Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ruined

"Do you want to buy some Roman coins?" A skinny man in a dirty sweatshirt is pushing a handful of tin toy money at a tourist in front of us and she is dithering. Should she tell him to bugger off or try not be too rude? In the end she says "Maybe on the way out," and walks on. He then stands in front of us with two mobile phones and looks us up and down and growls "What?" "Do you want us to buy a Roman phone?" we ask. He grins woolfishly. "This is Apollo phone - direct from God." And then he produces the tin money again. "Do you want to buy Roman coins? Where are you from?" "We're British" "We're Czech" we say in unison. "We're British archeaologists", Gayle clarifies. His eyes light up and he starts to pull a black leather case from his back pocket. "Then maybe you want to buy some real coins?" We laugh and turn away. "Maybe weed, dope, cocaina??" he shouts after us.

We like Ephesus - they are great Roman ruins. There are two main streets (one closed), a range of reconstructed buildings, a handful of mosaics left in situ. The ruins spread out over a large site and there's a real sense of a city. It was a port but it has long since silted up and the coast is now 7km away. The day is cloudy and there's a few tour buses in the carpark but by the time we begin to walk back to the entrance the crowds have gone and it is quiet. One cruiseship group had a Roman scene acted out for them. Very cheesy - 12 actors pretending to be soldiers, gladiators and caesar etc. - all a bit funny really. The amphitheatre is huge - seating 24,000. A large crane is parked next to it for repairs. The most impressive sight is the rebuilt facade of the library.

We came from Bergama yesterday - a slow journey via Izmir. We had planned to stop in Izmir but after we finally reached the centre we couldn't think of a reason why and immediately hopped on a train to Selçuk. Actually, we hopped onto a bus at the train station that took us to another station where we hopped onto the train. Reminded us of Virgin Rail.

Bergama also has ruins - of the ancient city of Pergamum. They sit on a hill overlooking the new town. When we arrived on our nightbus from Istanbul it was just starting to rain. So we went to bed. In the afternoon the rain continued and we found refuge in a cafe for the town's youth. A place where you can hang out over a cup of tea, smoke endless cigarettes and play a guitar. It seemed popular with girls and boys - looked like students in their drainpipe jeans and gelled hair - just talking and giggling away. Not a drop of alcohol. This is the alternative to the traditional tea house which is solely the domain of men in woolly hats. The next day was sunny and we climbed the hill and entered the ruins by taking a path avoiding the ticket booth. As we climbed past a modern building a man approached us. He had keys for the building and he led us inside. An old house had been excavated and the original floor mosaics were revealed. Fantastic stuff. We continued up the hill to the amphiteatre and through a tunnel out to a square full of tour groups. Gayle overheard the instructions to a Spanish group: "Ir al bano, sacar de photos, comprar algo" (go to the toilet, take some photos, buy something) in the ten minutes before the bus left. Pergamum once had a library to rival that of Alexandria - until Mark Anthony carted the lot off to give to Cleo. We had a look at some of the other remains and then returned the way we had come. Our descent took us through the old town full of run-down Greek houses. A real shame because they had obviously been good homes once.......

From Ephesus we walk back to the town of Selçuk. There is a sign indicating the Temple of Artemis. Our guidebook tells us this was one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Amazed, we go to find a huge field with a single column and a bit of stone here and there. A gaggle of geese are honking in the corner. Three men are sat in the carpark with plastic carrier bags of postcards. Sometimes my imagination fails me.

2 comments:

John Harwood said...

Hi John and Gayle. Nice blog, but it seems to have been going a long time and I thought you had only just set it up! It good to read what you are up to and the photos are relly good. I arrived in India today and it is a real attack on the senses, especially the sense of humour.

The Sloths said...

John, it's a fair cop. We have added messages home to create a blog of the whole journey so far. Gayle's been taking most of the photos. Don't forget the old Indian road sign: Be Mister Late not late mister.