Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a Roman city with a population of 250,000 during the 1st century B.C.

We got to wander around on the main marble-paved road framed by a line of columns on either side and peer down the occasional gap to see that the streets were also the top of an elaborate sewage system running under the streets. Ephesus had running water.

The city also boasted a huge amphitheatre, marble latrines and an amazingly restored facade of the city’s library that you see on the left. It is impressive as it stands now, it must have been absolutely magnificent in its time.

We also enjoyed pouring over the construction techniques on display in the diagram you see and thinking about what it would have taken to build a city without power tools.  Another fascinating discovery: the Romans didn’t use mortar – they poured molten lead to set stones in place and hold the iron ‘nail’ they had driven into the stone. Click on the image to see it enlarged.

Ephesus was also home of one of the ancient wonders of the world – the Temple of Artemis/Cybele. Sadly now only one column remains. However, statues of Cybele – and Anatolian fertility goddess –  are preserved in a museum.

Anatolian fertility goddess

Cybele was later co-opted into the Greek and Roman pantheon as the goddess Artemis. But if you ask me, this many-breasted matronly figure is nothing like the young, nimble huntress of the Greeks…

The Evil Eye

The charm

Here in Turkey you are never safe. Danger lurks in every face. At any time someone can turn the evil eye on you. Maybe because they didn’t like something you did, or maybe because they’re jealous of you.

But don’t be too worried. There is some protection available. It comes in the form of a charm you can keep about you to ward off evil eyes. It looks like an eye, sometimes with a ribbon on top. And in these heavily-touristed times they come in stickers, keychains, pillowcases, earrings – just about anything you can think of, really.

Turkish truckers know all about it. The superstitious among them paint large evil eye charms onto their vehicles to keep them safe on the road.

Why have one when you can have two?

Figs – going to the source

Everytime I look at a package of dried figs in the grocery store in Europe (usually with longing) I notice that the country of origin is often Turkey. Along the way on this trip I’ve been biding my time and waiting for a chance to indulge in my rightful Greek heritage. We finally arrived in Turkey and I’ve been enjoying the abundance of figs.

On the left, you see one dried fig, one fresh green-skinned fig, and one with the red sweet interior exposed. There is also a dark purply-black skinned variety.

The dried versions make a great snack and last forever. Here in Turkey they even come in necklace form.

Fig necklace

To give you an idea of relative cost: In Canada, a fresh fig (as in one fresh fig) goes for $0.99.

Here, fresh figs go for about 2.50 Turkish Lira per kilo. At the local weekly market in Foça, I bought 7 figs for 1.50 Turkish Lira – 0.22 or about 0.10 Euros each… And they were absolutely delicious! Exotic fruit is definitely one of the fun parts of traveling.

In the background you can catch a glimpse of the Aegean sea – the ideal setting for enjoying fresh, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth fruit.

Unique Dining

With a warm climate comes outdoor eating. With outdoor eating comes cafe and restaurant crowded streets which always feel lively and pleasantly pedestrian-focused. In Datca, we found dinner tables right on the beach. During the day the tables were stored away, and every evening put out along with lamps and electrical extension cords. Simple, creative use of outdoor space.

Datca Dining

By chance we’ve stumbled upon some neat spots. Having a vehicle has made it easier to take advantage of the more out of the way ones.

Boardwalks and tables on stilts

Here’s another example of Turkish creative use of natural features: a restaurant nestled in a river. They offered a chance to fish for your dinner. The tables were cleverly perched on low stilts over rocky pools. A few trees providing shade and the running water made it a lovely, cool spot (much needed in Turkish summer) with lots to watch: fish in the pools of water, a few ducks and diners hoping to be successful fishermen. We suspect that the fish were fed – we didn’t witness a single catch while we were there.

Click on any of the images to see bigger versions.


Prometheus vs. The Chimera

The Chimera Sleeps Below

Along the Turkish Mediterranean coast where the Greeks used to live, there is a second Mount Olympos (We Americans would have called it New Olympos).  At the foot of Mount Olympus (the second) is a hillside famous for thousands of years.  It’s famous because it’s been on fire for those thousands of years.  Apparently, it’s dying down a bit, since the flames used to be easily visible by ships sailing by in the Med (about a kilometer away).

At the moment they are conveniently about the size of a small camp fire.

So this hillside has some sort of methane gas that has been streaming out of the hillside (on fire) continuously throughout recorded human history.  It is suspected to be the source of the Chimera legend (the lion-goat-snake) of Homeric fame.

It occurred to me that Prometheus might have had it easier than he let on in his quest to ‘steal fire from the gods’ if it really only involved some sailing and an hours walk in the woods.

Steal Me

In my mind, his people accidentally let their fire go out and turn to him and he says “Again?”, sighs, “Oh all right, I’ll be right back…”

The neatest thing about seeing these fires burning away is that some of the fires don’t have visible holes and so it looks just like the rocks themselves are burning.

Old Places

Just Chilling

Among others vying for the title of “Oldest Continuously Inhabited Places on Earth” is Harran.  It’s an interesting stop a few reasons:

  1. Abraham (Yes, THE Abraham) lived here
  2. Beehive houses (designed three thousand years ago)
  3. A really nice ruined castle to clamber over

Beehive houses are designed to stay cool on this baking dry desert plain.  Most people seemed to have them as storage areas (and to draw the tourists) in this age of air conditioning.

Roomy Fixer-Upper

The castle ruins were very fun to explore.  Un-reconstructed, you could climb up and over and under all three levels of the castle.  Each one had twenty foot high vaulted ceilings, which made the three levels together quite a high building.  The outer walls were huge blocks of stone that seem to have weathered the encroaching village fairly well.

The inside arched ceilings were made of wide clay bricks.  These ceilings made of interlaced bricks were still strong enough to walk over, as we found out walking around on levels 2 and 3.

Old Arched Ceiling

One Level Up - Humpy Floor

What remains

In the cliff-faces above town in both Kas and Fethiye in Turkey, we saw what is left of the burial traditions of the Lycians.

The Lycians didn’t build pyramids for their dead or cremate their dead on barges afloat on sea, instead  they carved resting places into the mountainous landscape.

These rock tombs are from the 4th Century B.C. They are very elaborate and impressive, and seem to be purely carved from the rock face. No stone added on top or afterward. (Except perhaps to block the entrance to the interior where the remains would have been laid).

I am especially impressed by the ones carved above ground level. Look closely for a glimpse of Lycian writing.

Silk Road Hotel

The famous silk road crossed our path. Or, to put it in order of historical importance, we’ve managed to come across the silk road’s path here in Turkey.

The silk road is dotted with little oases of repose (called Caravanserai) along the way, about 15 to 30 km  (a day’s walk/ride) apart, providing water, shade, and a protective wall to the traveling merchants plying the east-west trade route. A number of them still stand. The one we visited was a sandy-coloured stone building framing a courtyard open to the sky. Quite a neat place to be in. The spot exudes calm and cool from the big stone walls and it is easy to picture the weary, dusty travel that would have been involved to get there.

If you look closely at the pictures you will see the old solid WOOD wheels that were used,  protected by an exterior metal rim – the wheel equivalent of horseshoes….

Peter’s Place

Just Large Enough

Turkey has all sorts of wonderful historical elements left over from the countless different groups that lived here at various times during history.  In the South East of Turkey in particular, one of these groups was the very early Christians.  Among the earliest of these upstarts was Peter, who found himself a nice quiet cave to do his preaching in town we call Antioch (Antakya in Turkish), where groups of the oft-persecuted people first started to call themselves ‘Christians’.

This is Peter’s Cave.

Disappointingly, we found that the guys who ran the facility were all Muslim.  Now, there are Christians in Turkey, presumably some of whom would be delighted to work in this creche of their beliefs.  However, we’ve found that Turkey seems to have some funny ideas about religious freedoms which is rather ideally displayed by the fact that no effort is made to find Christians to administer to one of the oldest and most revered Christian sites.

Anti-Persecution Escape Tunnel

Peter’s cave has several interesting features.  One of them is an escape tunnel located in the rear left of the cave.  Another is a still pool on the rear right which handily collects water dripping down the wall into a nice basin for performing on-the-spot baptisms.

It isn’t very big, but being in a cave on the outskirts of town of potentially hostile inhabitants, it has its attractions.

Crusader Constructions

This is a rather nice wall out front that the crusaders built while on their way past here to Jerusalem.

Keeping Your Nuns Safe (and Virginal)

Nuns and Keeps

Looking back over Christina’s pics of Ani, the old Armenian capital on the silk road, I remember noticing an interesting problem for our ancient city planners.  The city is designed for safety out in the middle of the grassy steppes of what is the Eastern edge of Turkey.  (The mongols, we’re told, were not impressed)  So you set aside an area and build massive stone walls around it to keep everyone inside.  For the most part, once you are inside such impressive walls looking out, people felt pretty safe.

That leaves only the ticklish problem of what to do with your nuns…

To look at the pictures, I’m guessing the nuns in this area needed to be *extra safe*.  The first picture you see has two elements I’ll point out to you.  The first is the hill on the right side of the picture, on top of which is the site of the old city keep.  This would be the location of last resort in defense of the city, and the source of all your weapons and people to wield them.  That spot needs to be pretty secure, and so was built inside the city walls on a prominent hillock near the gorge.

Now look at the center of the picture and you will see how much more secure you need your virginal nuns to be.  The old nunnery is built on a clifftop….in fact on an isolated crag… in the middle of a river…. which we were told used to have a suspension bridge….

Presuming for a moment that architectural form follows function, it seems apparent that your virtuous nuns virtues needed protecting like the crown jewels themselves!

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