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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Aspendos and Köprülü

Awesome Aspendos, Colourful Köprülü | Antalya Turkey | in-depth travel advice from Terra Encounters This post is about the last of the reasons for visiting Antalya: to use it as a base for the surrounding archaeological sites as well as nature delights.  The two sites we chose were the famous Roman theatre at Aspendos and the gorgeous green river flowing through Köprülü Kanyon.

Stupendous Aspendos

Stupendous Aspendos
Today we drove 40 km (one hour) to see the Aspendos Theatre only to find out that it was closed for three months to put a concrete roof over the semicircular gallery at the top of the theatre.  By the way, that is not too controversial since the Romans invented concrete. In fact, the greatest Roman temple was one of the first to use concrete. That building is not a ruin and is still in use today.   
Cleaning the Road to the Acropolis
It is known as the Pantheon - the largest dome ever built until the Houston Astrodome.   
So I hiked up to the acropolis, which was mildly interesting. I passed some locals who were cleaning up the road with views of verdant fields fringed by low mountains in the background.
Acropolis Main Road
There was a partially uncovered sewer or aqueduct - take care. At the top of the acropolis were a large set of ruins especially one very large basilica, which was the origin of both the name and the architecture for the Christian Basilica.
Then I walked back to the road on the left then up "theatre hill" (there's a sign) for dramatic views of the whole interior of the theatre from above. 
Aspendos Theatre
It is completely intact and massive. It did not fall down during the major earthquake in the 4th C that destroyed the rest of the city.  While it would be overpopulated by tour groups in high season, we had the site to ourselves except for four young Chinese tourists, who came by taxi.

So why was this architectural miracle located here in the middle of nowhere? All the important tourist sites of today were once important cities in the past. Aspendos was founded by the Hittites, who like the Lycians came from the Caucasus region as part of the great Aryan migration that led to Europeans and European languages.  It later became Persian, who are also descendant of the Aryans. It was freed in 467 BC from the Persians.  The Greeks used one of their tricks: they sent men in the clothing of their Persian captives and were let into the city for a celebration.   Then the Greeks attacked. While the Persians recaptured it in 411 BC, Alexander the Great conquered it in 333 BC.
Aspendos Basilica
Aspendos was not a capital or major power.  So how did Aspendos afford this splendour?  It was able to finance these buildings because it was rich due to trade in salt, wool and oil. The theatre was established by Emperor Marcus Aurelius in second century CE.  Its main redeeming feature is that it is huge and intact. But it is bereft of any decoration.  I still prefer the theatre in Hierapolis (in Pamukkale) where there are partial columns and statues decorating the stage.  So in retrospect, if we had to choose which sites to visit, we would opt for Hierapolis and Afrodisias, which have a lot more to see.
Emerald Koprulu River
Aspendos only took about one hour so that is a good indication.  Today was an example where having a car makes a difference. We were able to choose another destination we had not planned. 

Köprülü Kanyon

How Did They Build This Bridge?
So we drove 45 km further east to Köprülü Canyon. That was a pleasant surprise. First we traversed flat farms surrounded by low mountains when suddenly the first viewpoint of the river appeared on our left. It was overlooking the first of the river rafting companies. Köprülü is famous for river rafting.  Below us flowed a gorgeous emerald green river. 

Amazing Roman Bridge
Then things got very dramatic as the river and the road go through a narrow canyon.  The road hugs a cliff then crosses a beautiful stone arched bridge 27 m above the gorgeous green river. But wait the sign says this was built by the Romans in 2nd Century CE!  Wow, and it still supports cars after almost 2000 years.  Köprü means bridge, so clearly this was an engineering feat even in its time. Admission to Köprülü National Park is free by the way.

No Diving
I got out of the car and climbed massive rocks along the cliff on the other side of the bridge to get better photos of the canyon.   At the highest point the walls rise 400 m above the river. Pine and cedar trees cling to the rocky crust. The ancient road led to Selge, which has a Roman theatre and a Temple of Zeus.

Construction Zone
On the way back, we saw some locals building a retaining wall.  Then the rough, dirt road under construction was damaged by a mud slide that swept away a part of the road. Everyone waited while the construction crew filled in the gap. They were already there because they are creating a better and hopefully wider road.  So that was our adventure for today.

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