Day 19: Best historic site so far
Afrodisias Travel Blog› entry 27 of 260 › view all entries
April 24th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
Next morning I found myself sitting outside in the early morning sun with breakfast and a cup of coffee, while all around me birds were twittering away. Did anyone mention the word holiday?
The reason why I had extended my stay in Pamukkale was because when I walked through town yesterday I came across a recommendation about a nearby historic site at one of the ticket offices for a bus company. Due to my delayed arrival in Turkey I had to cut the first half of my itinerary short anyway (need to be in Istanbul by Wednesday) and the most obvious (in my mind) place to cut would be one of the coastal towns.
So when I booked my bus ticket to Antalya for tomorrow, I also asked the bus company about their packages to Afrodisias. Turned out they didn't offer any packages, like the other bus companies do, because “they will drop you off at a carpet shop for an hour. We just offer you the transportation there and back”. Hmm, makes sense really, don't need much more than that.
I was getting ready for my walk to the bus office. Pamukkale doesn't really have a bus station, instead there are six or seven offices of bus companies situates next to each other in a street where also the bus stop is.
Anyway, I was getting ready to walk over to the office of Pamukkale, which has rapidly become my favourite bus company in Turkey. As I was about to leave the proprietress of the hotel beckoned me and said “my friend here will drive you to the bus stop”.
Oh, now isn't that nice? Might as well have another cup of coffee then.
A coffee later we left in the guy's van and he explained to me “yes, Pamukkale did not have enough people for a tour, so they combined several tours to make a full bus.”
That makes sense, although at the same time it doesn't. Tour operators in these countries aren't usually too keen on giving away their passengers even if it is the most sensible and efficient thing to do.
We were doing a pick-up round along the hotels, but at the next hotel he stopped the owner came out and told him to go away.
As we drove into town and passed the Pamukkale office I saw a tourist sitting in front of the office. I jokingly said to the driver “I thought they didn't have a tour today?” to which he replied: “he is not going to Afrodisias, maybe he goes to Selçuk or Antalya”. Good point, but if he is, then where is his luggage? Those aren't destinations you visit as a daytrip from Pamukkale.
We arrived at his office and I was told to wait inside for 15 minutes while he went to pick up more people. I had to pay for my ticket immediately though. I told him I wanted to walk down to the shop to buy some water and snacks for the trip and he repeated that I had to get my ticket first. “Or if you want to go with them, then go with them that is fine by me”. Now wait a minute, why would I want to go with them? You said they didn't have a tour today!
Something just didn't feel right about this whole thing, and right at that moment the manager from the Pamukkale came out of his office and started shouting at us.
Obviously none of what the guy had told me was true. The Pamukkale company definitely a trip going to Afrodisias, and we were in fact with a small group, just three people, travelling by car. So the guy who had picked me up had been tipped off by the owner of my hotel and tried to steal an easy customer. (something which the hotel owner vehemently denied afterwards, of course. All had been a misunderstanding)
Gheez, a Turkish person lying. Who would have thunk?
I took some comfort in the fact that Turks don't only try to rip off tourists whenever they get the chance, but they are also keen enough to rip off each other whenever they can.
Anyway, after all this mildly amusing commotion we finally set off to the ruined city of Afrodisias, some 110 kilometres from Pamukkale.
My fellow travellers were French: Nicolai and Mathilde, and they were in their last weekend of a three-week tour around Turkey. As I was in my first weekend of a three-week tour around Turkey they were able to give me some useful tips.
Afrodisias is unlike any other Roman city in the area. First off, it existed as a city long before the Romans, and continued to do so long after - it wasn't until 1956 when an earthquake destroyed the village (then called Geyre) that the site was finally abandoned and that archaeological excavations and restorations started.
Secondly, it is largely overlooked by most visitors to Turkey, who all flock en-masse to Ephesus instead. And to start with that comparison: I found Afrodisias to be more impressive than Ephesus. (an opinion shared with quite a few people I met afterwards).
Afrodisias has much more atmosphere than the other ruins I visited. Partially due to the absence of crowds, but also largely due to the fact that the area has become some kind of mushy swamp, and many of the ruins are slightly flooded and overgrown. So while significant restoration work has been done, the site still looks as if you discover it for the first time.
Highlights for me were the very well-preserved 30,000 seat stadium (apparently one of the best-preserved from the classical world) and the stunning white marble bouleutarion (small theatre style amphitheatre used for political debates.
Another thing in which this location stands out among the rest of the bunch is its entrance fee. While all other sites I visited so far all charged the same entrance free of TL20 (10 euros), and I assumed this was a government set standard, the Afrodisias ruins cost a mere TL8 to visit.
And besides free, the museum is also much better than the museums at all the other sites I visited so far (ok, I skipped the museum in Bergama, so I can't comment on that one). The museum displays an amazing number of near-mint finds from the site, including statues of several Greek philosophers and no less than 70 of the original 190 reliefs that adorned the Sebasteion temple (which is currently being restored/rebuilt).
All in all it had been a good choice to stay the extra day in Pamukkale. Of the Roman sites I have visited so far, this has definitely been the highlight.
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