Thursday, March 31, 2011
TRAIPSING TO TERMESSOS
It's been almost 19 years since we've been to Termessos, a city of ruins just west of Antalya in Mediterranean Turkey. Why I should dream about it last night is beyond my understanding, and, in fact, it was such a surprise that I'm sure it was why I woke up! And although you are going to be spared the contents of the dream, I will share Termessos with you, because it was really something special to see.
Tom Brosnahan's "Lonely Planet Travel Survival Guide to Turkey" told us that "Termessos was once a Pisidian city of a war-like people. They lived in their impregnable fortress city and guarded their independence fiercely. Alexander the Great did not attack them, and the Romans accepted them as allies, not as a subject people." It sounded intriguing, so Jerry and I signed up for a local tour and the driver deposited us at the bottom of a huge hill that seemed to be covered with large stones. The guide indicated that we would climb that hill.
That was when I learned that my husband in his other life had been a mountain goat! I puffed and panted about every 50 steps, as I labored my poor self up and over the rocks. It was horrible. All I saw of Jerry was his dust! Luckily I did not hold up the rest of the tourists. They just left me. I finally made it to the ruins of the theater and found Jerry waiting for me.
Although there are a few recognizable sections of "buildings" left, most of what we saw were graves that because of both earthquakes and grave-robbers had tumbled down the hill from the necropolis at the top of the city. It was a stunning sight; literally thousands of stone sarcophagi lying a-jumble everywhere.
It was hard to know what to take a picture of. Everything was on such a huge scale. A wide angle lens took in the mass of things but they appeared way too small for what they really were. And if I used a telephoto lens, the item focused on seemed totally irrelevant. It was just too much for my mind to take in.
Finally we made it up to the top, the site of the famous "necropolis." Seeing it just left us thunderstuck. How could those people have done all this? It was just beyond our understanding.
Returning to our tour bus was a much easier trip. We were mostly silent, not only because we had to be very careful not to tumble down like the tombs did, but also because it seems we all were busy trying to process what we had just seen.
You know, Jerry and I are both native Californians, and for us, the California history we learn really starts with the Spanish missionaries coming in the 1700s to build the Missions in California. So we are always awed by really "old, old" history. But I think the biggest surprise to us, not knowing a whole lot about Turkey before we arrived there, was to read signs that said, "Hannibal's grave," "Alexander the Great," "Third Ecumenical Council met here" -- and even noting that in approaching little villages in the central part of Turkey, the signs pointing to the town all say "Centrum."
It was our good fortune to live in Turkey for almost two years, rather than to experience it on a short-term visit. Luckily I picked up enough Turkish that I could make myself understood, which held us in good stead many times. And made us brave enough to try some things that otherwise we might have foregone. But imagine, having a dream about something in Turkey after 19 years! Amazing!