Ruins, history and memories....

Saturday 15 June 2013

 "A land without ruins is a land without memories
- a land without memories is a land without history"

A land without ruins by Rev Abram Joseph Ryan (An American poet in the1860's and chaplain in the Civil War)

Turkey has more ruins than you can ever see in one trip, and we are still discovering sites we've never visited before despite having travelled around the country for many years. The temptation to go back and see the 'biggies' like Ephesus, Troy, Aspendos, Aphrodisias and Pergamon is strong. But in the words of our trip tune - Willie Nelson's 'On the road again' though we want to be "goin' places that I've never been, seein' things I may never see again" so seeking out new sites is exciting for us.

Some are free to enter, overgrown and almost completely untouched. Others have nominal entry fees (£1 - £3 pp), are partly excavated and provide basic information on the sites history. In the heat of the day visiting ancient ruins probably isn't everyones idea of a 'great day out'. But we just love ambling around, admiring the stonework, imagining the towns in full flow at the height of their existence and marvelling at some of the beautiful settings - most often whilst sat in a ruined theatre overlooking the sea.

Theatre at Amos

All bar Knidos were places 'we'd never been before' - plenty of pictures and a little personal information from me on them below. If you want more in-depth historical information then follow the place name links to Wikipedia (most include maps of where the site is) or Google them.

Alexandria Troas 
We stumbled across this massive site which covered 990 acres in ancient times near the village of Dalyan. Today only some of the ruins are visible and are scattered across a vast area through which the road runs - sadly with very few stopping places for us in our van. In one tiny car park a guardsman was sitting in the shade and welcomed us to the site, there was no entry fee, it was completely overgrown but had some immaculately carved pieces of stone.

Apollon Smintheus 
Situated in the heart of Gϋlpinar village we paid our 5TL entry fee and wandered alone around this huge site at the end of a hot day. After issuing our tickets the guardsman returned to the tea house opposite where he probably sits for most of the day and we watched the locals walk through the site as a short-cut back to their homes on the other side of the village. Life is still very much going on around the ruins. The site is partly excavated and has a museum which opens in the height of summer when the archaeologists arrive to unearth more treasures. What catches your eye is the lush green patch of grass with sprinklers and the flags and leaflet showing it is sponsored by Efes (the main brand of beer in Turkey) - how much longer that will be allowed, as the government clampdown on alcohol continues, is unclear. Like most sites there is very little public money being invested in them as tourist attractions.

Signposted for miles we had high hopes for this site but it took some determination on our part to find the 'best bits'. Not short of visitors, Turks and foreigners, it has a flashy ticket booth, 4 guards on duty, bar-code reader turnstile gates and sits at the top of a hill lined on each side with loads of stalls selling all manner of 'tat'. We paid our 8TL and wandered around admiring the Temple of Athena but couldn't help thinking there had to be more to it than that. We went back to the ticket booth and asked if they had a leaflet (as it was also sponsored by Efes) - they said not and directed us to their bookshop. Undeterred we went back to the faded site map and fathomed out we were 'missing' the necropolis, theatre, gymnasium, stoas and a number of other buildings. Back at the ticket booth we finally managed to get them to tell us we needed to go to the lower gates but they couldn't explain how we got there. We ran the gauntlet of the stall sellers again, not needing olive oil soap, a headscarf, a rug or a wooden spoon today, got back in the van and drove about half a mile out of the town - not a single signpost in sight. The rusty turnstiles at these gates were open and unmanned, the lower site was largely overgrown and sprawled over a huge area. It was fascinating and very peaceful - obviously as no-one else could find it!

The Temple of Athena in its heyday.....
.....and reconstructed today

The mystery is how we get to the rest of the site down there

Quite close to one of Neilson's Beach Clubs we followed the road to its end and found Teos - once a flourishing seaport, now another overgrown rambling site. Free to enter and wander around we walked further than the roadside ruins and found a little theatre in amongst the olive trees.

Tunnel beneath the theatre

Claros (or Klaros) 
Another free site we stumbled across and being only 1 km off the main road decided to take a 'punt' on this one. Some of the brown signs we have followed have taken us nowhere or down lanes we just can't squeeze through. The track to this one was tight as we negotiated the fruit trees on each side but the rewards were well worth it. An important centre of prophecy in ancient times it has been partly excavated and there are a number of information boards dotted around the site. It floods during the winter and spring and when we visited a large proportion of the site was underwater and was teeming with wildlife including terrapins and dragonflies.

Another 'drive-by' ruin not far from the slightly touristy but very attractive town of Turunç, near Marmaris.  The theatre (see photo above) is in a beautiful setting overlooking the sea. Little else survives apart from statue bases and large city walls but it's free and we're not complaining!

Doesn't quite look like the illustration at the entrance

With Annie, Teo and Jake we set off for a 'Famous Five' trip to this site on the shores of Bafa Lake, 3TL entry fee for people, dogs get in free! The village of Kapikiri has a population of  about 300 people - most of them friendly and going about their daily life unaffected by the few tourists that venture off the main road. We watched the farmers moving their livestock, bought cold drinks and honey from the local shops and chatted with the old boys in the tea house. However there is a small 'gang' of very determined local women who follow you around trying to sell their scarves, embroidery, rugs and trinkets. Two sweet looking little girls, who you might think would be their apprentices, actually wanted protection money to get the 'gang' to back off. Anyway they gave up at the theatre and we carried on up along the paths behind the village to view the panoramic hills in the distance where small sections of the city walls remain intact. 

Knidos / Cnidus
This ancient harbour was the first place Dave arrived at when he sailed to Turkey back in 1984. We have both revisited it a number of times since then, for us its remoteness, at the westernmost tip of Datca peninsula, its position on the headland and its size just keeps drawing us back. Books have been written about it and excavations have unearthed many new treasures. We paid our 8TL entry fee and wandered around for hours, Dave played with the sundial, I posed where Aphrodites naked statue used to greet the visiting sailors and we both sat in the theatre watching the yachts trying to anchor in the very windy and weedy bay. Happy memories....

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