On Sunday (my birthday) I awoke to a room full of balloons that Jamie had blown up during the night. When we went down to eat I found on the table a pot of wild flowers that he’d picked for me earlier. What a star. After a simple breakfast we headed off to Afrodisias. We arrived ten minutes before the site opened and were let in. What an absolute treat. We were the only ones there for almost the entire visit. It is truly impressive, in excellent condition and an absolute must for anyone remotely interested in history. I find it difficult to say what impressed me most, but the imposing Tetrapylon was a fantastic way to start off the visit.
The stadium, which seats 30,000 people, left us both speechless. The two agoras, temples, palaces, colonnaded palaestra, odeum, bath houses and other structures kept us absorbed, but again, it was the theatre that charmed us. It has been built in one of the two bronze age mounds found on the site and is in great condition, with carved names on some of the seats and an impressive throne-style chair in the middle of the front row. The stage is in good repair with inscriptions and carvings surrounding it. We tested the acoustics which were superb, you can hear a whisper from the stage in the top row. Before we left Afrodisias we took my brother’s, advice and visited the museum which houses some spectacular statuary. The sculptors of the day were so talented that they managed to turn stone to cloth – the folds and draping of the carved garments were truly exquisite. We particularly liked a series of “shield portraits” of philosophers and important men which had been found in one of the houses and were mounted side by side on the front wall inside the museum.
Afrodisias had been a unique experience for us. Visiting the site with no-one else around, on a beautiful sunny day in Spring must be just about the best way of seeing it. Next was Efes (Turkish for Ephesus), but that was going to be a different matter.
Before Efes, though, a word on the flowers. Springtime in Turkey is gorgeous. All of a sudden the whole of the country is covered in blooms. Blankets of poppies appear in every possible patch of green. Giant thistles display their purple flowers with glee and meadows of every colour of wild flower cover the countryside. Along with the flowers come butterflies, bees, grasshoppers, beetles and all kinds of colourful insects. Birdsong is everywhere and all in all it is a magical time of the year.
Efes is world famous, and rightly so. It is a truly magnificent site, but there is so much to take in it is almost overwhelming. To be honest you should probably spend more than an afternoon to glean everything from it. We walked through it, stopping at the big attractions and absorbing the atmosphere of the city. We tried to imagine what it must have been like at the time and decided, given the number of visitors was probably around the same as the number of original inhabitants, it was probably not far off what we were seeing. The theatre, like those of Hierapolis and Afrodisias was very impressive. I also particularly liked walking along the marble-paved streets and wouldn’t have missed the communal latrine for the world. The library façade was breathtaking and doesn’t disappoint. It was the covered terrace houses, however, that were really thrilling. It is worth paying the extra 10 ytl to go in and have a look at them. You really get a sense of what it must have been like to live in splendour in Roman times. Someone said to me that they were disappointed by the frescoes which “looked like something out of Victorian times”. I gently pointed out that that was probably because the Victorians based their designs on classic Roman forms…
We left Efes and headed up into the hills for a peaceful evening’s rest. We stayed in the picturesque Greek village of Sirince at a beautiful pension called Kilisealti. It was wonderful to get away from the heat and bustle of Efes into this cooler mountain environment and once the coach loads of tourists went in the evening it was fairly quiet. Our pension was an old Greek house with thick walls, wooden floorboards and simple textiles and artefacts spread around the rooms. There were goats in the lower garden keeping the grass at bay. We walked the cobbled streets and bought some local wine. It is an area famous for making wine from the fruit it grows. We sampled peach, melon, blackberry, cherry and mulberry wines. They are not too sweet and not sticky at all, in fact very drinkable! Sirince is gorgeous, but don’t tell anyone else about it, will you?