Friday January 18, 2008

 

The brave Hollins Amazons embarked on a new journey today, leaving the calcium springs of Pamukkale for another exciting destination.

When driving through the tile-roofed villages, our fearless tour guide Mehmet explained to us a unique Turkish tradition.  Although he explained that in Turkey, pointing is considered rude, he was still able to show us the custom of placing bottles atop roofs as a sign that a girl lives in the specific household.  If one of the bottles is broken, it means that it has been shot by a suitor seeking a girl's hand in marriage; and therefore that girl will be married.  What an interesting tradition; I suppose families with daughters in Turkey are not alarmed by young men shooting at their houses, and even machine guns are acceptable to carry out this custom!

As the bus continued on, we passed fertile farmland.  1/3 of the world's fig production comes from Turkey, and approximately 1/2 of the world's hazelnut production comes from the Turkish Black Sea coast.  We were ultimately driving towards Kusadasi, which means Bird Island, due to the large amount of pigeons in the area, our final destination for the next three days. We passed many steam springs, and even a town called Buhar Kent, which means Steam City. It was a windy day, and looking out the bus windows one could see the numerous olive trees, as well as laundry, blowing in the wind.  It is amazing to think that some of those same olive trees may very well be 2,000 years old.  We drove into the city of Aydin, the biggest city in the area, meaning "scholar" or "the enlightened", where we picked up a Turkish student named Saduman, who will be staying with us for our three days in Kusadasi.  She is nice and happens to be interested in Hollins.  Hopefully this trip will be just as exciting for her as it is for us.

As we neared the coast, flamingos and pelicans were visible.  This is the same sea through which Greek (Hellenic) and Roman conquerors reached ancient Anatolia.  The Hellenistic Era began in the 2nd century B.C.  The Romans, however, named Anatolia Asia Minor, when it was a Roman province of the Roman Empire.  We entered the ancient city of Didyma, which was named after the Classical mythological twins, and children of Zeus; Artemis and Apollo (Di is a root of two, as in division). The twelve-columned (3 x 4) 6th-century temple was truly glorious.  Cows, other livestock and slabs of marble were dedicated to support the building of the temple.  It is bad luck to walk into a temple with ones left foot first, and all took extra caution to follow through with this ancient tried-and-true superstition.  The bay-leaf details were breathtaking and it was easy to imagine images of oracles predicting fortunes on which the fate! of empires lay.

Our next site of antique significance was Priene, where an ancient Hellenistic town had thrived.  This town was so prosperous, it is known as "The Pompeii of Asia Minor". It was near the Menderes River, from which the English word meander comes.  In ancient times, however, the river was nonexistant, as all the plains and present-day farmland below the cliff were all encompassed by the Aegean Sea.  The site was amazing, and it was mind-blowing to think of what a bustling metropolitan city it used to be, filled with stone buildings, agoras and ionic-columned temples.  Of course there was also a theater, (later converted into a Byzantine church, perhaps after the emperor Constantine, first Christian emperor), at which water was used as a timer for performances.

The weary but still strong travelers arrived at the great palace, aka Hotel Adakule at Kusadasi, at sundown.  Eating like emperesses within a marble and brightly-lit restaurant, we were ready to go, see and conquer after a mythic night's sleep in large, splendidly accomodated chambers.

Emily Morris