Day 4 – Perge and Aspendos

OK, some good news (at last!). Today was about thousand percent improvement over yesterday (especially nice, because this excursion wasn’t free). Our tour group was about a quarter of the size, versus the Antalya shopping trip, and composed completely of people who wanted to be there. That was a big boost right there. By chance we had the same guide today as yesterday. He was very receptive to questions and I don’t think our group ever stumped him…except with a question about whether the aqueducts had guard posts stationed along them (good question, but not one of ours).

Our Frommer’s Turkey book gave Aspendos three stars and merely a mention to Perge. Aspendos was a pleasure and I’m really glad we did it, but we really thought the ruins of the ancient city of Perge were worth at least as many stars as the amphitheater at Aspendos.

When the bus picked us up at our hotel, it was about half full. We made one or two more stops and then were on our way to Perge. We saw the stadium outside the city wall first and then made our way in through the gate. The amount of old stone lying around on the ground, much of it ornate, was impressive. And then we got a look at the columns, many of which had been restored or at least re-inserted into modern replicas of their sockets. For me, I think the highlight of the Perge visit was passing from the Frigidarium through the Tepidarium to the Caldarium and checking out the ancient Fußbodenheizung structures underneath the floors of the baths.

We took a little break from the made-man marvels to visit a waterfall not too far away in a park area. It would have been a nice place for a picnic, but our lunch plans brought us back toward mankind’s creations near the 2000 year old amphitheater at Aspendos, so after a few minutes of admiring the waterfall and wildlife, we got back on the bus to move along. We pulled into a ramshackle village within sight of some ruins at Aspendos — not sure what those were, since we never talked about them — and sat down for lunch. It was pretty much the same deal as yesterday’s lunch: some bread, some salad-type stuff, and your choice of chicken, ground beef, or fish/vegetarian main course, followed up by fresh fruit dessert. Then, back on the bus for a two-minute ride to the theater at Aspendos.

Sarah remarked afterwards that once you gain admission to it, the theater is really yours to explore. There didn’t seem to be any restricted areas. We guessed that all they need is someone to hang around and make sure you don’t actively desecrate the place; otherwise, since you accepted the risk of climbing around mostly (but not entirely!) intact stone stairwells and bench seating, what else could go wrong? That building has been there twenty times longer than you can hope to live. The view from the top row out over the walls towards the Taurus Mountains was breathtaking. It was easy to see why this theater is still an active performance site: you can put sixteen thousand people in it and it still sounds great — we tested that a little bit, our normal speaking voices clearly audible between the top row and about half-way down. Just a little louder than normal is all you would need to project all the way from the bottom up to the top.

After hanging around there for about a half an hour, we sampled a mix of freshly squeezed and orange and pomegranate juice (yum) and got back on the bus for just one more stop to go. We made our way out to a bridge crossing a river that was built in the 1200s (and modernized more than once over time). This was not a big deal to for anyone who lives in Regensburg, and the rest of the guests didn’t seem too jazzed about it either. At that point, I think we were all just ready to get back to our respective hotels and chill out a little before dinner.