As we reluctantly departed the gulet – the Turkish traditional-designed two (or three, ours was two)-masted, wooden sailing vessel – at the attractive beach village of Gocek, the crew gathered on deck, waving goodbye to their passengers (and former shipmates.) This friendly and efficient “Group of Four” (plus the captain) included the comely sole female crewmember, Nellie, who blew us all a farewell kiss, though I could tell she specifically meant me. (Is that called “projection”, Doctor? Because I am certain I detected a discriminating wink.)
It was now, or at least shortly, as we stopped first at the local hospital to visit the “post-op” and recovering Jane and her accompanying husband Marvin; it seemed very nice for a small town Turkish hospital, it was now – as this sentence began but must be repeated because it got too far away – that the real “ruins visiting” portion of our travels kicked into high and exhilarating gear.
Amidst the swimming, the dining and the guleting (at one point, I actually took the helm for a while, but more about that later), we had already enjoyed a couple of interesting samples of the aforementioned 11,000 historical sites that the country of Turkey has to offer. We had, for example, visited the “Ghost Town” of Kayakoy (which admitted included a couple of wandering goats, so it was technically not a goat “Ghost Town.”)
A Brief History Lesson: During the 1920’s, there had been an exchange of Turks who had previously lived in Greece for Greeks who had previously lived in Turkey (to prevent the local inhabitants from annihilating the “strangers” living amongst them.) Unfortunately, the repatriated Turks found their new home’s terrain not amenable to their traditional purposes, so they simply walked away and abandoned the place, leaving Kayakoy to the wandering goats and a couple of camels, to whom you were permitted feed carrots in exchange for five Turkish lira (about two twenty-five.) Which I did. As best as I can recall, I have never passed up an opportunity to feed a camel. And I am not about to start now.
Also, anchored in a cove our itinerary identifies as “A Limani” (from which some of us but not all trekked for three hours to check out the ancient ruins of Lydea and buy cowbells), we could see a rather impressive half-sunken stone structure, familiarly known as “Kleopatra’s Bath.”
The thing is, archeologists date this structure as having been built at least two centuries after Cleopatra asped herself into oblivion. Meaning that the name-dropping designation is strictly for tourists, as the bath cleansed people two hundred years after the renowned Queen of The Nile herself was a goner. Which, don’t get me wrong, is still an old bath site, but, you know, call it what it more accurately now is:
A pile of rocks!
NOTE (Which I may not be putting in exactly the right place):
Throughout our tour of the various ruins, I bombarded our enclyopedically savvy guide Sarhan with the same troubling question:
“What exactly am I looking at?”
Which for me – as Sarhan understood after the first couple of bombardings – meant not “What is it I am looking at?” but “How much of what I am looking at is original and how much of it was subsequently reconstituted?” I imagined tourists snapping photos of structures they believed to be ancient but that were actually reconstructed in 1978! And it’s not really “imagined”, because a number of them were. My question stemmed from the fact that I did not want to be continually “Kleopatradly Bathed.”
Sarhan explained to me that there were strict rules concerning what percentage of an archeological discovery is permitted be rebuilt. It is also specified that when doing the reconstruction, the original building materials must always be utilized. What we were looking at, therefore, was either the real thing, or a venue that had been partially – but scrupulously – restored.)
Lacking photographs – I lied; we have photographs, but since I so rarely append pictures to my blog posts, I have unfortunately forgotten how to do it – I will not instead burden you with inadequate word descriptions. Suffice it to say, there is, for me at least, a transporting sensation about walking around places that were inhabited by people thousands of years ago. And amazing examples of them are everywhere!
Inobtrusively, just off the main road, there was the more than two thousand year-old Grecian Temple of Zeus (which, on the day that we visited we had all to ourselves. A guy on the Internet calls it “the perfect ruined Greek Temple”, and he’s right!) There was:
Miletus and its evocative 5000-seat theater.
The hillside city of Priene, established circa 350 B.C. which was once visited by Alexander – the Great!
The “prophesy center” of Didyma (a site dating back to the 8th century B.C.) which next to Delphi housed the period’s most renowned enigmatic soothsayer.
And, most magnificently, there was Ephesus.
With the exception of Pompeii – frozen in time owing to an unfortunate meteorological incident – the substantially uncovered city of Ephesus offers tourists thousands of years later the most comprehensive experience – not to mention the excitement, the honor and the privilege – of exploring the streets, the (both public and private) buildings and the living conditions of a virtually mythical by-gone era.
Chills-a-plenty. And it wasn’t even chilly.
Most affecting for me was the Library of Celcus (constructed in 110 A.D.) on one of whose steps is carved what Sarhan called “a graffiti” – meaning I guess that it was not an official part of the design – of a menorah.
I shall conclude this chapter offering the image of an aging Jewish gentleman from California (though formerly from Toronto) sitting on the steps leading up to the venerable library, bringing the tips of the fingers of his right hand to his lips, and then placing them and allowing them to rest on top of that menorah.
“We’re still here. I just thought you might like to know.”