Monday, December 21, 2015

Mushrooms with everything: Bolu and around

Mushrooms with everything: Bolu and around

Mushrooms with everything: Bolu and around
Beauty of Mudurnu (Photo: Pat Yale)

“We call this one grandfather's beard. This is the deer mushroom. And this one is called blonde girl.”
I've arrived in bolu in mushroom season and in front of the late 15th-century Kadı Cami, conspicuous only for its austerity, I bump into a man in a captain's cap wearing a T-shirt emblazoned “Yavuz Sultan Selim The Caliph.” He looks an unlikely mushroom advocate, but he rattles off the names of his products with all the enthusiasm of a car showroom salesman.

“We call it pretty girl, too,” cuts in a woman sitting beside him in the blue-and-red-striped şalvar that are the favored choice of local matrons. I look at the bowls and plates lined up in front of her. Some are filled with what look like sponges, others with what looks like seaweed. All of it, however, turns out to be fungus of one sort or another, and soon I'm being given a quick lesson in mushroom cookery.

The mushrooms are not the only things being sold in front of the mosque, though. Minutes later and I'm being handed raspberries and apples to taste. Bolu may have one of western Turkey's coolest climates, but clearly it makes for perfect market-gardening conditions.

Bolu is one of those towns that goes virtually ignored by foreign tourists, although it's popular with Turks who use it as a base for visiting the many lakes in the surrounding countryside and as an alternative base for visiting the ski resort at nearby Kartalkaya. In the last couple of years the entire town center has been redesigned to turn it into a pedestrian zone with a cycle path running down the middle. At one end brand-new restaurants and cafes dot landscaped parkland so designed that even the walls of the local branch of Burger King have plants running up and down their sides.

Unfortunately, the town remains low on serious tourist attractions. There's one old han and the slight remains of a Roman stadium, now hidden behind billboards. Otherwise the only thing that might draw a visitor in is the local archaeological museum. This showcases the finds from ancient Bithynia, which still crop up from time to time when new roads are being built.

Still, Bolu remains the best base for exploring the surrounding area with two significant caveats which are that the town-center hotels are disappointingly overpriced and old-fashioned, and that it's not at all easy for a visitor without a car to get to grips with the public transport system, with buses to local destinations leaving from different offices scattered all around town.


Probably the single most interesting place to go from Bolu is Mudurnu, a delightful small town to the southwest that glories in all the historic attractions its larger neighbor lacks.

Mudurnu is one of those towns that has found itself washed-up by the tide of history. Once upon a time it stood on one of the old Silk Roads that crisscrossed Anatolia, hence the fine 14th-century Yıldırım Beyazıt Cami that still survives along with its hamam in the town center. Nearby the bazaar is one of those that still echoes to the sound of copper-beaters, although gradually some of its old shops are being refurbished to sell the sort of handicrafts more attractive to visitors such as jewelry made from oya, the beads that used to be used to decorate women's headscarves.

If Bolu is low on good hotels, Mudurnu is awash with them especially if you are the type of visitor who rates character more highly than the latest in high-tech gadgetry. These hotels are mostly housed in beautifully restored Ottoman mansions dotted about the town center, some of them boasting inviting courtyards or gardens. Finest of them all is probably the Hacı Şakirler Konağı, which still retains all its Ottoman decoration on the inside as well as the outside.

If you're planning a visit to Mudurnu, you might like to know that it is also home to a rather lovely tradition known as the Esnaf Duası (the Tradesmen's Prayer). Every Friday immediately before lunchtime prayers in the Yıldırım Beyazıt Cami, the men from the bazaar line up in two rows in front of their shops to share hunks of bread and squares of lokum (Turkish delight) before praying together in the street. It's a quietly moving sight.


Directly south of Bolu a spectacular wooded road winds through the mountains and down past Seben Gölü (Lake Seben) to the small town of Seben. In itself the town is of no great interest. However, in the vicinity it's possible to visit two abandoned cave settlements, one at Solaklar, the other at Muslar. Unlike the more elaborate cave settlements of Cappadocia in Central Anatolia that have continued in use until today, the cave homes of Seben are no longer lived in and are much more like simple prehistoric rock shelters without the modern add-ons that made it possible for people to continue to live in the Cappadocian versions. As so often, no written records survive to fill us in on the history of the sites, although it is believed that they were inhabited in Phrygian times.

Rather unexpectedly, there are also the remains of what must have been a fine Byzantine church near Seben at Çeltikdere. The road to reach it wanders through a sequence of attractive villages with half-timbered farmhouses before disintegrating into a track that winds down to a beautiful, peaceful gorge. Here the church stands in complete collapse with just its apse with its arrow-slit windows still standing. It makes the perfect backdrop for a picnic.


Northeast of Bolu, the small town of Mengen was once the source of many of the chefs who cooked for the sultans in Constantinople. Today it still offers cookery courses in a department of the local university, although it can't be said that the restaurants around town offer anything to get too excited about. However, once a year cooks from all over Turkey descend on Mengen to take part in a lively festival, focal point of which is a pilav günü (rice day) at which visitors are served risotto from a giant cauldron. If you'd like to take a look make a note in your diary for the end of September next year.

Turkey's little Lake District

When it comes to lakes, foreign visitors tend to think first of the group of lakes in Western Anatolia around Eğirdir and Beyşehir, and then of Lake Van in the far east of the country. Turks, however, also think of the area around Bolu and in particular of Yedigöller, the cluster of small lakes in the forests north of the town. Rather surprisingly, given the amount of new road-building in the country, the roads to Yedigöller remain poor and no public transport serves the lakes.

This means that you may find it easier to visit either Gölcük, the pretty small lake just to the south of Bolu, or Abant Gölü (Lake Abant), the picture-perfect expanse of water set in woodland near Mudurnu. In high summer there are infrequent buses direct to Abant or you can take a taxi form Mudurnu. Several large hotels sit right beside the lake, but despite their five-star ratings they are not perhaps as modern as you might anticipate. Still, come here in the season when the water-lilies are in flower on the water (about now) and you probably won't be complaining. Alternatively, you can hold onto until a snowy winter day, then come here to be driven around the lake in a horse-drawn phaeton equipped with the equivalent of skis, a magical experience.

Hacı Şakirler Konağı, Mudurnu. Tel: 0374-421 3856
Hotel Kaşmir, Bolu. Tel: 0374-215 8614
Keyvanlar Konağı, Mudurnu. Tel: 0374-421 3750
Fuatbeyler Konağı, Mudurnu. Tel: 0374-421 2444

Bolu is conveniently located midway between İstanbul and Ankara, with frequent buses from both towns. The new bus station is remote from the town center and poorly served by public transport.
Keywords: mushrooms , bolu

Monday, December 7, 2015

Side has been attracting visitors for thousands of years

Side has been attracting visitors for thousands of years

Side has been attracting visitors for thousands of years
Temple of Apollo in Side, Antalya. (Photo: Cihan)

After thousands of years of settlement by newcomers ranging from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians to pirates, Arabs and Jews, the town of side on the Turkish Mediterranean coast is used to visitors.
Side (pronounced "see day") is on Turkey's southeastern coast, around 70 kilometers (40 miles) from the city of Antalya, a popular, developed tourist resort.
A peninsula just 1 kilometer long and 400 meters wide, Side is one of the most famous classical sites in Turkey.

(Photo: Cihan)
It is believed to have been founded by Greek settlers in the seventh century B.C., and its harbor and geography made it an attractive trade center for other occupiers, including Alexander the Great, Sicilian pirates and the Romans.
In the seventh century A.D. Arabs raided and burned Side, causing the beginning of its slow decline. Then, in 1895, Turkish Muslim refugees from Crete arrived and the revival began.
Here are tips from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of the world offer visitors the best local insights, for getting the most out of the Side area.

Explore the ruins

At the end of the road leading to the Old Town (Antik Side), an amphitheater on the left was built in the Roman style because Side didn't have a suitable hillside which could be hollowed out in the more usual Greek way.
Not as well-preserved as the one in nearby Aspendos, it still can seat up to 20,000 people and hosts jazz festivals, opera, and classical concerts during the summer months.

People watch the popular German entertainment show 'Wetten Dass...?' ('Bet it...?') hosted by Thomas Gottschalk at the ancient Roman amphitheatre of Aspendos. (Photo: AP)
Towards the Hellenistic main gate into the ancient city, you can stroll through the ruins of homes or shops, some of which still have their original mosaic floors.
Through the gate of the ancient city you come to a street flanked by colonnades. The remains of a Roman bath are here -- now a museum displaying Roman statues.
At the eastern edge of the peninsula, past the harbor to the left, stand the remains of the 2,000-year-old temple of apollo, at their most majestic at sunset. The Turkish government has been restoring the temple's columns, which saltwater has been eroding.

Getting around

The best way to explore Side is on foot. Its back streets hide small mosques, boutique hotels, quirky cottages and olive gardens.
At Side harbor you can get boat trips to Antalya, Manavgat or go on the trail of dolphins, which, if you are lucky, can be spotted off the peninsula.
On land, minibuses called dolmuş are a frequent, cheap and often entertaining way to get around -- if you are prepared to squeeze in. Taxis are available but set the price of your journey before climbing aboard.

Sun, sea, set sail

Side has long, hot summers and short, mild winters. In the peak season -- July and August -- temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or higher. Spring and autumn are more comfortable times to visit, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s but maybe the odd thunderstorm and rain.
Sun worshippers have plenty of choice with stretches of beach on both the east and west sides of the peninsula.
The west side was regenerated around five years ago with a promenade lined with restaurants and five-star hotels. The sea here is shallower and therefore more popular with some tourists.
The east side is less crowded and attracts more locals, especially on Sundays. Lined with beach bars, there is a more relaxed feel. The beach is wider, a bit rockier and the sea is slightly deeper, great for watersports and parasailing.

Shop till you drop

The center of Side is the place for leather goods, hand-woven rugs, pottery, designer handbags, jewelry, watches and sportswear -- but be prepared to haggle and explore the side streets for the best deals.
Manavgat, a working town just north of Side, might not be as glamorous but has plentiful and cheap markets twice a week, as well as plenty of sportswear and clothes shops. This is the place to experience the juiciest strawberries, cherries, melons and figs -- at pleasingly low prices.

Eating and drinking

For cheap snacks sample fresh corn cobs, or try a durum, a wrap filled with typical döner kebab ingredients.
For a few Turkish lira you can pick up the Turkish version of a pizza, called lahmacun -- an oval, thin dough topped with minced meat, herbs and tomatoes.
Opposite the Roman Baths in the Old Town, the family-run Ocakbaşı restaurant offers good value Turkish food in a beautiful garden surrounded by ruins. Savor the generous portions of complimentary meze. (
For food with a more elegant twist and for excellent views of the sea, try Aphrodite in the harbor, or Karma directly behind it. ( (
The Apollonik bar, named after the Temple of Apollo close by, has been in business for 55 years. The tiny building resembles something from Hansel and Gretel: grab a table outside under the sweet-smelling grape vines to watch the sunset and sample killer cocktails. (


Just three kilometers north of Manavgat are waterfalls on the Manavgat River. Boat trips reach here from Manavgat town but you can also drive to the Oymapınar Dam, a thundering tower of water.

A waterfall on Manavgat River. (Photo: Cihan)
Nearby is the Green Lake, named for the color of the water. This is a peaceful spot to escape the heat. Restaurants are signposted where you can eat by the lakeside and swim from floating jetties.
If the ruins of Side whetted your appetite for more antiquity, Aspendos, said to have the best-preserved Greek amphitheater, lies between Side and Antalya. Further south, the ruins of Perge include an acropolis dating back to the Bronze Age.
South of Antalya and inland, Pamukkale, or "cotton castle" in Turkish, looks just that. A World Heritage site, hot springs pop out of vast terraces of carbonated minerals which were produced over thousands of years by flowing water.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Chasing the autumn sun: Fethiye versus Antalya

Chasing the autumn sun: Fethiye versus Antalya

Chasing the autumn sun: Fethiye versus Antalya
Kayaköy-Levissi (Photo: Pat Yale)

There's no getting away from it. The shorter days and falling leaves tell the usual story. Autumn is drawing to an end and winter will soon be upon us. So what better time to start planning a last-minute dash for the Mediterranean sun, especially as there's another holiday, the Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Republic Day, Oct. 29), in the offing.

Don't know where to go? Well, my money would be on fethiye or Antalya, which can be at their very best at this time of year. Antalya in particular is often nicer now than in the height of summer when the muggy heat can be pretty unbearable.

The two towns have a lot in common. Both sit in spectacular bays with mountainous islands shimmering on the horizon. Both offer easy access to a wide range of historic attractions in their backyards. And both have been in the tourism business a long time, which means that they have all the hotels, shops, restaurants and bars a visitor could possibly hope for.

So which to go for? It's a tough call, but here are the pros and cons.


Towards the western end of the Mediterranean Fethiye is much smaller than Antalya, something that has many advantages, especially in terms of the time it takes to get around the town center. However, it's still big enough to have a life beyond tourism for those who prefer not to stay in a visitor ghetto.

Fethiye's long waterfront was always very attractive but has been made even more so in recent years by new landscaping that extends it much further, with new cafes lined up to take in the extra views. Personally, I still like the heart of the waterfront where the wooden gulets (yachts) are lined up best of all. You don't have to take a boat ride, but you'd have to be pretty determined to pass up all the offers, whether it's just a quick whip round the bay on the “12 Islands” cruise, a run over to Göçek to shop at its Sunday market, or a real “blue cruise” taking in some of the sights along the coastline while sleeping onboard beneath the stars.

Behind the waterfront, Fethiye offers a sprawling bazaar area and an old hamam (Turkish bath). It's all pretty touristy but no less fun for all that, and if you wander into the old fish market area, select your fish, then have it cooked and served to you at one of the tables nearby, you're more or less guaranteed to have a good time.

The formal tourist attractions of Fethiye are relatively minor: the picturesque but not especially exciting Carian tombs cut into the rock at the back of town, the theater that has just been rather controversially restored and a museum housing the finds from nearby sites such as Tlos and the Letoon. But the surrounding area more than makes up for this. Indeed, you'll be spoilt for choice whether your tastes run to the Lycian archaeological sites at Tlos, Pınara, Patara and Xanthos-Letoon, the latter a world heritage site; to the glorious beach-fringed lagoon at Ölüdeniz; to the daredevil thrill of paragliding off Baba Dağı (Mt. Baba); to wading through ice-cold water in the Saklıkent Gorge; or to cruising along the river from Dalyan to İztuzu Beach where you can visit a hospital set up to care for injured loggerhead turtles. From Ölüdeniz there's also a wonderful boat ride to lovely Butterfly Valley where you'll just about have time to race inland to inspect a small waterfall.

The one excursion you should be sure to make is to the ruins of Kayaköy, as the old Levissi the place that inspired “Birds Without Wings” author Louis de Bernieres to set pen to paper. Levissi had to be abandoned in 1923 when the “Greek” Christians living in Turkey were forced to relocate to Greece while the “Turkish” Muslims in Greece came to live in Turkey. Fewer Turks arrived than Greeks departed and the settlement was eventually allowed to fall into ruin, its doors and windows scavenged for new buildings, its churches left to rot.

The reason why this excursion should top your list is that, not for the first time, plans are currently being floated to rebuild part of the settlement. Conceivably, if this was done slowly and carefully for non-commercial reasons, it might not be a disaster. However, talk of creating an “international brand” around the ruins has left many fretting about what might happen. If you're the sort of person who likes to wander amid ruins and let your imagination take wing then you might not have that opportunity for much longer.

The nearest airport to Fethiye is in Dalaman.


Far bigger than Fethiye, Antalya will suit those who like to be able to indulge their usual urban habits even while holidaying near a beach. The waterfront of Fethiye is longer and prettier than the harbor area of Antalya. However, Fethiye has almost no old architecture while the Kaleiçi (Inner Castle) area of old Antalya is choc-a-block with lovely old Ottoman houses, some beautifully restored, some rebuilt, some still awaiting a savior. Mixed in with these houses are Roman remains, including the fine Arch of Hadrian that serves as one entrance to the area, as well as several attractive Ottoman mosques, one of them with a fluted minaret that crops up in many photographs.

When it comes to specific attractions within the town Antalya beats Fethiye hands down. The Antalya Museum is one of the finest in the country, showcasing the finds from the nearby ruins of Perge in particular, but in Kaleiçi there is also a lovely private museum, the Suna and İnan Kiraç Museum, partially housed in a disused church and emphasizing aspects of Turkish culture such as weddings and circumcisions. The town also boasts a fine new aquarium and a large aquapark.

As with Fethiye, so with Antalya, there's a wide choice of places to visit on local day trips. Organized excursions often take in the extensive Roman ruins not just of Perge but also of nearby Side and Aspendos, which is home to a beautifully restored Classical theater. You can also visit the beautiful seaside ruins of Phaselis and the mountainside ruins of Termessos, or the cave at Karain in which traces of prehistoric settlement have been found.

Slightly further afield you can ride the Olympos Teleferik, a cable car running up Tahtalı Dağı (Mt Tahtalı, 2365m) and offering splendid views (on a clear day) across the Beydağları (Bey Mountains) national park to the sea. Those with a private car can also drive to Olympos and Çiralı where the Chimaera, an inextinguishable flame, shoots up beside the rocky mountain path. You could even drive up to Sagalassos, another mountainside archaeological site where the old fountains built by the Greeks and Romans now flow with water once again.

If Fethiye is all about boat rides and paragliding, Antalya is best known for white-water rafting and golfing. The white-water rafting takes place in the lovely Köprülü Kanyon, a 14-kilometer-long canyon east of Antalya, which is one of the most popular places in the whole country for trying out the sport, not least because some of the runs are suitable for less experienced rafters.

The golfing takes place in Belek, which specializes in catering to those for whom no holiday would be complete without being able to hit a small white ball across a green. Belek also majors on huge hotels that are the antithesis of the boutique offerings of the Kaleiçi. Vast and frequently themed, they are mostly all-inclusive and perfect for family holidays.

Antalya has its own international airport with a second not far away in Gazipaşa, near Alanya.
Keywords: fethiye , Antalya

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Enrollment for Turkish Classes has started - SPRING 2016. Enroll Now!

Enrollment for Turkish Classes has Started
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For registration please fill out the registration form at this link (Due date for the form is DECEMBER 25)

Learn Turkish in Washington, DC! Experienced teachers are offering Turkish Language Classes at the Rumi Forum in Washington DC. If you are looking for Turkish lessons in DC Metropolitan Area, Rumi Forum is the right place to begin.
- There are three terms in a year (Spring, Summer, Fall)
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Monday, November 9, 2015

The best of the west

The best of the west

The best of the west
Pamukkale (Photo: Pat Yale)

The bad news is that recent events on the political front mean that tourism to the eastern parts of Turkey is likely to take a significant hit, at least in the short term. The good news is, however, that Turkey is a vast country, which means that there are more than enough alternative destinations for those in search of something a little less mainstream than a beach holiday. It has long been my opinion that Western Anatolia is one of the least appreciated parts of the country when it comes to foreign visitors. Now could be the time when it comes into its own.

Here are a few suggestions of where to visit in Western Anatolia, starting with the blockbuster destinations of Pamukkale-Hierapolis and Afrodisias that already receive their fair share of visitors and moving on to places such as Afyon and Gölhisar, which are waiting in the wings.


Why? Rare combination of man-made and natural beauty
Pamukkale is the site that launched a thousand dog-eared posters of tourists frolicking in the turquoise waters of the travertines that cascade down a hillside in front of the sprawling ruins of ancient Hierapolis, the place where St. Philip is believed to have been buried. With more than enough to occupy a day of anyone's time, Pamukkale is already a fixture on many tourists' itineraries. The sleepy little village at the foot of the travertines could do with more staying visitors, though, and those who do linger will find that there are plenty of other sites to see in the surrounding area including the increasingly impressive ruins of ancient Laodikya, site of one of the Seven Churches of the Revelation; and the beautiful old painted mosque at Akköy, within walking distance of Pamukkale village.


Why? Magnificent Greco-Roman archaeological site good enough to rival Ephesus
Famously publicized by photographer Ara Güler, Afrodisias, the ruins of the city of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, once stood silent and forgotten around the village of Eski Geyre. Today some of the old buildings of Eski Geyre survive to serve as a café and exhibition center, but you'll probably be too busy racing out to the Classical ruins to notice them. Afrodisias has all the typical features of a Greco-Roman site (Theater? Tick. Odeon? Tick. Huge temple? Tick), although perhaps the most striking survivor is the glorious stadium, one of the best preserved in the world. In the end, though, the real winner these days is the restored Sebasteion, a temple to the Roman emperor as deity, the splendid carvings from which are now housed in a purpose-built gallery that shows them off to perfection.


Why? Ceramics with a backdrop of fine Ottoman housing
Once known almost exclusively as a place to come to eyeball the sort of ceramics that took over from İznikware in the 18th century, Kütahya is also a great place to come to explore a partially restored Ottoman townscape and stay in Ottoman style at the Ispartılar Konağı (tel: 0274-216 1975) in the renovated Germiyan quarter. It's also the best base for making a side trip out to the remains of ancient Aizanoi, appealingly scattered around the village of Çavdarhisar.


Why? Drama of a hilltop castle combined with the pleasures of an old Ottoman townscape
Modern Afyon labors under the weight of its full name, which is Afyonkarahisar, a moniker that commemorates both the opium poppies (afyon) that grow hereabouts and the black castle (kara hisar) that looms above the town, daring visitors to make the ascent. Afyon's new archeological museum is way out of the center unlike its other great treasure, an Ulu Cami that belongs to a group of so-called “forest mosques,” their ceilings supported by a forest of columns carved from tree trunks. With Eskişehir, Afyon also makes a great base for exploring the newly waymarked Frig Yolu (Phrygian Way), centered on the remains of a great Phrygian temple at Midasşehri. Much of the lovely old Ottoman housing survives, some of it restored, some not. Stay at the lovely Şehitoğlu Konağı (tel: 0272-214 1313) to get the full effect.


Why? Remains of ancient Lydian town where coins were first minted
Most easily visited on a day trip from İzmir, Sardis is nonetheless on the edge of Western Anatolia and easy to fit in if you're heading across country from Denizli. The remains of the ancient mint are pretty unmemorable, unlike the spectacular mosaic floors of what was once one of Anatolia's largest synagogues and the reconstructed Court of the Hall of the Imperial Cult. A short walk away from these obvious ruins lie the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the four largest temples in ancient Asia Minor and beautifully sited against a mountain backdrop.

Turkish Lake District

Why? Glorious lakeside settings. Stopping point on waymarked St. Paul's Trail
If it's lakeside scenery you're after, then you should head straight for Eğirdır where you can either stay on the mainland in the shadow of a ruined castle or out on an island linked to it by a causeway where the strong breezes will act as a constant reminder that you're sitting in the middle of a lake. Surprisingly, there's little in the way of watersports development, not even in the form of boat trips out onto the lake. For that, you should head for equally lovely Beyşehir, where the ruins of a Selçuk summer palace sit right beside the water. Finally, you could stay in Burdur, where the lake is a couple of kilometers out of the town center, but where there's a great museum and a couple of lovely restored Ottoman houses open to the public.

Gölhisar (Cibyra)

Why? Newly excavated archaeological site you may well have to yourself
If you've popped your head into Burdur Museum, you will have seen some fine carvings depicting gladiators that were found south of town at the remote site of Cibyra, uphill from Gölhisar. Barely ready for visitors, the site nonetheless boasts another very impressive stadium as wall as a theater and bouleterion (council house) that are almost intact. An impressive mosaic showing the head of Medusa may or may not be visible when you visit.


Why? Nasrettin Hoca links make this a fun place to bring children
The small town of Akşehir is completely off the radar when it comes to foreign visitors, and yet it is a surprisingly pleasant place with several lovely Selçuk monuments. But what makes Akşehir refreshingly different from many other similar inland towns is that it is believed to be the last resting place of Middle Eastern funnyman Nasrettin Hoca, a fact enthusiastically celebrated in the local park with reproductions of some of his best-known stories dotted about.

Yalvaç and Antioch in Psidia

Why? Archeological site associated with St. Paul
Compared to Afrodisias and Hierapolis, Antioch in Psidia is very much an also-ran tourist attraction with few of the surviving ruins especially striking to the non-specialist visitor. On the other hand, the site has strong associations with St. Paul, who is believed to have visited on three out of four of his trans-Anatolian missionary journeys and for some people this will give it a particular poignancy. Yalvaç is the small town just up the road from the site. Here, in the Çınaraltı Meydanı, you'll find one of those lovely Turkish corners where a group of teashops are grouped together in the shade of a huge and ancient plane tree, in this case rumored to be more than 800 years old.


Why? To appreciate what can be done with a so-so town with a bit of imagination
Not so long ago the large town of Eskişehir was not a place where anyone wanted to linger unless they were tempted to sample its thermal baths. Then came an imaginative administration led by Yılmaz Büyükerşen, and the next thing anyone knew there was a flashy new tram, gondolas and Amsterdam canal boats on the river, inviting public parks and the restored Odunpazarı district where Ottoman houses grouped around the attractive 16th-century Kurşunlu Cami had been restored to serve as cafes and restaurants. For anyone interested in urban regeneration projects Eskişehir is Turkey's most unexpected must-see destination.
Keywords: Western , Anatolia

Monday, October 26, 2015

The taste of Tarsus

The taste of Tarsus

The taste of Tarsus
Old Tarsus (Photo: Pat Yale)

On a muggy, hot summer day I staggered up to a juice bar in the eastern Mediterranean city of tarsus. My fringe was plastered to my forehead. My glasses were smeared with sweat. Beads of perspiration were dripping off my chin onto my T-shirt.  
“Very hot,” I said apologetically to the juice seller.
“Yes, humid,” he said, gently wiping away a single drop of sweat adorning his own forehead.
For those not brought up in this part of the world, the climate all along Turkey's south coast can be pretty punishing, but the wet heat concentrates its worst on the corner where the coastline makes its abrupt downward turn into Hatay. The good thing is that this ensures lush Levantine vegetation of palms, fig trees and banana plants. The bad thing is that it can make it hard to make oneself stir far from a hotel room with its air conditioning unit turned up high.
At the juice bar I downed a mixed fruit juice followed in short order by a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. But at that time of year I could easily have been more adventurous, because this is when the prickly pear bushes come into fruit and glasses of prickly pear juice (hint inciri suyu) are a common sight in Tarsus. Almost as common are bowls of yayla karsambaç, the Tarsus take on a slushie, with fruit juice poured over crushed ice to help you cool down.

Şalgam: an acquired taste

Finally, one can always take a deep breath and order a glass of şalgam, the so-called “turnip juice” that is claimed for itself by nearby Adana but spills over in large quantities to Tarsus too. Şalgam is actually made from carrots that have been added to fermented bulgur with a dose of salt. True aficionados drink it in between crunching on sticks of carrot called tane. It's very much an acquired taste.
Mention Tarsus to most people and the first thing that will come to their mind is St. Paul, the Tarsus-born Saul who underwent a religious experience on the road to Damascus and not only converted to Christianity and changed his name but also became one of the most ardent advocates for his new religion. A few people, after scratching their heads, will recall that Tarsus also had something to do with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, who was summoned to the city in 41 BC to meet Marc Anthony, the Roman leader of the eastern part of what was then still a rambling republic. The queen is said to have sailed up the Cyndus river to meet him in a perfumed barge full of flowers. Needless to say, he promptly fell in love with her and forgot all about politics. Today, a poorly restored gate from the old city wall is named after the queen, although it can't have been standing when she visited.
Finally, a few sharper Turks will remember a link with the Şahmeran, a Mesopotamian fertility symbol with the body of a snake and the head of a human. These days the Şahmeran tends to be most closely associated with Mardin, where craftsmen in the bazaar turn out beautiful images of a creature that appears to be female under glass. The Tarsus Şahmeran, however, was firmly male, and a bit of an unreconstructed, voyeuristic male at that, since a local story records him climbing onto the roof of the Roman bathhouse to spy on the daughter of the king of Tarsus as she bathed. Unluckily for him, he lost his footing and fell into the arms of her waiting bodyguards who promptly put him to death. A statue of the Şahmeran looking like a many-headed cobra presides over a road junction in the center of town.
 What few people know, however, is that on the quiet, Tarsus is almost as intriguing a place for people interested in food as Antakya further along the coast. This is mainly a result of its complex crossroads position, lost in the Mersin-Adana sprawl yet near enough to Hatay to have borrowed some of its trendy culinary clothing.
Take hummus, for example. This crushed chickpea and tahini dish is a Middle Eastern favorite that frequently crops up in Antakya by reason of its geographical proximity to Syria. Its popularity in Tarsus is less easy to understand, and does not, as in Kilis, have anything to do with the recent influx of refugees. But the hummus of Tarsus is hummus with a novel twist, because here you can eat it warmed through, dribbled with olive oil and dotted with chickpeas and slithers of pastırma (pastırmalı humus). It's absolutely delicious and best sampled at the award-winning Kervan Humus Salonu, tucked away on a side street.
The other dish that Tarsus seems to have borrowed from its eastern neighbors is the Gaziantep and Kilis favorite lahmacun, but here too it puts its own spin on the familiar serving of paper-thin bread spread with a paste of ground meat and vegetables. In Tarsus they take their lahmacun in bite-sized portions on sale by the hundred in the town's many bakeries. Fresh from the oven and piping hot, they're incredibly moreish.

Tasty tantuni

If şalgam was Adana's gift to Tarsus, then tantuni was Mersin's. Tantuni is a dish of stir-fried meat or chicken that is served in the same sort of soft-bread dürüm wrap as a döner kebab, except that this bread has been used to mop up the meat juices before being wrapped round the contents. The tantuni on offer in Tarsus may not quite match up to the version on sale in Mersin itself, but it certainly makes a good alternative to the more familiar döner.
When it comes to dessert, Tarsus lays claim to one sweet entirely of its own making, and that is cezerye, a gelatinous confection that, like şalgam, has carrot as its base ingredient but now with the addition of crushed hazelnuts or pistachios, honey, sugar and a mixture of different spices all sprinkled with grated coconut, then sliced into squares. You'll see it rising up in conical pyramids in the windows of every other sweetshop in town.
 Dinner and cezerye dessert over, Tarsuslus, like Turks all over the country, adjourn to a teahouse to let their meal digest in the relative cool of evening over glass after glass of tea. Until recently the best and most obvious place to take one's tea was the pedestrianized Atatürk Bulvarı Yarenlik Alanı, which sits near an impressive stretch of exposed Roman road. As its name made plain, this used to be a place where one was encouraged to sit down for a friendly chat with others at one of a number of small cafes. Unfortunately these have now vanished, their place taken only by a string of park benches interspersed with busts of every famous or half-famous person ever to have graced Tarsus with their presence. In their absence you'll have to settle for an ordinary teahouse in a rather male-dominated town or (whisper it) head up to the Tarsu shopping mall for a drink in a branch of a cheerier coffeehouse chain.
Tarsus is low on decent places to stay, so you might want to stay overnight in Mersin, where there are lots of hotels near the bus terminal, or in Adana and visit on a day trip.
Hotel Bosnalı, Adana. Tel: 0322-359 8000
Hotel Mercan, Adana. Tel: 0322-351 2603
Konak Efsus, Tarsus. Tel: 0324-614 0807
Şelale Hotel, Tarsus. Tel: 0324-614 0600
Taşköprü Hotel, Adana. Tel: 0322-359 1144
The nearest airport is in Adana, which is also served, like Mersin, by most big bus companies. Frequent minibuses connect Adana and Mersin with Tarsus. Driving, you'll need to keep your eyes peeled for the turn-off to Tarsus marked by a Kültür Park housing the Nusret minelayer that played a big part in the events at Gallipoli in 1915 -- it's easy to miss amid the heavy traffic.
Keywords: tarsus , travel

Monday, October 12, 2015



Urla Harbor (Photo: Pat Yale)

The sheer size of İzmir means that it serves as something of an obstacle to people traveling along the Aegean coast. Routes that bypass the conurbation usually whip travelers round it on the eastern side. That leaves the small resorts on the Çeşme and Karaburun peninsulas to the west more or less cut off from passing traffic.
Still, if you're spending a few days in İzmir, you might want to head out in this direction, especially now that the western bus terminal at Üçkuyular is finally accessible by metro.
Looking at a map, the biggest town west of İzmir is Çeşme (which is actually much smaller than you might expect). Çeşme can be reached by hourly bus from the main İzmir bus station as well as from Üçkuyular, but most of the other settlements are only served by buses from Üçkuyular.
Here, then, are the last places I recommend visiting in the İzmir area.


Çeşme and around

Çeşme is dominated by a vast Genoese castle that now serves as the local museum and offers spectacular sea views from its ramparts. In front of it stands a somewhat bizarre statue of Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa (1714-90) with his pet lion. Other than that, Çeşme has little in the way of specific tourist attractions, although it's worth popping your head into what was originally the Church of Hagios Haralambos on the main road down to the harbor. Now used as a cultural center, it can usually be relied on to have something going on inside that will enable you to wander in and admire the sheer size and decoration of one of Turkey's many late 19th-century churches.
Many people come to Çeşme to catch the ferry to the Greek island of Chios, easily visitable on a day trip. If you plan on staying overnight, it's worth knowing that the vast Kanuni Kervansaray Historic Hotel (tel: 0232-712 0630), created out of a 16th-century caravanserai, is only 10 minutes' walk from the ferry. Prices drop dramatically off-season.
The Çeşme eating scene is pretty mediocre, although the coming of a marina has stirred a few Italian restaurants and café-bars into the mix. One option is to head out to Dalyan (not to be confused with the larger Dalyan near Fethiye), where fish restaurant after fish restaurant hugs the banks of a stream running down to the sea.
From Çeşme it's easy to bus-hop your way round the local beaches. The nearest is Boyalık, on the outskirts of Çeşme itself, but you can also catch a bus to the wilder sands around Altınkum. Alternatively, you can head for Ilıca, where a wide swathe of sand is overlooked by an enormous Sheraton hotel. This is an unexpectedly upscale spa resort with some fine residential housing just inland. If you can afford to stay at the Nars Ilıca Hotel (tel: 0232-729 0001), you're unlikely to regret it.



These days it's not so much Çeşme as Alaçatı that draws people west from İzmir. Let's be frank -- Alaçatı may be lovely, but it's also unabashedly expensive, so even if you would like to stay, a day trip may be all that you can afford. Once a small virtually abandoned Ottoman Greek settlement, Alaçatı has a picture-postcard beauty, with lovely stone houses, each with a jutting wooden cumba (bay window), fanning out from a central square dominated by a vast church, now turned into a mosque. Since 2001, most of these houses have been snapped up and turned into boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants and stylish shops that appeal particularly to İstanbullus in search of a sea break but reluctant to travel as far as Bodrum. In July and August, the narrow streets are so crammed with bodies that it's hard to appreciate the architecture. Travel out of season, however, and you will readily understand what it was that attracted the first-comers to this then-isolated corner of the country.
Not all of Alaçatı has been developed even now. The best thing to do is wander into the back street behind the church-mosque where you'll find an inviting mix of dereliction and gentrification with lots of antique shops and cafes thrown in.
Even without its man-made beauty, Alaçatı has another claim to fame, which is the nearby beach, a favorite with the windsurfing community. As you ride out there on the bus you'll pass the rather odd Port Alaçatı Marina development, an attempt to create something “Venetian” on erstwhile undeveloped land.



The main highway from İzmir to Çeşme slices across the Çeşme Peninsula, making movement between the other settlements in the area difficult. If you'd like to visit Urla, site of the ancient Greek settlement of Clazomenae, you're best off taking a bus directly from Üçkuyular. Once there you'll find an extremely pretty harbor dominated by the restored Customs Office that houses a nice café. Scant remains of Clazomenae can be seen on and around the hill above the harbor; closer to it you'll see the erstwhile home of the Greek poet Yorgo Seferis (1900-71), now a small hotel.
Urla keeps one more trick up its sleeve, which is the old town about one kilometer inland. Full of Alaçatı-style houses on a grander scale, some of them now restored, it is also home to a couple of pleasant mosques, including one with a lovely painted şadırvan (ablutions fountain) of a type more common around Amasya.

Karaburun Peninsula

On a map, the Karaburun Peninsula, jutting into the sea northwest of İzmir, looks as if it should be remote and wildly beautiful. Unfortunately, the usual concrete blight has been allowed to take hold, rendering the port towns of Mordoğan and Karaburun (both with summer ferries to Eski Foça) less inviting than you might have hoped. The prettiest village on the peninsula is Ildır, where attractive stone houses stand directly over some of the remains of ancient Greek Erythrae. Up above the village there are more ruins, not dramatic in themselves but leading inexorably upwards to a headland offering spectacular sea views. For the time being, tourism here is very low-key, although a couple of hotels and smart cafes have already opened, no doubt hoping to emulate the success of Alaçatı.


Sığacık, Teos and Akkum

Southwest of İzmir, buses from Üçkuyular run to Seferihisar, a town that has signed up to the Slow City movement and boasts a large statue of three intertwined snails accordingly. A city museum is in the planning. Until it opens, you are more likely to want to head straight to the harbor at Sığacık, something made considerably less simple by the opening of a new out-of-town bus station where you must exit the İzmir bus, wait for another to run you into town, then board a third to get to Sığacık.
Once you get there, however, you will find a quaint little settlement hunkered down behind stone walls, probably dating back to the Genoese days of the late Middle Ages. Inside the walls there's a small mosque complete with even smaller medrese and ruinous hamam. Otherwise, most of the housing here used to be pretty indifferent in design. A recent initiative has seen all the accumulated concrete and old paint stripped back so that the houses can be repainted in pastel colors. Once finished they should look a great deal more alluring.
From Sığacık, frequent buses ferry people out to the windsurfing beach at Akkum. If you'd like to visit the ruins of ancient Teos you will need to take a taxi either from Akkum or from Sığacık itself. Although Teos is thought to have been home to the largest temple to Dionysius in the ancient world, the surviving remains are fairly insubstantial; a new museum being built on the site should soon make a visit more worthwhile. Regardless, it sits in a bucolic setting amid ancient olive trees, a world away from the bustle of big-city İzmir.
Keywords: İzmir

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day tripping İzmir: II

Day tripping İzmir: II

Day tripping İzmir: II
Acropolis, Bergama (Photo: Pat Yale)

If you're heading north or south along Turkey's Aegean coast, there's no way that you can avoid having to transit İzmir without a lengthy diversion. But fear not -- the city may be huge, but it's also increasingly attractive as a tourist destination if you allow yourself enough time to get to grips with it. What's more, it makes a great base for day tripping out to some of the many attractive archeological sites, towns and resorts in the vicinity.
Last week I suggested a number of places to visit that lie inland from İzmir, towns such as Tire, Bayındır and Ödemiş that are far more inviting than their low touristic profile might suggest. But most visitors will probably be keener to visit places that are by the sea or feature dramatic archeological remains.


Of course the single most important place that can be visited on a day trip from İzmir is Ephesus, the sprawling Roman settlement that is the main target of the cruise passengers who pour ashore here throughout the summer. But for my money Ephesus is better visited from smaller Selçuk, the medieval-to-modern town that grew up nearby, or from the cruise port-cum-holiday resort of Kuşadası, both places readily accessible from İzmir.

Bergama, however, is a place that you might easily choose to visit from İzmir since, unlike Selçuk and Kuşadası, it has a relatively small and unexciting choice of places in which to stay. Until recently, Bergama has always seemed a surprisingly under-visited town given the high quality of its historic attractions. This year, however, it was elevated to world heritage site status ahead of Ephesus and the authorities have been working hard to make it more inviting to visitors. In particular, the installation of a cable-car to get people up to the Acropolis has made Bergama a much more manageable town to get around than it used to be. Restoration work is also currently under way at the Kızıl Avlu (Red Basilica). Some may squirm at its brash new appearance, but the end result may be to turn what was very much an also-ran attraction into something far more interesting.

Bergama has three main points of interest: the Acropolis, which was once home to the incredible Altar of Zeus that now graces the Pergamum Museum in Berlin; the Asclepeion, which was once an ancient medical center; and the Bergama Museum, which houses some of the finds from the ancient spa center of Allianoi, lost beneath the waters of the Yortanlı Barajı (Dam) in 2011. The main sites aside, the older part of town is also well worth an hour or so of your time. It's the sort of place where you'll come across a café where old men play backgammon in the sun seemingly oblivious of the fact that the tarpaulin above their heads is supported on columns removed from a lost Roman building. You may also stumble upon the old abandoned synagogue that was recently renovated. Even the Kurtuluş Cami is a find since the modern mosque is housed inside a medieval tower right beside the Kızıl Avlu.

Eski and Yeni Foça

Bergama may have the ruins, but it certainly doesn't have the sea. If that's what you're after, you may prefer to head north instead to the two Foças, once important Genoese trading centers and now flourishing seaside resorts. The larger of the two is Eski (Old) Foça, which mainly straddles the headland between two harbors. Here the remains of the Genoese castle are being slowly and lovingly restored while a number of small boutique hotels have opened both behind it and around the smaller of the two harbors. As yet, though, there isn't really enough accommodation to cater for the mid-summer rush, which is one good reason for visiting on a day trip from İzmir.

Yeni (New) Foça is easily accessible by bus from Eski Foça, although there are also direct buses from İzmir. Somewhat surprisingly, it's Yeni Foça that retains more of its historic character with street after street of attractive Ottoman Greek houses running back from the small strip of sand that is its main drawcard. There are no specific attractions here, although for those who grow weary from the concrete that encases most Turkish towns this is a wonderfully relaxing and inspirational small town. You might even find yourself standing in front of the Griffin Boutique Hotel (tel: 0232-814 7777), housed in a redundant winery, and wishing that you hadn't booked that bus ticket back to İzmir.

Dikili and Çandarlı

North of the Foças is another small seaside resort that finds more favor with Turks than foreigners and that is Dikili, a pleasantly sleepy place that only really comes to life during the school summer holiday period. There's nothing specific to draw you up here if history is your thing. However, just to the south Çandarlı is home to one of the finest castles surviving from the period when the Genoese had planted trading colonies round much of the Turkish coast. Despite recent claims that it would be opening to the public, the castle remained as firmly garrisoned against visitors as ever on my most recent visit.

Metropolis (Torbalı)

History lovers might also like to hop on the bus (or the train) to Torbalı, south of İzmir, where the ruins of the ancient settlement of Metropolis survive on the outskirts. While by no means as impressive as the ruins at Bergama, those at Metropolis are nonetheless interesting, with the remains of a theater, a bathhouse and a communal latrine. There's also a fine mosaic floor that the caretaker may be persuaded to soak for you so that you will be able to see how the colors would originally have glistened.

Akhisar and Alaşehir

For those with an interest in biblical history, İzmir, as Smyrna, was one of the Seven Churches mentioned by St. John of Patmos in the Book of Revelation. Today the ruins of Smyrna are more accessible than they used to be thanks to a handy new Metro station at Bayraklı. Sardis, too, is readily accessible by bus from İzmir. Far fewer people realize that two more of the “churches” (actually settlements) also lie in İzmir's backyard.

Akhisar was once Thyateira, although it has little to show for the fact beyond the ruins of a building with an apse whose use remains unclear and traces of a porticoed street. Alaşehir was the original Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love). Here at least there are remains of a church, and one that was obviously of monumental size to judge from the surviving arches that must once have supported a central dome. Doesn't seem worth going so far just for that? Well, a lengthy stretch of the old city wall also survives here and you can have fun tracking its path as it wends its way through the houses and car parks near where the bus from İzmir drops you off.


Akhisar and Alaşehir are sites of relatively minor interest except to specialists. Ditto Kemalpaşa, one of the easiest places to get to from İzmir with minibuses departing every 20 minutes from the otogar. Kemalpaşa was the ancient Nif, a fact it seems to have been determined to forget in the rush to modernity. Just one major monument survives from the period that would be well worth going out of your way to visit were it not for the fact that it is currently hidden behind scaffolding. This monument was the Laskarisler Sarayı (palace, also known locally as Kız Kulesi, the Maiden's Tower), the summer home of the Byzantine emperors living in exile in Nicaea (İznik) after the Crusaders drove them out of Constantinople (İstanbul) in 1204. The emperor responsible for its construction was actually buried in its grounds.

The scaffolding is due to come down any day soon according to the sign. Once that happens expect to see a newly restored building vaguely reminiscent of the better known Tekfur Sarayı in İstanbul.
Keywords: İzmir , day trip

Monday, September 21, 2015

Awesome Aphrodisias

Awesome Aphrodisias

Awesome Aphrodisias
(Photo: Pat Yale, Sunday's Zaman)

The small photography gallery in aphrodisias (Afrodisias) houses an extraordinary black-and-white image.
Two bearded middle-aged men in flat caps are sitting cross-legged on a bench beneath a plane tree enjoying a smoke and a chat in the quiet of their village. Look more closely, however, and you will see that this is no ordinary bench. Instead, it has armrests carved in the shape of dolphins and footrests in the shape of lions' feet. It is, in other words, a Roman bench. Yet the men sitting on it on that sunny day were doing so in 1958, when the great photographer Ara Güler had come to visit the village of Geyre, then squatting amid the remains of ancient Aphrodisias.

It goes more or less without saying that those two men were among the last Turks permitted to live here. Second in extent only to those of ephesus (Efes), the ruins of Aphrodisias were far too splendid to be left unexcavated. And so the villagers were moved to Yeni Geyre (New Geyre), leaving just a handful of the buildings of Eski Geyre (Old Geyre) to molder amid the ruins rather as they do at Stratonicea (Stratonikeia), out west near Yağatan. The amazing thing is that the marble bench still survives, still standing beneath that same plane tree, which means that you can plonk yourself down on it for a rest just as those two men did more than 50 years ago.

The gallery also displays other Güler photographs of the last days of Eski Geyre, revealing a world in which a Roman capital could be casually reused as the base for a wooden column, a piece of temple architrave as the bottom of an oil press. The romantics among us might wish that we could still see such sights, but of course that's wishful thinking.

The site

The excavated remains of Aphrodisias cover a wide area so make sure that you allow plenty of time to do them justice. Most tours set aside no more than three hours, which is barely enough time to get all the way around the site.

You start off on your explorations from what was once the main square of Eski Geyre and is now home not just to the photography gallery but also to Aphrodisias' splendid museum, best visited at the end of your tour (but leave plenty of time for it). Most people head straight out from the square, heading for the reconstructed tetrapylon, a monumental gateway erected in the second century, probably at the junction of two main roads. From here a ceremonial walkway may have led to the Temple of Aphrodite, whose existence explains much of the ancient city's wealth and importance.

Today the remains of the temple are far from the most impressive thing to see here. However, the original structure long predated Roman occupation of the site and seems to have started life as a place where a goddess combining the attributes of the ancient Semitic fertility deity, Ishtar and the ancient Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was worshipped, apparently with much unseemly behavior. Needless to say, the later Christian occupants of the city were less than happy with the temple's reputation and hastily built a Byzantine basilican church over the site of the temple's final incarnation under Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-38). Not content with that, they hacked the cult statue of Aphrodite to pieces and rammed the body into a wall as building material, an ignominious fate from which it has since been rescued.

More impressive to look at are the ruins of the 262-meter-long stadium, probably built in the first or second century and able to seat up to 30,000 spectators in tiers of seats 30 deep. Here the locals held an annual festival that must have been a little like a cut-down version of the Olympic Games and that was apparently modeled on the Pythian Games in Delphi (Greece), with lots of wrestling and racing.

The stadium is a little apart from the main site. Returning from it you pass behind the Temple of Aphrodite and come to the remains of the Bishop's Palace with, right beside it, a dainty little bouleuterion (council house) where small theatrical performances probably took place when it wasn't needed for government business.

Beyond the bouleuterion you will come to the ruins of the baths of Hadrian and then, over a hill, to the fine theater, originally paid for some time between 39 and 27 B.C. by a prominent local citizen called Julius Zoilos, whose statue can be seen in the museum. In the second century B.C. it was extensively altered to accommodate gladiatorial fights and it's that later version that you look down on today.

But at Aphrodisias the very best is also best saved until last, and that is the splendid partially reconstructed Sebasteion, a huge temple complex that, while also paying homage to Aphrodite, was really a shrine to the deified Roman emperors. Most particularly it was a shrine to Augustus (r. 27 B.C.-A.D. 14) and his immediate descendants, Nero and Claudius, who appeared in the carvings adorning the two lofty porticoes that flanked the actual temple. Today those carvings are one of the greatest, yet least-sung glories of Aphrodisias.


The museum

Five years ago the doors of the Aphrodisias Museum reopened to show off one of the finest displays of ancient sculpture to be seen anywhere in the world. In antiquity, the town was well known for a school of sculpture that made use of locally quarried marble to produce exquisite carvings, sometimes entwining black and white marble to stunning effect. According to the Blue Guide travel guidebook, sculptures from Aphrodisias have been found as far afield as Leptis Magna in Libya and Tivoli in Italy. Of course the finest collection is on display here in the local museum.

There are many things to wow the visitor here, not least the battered remains of the statue of Aphrodite removed from the walls of the later church. But in the end everything pales into insignificance the minute you step across the threshold of the new gallery designed to house the original carvings from the Sebasteion. As an anonymous blogger wrote after a visit, “Aphrodisias (Museum) has more reliefs than the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum,” going on to note that only the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, home to the carvings from the Altar of Zeus, has more.

One could no doubt argue over whether the considerably older (fifth century B.C.) Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Athens are finer pieces of art. The one thing almost anyone who visits this gallery will probably agree on is that it makes the case for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece almost unanswerable. Here you can look at the Sebasteion, then wander into the museum to look at the carvings that once adorned it, then step outside again for another look. What could be more perfect? Why are the crowds not flocking here by the thousands?

Where to stay

There is no accommodation at Aphrodisias itself and only limited accommodation down the road in Geyre. Most people visit the site on tours from Pamukkale, where there is accommodation to suit all tastes either in the village, in the nearby thermal resort of Karahayıt or in Denizli town.

Allgau Pension, Pamukkale. Tel: 0258-272 2028
Hotel Laodikya, Denizli. Tel: 0258-265 1506
Hotel Koray, Pamukkale. Tel: 0258-272 2300
Richmond Pamukkale Thermal Hotel, Karahayıt. Tel: 0258-271 4294


How to get there

The nearest airport to Aphrodisias is in Denizli, which is also easily accessible by train from İzmir and Selçuk. From Denizli there are regular minibuses to Pamukkale and Karahayıt. Pamukkale hotel and pension owners will be able to book a transport-only tour to Aphrodisias for you, although if you drive yourself you will probably be able to spend more time there.

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