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Turkey 1990

Ephesus to Mount Nemrut by way of Konya and Kayseri

Or, how to put 4,000 km on a hire-car in two weeks. This was a fly-drive holiday to visit the remains of several ancient cultures whilst experiencing the transforming culture of modern Turkey as western tourism comes slap bang up against the heady mixture of islam and Ataturk's secularism that built modern Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire despite the best attempts of Greece and the imperial powers, most notably Britain, in the 1920's.

The starting point for this auto-tour was Izmir or more precisely the airport. We got there in the middle of the night and set off south to go to Ephesus. The plan was to arrive at the ruins good and early as it becomes too crowded and hot later in the day. We were almost the first in at 8:30 and had seen it all by about 11:00 so we made our way to the nearest town, which is Selçuk, to find a pansiyon to stay in and spent the rest of that day snoozing before going out for dinner.

The fortress at Selçuk

The Great Theatre at Ehesus


The library of Celsus

Curetes Way, Ephesus

Monumental heads, Mt. Nemrut

Western Temple

Eastern Temple

The temples on top of Mt. Nemrut in Comagenes, in central Turkey, are a memorial to Antiochus I Epiphanes, who was a puppet of the roman empire. The statues are, or rather were, over 10 metres high. They are mostly in ruins now having been toppled by earthquakes over the years. Getting to Nemrut from the mediterranean coast involved going through Konya and Kayseri.

These are two of the more traditional Turkish cities, where islam still holds sway. At the centre of Konya is the Mevlana Monastery once home to the whirling dervishes and site of the tomb of Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273) the famous mystic poet. The mosques of Kayseri are amazing especially at 4:30 am when the call to prayer is deafening - living proof that God uses Vox amplifiers.

Kayseri, Kursunlu Cami (1585)
with Mt. Erciyes in background

Mevlana Türbesi,
the tomb of Celaladdin, Konya


The necropolis of Hierapolis

On our way inland from the coast we visited the tourist trap that is Pamukkale. Here a volcanic spring rich in salts has caused the hill to become terraced with pools. People come here from all over to bathe in the warm springwater and look at the view, especially at sunset as the hill faces west. In the time of the ancient Greeks the springs were held to be holy and a temple complex and a small city grew up around them.

This city, Hierapolis was abandoned when a change in the nature of the spring caused it to become poisonous. Nearby is the site of Laodicea, one of the Seven Churches mentioned in the Bible. It was prophesied that because Laodicea was neither hot nor cold in its faith it would be destroyed. All that rermains now are the ruins of a Roman bathhouse and a theatre slipping into the hollow of the hill.

The remains of Laodicea

The theatre, Miletus

The remains of the town of Nyssa make a pleasant antidote to all the hustle and bustle of Ephesus and Selçuk. Set into the hilside is the theatre with olive trees growing on the upper terrace of seats. There is little else here so few people come and you generally have the place to yourself appart from the cicadas. Miletus lies to the south of Ephesus and has a sprawling set of ruins that reflect some of the grandeur of its ancient status.

Despite the Altar of Zeus being in Berlin the massive complex at ancient Pergamum has many things to look at but none are as impressive as the Red Basilica which is in the centre of the modern town of Bergama. This was originally a centre for the worship of the Egyptian god Serapis in the second century AD. It then became a Byzantine church in the 5th century and under the Ottoman empire (from about 1350 AD) it fell into ruin.

Quiet solitude in Nyssa's theatre

The Red Basilica at Bergama

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