Today we decide to check out some history. It’s easy to do here in Turkey at the confluence of the various Ancient worlds. It’s the place where the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Crusaders all came together and left their marks.
Mum and Dad have seen this type of site in Greece but it’s my first time really getting up close and personal with the Ancient Greeks. The scale of this place is fascinating. Firstly, it would have been the high point in the town when it was built but today it sits a good 3-5m (10-15 feet) below street level. That just shows how much landscapes change over time. This temple was the fourth largest temple in the Ancient Greek world in the third century BCE. No wonder I am struck by the size and architectural mastery that it must be. What strikes me most, though is the way the massive blocks are just strewn all over the ground. It looks like a childish god or giant came along and swiped his hand across the temple as though it was a game of chess at which he was losing.
We drive on to Miletos where we start by drinking tea and coffee with a view of the massive amphitheatre and attached Byzantine castle.
The amphitheatre is huge. I hear a tour guide comment that it was used for battles by gladiators. Behind it there is a Byzantine castle. I find the confluence of the two historic periods interesting. There’s two different styles of construction: the amphitheater is made of huge big blocks that are incredibly heavy. The Byzantine castle, by contrast, is made of smaller rocks that are held together like a puzzle. It’s fascinating on so many levels.
Our final stop for the day is Priene. This large Ancient Greek city dates back to the fourth century BCE. Here there are ruins spread out under the pine trees under the watchful eye of a massive cliff. Like the other old cities here, the history of Priene is also intricately tied with the changes in the sea here. It used to be a seaside port but the water silted over here too and the area below the mountain became the land that now separates Lake Bafa from the sea.
The Temple of Athena was spectacular in its setting and size. The blocks that lay on the ground were huge. I wonder how they managed to lift the blocks to create the columns.
The thing I liked most about visiting these sites as the freedom afforded guests to move around at will. There are almost no barriers preventing access or forcing you to look from afar. You can just walk anywhere around the sites that your heart desires. Interpretive signs in Turkish, German and English provide enough information to help you create a complete story of the site in your mind. But mostly, being free to roam allowed me to take in the small details of the sites. Like the impressions of plants and the sculpture work embedded into the rocks.