Friday, 17 May 2013

Keeping Greek waters to the left

From the top of Cesme castle you can see across to Chios
We are well up the Aegean coast of Turkey now. If we wanted, we could be in Europe - or what's called Europe - in less than an hour. The Greek island of Chios is 8 km across the water from Cesme (pronounced Cheshmay). This morning I re-assured my mother that yes, we were keeping well clear of the "dangerous part of Turkey". From New Zealand, you might imagine that anywhere in Turkey is far too close to the Syrian border, but if she could see Cesme she'd understand. It's a tidy town, with zero tolerance for trouble-makers, I'd guess. The marina is expensive, and reeks of Izmir money.

Enki (centre, front, with yellow kayak) at Cesme marina

What's this?  Cold and wet - Samos on the horizon
We should have been out of here this morning, running before a fresh southerly up to Ayvalik, 70 miles further north. But the forecast for fresh winds firmed overnight into a near-gale force warning - and we're done with thunderstorms having ridden out one which slipped beneath our on-board forecaster's radar a few days ago - so we stepped ashore to visit Cesme's castle instead. We are parked right beneath it, in fact.

Old school harbour protection

It's a good-looking castle. The Genoese built it in the 14th century as a fortress. What were the Genoese doing over this way, I ask myself? Genoa was a city-state with a powerful navy, says Alex...Ah. Plus the Genoese were Christians, and the Christian emperors in Constantinople were only just holding out in the 14th century. Not for much longer though. In 1508, the son of Mehmet the Conqueror (he who attacked Constantinople and finished off the Byzantines) re-built and strengthened Cesme kale (castle). Apparently the Venetians (another city-state with a rampaging navy) destroyed it in the 17th century, but the Ottomans rebuilt it. In 1770 the Ottoman navy was blown out of the water in Cesme harbour by the Russian navy (Catherine the Great's lot). That sea battle was Cesme castle's finest hour, defeat notwithstanding. The Russians are back in Cesme, buying villas along the coast. A museum guide told us that the billionaire Roman Abramovich owns a beach over the hill, back towards Kusadasi - he and Alex were talking about football at the time. The international language.

Grazing inside the keep

We came up from Kusadasi yesterday. We stopped there a couple of days, mostly so we could visit Ephesus again.

The Ephesus Library facade - totally fabulous

From the top of Curetes Way you see the library

Domestic floor covering, Ephesus style - featuring Artemis, the town idol

The wealthy lived well in Ephesus - apartment restoration
I'm not sure if there's anything new can be said about Ephesus, but I'll remember sitting  with Alex in the famous theatre of the Ephesians and hearing a voice rising over the clappity-clap of tourist guides. The singer, who belonged to a tourist group milling about down below, continued for a minute or so with snatches of opera, by which time all talking on the terraces had stopped. She was obviously a professional, and the applause for her was loud. It was quite something, that little performance. It helped me imagine more easily how Paul's voice might have risen to the back of the theatre which in its days held 25,000 people.

The road led from the harbour to the theatre
Speaking of large spaces, I'm going to roll out a few photos from ancient Didyma's Temple of Apollo. We had no expectations of this place. It is enfolded by one of the ugliest coastal towns we know of, Altinkum and we were only there because, there being no anchorages on that desolate, silted-up coastline, and we hopped into the D-Marin marina at Didim. It is barren too, so we caught a dolmus to the temple in the 'burbs.

Get the scale of those columns?

The inner courtyard of the temple of Apollo

Temple maiden

What's left, from the front steps
Can you believe this place? Apparently it missed out by only five columns on being one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (it was the second largest temple, and there are no prizes for second now or then). We strolled, and basked, and people-watched, and marvelled at the fantasies that drive human beings to keep raising stone columns to the heavens. Most of the good statues were carted away long ago for "safe-keeping" in the British Museum,  but there's enough left at Didim to satisfy a thirst for ruins in the late afternoon sun.

Mega Medusa 

Clouds in the south, lit from the west, at Didim marina

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