Aphrodiasas was the first scheduled stop on our epic road trip. It’s not exactly close to Bodrum, and it’s not really on the way to anywhere, but I’d heard it was a great place (“10 best ancient cities in Turkey”), and had a sculpture studio that was famous in its day (5th century? I forget. I’m bad at dates, so I tend to just say “5th c” for everywhere in Turkey that’s pre-Modern and post-Hittite and not Byzantine, Selcuk or Ottoman).
And since we had to start someplace, Aphrodisias seemed as good a place as any. It fit nicely about half-way between Bodrum and Eğirdir – and Eğirdir was about halfway between Aphrodisias and Konya – which was about halfway between Eğridir and Avanos, according to various web-calculators. This meant 3-4 hour stints of driving for Harun – who doesn’t like to let me drive. (When we got to Avanos, my friend Hacı Ali upbraided him for this: “You think she doesn’t know how to drive? What do you think she did before she met you? You gotta get over this…”)
At Aphrodisias, Harun was hoping to find figs, as it was the season for figs, and Harun believes that the best places to gather figs, and olives, are at ancient Greek sites in Turkey. Although another of Hacı Ali’s rants was to be about people who pick things that don’t belong to them (“they call it göz hakı ‘eye rights’, but it’s just plain hırsızlık ‘stealing’ “), whenever we start to contemplate a road trip, one of the first factors Harun takes into consideration is what’s in season. I think this goes back to an earlier road trip to Tlos (up in the hills above Fethiye) when we ran into a little old man who insisted that the site that we had to pay to get onto was his land and the government had no right to take it from him and as far as he was concerned we had his permission to go ahead and pick as many olives as we liked.
Since then, we have made it a point to purchase “museum cards” good for a year’s worth of free entrance to most ancient sites in Turkey, and to make sure we go when the olives are ripe. This year we were expecting to hit ripe olives on our way back along the Mediterranean. Aphrodisias was supposed to be for figs (for Harun) and carob (for Me).
We were being somewhat well-behaved tourists, parking our car outside the site like the sign said (athough not following instructions to go to the paid parking that was unnecessarily far away and surrounded by souveneir shops). After that, we walked along the road heading into Aphrodisias. It was almost like a processional way, lined on one side by some very large and lovely carob trees as well as pistachios. (Unfortunately, there were no carobs on the trees, and – note – pistachios are related to the same trees that give us turpentine, which is why I don’t particularly like trying to eat unripe pistachios off the trees.)
As you have read this far without any visual stimulation, I suppose it is about time that I make two important confessions. One: Although I’ve gotten better about carrying my camera with me, I have a habit sometimes of just carrying it, and as a result, I have no pictures of these lovely carob trees, or of a lot of other people, places and things that we encountered during our trip. (But no worries, as I plan to be enlivening this modest little travelogue with some artistically enhanced photographs). Two: Although I’d love to be able to say “along with my sketches”, in fact, I ended up doing about as much sketching as Harun did fishing. My only excuse is that I was just too busy travelling).
With the exception of a group of what appeared to be international archeology and/or architect students, we had Aphrodisias entirely to ourselves. There were two reasons for this. One: Various and sundry bombs going off at assorted places in Turkey (the press likes to refer to it as “a spate of”). Two: The “darbe” – Turkish for “military coup” – an “attempted” one of which had just been “foiled” less than a week before we took off on our road trip. Considering that we had been planning this for about a year, we were not about to be put off by a little coup. Or even by the government’s declaration of OHAL – the Turkish acronym for “Emergency Rule” (or the literal translation, “Extraordinary Conditions”), which apparently occurred sometime while we were traipsing around Aphrodisias, but which we were yet to learn of until the following day.
But enough of all that. It’s time for Aphrodisias in Pictures:
Picture Number 3 (for 1+2, see Part 1 of the Georgia Road Trip):
Aphrodisias: A Monumental Gate Under Renovation
This was very big and impressive, but there was no apparent sign of anyone working on any renovation, although there were some plastic bottles up on top of the scaffolding filled with either paint or chemicals or something that had to do with renovation, I believe.
Picture Number 4:
Aphrodisias Stadium (with Dramatic Lighting by Photoshop)
This was a very large stadium. Personally, I like the one at Magnesia, by Söke, because most of the seats are still buried under the hills, so it leaves quite a lot to the imagination. And also, on the way to the Magnesia stadium are a lot of figs and olives. (BTW, I decided to Photoshop the picture because the weather did not provide me a blue sky. And to help appeal to the imagination.)
Picture Number 5:
Arches and Seating and Weeds with Blue Sky
There are a few arches still standing around the outside of the stadium. But there are a lot more weeds springing up among the seats. Many of which are edible (the weeds, not the seats). Since there were no figs, I enjoyed some of these (again, weeds). (Blue Sky courtesy of Photoshop.)
Picture Number 6:
Weeds at Aphrodisias
Not all the weeds at Aphrodisias are edible. But the ones that aren’t also make nice pictures. (BTW, this is not Photoshopped. OK, it’s cropped – but cropping doesn’t count. Not in my book.)
Picture Number 7:
Signs of Life at Aphrodisias
This was the first sign of life we saw at Aphrodisias after the guy who helped us get our Museum Cards to ding us through the turnstiles at the entrance to the site. (I’m not counting the scaffolding and paint at the top of the Monumental Gate, because those could have been there for years, whereas the samovar and thermos looked pretty recent.) Also note the improvised seating…
Picture Number 8:
Underfloor Heating at Aphrodisias
They’re also restoring the baths. You can see part of the tiled floor in the corner of the space, and how it was raised up above stones that heated up the place. At least I’m guessing that’s how it worked. I could be wrong.
Carvings from the Museum
Aphrodisias includes little museum that has apparently been recently renovated and is truly beautiful. Well lit, nice blue walls, lighting, ventilation… I particularly liked these little marble carvings. Such a modest little woman – Aphrodite? Covering up her parts on the way back from a bath? Think Boticelli… (and I note the abscence of fig leaf – as we noted the absence of actual figs, alas…)
Since Aphrodisias was the home of a famous sculpture studio, I’m guessing that this is a depiction of the God of Scupture Carving Something Magnificent…
And apparently the machismo we associated with the sculpture department (“Big Men in Big Boots”) back when I was in art school goes back centuries, too.
(From Aphrodisias, we head to Denizli in Part 3 of the Georgia Road Trip)