Friday, June 28, 2013

Why? Just beKos



17 to 20 June, 2013 – Kos, Nisiros – (Greece)

Hello. When you prepared for the trip, did you forget to pack your dignity? Please, if you do not have children with you, there is little excuse to be taking a "tourist train". I am referring to those tractors with painted panels which shunt around town ringing a bell and pulling three or four mostly empty carriages. At least sit close to the families that are on there so that on-lookers will think the kids are with you!

Jo and the Volcano
Jo and the Volcano
That's Jo down there.  In the crater.  This is not an extinct volcano, but not too active.  Dormant.  Stinking sulphurous gasses hiss out of various vents around, mainly near the rim.  Is it guaranteed not to erupt?  Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to things like volcanoes.  Just unlikely... Island of Nisyros, not far from Kos, Greece.


Crystals of Sulphur
Crystals of Sulphur
Where the smelly steam escapes from the ground, condensation and evaporation leaves behind fantastic crystal formations of sulphur. Primarily yellow, but at times tending towards green, depending on the minerals in the rocks where they form, I guess.


Corrosion
Corrosion
I guess this lock was put on some time ago and has not been opened for a while. Volcanic mineral laden steam at work.


Zia
Zia
View from Zia, Kos.


The Local Priest
The Local Priest
In a village near Zia.  A delightful man to chat with.


Me and a Greek Stereotype
Me and a Greek Stereotype
Babi, owner of Hotel Hellas in Kos. He was so Greek that talking to him was like talking to a person who was sending Greeks up. "Good morning", he boomed when we came down in the morning, after which we would talk politics, and all about his extended family in Adelaide.


So, one of the things we went to on Kos was the "thermal beach". Volcanic gasses heat the water here, and where it mixes with cold sea water, it is a very pleasant place to swim. A "pool" is made with some really large rocks dropped in the sea to keep it all a bit contained as well as providing something to sit on in the water. It was not too crowded when we went, but there were enough people that we tried to pick a spot where we had some space around us and didn't feel too overwhelmed. It was fine, for an hour or so. However, one of the hairiest men I have ever seen got in the water, and decided to sit directly in front of us. We suddenly found our field of vision field with a huge, hairy back. Aaaargh. Oh well, time to get out, any way.

Leaving Kos, on our flight to Pisa was with Ryanair. Hmmm, Greek check-in staff, Italian passengers, Ryanair flight restrictions. It got heated in the queue on more than one occasion. Most people seemed to make it on the flight, but it seemed that a few were going to miss.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Final Part of Turkey



5 to 17 June, 2013 – Antalya, Side, Çıralı, Üçağiz, Kaleköy, Patara, Bodrum – (Turkey)

I'm going to have a little rant, here. I try not to be critical and judgemental of other people in the same way that I hope they are not with me. However, sometimes I cannot help myself but to shake my head. People taking photos using their iPads. Now, come on, people. I can understand that it may be a handy way to take a snapshot when caught out somewhere without a camera. And if I had seen this once or twice, I would have assumed that maybe this sort of thing had happened. But the number of times we are seeing this phenomenon is becoming a worry. Holding up the giant screens, fighting glare in bright sunlight, struggling to take photos that are aligned properly. People who take photos with iPads, I don't know if you are showing off, but there are some excellent quality cameras about that are perfectly capable of taking the same or better, and they are not at all expensive.

Anyway, back to us, as this is what the blog is about after all. Again, I apologise for the lack of "stories" in this blog, but I promise, I already have a couple of beauties lined up for the final blog postings.

Oh, one that I should quickly mention. We ordered chicken schnitzel, just for a change from local fare. We received a plate of chicken nuggets. A long way short of our expectations.


Antalya
Antalya
A view over the historical district of Antalya, including its symbolic minaret, the Yivli Minare. Antalya was a more than pleasant stop, and the old town area (Kaleiçi) was a delightful area to base ourselves. We did a Turkish bath full works treatment in a 400 year old hamam, at the same time (not together, but in gender separated sections). Wash, sauna, peeling scrub, wash, soap massage, wash, oil massage.


Hall of Gods – Antalya Museum
Hall of Gods – Antalya Museum
The statues in the Hall of Gods is magnificently presented and were a highlight of the Antalya museum.


Roman Harbour, Antalya
Roman Harbour, Antalya
Antalya has been an important city for many centuries, and the harbour below the historical district is the primary reason why. Kitty in the foreground just enhances the scene.


Temple of Athena, Side
Temple of Athena, Side
Re-erected columns from the Temple of Athena in Side, near Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.


Burning Rocks
Burning Rocks
Gases escaping from vents in the ground have been burning here for over 2,000 years. They are visible from the sea and have been a landmark for sailors since before Roman times. In Turkish, it is called Yanartaş, Burning Rock, but the area also goes by the name Chimaera, a mythical fire-breathing monster. Remains of ancient temples still exist on the mountain. This site is on Mt Olympos, near Çıralı.


Returning to Sea
Returning to Sea
We encountered this loggerhead turtle on the beach of Çıralı, on her way back to sea after laying her eggs.


YAIRT
YAIRT
Yet Another Impressive Roman Theatre. You know, despite the obvious similarities between all the ancient theatres that we have seen, somehow we are still able to notice and appreciate that they are different. Really loved this one at Myra. Myra was a Lycian city that apparently got to retain a lot of its autonomy under Roman rule.


Mosaic Floor
Mosaic Floor
This mosaic floor is in the Church of St Nicholas, Demre.


Church of St Nicholas
Church of St Nicholas
St Nicholas was the bishop of Myra. He is the patron saint of Russia and Greece, many individual cities, and many groups (such as sailors, travellers, penitent thieves, children, widows, and more). His legacy morphed into the character that we now call Santa Claus. This church was not only the basilica he presided at, it is also where his grave is (or should I say, was – about 1,000 years ago, his remains were upped by some Italians and now lie in a couple of churches in Italy).


Lycian Tomb
Lycian Tomb
An ancient tomb from the Lycian kingdom, now in a shallow bay due to countless earth movements over the last 2,000 years. Kaleköy, Turkey.


In the Dining Room
In the Dining Room
Some cuties, almost ready to fly, in a nest in the corner of the dining area of our pansiyon.


Amazing Polygonal Stone Work
Amazing Polygonal Stone Work
This building at Patara is not at all renovated or restored. This stone work has survived for around two millennia. Such precision.


Relief Carving of a Dolphin
Relief Carving of a Dolphin
At Patara, they have started excavation of a Roman lighthouse. Only a few of the stones have carvings, but we fell in love with this dolphin and its cartoon style. An inscription implies that this was one of two lighthouses built at the ancient port. Since there was not a lot of information about the site, we have to assume that the light was no more than a large fire built atop a column. It was a cylindrical building with a spiral stone staircase inside. A fantastic location to have all to ourselves.


Main Street, Patara
Main Street, Patara
This used to be one of the main streets of the Lycian capital, Patara, leading from the agora to the harbour. The harbour has long since silted up, and is now a swamp, but much of the city's former grandeur is easy to imagine.


Gladiator Paraphanelia
Gladiator Paraphanelia
One of the carved stones found in the Roman theatre of Patara. It shows gladiatorial armour and sword, and on the side (not visible in the photo) is a shield.


Mosaic, Letoön
Mosaic, Letoön
This cool mosaic at the World Heritage site of Letoön was in the altar area of a temple dedicated to Apollo. Apollo and his sister Artemis were children of Leto, fathered by Zeus. Unfortunately, Leto was not Zeus' wife. Hera was, and she was one goddess you did not want to cross. It gets complicated, but Letoön is apparently where Leto and her twin babies ended up when on the run. Oh, the people of the area apparently denied her access to water, so she turned them all in to frogs. Frogs inhabit all the swamps and pools of the site, and are said to be descendants of those cursed people.


YAIRT
YAIRT
Did you remember what it stands for? Yet Another Impressive Roman Theatre. This one, in Xanthos, has a pair of Lycian sarcophagi on pedestals. OK, the best parts are reproductions, the originals having been carted off to London centuries ago, but they are still pretty cool.


A Scattered Inscribed Stone
A Scattered Inscribed Stone
We thought it simply amazing that stones with so much written on them would still just lie scattered on the ground. Xanthos.


Shuttered Windows
Shuttered Windows
Stone walls and blue shutters.  The photo was begging to be taken.


Could You Say No to This Face?
Could You Say No to This Face?
A hungry little trio of kittens stole our hearts in a side street of Bodrum.  We ended up buying a packet of dry food and a tin of tuna for them.


Bodrum Castle
Bodrum Castle
Bodrum castle is now home to a fantastic series of museums, primarily focused on underwater archaeology.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Some People Come to See the Ruined Cities...



30 May to 5 June, 2013 – Bergama, Pergamum, Selçuk, Ephesus, Priene, Miletus, Didyma, Pamukkale, Afrodisias – (Turkey)

Walking along the street in Selçuk, we were privileged to witness one of the cutest sights ever. An elderly Turkish couple were standing on the footpath, engaged in conversation. I don't know what exactly drew our attention to them, but we started discussing them, hypothesising what they might be talking about. Suddenly, the man grabbed the plump lady, and heaved her up so she could sit on the brick fence they were standing at. It still makes us smile to think back to that.

So, now we are in the south western part of Turkey. The ruined cities have become our focus. Hellenistic; Roman; Byzantine; Lycian. Some two thousand year old structures are incredibly intact, others look fabulous after incredible restorations, there are some which are suffering from questionable preservation efforts, but the majority are left with their enormous decorated stones laying exactly where archaeologists have uncovered them. Pillars jut out of the ground, carved lintels are stepping stones to aid climbing, and enormous slabs of fallen marble create a maze among the foundations of ancient walls. Here are some photos from this part of the world. More to come in the next installment.

The Temple of Trajan, Pergamum
The Temple of Trajan, Pergamum
Marble columns of the Roman built temple in Pergamum's acropolis.


A Very Impressive Hellenistic Theatre, Pergamum
A Very Impressive Hellenistic Theatre, Pergamum
The 10,000 seat theatre of Pergamum.


A Scattered Piece
A Scattered Piece
A beautifully carved piece from a temple in Pergamum, amongst a large number of scattered pieces, waiting to be pieced together once more.


The Red Basilica of Pergamos
The Red Basilica of Pergamos
In Revelation, John addresses the church of Pergamos (Pergamum), one of the seven churches of the apocalypse, as the place “where Satan's throne is” (Revelation 2:13). This building was a pagan temple, built to a number of gods (principally Egyptian). Eventually, it became Christian, and an entire basilica was built inside the old temple.


Going Nowhere
Going Nowhere
More ruins of Pergamum, this motorbike and sidecar look like they haven't moved for a long time. Although, they probably are not Roman. I'm not sure about the cat, either, who seems to like the idea of staying put.


Stork Nest Atop an Ancient Pillar
Stork Nest Atop an Ancient Pillar
The pillar is about all that remains from the once great Temple of Artemis, the largest in the world in its day, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the background are the remains of the impressive Basilica of St John, containing the tomb of the apostle.


Terrace House Mosaic
Terrace House Mosaic
One of the beautiful mosaics uncovered in a series of terrace houses, Ephesus.


Library of Celsus, Ephesus
Library of Celsus, Ephesus
The most famous sight within Ephesus, the facade of the library.


Ephesians, Chapter I
Ephesians, Chapter I
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, I don't think he was addressing these residents. Cats don't need encouragement to think bigger and act bigger.


Ephesians, Chapter II
Ephesians, Chapter II
There are so many cats in Ephesus. And they were all sociable, and lounged in picturesque locations in adorable poses. And to think, some people come here to see the ruins.


Column Pieces
Column Pieces
Looking like giant cogs, pieces of the temple columns lie about, as if they are in the process of being sorted. Temple of Athena, Priene.


The Great Theatre of Miletus
The Great Theatre of Miletus
Hellenistic, then updated by the Romans, with a Byzantine castle plopped on top.


Column Bases
Column Bases
Some of the 124 column bases that remain from what once was the second biggest temple in the world, the Temple of Apollo at Didyma.


Pools of Pamukkale
Pools of Pamukkale
Some of the upper pools of Pamukkale.


Pamukkale
Pamukkale
Looking down at the travertines of Pamukkale. Like a series of saucers, water runs from one to the next, leaving calcite deposits behind which are bleached by the sun.


Swimming, Pamukkale Style
Swimming, Pamukkale Style
Taking a dip in one of the travertines. We were astounded how few people actually took advantage of the opportunity to get in the pools, considering how unique a location Pamukkale is. It didn't worry us, it just surprised us.


A Tomb on the Clifftop
A Tomb on the Clifftop
This tomb, one of many from the necropolis of Hierapolis, is picturesquely situated on the cliff top. The calcite rich waters which create the travertines also run here, leaving the ground with a gleaming white coating.


The Antique Pool of Hierapolis
The Antique Pool of Hierapolis
OK, so it was a tad on the expensive side, but how often do you get the opportunity to swim in a 2000 year old pool with genuine Roman pillars and capitals? In its day, the pool was probably one of the focal points of the city of Hierapolis. I guess back then most of the pillars were around the pool, not in it. However, I think they are a nice touch, giving swimmers somewhere to sit while in the water.


Tetrapylon, Afrodisias
Tetrapylon, Afrodisias
The fantastic gateway in the ancient city of Afrodisias. It has been reconstructed from a very high proportion of original pieces, around 85%. This is much higher than normal, and it makes the gateway a phenomenal sight.


Can You Hear the Crowd?
Can You Hear the Crowd?
This Roman stadium, in Afrodisias, was used for many purposes, but the most exciting for our minds to try and imagine is the gladiatorial contests. This is not reconstructed at all, just how it is after all these years without being plundered for building materials. The seats are overgrown, but still clearly defined the whole way around. Gates enter the arena from both ends, and the little boy in me could not resist walking through them, onto the open area, and giving a wave to the imaginary crowd that erupted into an incredible roar. When we told Ben, our nephew, what we had seen, and about the gladiators once fighting here, he asked if there were any bones still lying around. Now, that would have been really cool!