THE KAERU KID: The Kid’s quest for Greco-Roman knowledge continues


TAKING IN BEAUTY AND HISTORY ­— Antalya (above left), a city on the Mediterranean Coast of southwest Turkey, is the third most visited city in the world. photo by The Kaeru Kid

Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-part series.

The long journey continued with rest stops every two hours as the bus traversed the Taurus Mountains until we finally reached the Mediterranean Coast. We stayed at the luxury Crowne Plaza Antalya hotel, but their WiFi is slow, the room was poorly cleaned and other deficiencies made this a less than memorable stay. The hotel is also located some distance from the historic old town.

TAKING IN BEAUTY AND HISTORY ­— Antalya (above left), a city on the Mediterranean Coast of southwest Turkey, is the third most visited city in the world.  photo by The Kaeru Kid
TAKING IN BEAUTY  ­— Antalya, a city on the Mediterranean Coast of southwest Turkey, is the third most visited city in the world. photo by The Kaeru Kid

I was surprised to learn that Antalya, with a population of one million, is the third most visited city in the world, after Paris and London. The Turkish Riviera, which has a pleasant year-round climate and relatively low cost for food and lodging, as well as a slew of historic archaeological sites, is a big draw. Antalya (originally Attaleia) was named for the Pergamon King in the second century B.C.

Our day trip began at the former Greco-Roman ancient city of Aspendos, which was founded sometime around 1,000 BC. The Roman theater is remarkably well preserved, so much so that international opera and ballet festivals have been held here annually since 1994. Roman theaters are usually free standing, whereas Greek theaters are built against hills. Still intact Roman aqueducts are also nearby. It is mind boggling to think how well these structures were made, having survived all these years. One wonders why Roman-building techniques such as fast-curing cement and reinforced concrete did not survive in these areas after the Romans were expelled.
Unfortunately, the guide did not give us any of Aspendos’ interesting history, including when the Persians dominated it sometime in 500 B.C.

Our journey continued to the huge Archaeological Site of Perge, where the capital of this area was once located. Reconstruction of its theater is slowly taking place. An example of an ancient shopping mall is the agora, which has porticos (colonnades) for the stores, and a grassy median with fountains bordered by a road for chariots, where their tracks can still be seen in the stone. The baths reflect the importance of Roman hygiene. Other structures have deteriorated, but there are signs indicating their original function. This area is also an important Christian site because Paul the Apostle visited and preached here in 46 AD.

The tour takes us to Antalya’s old town, with its distinctive clock tower and lovely harbor. Rather than join a walking tour, I had planned on having my laundry done during this time and located a place that I had previously researched. The German woman who ran it did a good job, charging around $10 for a week’s worth of laundry. I had to wait a few hours and missed the bus ride back to the hotel, but it gave me more time to investigate the charming town on my own. The return taxi fare to the Crowne Plaza cost $13. There is a trolley that runs close to the clock tower with money exchange stores near the tracks. The exchange rates were not as good as the money change shops along the pedestrian mall.

The next day involved traveling through lush farmlands and beautiful red poppy fields growing opium for medicinal use. Our tour guide said intercity buses have Internet and that some tour buses do, too. Unfortunately, ours did not. The bus driver’s license had a chip and he inserts his license into a special slot that records how long he has driven, the rest stops taken and top speed driven.

Our lunch stop was at a delightful restaurant with many streams and unique fountains. The fresh trout on the menu was delicious.

A short drive brought us to the Hierapolis-Pamukkale – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Pamukkale means cotton palace. This had long been on my bucket list since seeing photos of the hot springs spewing lime-laden water, creating white terraces with turquoise-colored pools, a dazzling scene. Turquoise was named for the blue-colored gems that were originally found in Turkey, and is a fitting color description for these pools. You can learn more online:’v=JX32CDXKQHY.

The ancient Roman town of Hierapolis was constructed at the top of the hill where the springs emanate and two theaters, agora (shopping area), latrines, and the main attraction of natural hot pools, was located. A modern pool area continues to draw many visitors, and the area is extremely crowded. Unfortunately, the Hierapolis Museum was closed during our visit. Having seen so many photos of this place in the past, seeing it in person was a disappointment because it was not quite what I imagined. It does not have as many terraces with pools, but consists more of white sheets of calcium with only occasional pool areas. It is said that the large hotels built at the top diverted spring water so that less cascaded down. The hotels were forced to close in order to restore the flow, but water is also being diverted to the village below and the water flow remains less than what it once was.

Our night’s stay is at the four-star Richmond Hotel, which has no elevators, slow Internet, unappetizing food and deceptive menu prices. For example, beer is listed as 5. It turns out not to be in Turkish lira, but euros, and when the conversion from the lira to the euro is made, they use a conversion rate to their advantage, thus profitting even more. They even went so far as to claim they did not have enough change when cash was presented.

The next day’s travel destination is Kusadasi. We pass through a small village where the custom is to place a pot or bottle on top of the chimney to indicate an eligible single girl lives there.

The archeological site stop is at Aphrodisias, which was named for the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. This was the location of the cult that worshipped her. A nearby marble quarry provided material for sculpture used throughout the Greco-Roman empire. We were told a famous Turkish photographer, Ara Güler, stopped near here for a cup of coffee and sat on a stone bench that had carvings of dolphins on each end. He asked the owner where he found them and was told about the nearby ruins and took several photos of the area. A Turkish American New York University professor, Kenan Erim, saw the photos of Aphrodite and spent the rest of his life, from 1961 to 1990, excavating there. His wish to be buried next to the Aphrodite temple was granted.

Several other archaeologists could spend their lifetimes here, given the amount of excavation that remains to be done. The site fell into disuse because this area has many earthquake faults and several devastating ones led to its abandonment. Again, we arrived on a day that the museum housing many fine sculptures was closed. We did tour the area and saw the Tetrapylon gateway, which has four rows of four huge columns leading to the sacred main street to the Temple of Aphrodite, Odeon, the Baths of Hadrians and a hillside location of an 8,000-seat theater and arena.

After lunch, we stopped at a leather factory where models displayed leatherwear. There were sky-high prices, but discounts were offered and as usual, many in the group purchased these still over priced goods.

We made another stop at one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. It was destroyed and rebuilt a few times, but after the last destruction by Goths around 300 A.D., much of the building material was spirited away to be used in construction elsewhere.

The only remaining structure is a single column assembled from fragments discovered at the site.

There is an Ottoman castle on a hill behind the column, but it seemed that I was the only one interested, and the guide did not provide further information.

Later, I determined it was the Ayasuluk Castle, which has a fascinating history, but again, the guide didn’t relay any information about the castle. You can learn more about it here:

We stayed at the Efe Boutique Hotel right on the water in Kusadasi. The town has a population of around 70,000.

It is a popular resort city where wealthy Turks own vacation homes and other Turks also flock here for the excellent weather, beaches, entertainment and visits within a few hours drive to some of the most important archeological sites such as Ephesus. Cruise ships also make stops here, so in season the population swells to over half a million.

Two cruise ships dock close to our hotel during the night and busloads of passengers depart in the early morning for Ephesus. We are told there will be about 10,000 visitors today at Ephesus and there are close to two million annually. This was one of the major cities in ancient times with a population of 250,000. It once was a port, but subsequent silting resulted in the city being six miles from the coast and a decline in importance.

HISTORY — The ancient toilets in Ephesus lacked partitions. photo by The Kaeru Kid
HISTORY — The ancient toilets in Ephesus lacked partitions. photo by The Kaeru Kid

It has a rich interesting bloody history, which may not be as well known. People come mainly to see restored structures, but so far only a fraction of them have been restored. The Celsus Library is the most striking, and thus frequently featured in articles or travel brochures about Ephesus. Always interesting are the ancient seated toilets that lack partitions that would be heated by slaves with warm stones or by sitting on the seats before their masters arrived so they would not suffer the shock of cold seats. The brothel always attracts the curious. The many streets, arches and gates housed medical schools, public baths, stores, temples, theaters, gymnasiums, fountains and other features.

British archaeologists excavating The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, took many valuable artifacts from 1867 to 1905 to the British Museum, which has an incredible collection of such items from Turkey, Greece and other countries. Many countries ask to have their precious items returned, but I doubt anything will occur soon, so if you are ever in London, see these original statues and columns. The continued explorations from 1905 to 1923 led to taking of additional discoveries to the Vienna Museum before the Turkish government outlawed removing valuable antiques out of the country. The Ephesus Museum has what was not taken but being located about 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) away in Selcuk, our tour did not include a visit.

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Las Vegas Tidbits

Continuing with the dessert theme, there are less expensive choices than Sweets Raku, but they will not be as creative. Right in the same mall as Sweets Raku, there is SnowFlake Shavery, which is located at 5020 Spring Mountain Road, Suite 3. The concept is relatively new to Las Vegas, but there are others in New York, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. These are essentially a cross between shave ice and ice cream, with exotic flavors and interesting toppings. The price is around $5 and up. There is a competitor further east at 3735 Spring Mountain Road, Suite 206 called Kuma. It has a poor location, and in my opinion, is just a tad less tasty, although they have a crunchy topping that is quite good. Each place will give you a free spoon tasting. Many of my friends prefer frozen custard and the most popular one is called Luv-It at 505 East Oakey Blvd. It is a Las Vegas institution although it is located in a dismal but generally safe area.

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