Apr 20, 2014

Aphrodisias an underrated if not better Ephesus

The road to Aphrodisias, Aydin, Turkey in spring time.

Sebasteion, Aphrodisias, Aydin, Turkey.

When it comes to visiting an ancient site in Turkey, it's Ephesus up, Ephesus down... one cannot but help but wonder why being named after the goddess Aphrodite, Aphrodisias is so underrated despite being as preserved as Ephesus, if not better. In addition, given its inland location between Aydin and Denizli, one can still beat the crowds in Aphrodisias which is impossible with Ephesus. Plus, it has an amazing museum. Established on a grid plan, Aphrodisias truly is an amazing site to visit. As we entered, I was immediately struck by the Sebasteion, the building symbolizing unity of the Ruler and God. The Greeks apparently figured out 2500 years ago what was awaiting Turkey in the 21st century under Tayyip Erdogan.

View from the Acropol towards the theater
in Aphrodisias, Aydin, Turkey.

Under Romans, Aphrodisias became the capital of Karia but it was also a pilgrimage center as well as a cultural center as evident by its 10000 people capacity theater and 30000 capacity stadion. The stadion is one of the best preserved of its kind in the whole country and makes you wonder what it must have been like to watch a gladiator fight. 

The stadion at Aphrodisias is well preserved despite
countless earthquakes.
At the time we visited, the nature was mingling with Aphrodisias in all sorts of ways: flowers found their way through the thousand year old stones; pools that carried water to the city and baths that resisted earthquakes were filled with rain water and frogs. One could still see the snow capped mountains in the distance that helped fill those pools. What was most striking behind the Hadrian baths was the remnants of a (possible) school of sculpture. Even today around Babadag mountain, there are marble stone factories. What a continuity!

Tetrapylon, Aphrodisias, Aydin, Turkey.

As one slowly passes through the Tetrapylon to exit Aphrodisias, one should take a break at the museum cafe. After that visit the museum and see the 1958-61 taken black-white pictures (by famous Ara Güler) of Aphrodisias with the dirt poor villagers of the time using the stones in various ways. Then visit the killer museum. Amazingly preserved sculptures of the ancient city are on display here. 

The three graces Joy, Splendour & Bloom at the
Aphrodisias Museum, Aydin, Turkey.

Nero & Agrippina at Aphrodisias Museum.

The next day, head to famous Pamukkale, 20 km away from Denizli. Its literal translation to English is cotton castle and indeed, the huge mountain is like a castle and the white stone is like cotton. Use all the sunblock you can since white is pretty good to burn your skin down. As you enter and walk up bare foot, one is struck by the nature's work. Again, it's a pity that this famous tourist spot in Turkey is so crowded even in April. 

One of the many travertine pools in Pamukkale,
Denizli, Turkey.
Once you are on top of Pamukkale, head to the Thermal Pool. Taste a gözleme with cheese and spinach and then head to the theater of Hierapolis where you will get an amazing view of the region with its vineyards. In fact, Pamukkale is a local wine brand and you should taste it. Its advertisement is now forbidden thanks to the 2013 introduced alcohol restrictions. But do not be fooled, Mr. Erdogan's government is not trying to impose its conservative life style in a country with 80% of its population not drinking. They are just concerned about their citizens' health even when the country does not have a drinking problem. Then look around. It's kind of sad that all this Greek civilization is now struck within the borders of this increasingly authoritarian country. Wait a minute, what is the semantics for authoritarian (autokrator)? Isn't it coming from Greek? 

Thermal pool at Hierapolis, Turkey.

Theater at Hierapolis amid the valleys of Pamukkale.