Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Bit On The Side

Hang on, you lot... Side is a place in Turkey! It's pronounced see-day and after our time at the Manavgat Waterfall, described in the previous entry, this is where we came to on the excursion from the Thomson Celebration which had docked in nearby Alanya on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

Side has some wonderful Roman remains, including temples, a massive amphitheatre, a gateway and a few arches of an acqueduct. Above can be seen the scant upright remains of a Temple to Apollo, behind our merry bunch. The guide here is making up for the fact that there wasn't much to say at the waterfall and is now assaulting us with the most banal commentary...

A sample: "Behind us is the harbour, it was very important for trade..." Inspiring stuff... I have a foolproof guide for tour guides. They can say whatever they like but it should be in this order:

  1. tell tourists what they need to know - meeting times and places, where the loos are, directions to stuff they might want to see that you won't come to.
  2. Tell them when they can wander off on their own if they like
  3. tell them stuff they might want to know (that isn't just bloody obvious!)
  4. tell them the stuff that interests you personally (this comes last!)

All around us are massive columns from the temple. This place had a chequered history. Alexander the Great came here without any great opposition and left a small garrison. For a time it was under the control of his General, Ptolemy, who decided to proclaim himself King of Egypt in 305 BC and started a chain of kings called Ptolemy (and incidentally a chain of co-rulers called Cleopatra), one of whom we still remember far more than we do any of the Ptolemys. She probably knew this place too - we'll meet her again in the next entry at Alanya, just up the road where the ship is waiting for us.

Side was captured by the Seleucid Empire (it covered a lot of today's Arab states and as far east as north western India). They in turn were defeated by Rhodes, working together with Pergamum and Rome (who must have been pleased as this event saw the defeat of the fugitive Hannibal, he of the elephants across the Alps jaunt). In the first century BC the place was captured by pirates who set up their slave trading centre there. The Romans booted them out twice, the second time being by General Pompey but they quite liked the slave trade and kept it going. From the 4th century AD, Side was plagued by raids from the mountain people, Arab fleets, Christian zealots and also suffered several earthquakes. Small wonder that the population thought "bugger this..." and fled. It remained deserted but for a stubborn open-all-hours corner shop (clothes pegs, slaves and fridge magnets) until around the 1100s when people came to see if the raids had stopped and started to rebuild the city.

The Temple of Apollo has a fine mesh fence all round it apart from one aspect which has the view blocked by a construction hut and one corner where I stretched to my full height (I know... laughable...) and poked the lens through a gap in the fence.

There is a large amphitheatre which I wanted a look at. We asked directions and made our way up the busy shopping street and found ourselves back opposite the coach park. We walked up to the ticket booth all excited and found they only took Turkish Lire (we only had euros) or credit cards - and of course we had left that behind...

A bit deflated, we walked around the outside of the theatre anyway. Steel supports have been added under the Roman arches that support the massive public gallery. The theatre seated around 15,000 spectators and hosted all sorts of events including gladiatorial combat.

But then a wonderful thing happened. We came to the edge of the theatre, passed through the city gate and came to the site of a temple to Dionysus outside the theatre.

And having walked around the temple, by looking back, we get a really good view of the galleries of seating in the theatre. Miss Franny wouldn't let me go back to the ticket office to gloat...

In front of the seating is a wall, which would be the back of the stage or orchestra - this was an amphitheatre not a full arena, so a semi-circle of seating with a stage at the front. On the bit of grass in the centre of the temple site is a reconstruction of a fountain that stood before the main entrance of the temple.

A closer look at the fountain. Dionysus is the Greek version of the Roman Bacchus - the god of grapes, harvest, wine, etc... He'd do well in Blackpool...

Things got a bit too giddy at his last debauch and the temple ended up strewn about like skittles... On the other side of the temple to the amphitheatre were several old ruins, one with some mosaic flooring and a rather taller ruin of a 6th century hospital.

We walked back through the Vespasian Gate to the old city and realised that we were back at the coach half an hour early. We walked back to the top of the shopping street and bought a few bits and pieces and most importantly a cool drink each.

We bought them here. The owner was a very helpful chap whose mother (I presume) worked in the shop. I was taken with the miniature Turkish carpets on the stand outside the front door. A more practical souvenir than some of the real full size Turkish carpets that are very very nice but with price tags in direct proportion to niceness!

We bought cans to drink and sat on benches in a little square with the view above. Very pleasant indeed. Some familiar faces started to drift by us and we realised it was time to head back to the coach again.

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