchants with a more beautiful and spread out town plan. Plus, the UNESCO World Heritage site includes an on-site museum making a complete one-stop tour. Best of all, there are far fewer guests along the pathways.  You’ll find the partially restored Temple of Aphrodite along with the remains of a large theater, a stadium, baths, agora and impressive, but restored gateway.

Sarcophagus near the entrance.

Sarcophagus near the entrance.

For me, the most fascinating and memorable details about Aphrodisias came from the story of its rediscovery. Aphrodisias owed much of its fame to its school of sculpture, and although artful works were sent by ship to Italy, the sculptors still reserved their finest products for their own city.

Beautiful day at Aphrodisias ruins.

Beautiful day at Aphrodisias ruins.

Earthquakes destroyed the city walls in the 7th century, and they were never repaired. Over time, the theater filled with earth, acquiring the look of a natural, untouched mound. Some marble columns stuck out of the ground, but when viewed from a distance, they merged with the tree trunks surrounding them.

The Sports Stadium

The Sports Stadium

Sports Stadium

Sports Stadium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paraphrased from Turizm.net:

 

A remote village by the name of Geyre grew up over and around the ruins. In 1956, the region was again shaken by an earthquake that destroyed more than half of the village. When digging  a new water trench, the residents turned up some exquisite marble carvings and reliefs. These finds led to an onslaught of archaeologists who succeeded in persuading the villagers to choose a different water route but, in spite of the archaeological interest, they merely erected a wire fence around the ruins and departed.

 

Aphrodisias entered a sleepy rest period, known mostly by the locals.

Guler photo of farmhouse with columns.

Guler photo of farmhouse with columns.

Two years later, the famous photographer and traveler Ara Güler arrived in the nearby town.  “Chance took me to Geyre,” he says, “I had never heard of the place in my life and when I saw it, I really couldn’t believe my eyes. Exquisite columns standing there, Statues of breathtaking beauty. Columns lying around on the ground – some of them used to prop up the precarious walls of village houses that seemed ready to collapse at any moment. One beautifully carved sarcophagus lid was being used as the trough of a village fountain. On another villagers were playing cards. I had never seen such an interesting place. I rushed off to get my camera and took a whole pile of photographs.”

 

The story continues saying Güler later sent the pictures to his agent in Paris, who sent them to Horizon. The magazine requested more, and Güler went back to Geyre.

Guler photo of residents among the ruins.

Guler photo of residents among the ruins.

He asked for assistance from the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, and they recommended Kenan Erim, an American of Turkish origin who was then Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of New York. Kenan Erim had never visited Aphrodisias, but he knew about it. Ever since his student days in Princeton he had dreamed of Aphrodisias. After an initial visit in 1959, he returned in 1961 to begin excavation work with financial assistance from the National Geographic. This excavation work occupied the rest of his life, further assisted by various institutions such as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Vincent Astor Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

 

Here’s the best part: Fortune shone on Kenan Erim from the very first days. The trench dug by the peasants five years previously revealed remains of the city defense walls and towers as well as the head of a goddess. With this head in his hand, Kenan Erim went straight to the hut containing the statues unearthed by the few archaeologists who had dug there fifty years before, and here he succeeded in finding the torso to which the head belonged– an exact fit. Wondrously, it was as if this statue, created 1,700 years ago, had come back to life.

The statue of Aphrodite

The statue of Aphrodite

Our guide Burcu peeked my interest when she us told the story during our drive. Once onsite, she led us a more extensive tour than the typical groups receive. We were fascinated by the sculpture workshop area. Excavations here in the 1960s uncovered 25 half-finished statues and practice pieces carved by apprentices. We delighted in the sculptured “people scrolls” displayed on a wall, and it was fun to compare the faces and various styles of carving.

People Scrolls

People Scrolls

People Scrolls

People Scrolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The landscape was dotted with yellow flowers that added to the beauty of the ruins. We walked a large circular route around the grounds and into the huge sports amphitheater. We saw the Tetrapylon near the end of our tour. The Tetrapylon is a gateway that greeted pilgrims when they approached the Temple of Aphrodite. It’s a lovely 2nd-century gateway with four groups of four Corinthian columns (from which it gets its name). It was extensively repaired and re-erected in 1990.

Front of the four-columned gate or Tetrapylon.

Front of the four-columned gate or Tetrapylon.

The Tetrapylon at Aphrodisias.

The Tetrapylon at Aphrodisias.

Tetrapylon marble details.

Tetrapylon marble details.

The Tetrapylon

The Tetrapylon

I especially enjoyed seeing copies of the Guler photographs and wished I’d had more time for the exquisite statuary in the museum. Definitely two-thumbs up for Aphrodisias.

Temple of Aphrodite

Temple of Aphrodite

After a lunch break, we took off for Pamukkale known for the mineral-rich thermal waters that flow down white travertine terraces on a hillside. I hadn’t expected Pamukkale to abut Hierapolis; an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 B.C. The joint site of Hierapolis-Pamukkale was made a World Heritage Site in 1988.

The ruins of Hieropolis

The ruins of Hieropolis

Cotton or Terraced Lake at Pamukkale.

Cotton Lakes or Terraced Lakes at Pamukkale.

Pamukkale’s gleaming white calcite shelves overrun with warm, mineral-rich waters to form the so-called ‘Cotton Castle’ (Pamuk means ‘cotton’ in Turkish). The solution of calcium carbonate in the spring water decomposes into carbon dioxide, calcium carbonate, and water. The carbon dioxide is released into the air while the calcium carbonate separates off from the water to form grayish-white limestone sediment.

Cascading basins of water at Pamukkale.

Cascading basins of water at Pamukkale.

Stalactites form near the basin edges.

Stalactites form near the basin edges.

I photographed some of the roped off areas but was disappointed that I couldn’t get closer. Then, Judy and I took off our shoes and waded in the soft, warm creamy water. My skin felt soft when we got out.

Judy and Debi wading at Pamukkale.

Judy and Debi wading at Pamukkale.

Like all tourist havens, Pamukkale attracts busload after busload of tourists by day, but becomes much less crowded by late afternoon. Visitors can swim in a spa pool with thermal waters and fragments of columns, but it is costly.  Others take boat rides in the lake below.

Cotton Castle

The Cotton Castle

Swimming in the pool

Swimming in the pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our day was already too long for such an option. Thankfully we had a driver to make the three- hour return trip to our hotel in Sirince, near Kusadasi.

Ephesus Everlasting: The Ancient City Lives On

May 18, 2016 by · Comments Off on Ephesus Everlasting: The Ancient City Lives On 

In the ancient world, Ephesus was a center of travel and commerce. For one day, the UNESCO World Heritage site was the center of my world.

The marble road leading through Ephesus.

The marble road leading through Ephesus.

Early that morning, Judy, my European traveling buddy, and I met our guide Burcu and driver, Mehmet, arranged through Barefoot Plus Travel. We immediately felt comfortable in their presence. Burcu was knowledgeable about history and culture and very familiar with the ancient site. Mehmet picked us from Kusadasi, the main city in the Anatolia area of Turkey, and drove up a mountain for a quick stop at the House of the Virgin Mary. This small stone house has become a pilgrimage destination.

House of the Virgin Mary

House of the Virgin Mary

Altar inside the House of the Virgin Mary. I took this while standing outside.

Altar inside the House of the Virgin Mary. I took this while standing outside.

Ephesus was originally built in the 10th century BC by the Greeks as commercial seaport due to its strategic location.  Over time, the river and port silted up and the waterways shifted. The Ionian coast now rests several miles away. Under the Roman Empire (1st and 2nd centuries AD) the city continued to prosper. Ephesus became the largest city in the East after Alexandria, with a population of over 200,000.

Ancient City Ruins

Ancient City Ruins

Tours begin at the Magnesian Gate, near the top of a slope. Groups stop at major points of interest as they stroll along, passing the remains of hundreds of columns, statues, and etched drawings. I tried to imagine the bustling white marble city with residents in togas or flowing gowns. Must have been beautiful!

A headless statue

A headless statue

First stop was the thermal baths, originally seven stories high.

Ruins of the thermal waters bathing area.

Ruins of the thermal waters bathing area.

Then, we entered a theater used for council meetings, concerts or speeches. It could seat 1,400 and remains acoustically grand.

The theater could seat 1,400 persons.

The theater could seat 1,400 persons.

Down colonnaded Curetes Street, we viewed the ruins of the Temples of Hadrian and Nike and the elaborate Nymphaeum Traiani Fountain. A near-perfect statue of Artemis was found in this area, but is now displayed in the Ephesus Archeological Museum. (Later, we also visited the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple completed around 550 BC, was destroyed in 268 AD. Sadly, all that is left is one lonely column, making me appreciate the splendor of Ephesus.)

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian Medusa head close-up

Temple of Hadrian Medusa head close-up

The goddess Nike.

The goddess Nike.

 

Finding Artemis

Finding Artemis

Terraced houses belonging to the nobles in the city were under archeological restoration, so we could only view their intricate mosaic floors. An Agora or series of shops followed.

Mosaic floor of a wealthy resident.

Mosaic floor of a wealthy resident.

Ruins of the agora.

Ruins of the agora.

We paused (and giggled) at the men’s public toilet area where Burcu explained that a large fountain was used to cover noise and odors. A brothel also sat in this area.

Men's Toilets

Men’s Toilets

We continued down the marble Colonnade to the majestic two-storied Library of Celsus, the highlight of excavated Ephesus, originally built in 117 AD. The structure stands proudly at the base of the slope including statuary copies of the originals. After extensive archeological work in the 1960-70’s,  many of the finely chiseled columns were re-erected by Austrian archeologists . I was happy they did so because you can feel the grandeur and size of the original building.  In its prime, 12,000 parchment manuscripts and scrolls were kept in the library. Although the niches that contained the parchments were double-lined to prevent humidity or damage, they were tragically lost in a fire.

Approaching the Library of Celsus.

Approaching the Library of Celsus.

Celsus Library-1

A grand marble walkway leads away from the library toward the stadium. Burcu pointed out what she called an ancient advertisement carved in the stone. My photo here shows a foot marking the way to the brothel, indicated by drawings of a woman, a heart and the indentation meaning money was needed.

Ancient advertisement for the brothel. Look closely to see the face of a lady.

Ancient advertisement for the brothel. Look closely to see the face of a lady.

 

To the Stadium.

To the Stadium.

You can almost hear the noise of a crowd as you approach the immense amphitheater or Great Theater.  In Roman times, up to 25,000 people came to watch staged events including gladiator fights. The nearly intact stadium stands in ancient glory, a memorial to all those who died there.

The Grand Theater or Stadium seats 25,000.

The Grand Theater or Stadium seats 25,000.

Inside the massive stadium.

Inside the massive stadium.

Gladiator Entrance

Gladiator Entrance

Training fields and a gymnasium lie beyond the stadium and a cooling tree-covered walkway leads to the exit or lower entrance. Thankfully UNESCO added Ephesus to its World Heritage list in 2015, so it will be maintained and protected.

The Training Fields

The Training Fields

Many cruise ships dock in Kusadasi and bring their guests to the ancient ruins, making Ephesus a popular tourist attraction. Tours last at least an hour and the paths are always crowded, however, Ephesus is enriching, it’s powerful and the memory is everlasting.

Entering Ephesus

Entering Ephesus

Just one column remains from the Temple of Artemis.

Just one column remains from the Temple of Artemis.

*****

Many thanks to  Barefoot Plus Travel for suppling my tour, guide and driver for the day at Ephesus.  I cannot recommend a travel company more highly.  Jill Diskan, who lives in both the US and Turkey, can  answer any and all questions about travel or destinations in Turkey. She is a fountain of knowledge and will make you trip run smoothly.

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