Uzuncaburc with Fred
Our weekend quest is Uzuncaburc, a village in the mountains above Silifke. Carol and I have not been here since the mid-eighties; one of our first few adventures in Turkey so many years ago. All I remember of the site is the two large columns I photographed at that time; Carol suggests she can remember many other features to include the tiny little village around the site.
We've decided to spend the weekend in Narlikuyu at the Calamie Hotel. This hotel is very lovely, aesthetically, with black marble stairs and a fully accented marble lobby. The lobby is well appointed with several sets of chairs and sofas for a leisurely visit or quiet conversations with a panoramic view of the beautiful cove stretched out below. Although it seems every time we stay here the hotel experiences a power outage, the location is extremely picturesque and relaxing. We're in room 205 today, on the seaside. Our balcony is plenty large with a table and two chairs; we've actually brought two of our canvas folding chairs for more comfortable lounging and all fit fine. The balcony faces south and a little east so most of the day the sun is on the other side of the hotel. This is really a wonderful location for peace and quiet; the breeze off the water rises up and drifts across the balcony to make it a really inviting setting. One can sit out here for hours and simply become intoxicated by the surroundings.
One of the hotel staff meets me at the car and helps bring our bags to our room. We put our things away and after about thirty minutes, we return to the car and head for Silifke. We drive alone the coast for a short time through AtaKent, Atayurt and finally into Silifke. Once we're in down town, I notice we can't get to the roundabout I want to find because the street is blocked off; I remember a specific sign indicated the road to Uzuncaburc and wanted to turn there. I make a couple turns in what I feel is the correct direction and find the street leading out of town north. In a very short time, we find a historic sign pointing the way. We're still driving through the outskirts of the city when we begin our ascent up the mountain toward our destination for today. The road is not real wide but it's two-lane; I don't feel comfortable driving on these roads with no shoulders and vertical cliffs at the road's edge; fortunately we're on the mountain side of the road going up. It think to myself, it would be nice to have guardrails along the road but then realize – to have guardrails one needs earth to drive the guardrail supports into!
The roadway seems to be clinging to the mountain walls and we turn first right then left and then upward as the road crests the ridge. We begin driving atop the mountain now where things seem quite tranquil; we drive through a stand of fir trees and then on through some pretty rough terrain. We drive through first one village, then another on toward our goal. Our roadway rises here and falls there, as it finds its way over and through this rock strewn landscape. Now we curve left and climb, now right and fall in search of a straight stretch of highway; there simply is none on this route. I find myself thinking back all those years ago and I can not remember there being any villages along here, but twenty years obviously make a difference in both population and landscape.
Our journey continues to roll and curve gracefully through the country and then, just ahead, we spy a Roman ruin. There are tombs of ancient kings spotting the landscape all over up here; some are erect and majestic after 2,000 years others, simply a shell of their past majesty. In this part of Turkey, it's difficult to scratch the earth without finding a Roman ruin; the entire south coast of Turkey cradles one Roman city after another and many of those ruins are still standing in various stages of deterioration. In the village of Demircili, ancient Imbriogon, we see two fairly well persevered mausoleums listed as the double temple-tomb from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. We continue our drive another few minutes and find a less well-preserved tomb right at the edge of the road. This one is simply a shell of its former self with most of its grand structure in ruins at its foundation. We see a number of suspect piles of structural stones across the landscape here and surmise each was once a tomb or other ancient building.
There it is; across the fields we see the tops of our first columns. As we get closer to the site, I make a left turn and start down a dirt lane toward the columns. Here we are, Uzuncaburc, the former Roman site of Diocaesarea. I pull in beside two sets of tall columns and before I can make a decision on what to do next, a gentleman comes toward the car to indicate I should park here. I pull off the edge of the road near an old village structure that looks much like one of those in a painting (a watercolor of Uzuncaburc) we have from twenty years ago. We pay the man our two lira entry fee (per person) and begin our trek into Roman history. The ruins we venture through date from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD. The columns near our car are the parade gate, the beginning of what once was a colonnaded street. To our right as we enter the site is the fountain house – water was brought here from 115 Km away; part of that Roman waterway is still bringing water to this village!
On our left a wall begins rising out of the ground. The city used to be encircled by this great wall but much of it is gone now. Some of it is buried under centuries of silt and some of it dragged away to construct more recent buildings in the area. It rises from ground level to maybe 3 meters in height as we walk further into the site. There are three ‘tourist' stands in the shade of the wall; one gentleman has literature and postcards, then there's a lady with handcrafts and finally another lady selling handcrafts. We manage to put each of these entrepreneurs off as we pass each one in turn. Just beyond the last lady's table of crafts, we step through a break in the wall and head for the Temple of Zeus Olbios. We stroll down what must have been a garden path to the entry arch of the temple; we certainly don't need to enter through the arch, but we do. Aside from the somewhat erect arch, there are 30 of the original 36 columns still standing majestically today. There were six columns across each end and 12 down each side of the temple. The columns are massive, both in height and diameter. The temple was 130 feet by 70 feet. It served both the Romans and the Byzantines
We stroll around inside the former temple and as you stand in the center and look both toward the front and then the rear, you can get a feel for the size of this building. On the ground within the columns grasp are rock foundations still visible; we can get an idea where the original walls stood and we can see the outline of other structural designs. I walk to the back corner of the former building and look up at the capital far above my head; the books tell me these are nearly thirty two feet tall. I remember very well now. These are the two columns I photographed so many years ago; I try to reach around one and can't make it but half way round. Looking across the lush green courtyard there are miscellaneous small ruins strewn about; capitals, columns (in numerous pieces), large cornice and frieze blocks of hand carved stone and numerous square wall building blocks in different sizes. There's also a very nice garland-sculpted sarcophagus set against the wall we entered through just minutes ago.
My heart is saddened here too; graffiti has made an appearance within these majestic ruins as many of these ancient artifacts strewn about us have been spray painted red. Part of the inside wall is white washed or painted; it must have been to obliterate some unwanted writing. Why, oh why, is this done!
We leave the temple and walk on toward the city gate on the opposite side of the site. As we walk, we linger at the street's edge to admire more artifacts abandoned along the path. There are many grapevines cultivated throughout this ruin (small patches seem to pop up between ruins) and they too mingle with the toppled columns and fallen artifacts. We stop for a moment so Carol can get a photo of a capital standing nearly consumed by the lush green vegetation. This is a wonderful time of year to visit with everything green and fully alive. The gate is a very large three arch Roman edifice; two smaller arches flank the larger center arch. The center arch is nearly forty feet in height. The gate stands alone today but obviously, it once adjoined the walls of the city and funneled many travelers into this majestic realm.
As we take a few moments and admire this gateway, a village lady passes by; she pays us no mind and goes about her daily life as usual. I can't help but wonder what she might be thinking of us as we linger in her backyard as so many before us have done. She's probably our age and has lived among these ruins all her life without a second thought of their origin or significance to the world. I'm sure she knows they're Roman and I'm sure those ladies we passed at the wall are her friends, maybe even family, so these ruins bring commerce to her doorstep, but what else? On the other hand, what do I really know of these ruins or any others? I simply find pleasure in standing where Romans once stood, trying to imagine what this city must have been 2,000 years ago! Think of it; there must have been beggars milling about at this gate waiting for the distant traveler to take pity on them and toss a coin into the dirt for them to retrieve. I imagine children chasing about wanting to help the traveler with his animals or belongings hoping for a small tip.
Anyway, I can go on and on about my thoughts but we head back toward the center of the site and make a right walking toward the other temple. This temple is Tyche, dating from the 1st century AD. There are five columns still erect with their capitals and cornice completely intact. This temple is unusual according to the literature because it's architecture is square; the vast majority of temples are rectangular. This one also boasts single-piece granite columns nearly 18 feet tall. There is a bit of structure in the back of this temple, most of it under ground now.
After a few minutes, we turn our backs on the temple and retrace our footsteps back toward the parade gate where we parked. We again walk past the tourist tables and gently put them off once more; saying we will return in a bit. I have to ask as we walk back toward the car; we're looking for the theater. The gentleman who offered us tea earlier tells me the theater is beyond the entry and the car park. It seems we drove right by it as we entered and we didn't even notice it. We pass a couple small village buildings and then come to a wall of large stones; as we gaze over the wall the theater is fully visible from top to bottom. The seating is in an advanced state of deterioration and the steps between the sections of seating are worn well beyond safe climbing. The stage area has totally collapsed on itself and there are piles of rubble at the foot of the theater; 2,000 years will do that, of course, but the awe of the structure remains. This is not a large theater either and the literature doesn't indicate its capacity, but one can still get a sense for what must have gone on here. Close your eyes, can you hear the crowd roaring with adoration over the stage production taking place below? I often imagine there's a renowned orator spouting poetry or a small group of actors performing a tragic play and the audience is hushed then jubilant as the performance plays out.
We head back now for tea under the trees; the gentleman with the sales table filled with literature and postcards invited us for tea at the beginning of our tour. Carol has a glass while I read my ‘Silifke and Environs' book. Once Carol finishes her tea, she decides to visit each table to shop. I sit and enjoy the breeze while I listen to the birds talk to one another. The occasional chicken crows from a yard first behind me then off further in the distance. I watch too, as several butterflies dance on the mountain breeze flitting between wild flower blossoms. The sky holds just a wisp of white in its vast ocean of blue just overhead. The air is so clean and filled with country freshness, I continue to consume it more deeply with each breath.
As I sit waiting on Carol to make her purchases, I begin to remember the photos from the past. One in particular, taken in the Temple of Zeus Olbios where I laid on the ground, pointed the camera toward the sky and took a photo of the tops of two columns holding tight to their capitals. I had thought of duplicating that photo but age has given me pause; getting to the ground would be easy but getting up would be a much larger challenge so I pass on the opportunity. Ah, Carol has completed her shopping and has bought a little something from each table, not wanting to ignore any one of the three people. We walk back to the car and start our journey back to Narlikuyu.
We return on the same road we arrived and stop now to get a photo of the tombs we saw while coming up to the site. As always, the return trip seems so much faster than the trip going; in no time we're back in Silifke and then on to Narlikuyu. We drive down past our hotel to the seaside and have a late lunch at Kerim Restaurant. Our table is just inches from the water and we're treated to grilled sea bass and salads. We have an excellent leisurely lunch and enjoy the sounds of the sea lapping up against the concrete platform our table rests on. After lunch, we return to our hotel room to savor our afternoon solitude.
As I mentioned, our hotel sits on the hillside just above all these fish restaurants which encircle Porto Calamie (as this place was known in the Middle Ages) – our hotel is named for the old port. We retire to our balcony to while away the afternoon; the harbor water is cloudy green in close and becomes bright blue as it merges with the horizon. The blue water is a little rough, interrupted by white caps as I raise my gaze from our balcony toward the horizon. This afternoon we have a wonderful breeze off the harbor.
Carol is relaxing reading a book and I'm simply sitting here watching the world go by. There goes a speedboat across the mouth of the harbor – surfing the wake with grace and agility. The air around us as we sit here is filled with a cacophony of sounds – the chatter of birds darting from one balcony to another and the traction of traffic on the course road surface below. We hear many large trucks and buses as they shift to climb the hill and the voices of servers and patrons at the restaurants that encompass the harbor shores. There's an electric mower just below us as well; it starts and stops as the yardman tends to the lawn.
Slowly our afternoon is transformed to evening and we watch as our day fades away to darkness. We retreat to our room and retire for the night. I sit on the edge of the bed and meditate on the hours just past; we move so easily here from the 21st century to the 2 century and back again, all is just a few hours. Where else in the world can one's imagination be enhanced by reality so completely? Most of the world around us can only imagine walking in our footsteps today. How fortunate we are to be able to experience these ruins up close and personal, walking where untold generations of our ancestors walked before us. Good night.
Day break has invaded our room, I roll over and grab for my watch, it's 5:12 a.m. and the morning is fresh and clean. I get up and look out the window; the sky is ashen and grasping for the light that will turn it to day. I open the door and step onto the balcony; I hear the water as it caresses the shoreline below. The roosters of the village stretched out before me are making it clear the day has dawned and it's time for work or play or whatever. I sink into my canvas chair and watch the dawning of the new day. Breakfast isn't until eight o'clock so I have nothing to do but enjoy the awakening all about me.
I sit thinking about our day. Carol has decided we must visit Heaven and Hell again; there are two massive craters in the earth just a few minutes north of us that have been dubbed Heaven and Hell. Heaven is the larger of the two and has 450 rock cut steps to the bottom where one will find the Chapel of Virgin Mary. Carol wants to descend to the Chapel; when we've visited in the past, we've not gone into Heaven's chasm.
My thoughts of today's adventures are broken by the faint sound of a two stroke fishing boat motor. These little motors are quite distinct in their sound as it comes across the water; it's a putt-putt noise. When I look toward the sound, a small fishing boat is just coming into view from around the coastline in front of me. This guy has either been out at night or he got up way before sunrise to go out on the water. As I watch him enter the harbor, he cuts the motor and coasts in toward the rocks. This is one of the two fishing boats we usually see tied off just beyond all the restaurants.
The sun has now made its full appearance above the horizon; a large red-orange ball hangs in the sky just above the water. I try to get a photograph but for some reason a digital camera simply will not recreate a sunrise; it completely obliterates the fiery ball I see in the sky before me.
Carol is now getting up and we freshen up for breakfast. We go up to the terrace and find only the initial offering prepared. We sit and wait for the entire spread; one dish after another is brought out to the buffet and placed and then replaced to be sure it's in the proper serving arrangement. One has to remember time is a relative thing here; 8:00 is simply a target not a set time. I don't find it pleasing but Carol reminds me, as always, to be patient.
The young man who obviously runs the kitchen has placed and then replaced and rearranged one dish after another but he seems to have settled on everything now; no wait he comes back with green ivy he has cut from the building. He stuffs the green leaves around and under each placement of food dish. He slips away once more and minutes latter returns with purple flowers harvested from the side of the hotel. You've got to admire this gentleman's eye for aesthetics; he seems pleased with his creation and retreats. Carol pulls the camera from the bag and shoots several photos of the display. I, on the other hand, go for the stack of plates at the end of the buffet table and begin to destroy his fine work of culinary artistry. It 8:30 and I've come for food NOT photo opportunities. I get my tomatoes, cucumbers, meat (this is like a small sliced bologna) and white cheese, my very favorite Turkish breakfast items. The buffet is plentiful and the variety is almost limitless; this rivals any breakfast buffet we've seen in country.
It's nearly 9:30 now and we go to the car to start our day. It's only ten minutes to Heaven and Hell up a winding paved road. We park near the tourist mall and walk to the edge of Heaven's chasm. It's early and we're alone here, or so we think, until a bus pulls in behind us. A group of all women tourist de-bus and we think they will be all over the site but instead they look into the chasm and then walk around the building with all the shops and get back on the bus around the other side; two minutes at the site and they're gone.
Carol and I start our descent into the chasm of Heaven; we make it to the first level and then the second, maybe 50 or 75 steps into the crater, that's it we're done! The steps are not even nor are they very ‘elder friendly' so we ascend and call it a day. Even on the lower level steps we could see nothing but the interior of the chasm; we simply weren't willing to take the risk of descending any further. When we finally managed to reach the shops above, we were both winded and I could hear my heart thumping in my ears. We sat for a time and had a bottle of water and admired a few of the handmade grain bags hanging from the roof supports. We wandered through the tourist shops and admired a couple very lovely rugs but left empty handed because our love of the rug and their love of money did not come within reach.
We left and drove higher up the hill to the asthma-curing cave – we didn't go in there either but took some photos from the parking lot. The literature seems to suggest that this cave has curative or healing properties in its air. From here, we drive back to the main road and headed off toward Silifke again. Once in Silifke we visited their local museum. It's small but nicely organized with an archeology room on the ground floor, an ethnographic room and a coins & jewelry room on the second floor. In the courtyard at the rear of the building they have displays of statuary, a sarcophagus or two and plenty of stone-carved artifacts.
On our way back to Narlikuyu, we stopped to photograph some art pottery in the park at Atayurt. There's a fountain in the park that was designed to mirror the appearance of amphora, the two handled urns that once held wine, olive oil and other liquids for import and export. This wonderful sculpture is probably eight feet tall and the large amphora is tilted to provide liquid for the two smaller pieces below it. I've admired this several times and today decided to get this photograph. We actually park the car right beside the amphora. Today we find Atayurt having their Sunday pazaar; Carol wants to walk through all the tents. We spend 30 minutes wandering about - Carol bought some fabric and I bought a pair of sandals.
We get back into the car and continue down the road. As we get closer to our hotel we decided to have lunch at one of the many cafeterias on the winding road to Heaven and Hell. I drive up the hill again and Carol suggests we stop at Cakil Cafeterya & Aile Cay Bahcesi; she simply chooses this one at random. Our lunch is gozleme, a very thin flat bread with meat and potato (I have the meat, Carol has potato), grilled on a rounded metal grill; it's almost as if one were to use the bottom of a wok placed over a gas flame. We're sitting well above the dirt parking lot on a patio with a wonderful breeze sweeping across our table, blowing our napkins away. There are several spaces set aside in the traditional fashion (they're designed to look like nomadic tents); one can sit on pillows around a metal tray and have lunch. It's a little difficult for me to get down so I prefer the table with bench seats. We have a leisurely lunch and then set off for Kizkalisi to fill up with petrol.
While the car is being filled up, Carol spies a pazaar across a field and declares that to be our next stop today. We have to drive well down the main road to find a break in the median but in a short time we're back and we're walking through the tents (the pazaar) here in Kizkalisi. Carol finds only one item – a tablecloth of hand-spun cotton. We return to the car and head back to the hotel.
We return to our hotel and then to our balcony to enjoy the peace and quiet of the afternoon alone. It's so relaxing here, we have no where to go and no demands on us to do anything! Carol again sits reading and I sit collecting the tributes of this wonderful day and what it offers us as we slowly consume it. I think about the people going about their daily routines in this awesome setting and I wonder: Do they have any concept of how beautiful this is or do they simply take it for granted as we so often do?
It's near dinnertime and we decide to walk down once again to the seaside for a meal. We walk all the way around the cove and stop at Narlikuyu Balik Restaurant as we've never eaten here and want to try it. We're met and seated quite quickly, we order our favorite fish, sea bass and the waiter leaves us. The location is lovely and we enjoy the breeze as well. None of the restaurants here are poorly located of course, each sits right on the water's edge. This one has no more seaside than any of the others but is the last one around the cove. As we wait on our fish, I begin to believe our visit here is a mistake, the attention given us is greatly lacking as compared to our experiences at the other places. Our dinner finally comes and is perfectly acceptable but I think we'll skip this restaurant in the future.
While we sit and enjoy our dinner, a couple of boats come into the harbor and swimmers dive or jump into the water but stay only a short time and then the boats are gone. One couple at an adjacent table has apparently engaged a boat because after they finish their meal and young gentleman comes to escort them to seaside and into his boat; they get settled and set out to sea before we finish. We pay our tab and leisurely stroll back to our hotel. The evening is cool and except for the climb getting back to our hotel wonderful, HaHaHa. Again, we relax on the balcony until we retire for the night.
Good morning, we opt to get going early and do not wait for breakfast. We pack up everything and I make three trips to the car. It's another beautiful morning and we're in no rush so as we drive back toward Adana we make a few stops along the coast to see the sites we've not visited before; we begin by stopping at Akkale, it's simply one kilometer off the highway.
As we approach the site we can see several ruins in the field, there's a lane to the ruins but the entry has been obstructed so I park and we walk over to investigate the larger building. Our literature tells us the complex is an early Byzantine estate or winery dating from the 5th and 6th centuries. At the center of the complex, there is a palatial mansion comprising several stories. It measures 180 by 210 feet, that's a very large structure; basically, what we see is a shell. There's a tower adjoining the main building with a spiral staircase that made easy access to all stories above. The family of this complex was obviously quite wealthy.
As we explore a little more of the site we discover several other facilities in similar states of damage. It's truly amazing to see even those few standing structures when one considers the age of these buildings. I have to chuckle when I stand amidst ruins like these; I mean we build massive structures today too but few will be standing majestically as these are, 2,000 years from today!
We leave now and continue our travels on toward Kizkalisi. Just to the east of the city we crest a hill in the highway and make a slight curve and the landscape offers us an incredible (in-your-face) view of the Roman Theater of Elaiussa/Sebeste. Sebeste is the Greek name for Emperor Augustus from 20 BC. This recent excavation in and around the theater have made it very evident to all who drive this highway. The freshness of the excavation coupled with some reconstruction has brought boldness to the already magnificent view.
I pull to the side of the road for pictures but then decide to take some time here this morning to wander around and through the theater area. There's another structure set just below the theater and it has a tremendous mosaic floor that has been unearthed for our viewing pleasure. I'm a little disappointed in the book I carry; I have a book but the descriptions are only superficial. (I realize that my choice of literature may be my challenge but even the internet offered me no assistance once I returned home.) The theater, carved out of the hillside is fairly large and open for easy access, although it's a climb on some pretty irregular steps. We climb until we enter into the stage area and up a few levels into seating; our view is across the main road and into another major excavation. Over that ruin, we see the beautiful blue water of the Mediterranean; my book indicates that the site across the road was once on an island that has since become a part of the mainland where we currently stand.I note in the book that Sebeste coined its own money in the 3rd century AD; this obviously was a very prominent city of the Roman period. So, this will wrap up another exceptional weekend adventure. We descend to the car and bid these and the other ruins of Cilicia – farewell.
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