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Impressions of the Aegean & West Mediterranean Coast, Turkey

I belong to those people who become sea-sick at the sight of a glass of moving water, so for me no 'Mavı Yolculuk', the 'Blue Voyage' in a sailing boat, rounding the cape from the Ionian shores of the Aegean Sea to the equally superb coast of the Mediterranean, in Turkish called the 'Ak Deniz', the 'White Sea'. Don't ask me why Turks organise your (not mine!) Blue Voyage over a White Mediterranean, because the waters of the Turkish riviera are as attractively blue as they could be and as they are elsewhere. Maybe it's just a reference to the foaming waves as they gently roll in onto sandy beaches or, at other spots, violently smash into the rocks. Fortunately, a mixture of aversion and phobia to waggle about on top of a narrow rocking deck, does not have to be an impediment to travel along the coast to the multitude of sites, with which history has literally paved the entire stretch of lands called Ionia, Karia, Lycia and Pamfylia, ancient names for the regions, respectively around Izmir, Bodrum, Fethiye and Antalya, all with a mainly Hellenistic past of splendour and flourishing culture. This side of Turkey's traces of history are obviously much more about Hellenic Antiquity than about Ottoman inheritance.

We kick off our trip in the very only place in Asia Minor which is not predominantly Hellenistic, but goes way further back into time, to the Mycenaean and even Early Bronze Age, Troy (Troia, Truva), at the mouth of the Dardanelles. From Troy Odysseus travelled victoriously South over sea, as Homeros tells us; we, you will anticipate, work our way South over land, giving us the chance to call in (sticking to seaman terminology) on places like Ephese (Ephesos, Efes), Marmaris, in front of the Greek island of Rhodos, and then due East, Mediterranean Antalya and Side, with plenty to admire in between. This itinerary is reflected hereunder in the six sections, with one exception: in the third section we sneak away from the sea, into Western Anatolia: there is just no way to leave out the spectacular natural basins of Pamukkale and the beautiful and rich Hellenistic site of Aphrodisias.


* 1998-2002 (incl. Scanned Slides 1998-2000)

Before visiting the place of your choice:

On a sharp promontory of the coast, in the border area between the ancient regions of Pamfylia and Cilicia, Side was first inhabited by Luwian peoples, related to the Hatti and Hittite cultures. Their language, Sidetic, has so far not been deciphered. Hellenisation took mainly place with the arrival of Alexander the Great in 333 BC and was given further impetus by the Romans as from 78 BC. Rome came much later here than in the Mediterranean regions more to the West, because the Treaty of Apamea of 188 BC by which Seleucid Antiochos III was forced to hand over all Anatolian territories to Pergamon, only applied to anything West of Perga. Side thus continued to develop 'out of the Roman loop' of law and order and happily lived on … piracy and slave trade, until the Romans had had enough of Side's nuisance and sent in their legions in 78 BC. Ironically, Side would go completely down in the 7th century AD because of Arabic piracy raids. But in between the Romans tamed Side, enlarged and embellished it in the 2nd century AD with temples for Apollo and Athena on the edge of the city's promontory, with a monumental nymphaion fountain and a State Market, a large court surrounded by porticos and colonnades, with a theatre, also of the 2nd century AD, and an Arch of Triumph, which in the 4th century was converted into a city gate. Side's archaeological museum is established in the Roman baths area and is worth a visit, particularly for its collection of Hellenistic-Roman statues and the bas-relief of the Punishment of Ixion, the mythological kin-murderer and betrayer of Zeus. Things did not turn out well for Ixion, he should have known that Zeus would not appreciate his flirting with Hera..., even if the Olympian boss himself had a reputation as a divine womaniser.

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