Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On our way back to Ephesus, we stopped at the serene archaeological site of Aphrodisias. Tourist-free, with marble structures peeking out from poplars and leaves rattling in the wind. Aphrodisias was one of the earliest occupied sites of Anatolia, and was also home to a fertility cult worshipping the goddess of love and war, Nin, who was eventually synchronized with Aphrodite. It was a shrine before it was a town, and by far the most impressive structure still standing was the 14 columns of the Temple of Aphrodite. Since there were nearby quarries of high-quality marble, the site also became a school for sculpture, and the museum held a room full of reliefs of different Greek gods and goddesses. Archaeologists continue to work on excavating the site (most of it was just uncovered starting in the 1960s). Perhaps it will one day be on par with Ephesus, our next destination.

Near Ephesus, we stayed in the town of Selcuk, named after the first Turkic people who settled Anatolia from Central Asia. I've eaten my best meals and enjoyed the best Turkish hospitality while staying at family-run pensyons in Turkey. Nazar Hotel was one of these great places, and quickly became my mom's favorite place. Ephesus itself was ridiculously crowded and hot; the white marble reflected heat on us, and there was more than one man sightseeing this archaeological site in just a speedo. Basic facts: It was built in 1000 BC. St. John the Evangelist and St. Paul arrived in the mid 1st century and Christianity took its root there. It was a city of great commercial wealth.

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