Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meanwhile... 2nd & Bell, there's a guy serving hots dogs - dressed as a hot dog. This is a great moment for costumes.

Your Sunday Squirrel

Know what I did right after I got back? I went to Denny Park and looked for squirrels. I found two. This is the first of them. He was quite friendly and not at all skittish. He was just making the rounds and re-burying some peanuts, as squirrels like to do. After a whole month of seeing zero squirrels, it was nice to run into this little fellow and his colleague. Viva squirrels!


It was a seven-hour process getting to Selcuk, which serves as a base camp for a visit to Ephesus. During the ride there, I met some Canadians from Vancouver. That further drove home the fact that during this entire trip, I haven't met a single American. But these guys seemed fun to hang out with and we made vague plans to meet up at the ruins the next day before finding our accommodations.

There's not much to Selcuk. It's basically a farming/market town that just happens to be next to Turkey's most popular ruined city. At this time of the season, I can't blame them for being a little sick of tourists. But they still go out every day, trying to sell visitors "genuine" ancient coins. I fell for that the first time I was there, paying a whole six dollars for three specimens. That was 14 years ago. I'm wiser now. The first time somebody hit me up with coins, I'd been in town for all of about 15 minutes. He also tried to sell me weed. Five minutes later, a bunch of friendly guys had entire pocketfuls of coins to sell. Another ten minutes after that, some dude in front of the museum tried again. Yeah, all those coins are fake. They make nice souvenirs if you can get them cheap, but don't think - as I actually did 14 years ago - that you're ferrying antiquities out of the country. You're not.

OK, so my hotel was quite pleasant. I had - I'm not kidding - the smallest hotel room ever. I'm sure it was a converted broom closet. But it was quite comfortable and the price was right so I was happy to be there. There was a good view of the old Turkish fortress from my window. It looked very much like this:

It was closed for renovation, so there was no point in getting any nearer.

The night was windy and stormy. I woke up to a morning of heavy rain. Yes, it was still warm rain, but cooler than that of Patara. It didn't make any difference. There is just one Ephesus and this was my chance to see it. However, the weather was so intense that morning that I had to take shelter in the museum. Here's some of what I saw:

The guy above is, I think, Marcus Aurelius. It's tough to tell the Antonines apart. There are at least four of them: Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius and the uber-awful Commodus. They all had beards and curly hair. Likewise, the first four emperors, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, all strongly resemble each other. They were all from the same family line, but their resemblance is quite striking. The guy below is - if memory serves - Tiberius, but he could easily pass for Augustus:

OK, so with the weather finally starting to cooperate, I went off to Ephesus. It was about a three-mile walk from town. It would have been more pleasant if it hadn't been raining, but at least the thunder had passed. And so I arrived. I forgot about the carnival-like atmosphere by the front gate:

What scarves and handbags have to do with this place is beyond me, but hey, if it works for them, that's great. As luck would have it, I spotted the nice Canadians immediately after I arrived, so we went though the place together. Of course, the famous theater is always crawling with tourists like us:

I was actually a little dismayed about how much of it had been reconstructed. In fact, a very large part of Ephesus has been rebuilt or, at the very least, shored up with concrete and whatnot - in particular, the Library of Celsus. Well, it's understandable; they want people to see what the city more or less looked like back in the day. And that's the draw of Ephesus. Plus, the theater still hosts shows of all sorts. I heard tour guides explaining that Ray Charles, Sting and a bunch of lesser lights have had concerts there. And yes, the acoustics are quite admirable. So I guess that rebuilding it to accommodate modern audiences is just fine. Still, there's something about it that doesn't rest with me. I can't quite say what it is. Anyhow, here's a lot of stuff from around the Library of Celsus:

Yeah, it's pretty glorious - and infested with tourists. It's weird; people are always falling down the building's stairs. The first time I was there, two people tumbled. This time another two fell. None of the four was injured, but it happens a lot. Hey look, toilets!

The toilets and the brothel are both popular stops. Unfortunately the brothel was closed due to (re)construction. Boo! OK, so more stuff:

At first, I though this odeon was in a nice ruined state, but no. It's been reconstructed, too. The thing is that for every reconstructed building, there are ten things like this:

Now that's just silly! They just pile debris on debris. That ain't a city. Here are just a few more things:

It was good seeing the place and the Canadians were curious about stuff and overall good company. But we weren't quite done. The so-called Artemesion (the Temple of Artemis) awaited us on the way back. Every single guidebook warns in advance that it's very disappointing. Back in the day, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; it was the largest building constructed by the Greeks. These days, it's a swamp. This is what it looks like:

Apparently, there were 127 of those giant columns in the original temple. But one day in 356BC, a crazy guy had a dream that told him that if he set the Temple of Artemis on fire, his name would be remembered throughout the ages. His name was Erastratos. His dream was right. According to legend, Alexander the Great was born on the very night that Erastratos set the place ablaze. Today, no glory remains of the former temple. Souvenir hawkers abound. It's not really a good place to linger and contemplate the transience of existence.

OK, that was Ephesus. Troy awaited me up the coast courtesy of a dreaded night bus. More on that ordeal in the next post.

Patara, Pt. 3

As luck would have it, the next day was gorgeous. I spent the entire day at the beach. It was mostly deserted. Thank God, though, that those few folks there in the vicinity weren't old naked Germans. Sorry about the photo repetition, but this is what the scene looked like:

I never get tired of visiting this gigantic beach.

I told myself that if the weather held, I'd stay till the end of the week and then make my way to Istanbul on a dreaded night bus. The next day, however, was once again rainy and grim. I packed up and headed out. Unfortunately, Soner Zeybek wasn't around, so I'll have to save my goodbye to him till the next time. This entire trip had taken me away from most bustling tourist destinations. For a change of pace, I decided to go to two of the best known and most crowded: Ephesus and Troy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meanwhile... 3rd & Lenora, there's a large pile of creepy stuffed animals getting rained on. Look:

OK, I really am back. I have been since last Tuesday. I should be done with this little chronicle by Monday. I have to say that the last week was the best. I will try to explain why in the next few days.

And if you don't believe I'm back, here's your proof:
Ryuichi Sakamoto is playing at the Moore tonight. Melly Chlistmas, Mistah Rawrence!

And Now...

A short film about a really boring Pataran goat:

I'm sorry this guy isn't more entertaining. You just figure that goats are very dumb - boy, are they ever - and they do all sorts of crazy stuff. It's just a matter of time before shenanigans happen, right? Well, it was not to be. Apologies. But at about this time, I was feeling really good about not getting killed by lightning earlier in the day, so yes, I consider this quality entertainment.

Patara, Pt. 2

Well, after the Xanthos experience, I was thinking seriously about getting the heck out of Patara. I mean, at least in Dalyan when the weather was crappy, you could hang out in some bar and watch Tomb Raider in Turkish - not that I did, but I knew the possibility existed. But in Patara, it was so small that there was absolutely nothing to do. In preparation for leaving, I figured I'd go see the ruins, rain or shine, upon my return from Xanthos. They'd really come along in the last dozen years. The first time I saw them in 1998, almost everything was buried under about 10 feet of sand and what wasn't buried was completely overgrown and inaccessible. I dawdled at the Zeybek 2 while the last of the rain fell, then, lo and behold, the sun came out and I set off. Here's what I have to report:

OK, this is gonna sound super-nerdy, but the ruins of Patara contain some excellent examples of Roman masonry. These walls have stood for around 1900 years. That's completely amazing given the amount of earthquakes that have hit the region in the last two millennia. I mean, it's a miracle that anything is still there. But the Romans (the rulers of the region by the first century AD) were engineers. Lord knows where they got the know-how, but they built stuff solid. Anyhow, here is the agora:

As you can see from the photos below, they're reconstructing the odeon - oops, I mean the bouleterion. Yes, I'm conflicted about that. Thanks to the heavy, heavy rain, everybody had gone home. Here's a look:

I'm told that they're using an authentic reproduction of an ancient diesel crane from that approximate era to help them in their efforts. Showing no signs of just about anything is the theater. This is what it looks like from the outside:

See the difference between of color there and how the top part is a weathered gray and the bottom is a relatively more youthful tan? Do you?? Well, that's how deep it was buried in sand. I'm not sure how long it was like that, so I'll just say it remained that way for centuries. Here's what the interior looks like:

OK, again with the masonry on those last three. Those are the theater's passageways (I think they were known as vomitoria - honest!). They still hold near-perfect arches. Completely incredible. I climbed up the hill in back of the theater and took this intriguing shot:

What do you suppose that is? A cemetery for all the brave Turks who perished during the reconstruction of the bouleterion? No, those are fragments of the former city that have yet to be matched up with other fragments of the former city. Here's a closer look:

Well, best of luck, fragments! I'm sure there's match for each and every one of you!

Here is the what I saw on the way out:

That last thing above is what's left of their aqueduct. Seriously folks, masonry!

Well, that was it for my two-ruin day. Patara proved to be incredibly pleasant, weather-wise. On my way back to modern-day Patara (about a mile from the old one), I spotted the greatest sign ever made. Here it is:

In case you're having trouble reading it, it goes like this

Jimmy's the Harroos of Pataras
Patara Market
Santa Glavs Buys His Toys Heve

Bravo, Patara Market, bravo.