Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sagalassos -- first stop on our 6-day tour

Friday, 19 October 2012
As always, click on any image for larger view.

Last summer we signed up for an October group tour to Cappadocia; a small group tour.  This tour was arranged by Gwen in Marmaris.  Gwen is an American woman who has lived in Marmaris about 10 years in Netsel Marina aboard her yacht called K.W.  Gwen arranges many tours to lots of destinations in Turkey, and her tours are quite popular with cruisers.  She is not a travel agent and has no financial gain in these tours.  She does it to benefit the cruising community, for which we owe her a great big "thanks!".  

The small bus for our tour held 14 passengers, leaving 1 vacant seat on the back row that allowed a bit of stretching room for the folks seated back there.  As per our guide's suggestion, everyone switched seats daily to allow everyone a time in the 'best' seats.  Eight people were on boats docked at Yat Marine in Marmaris and that is where the tour originated.  Lucky us; Fethiye is on the way to Cappadocia.  The little bus collected another couple whose boat is docked at the large ECE Saray Marina (next door to us), then picked us up at the front door of Yacht Classic Hotel.  What could be more convenient for us!  Our guide was a very nice, friendly and well-educated young man nicknamed Tas; I never got his real name.  His command of the English language was excellent, both British version and American style.  Tas is very well-traveled both in Europe and America and is a licensed national guide in Turkey.  We would recommend this tour company and would definitely recommend Tas as a guide.  Here is a link to the 6-day tour we enjoyed: Koral Tourism and Travel Agency  

Please note that this tour does require a certain level of physical agility and endurance.  There is a lot of walking up and down and lots of steps or stairs to negotiate at the various sites visited.   Walking on uneven stones is tough on the joints and can be a tad painful for some of us older folks.  Glad we went now because I don't think I will be physically capable of doing this tour in another 5 years.  Just sitting in the bus for approximately 2600 km (1560 miles) over 6 days was taxing enough for old people with arthritic hips and knees.  The tour does make comfort stops every 2 to 2 1/2 hours and it does help greatly to walk around for a few minutes.
Looking across valley from Sagalassos

Our first stop was 4 hours away in the Lake District -- the archaeological dig site of Sagalassos, known most appropriately as The City of the Clouds.  Tas explained that the pronunciation of the name literally translates in local dialect to 'Make Him Cry.'   I think City of the Clouds sounds better.

Another view from Sagalassos

The ancient city of Sagalassos truly was a city of the clouds.  It is situated near the top of a mountain and affords lovely views.   The ancient city sprawled in terraced fashion near the top of Ak Dag (White Mountain) from altitudes of 1450 meters to 1700 meters (5525 feet), backed by steep rock face to the mountain top.   Sagalassos is surrounded by mountain tops on 3 sides and affords splendid views of the valley below on the single open side.  

Bill at Sagalassos, way up high

During Roman Empire times this city was known as the "first city of Pisidia" and the region was first called the Province of Asia and later called the Province of Galatia.  Today this region of the Taurus Mountains is known as the Lake District.  Human settlement of the area goes back 8,000 years, long before the Romans arrived.   Although settlement is confirmed to be be pre-Hellenistic, all the surviving ruins being refurbished are of Roman origin.

Another Hadrian arch?

Alexander the Great conquered Sagalassos in 333 B.C. on his way to Persia.  The city had a population of only a few thousand at that time and was one of the wealthiest cities in the region. 

Note wooden steps on right going uphill

Several centuries later, under Roman rule, Sagalassos (or Pisidia as they called it) was particularly favored by the Emperor Hadrian.  He declared it "first city" and the center of Galatia province.  A very large statue of Hadrian has been unearthed in Sagalassos.  Another very large statue discovered there is believed to be of his wife Sabrina.

Ancient Roman tiles being used as support for new path.
Wonder if the archaeologist know this is being done
by the construction workers building this path.

After Roman rule the city fell under control of various rules as different peoples gained and lost control of the region

Around 400 A.D. the city was fortified for defense.  In 518 A.D. an earthquake devastated the city.  Around 541 a plague halved the local population.  In 640 a massive earthquake destroyed the town and the inhabitants abandoned Sagalassos and resettled in the valley nearby.   Sagalassos disappeared from records at this time.

Such detail in the stonework

The site remained virtually ignored from 640 until explorer Paul Lucas, who was traveling in Turkey on a mission for King Louis XIV of France, visited here in 1706.   During those intervening 1066 years erosion had covered the ruins of Sagalassos.  The city had not been looted to any significant extent because of its location.  After Lucas' visit, the site remained vacant and unmolested.   In 1824 a British chaplain at Izmir visited the site and deciphered its name in inscriptions.  Western travelers began to visit the ruins occasionally; however, the city did not attract much archaeological attention until active excavation  of this site began around 1985 by a Belgian-British team.  That work continues today.  This should be a spectacular site when all the work is completed, easily rivaling Ephesus as a tourist destination.  This is the largest archaeological project in the Mediterranean region.   BTW, it is possible to arrange a wedding in this unique setting.  That would be really special but getting the wedding guests to this somewhat remote location might be challenging.
Looking down on the lower level agora (shopping area)
and a wide pedestrian street area

Rather than write a lot of detail about what we saw and learned, here is a link to what I consider the best website for this site:
Sagalassos archaeological site

Dig around on this site for lots of information if so inclined.

If you have Google Earth, this link to an interactive map of Sagalassos archaeological dig is interesting:
Interactive map of Sagalassos (using Google Earth)

Roman Baths -- what a view they had!

We exited the bus at the level of the old Roman baths and Tas explained about those.  I won't relate any of that info because I have previously written about many of the Roman baths we have visited and they are all about the same.

More of the Roman Baths

Antonine Nymphaeum at Sagalassos
Gravel on floor in front covers mosaics to protect from sun

Next we walked many steps up to the Antonine Nymphaeum and upper Agora (shopping district).  By the time we got up there I was huffing and puffing due to the elevation and exertion and decided to skip going farther uphill to the theater.  Fellow tour participants who opted to visit the theater said it was like all the other theaters we have visited.  I think the capacity for this theater was around 9,000 persons, so it was not one of the larger theaters of ancient times.

Roman theater at upper level of Sagalassos

Between the nymphaeum and the theater are the pre-Hellenistic Doric Fountainhouse and the Roman Neon Library.  The library supposedly has an exceptionally fine mosaic floor, but it is kept locked.  According to our Lonely Planet guidebook, visitors can ask at the ticket booth and they will loan a key; but we did not read the book until later and missed this opportunity.

How the nymphaeum originally looked, upper level.
Water ran through channels down to the lower level
to a collection pool beneath that circular roof.

While they continued to the theater Bill and I explored the Bouleterion and Heroon (hero's monument--it is believed a large statue of Alexander the Great once stood here)  which were nearby the nymphaeum.  There were few signs in place to explain what we were looking at.  Looking downward on the mountainside we could see the larger lower-level agora (shopping district) and the macellon (food market area) with their trademark Corinithian columns.  In the middle of the macellon was a large thoios (a deep fountain where live fish were stored and sold).  This macellon was dedicated to Emperor Marcus Aurelius. 

Another view of the Antonine Nymphaeum

The nymphaeum has been restored nicely.  Water flows and fills the fountain just as it did during ancient years.  The piping has been reattached to the original source used over 2,000 years ago.  The statues were largely destroyed by earthquakes over the centuries.  Replicas now stand in their places.  The link above provides additional links to information on the huge statues already unearthed at this site.   One was a 16-foot statue of Emperor Hadrian.

Bill at nymphaeum.  Note water pouring from the
2,000 year old source

The link also shows some of the mosaic floors found at Sagalassos.  The photo shows a design we have never see before.  Unfortunately for us, the mosaics have been covered with a thick layer of sand and gravel to protect the tiles from farther UV damage.  So we were unable to see them.

Bill sitting on the stone trim that encircled the structure
 where statues stood in the square in front of nymphaeum

While reading about Sagalassos I found this interesting tidbit on Wikipedia:
"In a phylogenetic study the mitochondrial DNA of 85 skeletons from Sagalassos dated to the 11th–13th century AD was compared to modern populations. The research found a significant maternal genetic signature of Balkan/Greek populations, as well as ancient Persians and populations from the Italian peninsula. Some contribution from the Levant was also detected, whereas no contribution from Central Asian population was ascertained."

In this short video of Sagalassos I mentioned Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony) because that is what I understood the guide to say.  That was in error.  Should have been Marcus Aurelius.  Sorry about the scratchy audio.  Nothing I can do about it.

After exploring the City of the Clouds we were supposed to stop in Isparta for bazaar and to learn about the largest local business of rose oil production, but our group voted to skip it.   We were all tired from the long drive and our mountaintop exploration of the archaeological site.  Another hour's drive delivered us to the small mountaintop town of Egirdir where we checked into the Altingol hotel.   Hotel Altingol on Lake Egirdir   
Lake view from our hotel room upon afternoon arrival

Almost directly across the street from the hotel was the Hizir Bey Camil which was built in 1237 and served as a Seljuk warehouse.  It was turned into a mosque in 1308 by the emir Hizir Bey and remains in use today.  Opposite the mosque stands the Dundar Bey Medressesi, a madrassa (university) built in 1218 A.D. by the Seljuk sultun Alaeddin Keykubat.  It was originally built to be a caravanserai -- a place where trade caravans stopped for the night.  (The roads today follow the paths of the ancient camel trade caravans.)   In 1285 the caravanserai was converted to a madrassa.   Today the madrassa houses a bazaar supposedly filled with the usual tourist trinkets.  It was almost dark when we arrived in Egirdir so there was no time to explore the mosque or this old madrassa.  Nearby also stands a ruined castle, the foundations of which were laid during the reign of Croesus, the 5th century B.C. King of Lydia.  We skipped that also due to time constraints.  Frankly, I don't think I could get Bill to walk through another castle right now after our full day recently in the Castle of St. Peter in Bodrum.  He is "castled" out.

View from our hotel room at early morning
 Egirdir Goin is the 4th largest lake in Turkey and is situated at an altitude of 917 meters above sea level (2,980 ft).  It is a shallow lake with average depth of only approximately 45 feet.  And it is a popular fishing spot.  During winter months this area is a popular ski destination.   

Egirdir was founded by the Hittites about 8,000 years ago.  From Lydian times (12th century B.C.) through today, Egirdir has been a popular stop-over for people traveling through Central Antolia to the Mediterranean Sea.  Later, the Romans called this town Prostanna and documents suggest that it was large and prosperous but no excavations have been done at this site because of the Turkish military.  In Byzantine times it was known as Akrotiri (Steep Mountain).  The Ottomans took control in 1417 but the local population remained mostly Greek Orthodox Christians until the 1920s.  Under the Turks, Akrotiri became Egridir, which means 'crooked' or 'bent.'  In the 1980s the name was changed to Egirdir, which means 'she is spinning.'  The new name was intended to remove any negative connotations of the old name. 

Travelers beware!  There is a large military presence situated on the shore and mountaintop next to this lake.  Our guide explained that photos of that installation or anywhere in that area are strictly prohibited.  The military has been known to confiscate cameras and delete photos if they think you have pointed your camera in that direction.  

Our group enjoyed dinner at a restaurant at the tip of the isthmus on Lake Egirdir.  I opted for the fish dinner and it was very good -- supposedly freshly caught from the lake.

A good first day for our 'vacation.'

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