Melting away

Saturday 29 June 2013

Heading north and retracing our steps we parked up on a beach we had stopped at 5 weeks ago – finding a very different scene now. Then we we were the only visitors, the sea was decidedly chilly and the van was sand blasted by strong southerly winds all night. Now plenty of stalls and cafés are set out, the sea is warm and inviting and the wind much calmer. It’s a bit of a hidden gem this 12km stretch of golden sand north of Kusadasi. The locals arrive in all manner of vehicles cramming in as much paraphernalia as could possibly be needed for their day out with all their family and friends.

Not far from the beach is the ancient site of Notion. Parking up on the main road we walked down the rutted track and wandered around the free and largely unexcavated site. The only recognisable building was the theatre but we walked around for a good hour under the mid-day sun looking for other remains trying to avoid the prickly undergrowth and huge flying insects. It was probably the heat playing tricks with my mind but I couldn’t get the lyrics to the 70’s hit ‘Rock the boat’ out of my head the whole time we were there. The song writers must have had a mental block when they were trying to find words to rhyme with devotion and ocean......

"So I’d like to know where you got the notion...."
Back on the road we headed inland and up into the mountains – and this is the point at which the road started to melt! It was like driving on treacle – with sticky black tar oozing out of the surface. We slowly overtook a council vehicle with exhausted workers half-heartedly throwing out small shovel fulls of grit every meter or so – it was hardly worth their effort really as it made no noticeable difference. As our thermometer (best purchase yet from the Lidl ‘man-aisle’) peaked at 41.6 C (107 Fahrenheit)  we found a shady tree to park under for lunch and were joined by a string of other vehicles needing to stop to let their engines cool down. We get plenty of curious stares and cheery waves in Turkey – campervans still very much a novelty here.

Down the other side of the mountain range we arrived at Sardis, paid our 8tl each and tried to see as much of the site as possible by staying in the shade. Whilst we were sweating and stripping off layers a young couple in full wedding regalia were having their photos taken together with assorted props - the renovated bath-gymnasium complex providing an amazing backdrop. The synagogue has also been extensively restored and there are many colourful and intricate mosaic floor panels resembling carpets dating mainly to the 4th and 5th centuries AD. It felt wrong to be walking over these delicate 1500 year old floor coverings but there were no signs or barriers indicating otherwise.

Mosaic montage.....using Picasa's clever collage tool

The ancient site covered over 300 acres and sits in a fertile area of mountain pastures,  flowing rivers and alluvial plains. It has an interesting history having been occupied for over 3000 years by different civilisations and is a real hotch-potch of architectural styles. The Lydians occupied the site in 7th C BC and when metallurgists found a method of minting almost pure gold and silver coins, and thus a trusted currency, the kings became fabulously wealthy. Their burial mounds in nearby Bin Tepe, visible from afar,  were a testament to their power and wealth.  

Further up the valley lies the temple of Artemis – the photo below, taken in 1910, shows the soil level at that time and all that could be seen were the top half of two columns. Slowly over the past 100 years of painstaking excavation and reconstruction the ruins of the temple and altar have been revealed. Information boards explain how the temple was built and the different stages of its construction – and later destruction, through earthquakes and latterly removal for stone quarrying. Travellers  reported seeing 12 columns in 1444, 5 in 1750, 3 in 1812 and 2 in 1824.

In amongst the huge pieces of rock is a little piece of British engineering. A crane, with a lifting capacity of 5 tons, which was manufactured by Dorman Long in Middlesborough then shipped out and reassembled at Sardis in 1911. 

We headed back towards the coast in search of the sea and a cooling breeze and found quirky Dikili. A very traditional holiday resort with the Turks with no foreigners around at all - it reminded us of Altinkum when we visited over 20 years ago. We had a drink in a seafront cafe watching the sun go down and camped up on the beach. Just brilliant... sad to be leaving Turkey but looking forward to Greece and hopefully Albania.