Hidden amongst the mountains about an hour drive from Denizli, the ancient city Aphrodisias opens up to another world with its green fields and local wildlife (birds and frogs mostly) amidst which some of the original structures still stand. The overgrown paths and thickets certainly give an exotic and wild feel to the whole site, which probably could be annoying for the casual tourist but it just made me fall in love with the place even more. Thank god I wore my good walking shoes at the last minute, due to the rain from the day before, the terrain was quite marshy and slippery in some places.
I joined a tour bus from Pamukkale (30 TL) which took us to the site and left us to explore on our own. From the parking lot, we then got towed to the site in an open train carriage pulled by a tractor. Bumpy but definitely exciting!
Settlement in Aphrodisias goes back as far as 5000 BC but the temple of Aphrodite, built to honour the goddess of love later became a pilgrimage site. By the 3rd century AD, the city had become the capital of Roman Caria. In the early Byzantine period, it then became an Orthodox City with the temple was turned into a church but was abadoned about the 12th century – probably due to earthquakes.
The remoteness of Aphrodisias protects it from the crowds – quite refreshing after visiting the tourist magnets that Ephesus and Pamukkale are. Except for one group of British tourists, I was mostly left alone to appreciate the beauty of the site.
Excavations are still ongoing by archaeologists and there certainly is much work to be done until it’s up to Ephesus’s level. What I saw was probably just a taste of what was to come.
However, it was quite interesting how some of the other individual ruins were still in quite in good shape, almost undamaged. I left the last for the best – one of the biggest and classical stadiums with about 30,000 seats.
Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the on-site museum, about which I had heard good things, because it was a Monday and museums are usually closed on Mondays in Turkey. But that’s alright, since I will be definitely be visiting again!