Termessos and Perge

Trip Start Jan 06, 2006
Trip End Sep 02, 2008

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Sunday, February 5, 2006

Remember my statement about going it alone? Not this time. Sometimes the cost is too great. Okay, enough platitudes. I bused from Olympos to Antalya with my friends from Victoria. While they were going to Cappadocia, I wanted to see the ruins of Termessos, Perge and Aspendos (by the way, I will not go to Cappadocia because I have decided that it is too cold. It is outside of my scope of travels as well).
Having tried to stay on a strict timeline after waiting in Rhodes, I had planned to
see all three sites, but then the cost of doing so (it would have been in excess of USD 100) convinced me to pick only Termessos. But doing it the public transport way takes a long time as well, and I only made it to Termessos by noon. But it did cost far far less.

But it is a remote place. There are some substantial mountains in Turkey, but Antalya is on the fringe of the range, sort of like Calgary is to the Rockies. Termessos is just inside of the mountains, like Canmore, but instead of being in a valley it is nestled right on the top of one of them! If the day had been more clear, I am sure I could have seen Antalya. The one cost I couldn't avoid was getting a car to take me nine kilometers up to the upper parking lot. And I was glad I did: you realise that I am not adverse to walking mile upon mile, but here I had to consider that doing so would take at least 2 hours (being entirely uphill) and then I would still have to see the site and get down. I was not going to be waiting at the side of a highway after dark for a bus again!

But after giving me a somewhat reasonable price, the driver turned out to be a decent guy, who brought his high school aged son along for the ride down so he could speak English with me: he wants to be an English teacher.

But back to talking about Termessos. The site itself is completely overgrown. From the parking lot where I was dropped off, it's still a 1100 meters higher slog to the top.

Historically the site is important because it's the one place Alexander of Macedon never conquered. Considering its remoteness, one ought not be surprised. Personally I wouldn't have bothered to conquer it either. Not that it is a useless site to see, not at all, but it would have been more easily taken with a small band of commandoes than with a huge army that would have had to march up a mountain without decent supply lines. There is really no large flat area except at the very bottom where I caught a ride.

The ruins are the usual blend. Thrown in for interest is a the theater that hangs off the edge of a cliff on three sides! Must have lost a lot of slaves building that. The upper hills are littered with gigantic Greek sarcophagi (each about the size of a sedan on its side). Another point of interest is an attractive tomb to one of Alexander's lieutenants. It has an image on the deceased on horseback carved into the side of the mountain. Also, there are five cisterns which drop many many meters below ground level (but the intrepid public is protected by grates which prevent unforeseen tumbles into them. Tumbles is a bit of an understatement. They each are about 7 meters deep).

The next day, that would be February 4, I saw Perge. It is known for its famous statue production (many of which are on display in the Antalya museum). I had planned on not bothering, but it took me so long to get back to Antalya from Termessos that I couldn't see the excellent museum before it closed, so I waited another day to see it. I met up with Mike (see next entry) to go to the museum in our hotel. He was off to Perge afterwards, so I opted to go along and see it. I would have to spend one night more than planned in Antalya, but I was not unhappy about it. Besides - being as stubborn as I have become, I wouldn't have if I didn't really want to (this is "prophecy" of a few days from now. Consider it a blend of literary foreshadowing and real life hindsight).

Perge is easy to get to as long as one sees all the roadsigns, and we arrived just as the last package tour bus for the day was leaving. Perge has a great bath house. My guidebook has described each section of it, and I thought that the description was all space filler.

But no, it has the best bath house that I have seen. Some marble from the floors remains, as are the majority of walls and part of the hypocausts (where the hot air came in to heat up the rooms). Usually hypocausts, made of bricks, don't last very well. Near the baths is an agora (marketplace) where most of the pillars around the middle court have been ýmpressively reerected - but some doorframes have been rebuilt in concrete to hold up ancient lintels, and these don't look as classic. Perge also has a great stadium, shaped like a racetrack, which still has all three sides up (unlike most other ones where only one side of seats is still visible). It was worth the extra day.
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