Silk Road by MGB – Days 88 to 94 – Turkey into Europe

Sunday, 23 July 2017

▲ By Day 88 my Silk Road trip had less than two weeks to run, that morning we’d started in Cappadocia, stopped to visit the huge caravanserai in Sultanhani and paused for lunch in Konya. The Mevlâna Museum, dedicated to Celaleddin Rumi (Sufism, whirling dervishes) is the town’s big attraction, but there are also some very good ice cream – dondurma in its Turkish incarnation – places. That night we stopped in Beyşehir with its wonderful wooden Eşrefoğlu Mosque, we also enjoyed a particularly good sunset, one of the best of the trip.

▲ Then it was Sagalassos, just as on my previous visit in 2014 we almost had the site to ourselves. Sagalassos is far enough off the beaten tourist track to ensure only the real enthusiasts for Turkey’s superb collection of Greek and Roman ruins make the winding climb up the hill to the site. They’re amply rewarded when they reach the Antonine Nymphaeum with its fountain supplied by the town’s original water supply.

▲ Our visit featured the two best guides you could imagine, Peter Talloen of the University of Leuven in Belgium who has led the work on the site for many years on my left and Mustafa Gonen from Global Heritage Fund, which I work with, on my right. We’re at the top of the site’s fine theatre.

▲ Our next few days featured plenty of ruins, starting with Pamukkale – these are the travertine terraces spilling down the hillside – and the ruins of Hierapolis.

▲ Then it was Afrodisias, another site just far enough off the regular tourist trail to keep the visitor numbers right down. This is the 30,000 seat arena, you can almost believe the next chariot race is about to start. Only a few days after our visit Afrodisias was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

▲ Next it was Selçuk where a Roman aqueduct runs right through the centre of town and storks find the aqueduct ruins a good site for their nests.

▲ Only a few km from Selçuk is Ephesus, an ancient site which very definitely is on the tourist trail. After Sagalassos and Afrodisias it was a shock to encounter a car park full of tourist buses, hustling visitors up from the coast. This is the magnificent Library of Celsus.

▲ It’s adjacent to the Terraced Houses with their fine mosaic floors like this one illustrating Triton (the messenger of the sea and son of Poseidon) and a Nereid or sea nymph.

▲ Bergama, the modern town at the ancient site of Pergamon has a surfeit of attractions. There’s the hilltop Acropolis with its steeply sloping theatre. From the theatre seats you can look across the town to the second ancient site Asclepeion. Then in the town itself there are the ruins of the 2nd century AD Red Hall or Red Basilica,  a fantastic domed Roman-Egyptian creation which features in The Book of Revelation it’s credited as being one of the ‘Churches of the Apocaypse and the ‘throne of the devil.’ I always like sites which get a name check in the Bible, particularly a good one like that.

▲ Finally we visited Troy (Truva) and continued to Canakkale, our last stop in Turkey. The giant wooden horse from the movie Troy stands on the waterfront in Canakkale.

▲ We crossed the Dardanelles for the day to visit the World War I sites of Gallipoli and then our cars went on the ferry to cross over to Europe and leave Asia, 94 days after we started the long drive from Bangkok. Next stop: Bulgaria.