Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Aphrodisias (For Real This Time)
True, last spring's trip was one for the books: danger, romance, intrigue - all that. Well, maybe it was a little light on the intrigue, but it was definitely a wonderful bit of traveling. When I got back, though, I was constantly nagged by the feelıng that I'd missed something ımportant. It stuck with me throughout the summer. I'm pretty sure it was because I missed out on Aphrodisias, a swell ruin in the middle of nowhere. Last time I was unable to get there due a lack of buses heading down that road. This time around, I took charge of matters in the form of renting a car from a guy named Tarik in Dalyan. This is what he stuck me with:
That would be a Fiat Doblo:
See? How is the Doblo? Well, it do blo! Har! OK, so it looks funny, has little to no power and handles like a shopping cart, but it was a diesel and got fantastic mileage. I only had to spend $90 on fuel! I'm not joking. That's actually not much to spend. So I decided to absorb the expense for the sake of seeing this super-cool place. First, I had to visit my pal Veli in Tavas, a dusty little town on the way to Aphrodisias:
There he is. He helped get me back to Dalyan after last spring's failure. After that brief stop, I continued along to the ruins. The first time I was there, the place had about 10 visitors a day. In fact, I think I got in free because the ticket-seller guy was asleep. Things have changed a bit. They now get so many tour buses that they've built this separate parking lot across the highway. It's a bit of a walk, so tourist get shuttled over there in this contraption:
Yeah, that's a tractor pulling a wagon with seats bolted to it. It was not a smooth ride, but everybody knows that the next best thing to riding on a tractor is being towed by one. So I arrived in style.
I first visited here 14 years ago, but theyive excavated a lot since then. Nevertheless, the highlights remain the same. There's the Tetrapylon:
I'm not sure what its purposed was back in the day, but it sure makes for a fine photo. It is to Aphrodisias what the Library of Celsus is to Ephesus. But it doesn't end there. This ruin also sports the best preserved stadium in the classical world. At least that's what they say. Have a look:
It seats 30,000 (Aphrodisias' population was only 20,000) and it was used mostly for chariot races and gladiator fights. I eavesdropped on the German tour guide and she was saying that they also held theatrical performances there. That's kind of weird because they had a perfectly serviceable theater nearby, see:
They also have a very nice odeon, which they're now calling a bouleterion. Well, ooh la la!
And look at that! Some ancient Greek-person dropped their breakfast muffin 2000 years ago and there it is - perfectly preserved:
They also have themselves a perfectly enormous agora:
And there's still so much more to excavate - like the entire north side of town. This is what it looks like:
Very ruined, no?
Here's the thing: I was there for around three hours and ended up taking something like 300 photos. Seriously. I have so many of them that I'll probably start another blog just featuring them along with scanned photos of past trips. Stay tuned for that. So I'm just gonna skip all that stuff for the moment.
Anyhow, the truly great thing about Aphrodisias is that so much of the public architecture was richly ornamented. And it's just laying around:
You get the idea. It's everywhere.
Another gem at the site is the museum:
Here is just a sampling of their wares:
That's Bellerophon with Pegasus. And here are the three Graces:
Like I said, this is just a sliver of what I shot. There was just so much around. I highly recommend it.
It's funny. I rented cars for my first three trıps in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Gas was cheap and I had a lot of ground to cover. There were cars all over the road. Turks are exceptionally bad drivers - they also had the world's highest per capita road fatality rate in the world in the early nineties - and every time I covered any sort distance, I'd almost die about a hundred times. Things have changed since then. The price of regular gas is creeping up on $10 a gallon, so now the roads have far less traffic. Most of Turkey's worst drivers now ride the bus. My drive up to Aphrodisias (about 150 miles) was uneventful. I just listened to terrible pop music on Virgin Radio and kept the Doblo on the road. But coming back, I witnessed an honest-to-goodness accident. It happened right in front of me. I was following this Farmer Renault (it's a car so awful that only farmers buy it; I swear to God that it's powered by a lawnmower engine) on this twisty-turny road. The Doblo's natural tendency was to plow into the nearest tree, but I kept it on the pavement the best I could. We reached a town and there was this junky old Şahin (a Turkish Fiat) in front. The Farmer Renault went to pass on the left, but suddenly the Şahin took a left turn. They ended up ramming each other. The Farmer Renault got its bumper torn off and its side was all caved in. The Şahin kept its bumper, but had similar damage. Nobody was hurt, but the women in the Farmer Renault were pretty freaked out. I didn't stick around. It was clearly the Farmer Renault's fault, because the Sahin had his turn signal on. So that was exciting. And shortly afterward I returned to Dalyan.
I busted my budget to rent this car. Was it worth it? Absolutely.