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Three Temples

After leaving Bodrum we wound our way through the countryside in search of more great temples.  Walter’s guide book described the temple to Zeus at Euromos as the one of the best preserved temples in Asia.

While we were driving down the narrow blacktop road we came upon a tiny donkey loaded down with olive branches.  The pile of branches was literally taller than the donkey and twice as wide, and you could just barely make out it’s little head in a red cloth halter among the topiary.  I tried to unlimber the camera, but we went by too fast.  Another excuse to return and look for overloaded donkeys.

We found the turn off for Euromos, drove up a winding, rut filled dirt road, and were in a pastoral paradise.  Ancient olive trees meandered across the mountain.  Wild flowers — red poppies, white and yellow daisies, blue and lavender bell shaped blossoms — glowed among the rich grass, and the temple loomed, hoary and magnificent.

 

There was the usual ticket booth, and one other car.  The other party had apparently made the hike to the theater so we had the temple to ourselves.  It really was magnificent.  Here I am channeling my god-like nature.

 

I climbed part way up the mountain trying to find an angle to shoot down on the temple, but the gnarled branches and flashing silver/green leaves of the olive trees made that impossible.  I sat on a boulder and listened to the wind sighing through the pines, drank in the colors and breathed the smell of spring grass and pine sap.   Reluctantly, I pulled myself away.

We discussed heading to the temple, but it sounded like it was very much a ruin, and truthfully we were getting tired.  We piled back into the car and headed for Lake Bafa and a temple to Athena.  Lake Bafa is interesting.  It was an arm of the Aegean sea that was eventually cut off from the sea by silt and (I’m betting) earthquakes.  It is HUGE, brackish, and the villages dotted along the lake make their living from fishing and agriculture.

We turned off our two lane “main” road, and headed deep into rock mountains.  Once again the incredibly diverse geology and landscape of Turkey left us breathless.  We were in search of Heraklia under Lamos.  It had been a Greek city, and it vanished before the Romans arrived.  As we drove we passed clefts in a rock where grass fought to survive.  Resting in these small clearings were hundreds of bee hives.    Now we understood why we had seen so many roadside sellers who offered gallon jugs of deep golden honey, and why all the desserts are made with it.  We reached a tiny village where the road ended. 

The houses were built of stone and goats and sheep dotted the meadows at the edge of the lake.  On a high promontory stood three walls.  No mortar held the stones they were dry stacked, but they’d been so carefully cut that they had withstood the centuries.

 

 

 

The site was overrun with a group of Turkish students, and tiny women from the village dressed in traditional outfits — headscarves that hugged their faces and pantaloons.  They all carried baskets covered by elaborately embroidered handkerchiefs.  Apparently this region is famous for it’s embroidery.  There were table clothes, napkins, handkerchiefs.  They were beautiful, but I knew I’d never use them.  They also had bead jewelry.  Pat continued her project to spread the wealth, and it was a sight to see her surrounded by these little ladies.  When I say tiny, I mean tiny.  I’m 5’2” tall, and I towered over these women.  They were all elderly too, and their faces were like wrinkled apples framed by their headscarves.  They were also insistent.  Once they saw that Pat would buy arguments broke out among them over who got to show off her wares.  They were like sparrows darting from crumb to crumb.  I regret not buying anything.  The people were very proud, but obviously very poor, and we were so far off the beaten track I’m not sure how many tourists they actually see.  Especially with the world economy so bad.

There was more to see, but the assault of the tiny ladies had overwhelmed Walter and me.  We paused to photograph a Byzantine fort on an island in the lake.  

When we turned back toward our car we saw a troop of ladies scrambling down a steep hill after us.   We fled.

Our next stop was Didyma, site of the temple of Apollo begun by Alexander the Great.  Walter spotted a sign that said Didyma and turned off.  What we later learned is that you look for the brown signs.  They indicate a historic site.  We turned at a white sign, and we ended up in a tiny village on the Aegean that is also called Didyma, but wasn’t the right Didyma.  We had lunch on a terrace overlooking the water, and we kept asking people about the temple.  We got blank looks in response.  

After finishing our meal we set out for what we thought was the promontory that held the temple.  We saw signs for a new seaside resort called the Apollonianum, but no temple.  We drove deeper and deeper into the mountains, passed orchards and fields.  We met families riding on tractors who stared at us in bewilderment and consternation.  Finally we gave up, and headed back toward the main road.  This was the second time in Turkey that giggles overcame me.  Especially since Walter kept getting turned around on all these little twisty roads.  Fortunately I have a really good sense of direction so I got us back to the main drag through the village.  

Returning to the blacktop we went a couple of kilometers, and found the brown sign for Didyma.  Walter was feeling guilty about the wasted time.  Pat and I assured him it had been a wonderful adventure, and I added that I was by god going to see this damn temple after all this effort.  Once more we turned aside, and headed toward the coast.  

We found the real Didyma, and you can’t miss the temple. 

It is massive, the third largest in the ancient world, (discounting Egypt of course), and utterly breathtaking. 

Check out the detail on the base of this column. 

 

There were a number of turtles moving ponderously through the deep grass, and Pat made certain every reptile got picked up and assisted over the giant fallen marbles.

The other great thing in Didyma was a shop.  I had dubbed the vendors in their open air stalls “crap sellers”, but in Didyma we found, in Walter’s words, The Nexus of All Crap.  In fact this store was so jam packed with crap that it went beyond crap.  It was more like the nexus of all shit.  Pat, in awed tones declared that every tacky piece of tourist kitsch from around the world had ended up here.  Here are a few examples.  There were tiny black jazz musicians, the type that are sold in New Orleans.  There were cheap African masks.  There were tiny rugs woven with the face of Atta Turk.  Some of them even had a large ward against the evil eye hanging off the bottom.  There was native American kitsch like tiny bows and arrows.  It truly was an awe inspiring sight.

I took over driving, and brought us back to Selcuk and Jimmy’s Place.  We debated between eating at the great Kofte restaurant or Jimmy’s but ended up at Jimmy’s.  We were pretty tired, and as always the food was great.  I was disappointed not to get back to see Euphesus in the sunlight, but next time.  
Our plan was to head to Pergamon the next morning,  I considered staying in Selcuk and going back to Euphesus, but I wanted to see everything, and Pergamon was a big site.

 
There was one thing I really wanted to experience before I left Turkey and that was the Turkish bath.  Walter had raved about his bath in Istanbul, and I was running out of days in which to experience this.  I also had a reason for wanting the bath massage, my neck was killing me.  There were signs at Jimmy’s for the bath, and so after dinner we asked.  Turns out the baths were open until 11:00 pm, and the bath house was two blocks from the hotel.  The three of us were off like a shot.  Pat and I took swimsuits because it wasn’t “ladies night”, but American modesty soon became annoying.  

I loved the Turkish bath.  It is the closest thing to experiencing a Roman bath in the modern world.  You are given an elaborately designed towel/shawl of rather thin material, and a pair of plastic sandals.  You then enter the airlock and into the bath itself.  Steam rises up like dancing dervishes.  In the center is a giant round slab of marble with people stretched out on the marble.  There are marble benches around the walls, and a couple of showers.

There are a couple of burly men with towels around their waists.  They sit you down on a bench, and pour a giant ladle of hot water over you.  Then they send you off to the marble slab.  It is warm, actually hot.  You lay there letting the heat warm and relax your muscles.  After a suitable length of time the men summon you to the bench, and instruct you to lay down.  At this point our suits were becoming annoying, and there were both men and women in the bath so Pat and I took off our suits.  Once you’re laid out on the bench the men scoop up great handfuls of soap suds, and spread them across your body.  It’s like having a cloud laid on your skin.  Then the bather puts on a rough sponge mitt, and proceeds to scrub you down, alternating scrubbing with a massage.  After you’ve been washed they pour the hot water over you again to remove the soap, and then they send you to the shower.  It’s a cold shower.  After the slab, the hot water, the massage to get hit with icy water is a shock.  I couldn’t help it.  I yelped.

Once out of the bath area you are seated in the ante-room next to a wood burning stove.  You’re wrapped in your towel, and the owner offers you tea.  My neck was still hurting so I paid the extra charge for an oil massage.  Pat also decided to get a massage.  There were three young women, one from Britain, and one, oddly enough, from Taos New Mexico who were teasing us about allowing burly Turkish men to massage us.

I was taken upstairs, and laid out on a table.  The masseur wanted to talk about Obama, and how much he liked our new President.  It was a little surreal.  Here it was 10:30 at night, I was in a Turkish bathhouse, talking about President Obama.

Returning to the hotel Pat uttered the immortal words of the trip.  "Here we are in a Muslim country, and I’ve been naked more often here than anywhere else I’ve ever been.  Well, what the hell, tits to the wind."  Walter and I were stunned into silence followed by hysterical laugher.  We then  fell into our beds and got ready for the next “best day ever”.

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