August 17, 2014


Turkey- Day Five: Part 2

Next stop..


Despite our growing hunger, Ufuk, arranged for us to tour Aphrodisias, pushing back our lunch hour to 2pm. And with good reason.

There was a point where I could fry an egg on my head. And while I noticed most of us sweating profusely despite t-shirt and shorts, I also noticed that all the Turks were wearing jeans. There wasn’t a bare leg anywhere among the locals. Script arm tattoos also seemed to be popular among men. Panting like dogs we moved through the ruins quite quickly.

The region started as a prehistoric settlement, inhabited as far back as 5000 B.C. In the 1st century, under Roman Emperor Augustus, Aphrodisias was built to honour Aphrodite.

Monumental Gate

Temple of Aphrodite

Laid out on a grid plan, the city grew around the Temple of Aphrodite and occupied an area of one square kilometre. The population was thought to be approximately 15,000 people. Under Roman influence, its theatre, stadium, temple, baths and colonnaded squares were made of marble and surrounded by marble reliefs depicting both Greek and Roman subjects.

Stadium that held 30,000

Image discovering this in your backyard!

The Bouleuterion
Extensive excavation of Aphrodisias began in 1961 by Turkish hero Kenan Erim who, coincidently was raised and educated in Geneva, Switzerland. The story is that locals were selling artefacts from the site they found lying on the ground, not understanding that an entire ancient city existed underneath their land.

According to our tour guide who is also an archaeologist, there are so many ruins in Turkey, so much history, and so little funding it will take hundreds of years just to uncover sites like Hieropolis and Aphrodisias.

After visiting the museum we had lunch!!

And then headed to the coast, to our hotel in Kusadasi. It was an early night.

View of the Aegean Sea

August 16, 2014

Roman Ruins, Thermal Baths and the Gate to Hell!

Turkey- Day Five: Part 1

(sorry about delay...was travelling)

Pamukkale was fascinating. Even with the impressive geographic formations of Cappadocia (including the maze of underground tunnels), it didn't compete with the City of Hierapolis, rich in history and mystery.

Map of Hierapolis and our tour guide
Hierapolis (Holy City)

Hierapolis was an ancient city founded in the 2nd century by the Phrygians. It later passed over to the Romans and was inhabited all the way into the medieval period. 

Located in modern day Pamukkale, the ancient city was built over a hot spring and initially used as thermal spa with many baths built throughout the region. The thermal spring, which still flows through the area, created mineralized terraces, pools of crystal blue water, that are thought to have healing properties. 

Healing my feet
A few people on our tour came to Turkey to use the baths for medicinal purposes. Initially overflowing with water, there are now only a handful of terraces left. Hotels managed to siphon off the water, effectively drying up the landscape, before the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While excavation is still taking place (and probably will for decades), archeologists have discovered temples, baths, a nymphaeum, a cemetery (necropolis), a theatre seating 15,000 people and even a Plutonium!


Pluto, god of the underworld, is thought to guard the Gates of Hell. Last year a small cave was discovered near the Temple of Apollo. Dead birds were found lying near the entranceway. It was discovered during the dig that the cave emanated a deadly concentration of carbon dioxide gas. The site was closed off for public viewing. I took a picture…from a safe distance.    

Gate to Hell
The most fascinating place for me was the Martyrium of St. Philip. Located high on the hill, the martyrium was the burial site of St. Philip, one of the 12 apostles.

Alone, I walked up the steps like Indiana Jones to ruins where St. Philip was said to have been crucified upside down.

entrance to the eight-sided central room of the martyrium
The number 8 holds a strong symbolic significance for the martyrium. Built sometime in the 5th century, the structure was designed with a central octagonal room where eight rectangular rooms open onto it. Each room is supported by columns resting on marble octagonal plinths.

One of eight chambers
The martyrium overlooked the entire valley. The only sounds of life were constant buzzing of bees that never appeared and my own breath from having run up so many stairs. While I’m not a religious person, it was hard not to feel some kind of spiritual connection to Mother Nature and the past.

City of Hierapolis