26 September 2018 | Didim, Turkey - 7,323 NM
Sunny Spells and Windy
Our first full day in Didim started off very calm, the quiet before the forecast big winds were due so we decided it was a good time to shoot up the mast to retrieve the halyard. Paul put on the harness and we attached two lines to it. Then as Lorraine started to winch me up the mast, two Turkish men (one lived in Hereford!) off the next boat decided to help and very soon I was at the top of the mast and on the way down with the errant halyard in hand. Up and down with halyard secured in just 10 minutes.
We then caught the Dolmus (public minibus) to the adjacent beachside resort of Altinkum for lunch. The Domusi (Dolumses?) run every few minutes and pick up and drop off almost anywhere on their routes. For around 2.5 Turkish Lira (30p) a trip, its a very efficient and easy way to get around.
Altinkum is a very busy, touristy place. The beach front is lined with cafes and bars with shops, hotels and apartments on the streets behind. While it has lots (and lots) of foreign tourists many of the visitors seemed to be Turkish. We explored the streets for a while, had our first genuine Turkish lunch of Gozleme (sort of pancakes) and Paul bought a not so genuine Polo t-shirt for £3 - to replace the one he dribbled his lunch all over. We opted to walk back to the marina, exploring the beach front and a gated holiday village on the way. Altinkum was nice enough for a big beachside resort but not really our kind of place. We got back to the marina and headed straight for the yacht club where we spent a relaxing few hours by the pool.
As we were stuck in the marina for a while, given the forecast storm, we decided to hire a car for three days so we could explore further afield. We went to see our friendly agent, Atillia who arranged a hire car for 11.00 the next morning.
First on the list of places to visit was the ancient city of Ephesus. This is one of the most famous cites of classical times and first rose to prominence in the 7th century BC. In 356 BC the Greeks built the Artemesium (a colossal Ionic temple dedicated to Artemis the fertility goddess) which was one of the original Severn Wonders of the World. Originally Greek then Roman then Byzantine, it remained a major city in the area until the silting up of its port led to its decline in the middle ages. Its now 3 miles from the sea! At its height its population was estimated at around 250,000 people. That makes it the same size as Southampton and bigger than Reading and Norwich. It's such an amazing site it's always really busy but some places are just busy for good reason!
We enjoyed strolling through its ruined streets and admiring the various piles of stones and you could get a real feel for not just scale of the place but also the daily life of people as they went about their business. The theatre, that could seat 25,000 people, the Library of Celsus with its awe inspiring facade and the Roman Basilica were just some of the highlights. Unfortunately the Artemesium is no more. It was destroyed by the Visigoths when they sacked the city in 262 AD.
After over 3 hours of wandering we were "ruined out" and decided to head home. The 2 hour drive back was beautiful as the road wound its way through the countryside and huge fields of cotton. September is harvest time for cotton in Turkey and we overtook hundreds of tractors pulling trailers piled high with cotton, some of which escapes and blows across the roads covering the verges in cotton wool balls. Only 20km or so from Ephesus are the ruins of another ancient city dating back to the 7th century BC known as Magnesia. As it was getting late we didn't visit but spent a few minutes admiring its vast ruins from the road.
The next place we wanted to visit was the unique natural wonder at Pamukkale. This is a 3hr drive from Didim so we decided to book a hotel near the site rather than rush there and back.
Didyma, our first stop and right in the middle of Didim, was allegedly one of the most renowned oracles of the Hellenic world containing a temple and an oracle of Apollo. The temple was certainly huge over 50m long and around 17m wide, and at one time had dozens of massive columns holding up the roof. Its been quite sympathetically restored and you get a really good impression of both scale and the majesty of the building. Religion was certainly a good business to be in in the 7th century BC. A quick coffee in an adjacent cafe and we set off to our next stop at Miletus a little way out of town.
Miletus is a ruined Greek city aka "another pile of stones", but what a pile of stones. A huge amphitheatre (not as large as the one at Ephesus) a Byzantine fortress and a huge Roman Bath house as well as the remains of roads and homes. Over 2,000 years old and still impressive. After an hour or two there we headed back to the car and the long drive to Pamukkale.
We made good time towards Pamukkale, but should have realised something was amiss when the directions on the satnav started to disagree with road signs. It turned out the satnav was taking us to a road called Pamukkale in the nearby town of Denizili, not the village of Pamukkale where our hotel was. We had a short but nice tour of central Denizile, before finding our hotel. The hotel itself was a little strange. It looked as if someone had looked at pictures of a five star hotel and did a good job of recreating the building and decor. Our corner room was massive, about the size of a tennis court and very clean and comfortable. However the service while polite and efficient was somehow a little off and certainly not what the decor promised. We had a simple meal in a nearby restaurant and retired to bed early to get an early start the next day so we could miss the crowds at Pamukkale.