Do you believe in horoscopes? I admit, I often read them. If they are good, I’m a firm believer, if they are bad, I tell myself it’s all rubbish.
An oracle is of course a vast cut above horoscopes and if, like me, you happen to have one practically around the corner from where you live, you are tempted to go from time to time and have a meaningful conversation with the Gods. In my case, Apollo and Artemis and although the ‘conversation’ is decidedly one-sided, it’s an inspiration none the less.
I’m lucky to have one if the most important historical sites in Turkey within walking distance. It’s the Apollo temple and oracle in Didim, a sanctuary which in ancient Greece, was on a par with the better known Delos and Delphi.
The oracle and temple are connected by a sacred road with the ancient and powerful city of Miletos and traces remain to this day.
Alexander the Great heavily sponsored the oracle because the priests, correctly, predicted the success of his military enterprises. I often wonder, if they knew about his early death too but wisely kept that knowledge to themselves.
Despite earthquakes, fires and destruction several columns of the temple still stand proud. Didyma is what I call a ‘cozy’ site. The complex allows you easy access and you can walk around at your leisure because it is not as vast as Ephesus and less visited.
Apart from the sacred olive tree and well which are the center piece of any temple dedicated to Apollo, the most prominent feature of the site are two stunning images of the Medusa.
Medusa was one of the Gorgon sisters, the only mortal one and the most beautiful. Legend has it, that Poseidon fell in love with her and had a tryst, but made a bad choice in the venue. The adventure took place in a temple dedicated to Athena. The jealous goddess didn’t take kindly to this and, as she couldn’t take on Poseidon she vented her rage towards the hapless Medusa, whose hair became a mess of poisonous snakes and whose eyes turned anybody who dared to look at her into stone.
Fortunately, the curse is broken and I can look at her without becoming a statue myself. The best time to visit the site is when it opens at 8am. The early sun gives the columns a rosy tint and the only other living creatures around are a few lazy cats and lizards. It’s easy to imagine the procession of dust covered pilgrims who made their way along the sacred road from Miletos to worship Apollo and his twin sister Artemis and anxiously ask about their future.
The nearby village features several picturesque old stone houses and, best of all, one of my favorite boutique hotels, the Medusa Hotel.
It’s also a converted stone farmhouse with a particularly beautiful garden and wine leave covered terrace where I often sit and have a Turkish coffee and a chat with the owner, who is a well known photographer and sponsor of Greek/Turkish friendship. The salon of his hotel is a tiny museum to the Greek past of this part of Turkey, so with a single visit you get an insight into ancient as well as recent history.
Before the year is over, I’ll make another trip to the oracle and whisper my wishes for the future into Medusa’s stone ear. Who knows, maybe one or the other will even come true.