Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Journey through the Ruins

An interpretation of The Horse outside the archeological site

Tuesday: Troy to Kusadasi:
Troy was a brief trip from our hotel but we had to compete for the site with three busloads of Koreans and Chinese which meant that we were getting four or more guides in three different languages talking about a particular part of the site or else just as one was framing up a shot someone would stand right in the centre of the frame to take their group shot of happy people with the ruins behind them.
The road to Troy was marked with kofetesi vying for attention - even one with its own wooden horse outside!
Troy itself is a small archeological site compared to those we’ve seen in Jordan, Italy, Greece and other parts of Turkey. However the site is the focus of mythology and history that forms such a large part of our cultural literary heritage that it becomes bigger than it is. It is, though, a confusion of excavations, of histories and stories that it becomes something like emptying a plastic bag of a jigsaw onto the table only to find that there are five different 1000 piece jigsaws in the bag and no illustration of what one is to recreate from the pieces.

The history of the excavations made fascinating reading especially the meglomania of the German, Schulimein, who rediscovered Troy in the late 19th-early 20th century. To divorce his Russian wife in order to marry a Greek woman on the strength of his belief that Greek sounded beautiful when spoken by a woman reading the Iliad certainly shows the sort of man he was.
Brad Pitt's Horse of Troy
We left the others of our small party at Cannakule and took a local bus to Izmur and on to Kusadasi before our visit to Ephesus and Pammakule.
The bus trip took us along the Aegean coast through olive groves and rugged hills in brilliant sunshine for much of the afternoon. We passed through one small town with a sign outside its cemetery advertising overnight camping available. Either someone was very hopeful or else the sign erector hadn’t thought too much about placement.
A lot of the buildings along the road had that half finished look of families waiting for the next generation to build and move in above while others appeared as complete holiday villas waiting for the summer influx.
We arrived at Kusadasi to find that our driver to take us to our hotel had been waiting at a different bus station 20 km down the road - a result of mixed messages between agencies apparently.

Once we had sorted out our locations we were transferred to our Hotel-The Charisma - where we looked out over the Aegean towards the Greek Islands. A view that made us wish we were travelling in the summer as the sea looked incredibly inviting.
Wednesday: Ephesus:

The tour of the ruins of Ephesus was another highlight of archeology. The city had been an important trade port for centuries as well as being a focus for the worship of the mother goddess - Artemis and the reputed place where the Virgin Mary died and the centre of the early Christian church with St.John, St Paul and the Councils of Ephesus all working and meeting in churches there.

Artemis - the mother Goddess

I found it interesting that the city had been the centre for the worship of the mother goddess centuries before the advent of Christianity and that St. John had deliberately taken Mary there after Christ’s death and that she was reputed to have died there especially after witnessing the veneration given the Virgin Mary over Christ in European countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy. The connection between the two would not be a coincidence in the establishment of a credible religion based around Christ in Roman times.
The city’s ruins show the flow of power struggles between city states, expanding empires, religions and changing geography across the centuries. Here the Greeks, Romans, Goths and Ottomans built or destroyed buildings or documents as they moved back and forth across Turkey in the quests for power.

The Brothels of Ephesus knew something about advertising. This sign says follow me to pleasure.

It was interesting to note that vandalism wasn’t confined to the Goths for the early Christians, much like some of the fundamentalists we see now, had spent time defacing sculptures and paintings in the drive to “purify” the city and remove the signs of earlier beliefs.
Many of the remains reminded us of Jerash we walked around in Jordan last year. Especially the performance areas and the statuary that would have dominated the streets and walls of the city.

The Library of Celsus reminded us of the facade of the Treasury in Petra with its soaring columnsa and facade set against the hills of the city.
From Ephesus we visited a leatherwear factory and carpet - kilim workshop. The Carpet workshop gave us a history of the different regional carpets so we had a better understanding of the work we were constantly being shown and blandished to buy at different times and places throughout the region.
Thursday: Pammakule and overnight to Cappadocia:
With a bus load of travellers we set off for Pammakule - a three hour trip through olive groves and farms interspersed with villages in varying stages of vitality and industry. Nearly every viable village shop along the way was decorated with a Turkish flag and a picture of Ataturk. The Parks were also dotted with statues of heroic soldiers performing gallant deeds on battlefields as well as statues of Ataturk.
The houses along the road side were a confusion of pinks, greens, blues and ochres with tiled rooves bowed with the weight of years almost as though they had been there since the beginning of the time.
We arrived at Pammakule- Heriapolis after a substantial lunch at a restaurant and were ushered through the necropolis that surrounds the city and through the gates of the ruined city.

In Roman times the city was, like Varanasi in India, the place to die for it was reputed to be the gateway to Hades so that anyone buried there would have a guaranteed entry to the afterlife. The stories about the cult of death here told us by our guide reminded me of Devenish Island in County Fermanagh where the Abbot had ensured the popularity of his graveyard by burying a portion of St. Paul’s thumb in the cemetery then charging the wealthy huge sums to be buried near it so that on the sounding of the last trump their souls would be sucked up along with that of St.Paul as his thumb quested to rejoin the body before entry to heaven. A great selling point if you can persuade people to believe in the product!
Heriapolis would have been a large city at its peak - probably 150,000 if estimates based on the size of the theatre are accurate. The City was also the centre for the cult of Peresphone and the associated oracle who, after bathing in the hot pool, chewed laurel leaves and was led to the vent under the temple of Apollo to breathe the noxious gases that emanated from Hades and then to provide riddled answers to questions from the locals about their lives and activities.
From the city we walked down the calcium terraces to the present township below where we whiled away the hours over food and beer before the overnight bus to Cappadocia.

Standing in the Pamakkule pools

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