Posted by inka on May 19, 2013 in art
, Day trips
, Travel tips
, Turkey Travel
The mausoleum of Halicarnassus certainly belongs in my mini series of buildings and monuments the construction of which was inspired by love or fantasy. Although, in this case, a distinct touch of vanity can be added.
Considered as one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the mausoleum was conceived and designed by Queen Artemisia II, wife and sister of King Mausolos. He ruled as a Persian satrap in the region known as Caria which is today the area around Bodrum on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast in the 3rd century BC.
Not much is known about his life or achievements other than that he moved his capital to Halicarnassus and expanded the city with many buildings and walls. However, after his death, his heartbroken widow decided to erect a tomb for him which surpassed any known structure of this kind.
In five years his mausoleum (the term as used today derives from the king’s name) was built and embellished by the best Greek architects, stone masons and sculptors of the time. No effort or money was spared to create a memorial to an otherwise not very significant ruler.
More than 50 meters high, the tomb started with a platform out of which soared 36 columns ending in a pyramid shaped roof adorned with life sized statues and crowned with a massive marble chariot.
The marble and gold sarcophagus was entombed in the burial chamber which also had room for the queen.
When Alexander the Great conquered Halicarnassus in 334 BC, the mausoleum was intact and in fact remained so until a massive earthquake brought it down in 1304.
The Knights of Malta got permission to built a castle which today is the landmark of Bodrum. Not above looting, they made good use of the massive and richly decorated ruins of the mausoleum and incorporated the ‘material’ they found in their castle.
That’s why today not much is left or can be seen from this Wonder of the World, but the story and of course the term ‘mausoleum’ have survived.
Castle of St.Peter in Bodrum with pieces of the mausoleum in its walls
I may have changed countries recently, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten the many fabulous trips I undertook across the country or will not, one day, return to see what I have left out.
Those who have followed me will know that my favorite region is the Southeast. Not only for the landscape but also for the history and the many monuments which are exceptionally well preserved. The southeast is worlds apart from the beach and tourist resorts of the Aegean Sea where I used to live or the Mediterranean Coast. In fact, sometimes you are hard pressed to see any tourists at all and those you meet are serious travelers, not chilling out sun worshippers.
You have a lot of legwork to do, thousands of stone steps to climb, ascending and descending hills non stop. Therefore quite luxurious but small hotels, often to be found in converted medreses (Islamic schools attached to mosques) at surprisingly reasonable prices are a welcome home from home to rest your aching feet.
Another reason why I find the southeast so endlessly fascinating is that Islamic and Christian history and places of worship exists closely side by side. An example is the vast Saffron Monastery near Mardin which I visited last year. The name is rather a nickname and refers to the yellow stone the monastery was built from. I won’t even attempt to write down the ‘real’name, no matter everybody knows what you mean when to refer to it as the Saffron Monastery.
It has been around since 493 AD and used to be the seat of the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Christians. The monastery has no less than 365 rooms, one for each day of the year. Today it’s run by a handful of monks and assistants as an orphanage and school.
What a place to go to school though!! Countless treasures are to be admired within the buildings, relics and the throne of the patriarchs among them. Books, artifacts, images of saints… you name it, you’ll find it there.
And the building itself is just so impressive. Yet another place in Turkey’s southeast which under no circumstances should be missed by anyone who ventures there.
A painting giving a bird’s eye view
One of the many altars
The patriach’s throne
An ancient bible up close
One of the hotels I mentioned
Posted by inka on Jan 6, 2013 in Middle East
, Travel tips
, Turkey Travel
I have always been interested in the lives and adventure of travel pioneers and one of my favorites is Freya Stark.
Born in Paris in 1893, Freya already spoke three languages by the age of three and lead a wandering life during her childhood.
Although somewhat in the shadow of the more famous (and better sponsored) Gertrude Caton Thompson, Freya was an extraordinary brave woman, dedicated traveler, explorer, writer, historian and archaeologist, who traveled alone, with little means and troubled by ill health, but never gave up when it came to reaching a destination she absolutely wanted to see. She has written extensively about her travels in Mesopotamia, Persia and the Middle East and got her recognition by being made a Dame of the British Empire in 1972. She lived to the happy old age of 100, having made her home in Asolo/Italy. If you happen to be in the region, you might want to swing by Villa Montoria and pay homage. On a more personal note, Freya was also a bit of an eccentric and a fashionista who, reportedly, once turned up at a dig in heels. I’m sure you can see how that personality holds a particular fascination for the glamour granny.
Cover of Caroline Moorehead’s biography
Given her extensive travels in the Middle East, it does not come as a surprise that I feel particularly attracted to Freya because the region is one of my favorite destinations in the world too. With the exception of Turkey and, of course, Mesopotamia, Freya and I have visited different countries, but it’s fascinating to read her autobiography which she assembled on the basis of countless letter she wrote. The title: Traveller’s Prelude, followed by three more volumes with the titles: Beyond Euphrates, The Coast of Incense and Dust in the Lion’s Paw.
Hassankeyf and the river Tigris
If you have read my previous posts, you will recall that I have decided to spend New Year’s Eve in the historical Caravanserail Hotel in Kusadasi.
Visiting this lovely port on the coast of Turkey’s Aegean Sea is always a pleasure for me, although, like the many, many visitors who pass through during the year, the most popular season is during spring and summer. Countless cruise ships cast anchor in the modern seaport and many a private yacht can be admired in the marina.
Winter in Kusadasi is a different experience. There are still plenty of people around and more than half of the shops and restaurants stay open year around. What fascinates me though, is the light. Look at this shot of one of the many statues which adorn the sea promenade. The dramatic rain clouds in the back ground make the doves soar.
Winter has its own entertainment and the most important is camel wrestling. This is a serious sport, tempers of the owners of the beats and the betters fly high and the camels really have a go at each other. The day before, the champions are paraded along Kusadasi’s pedestrian zone and I was lucky to catch them.
Another sport which thrives year around is fishing, My eye was caught by this lone fisherman who cast his rod just below the castle which dominates the harbor entrance.
And finally, what better to do on a cold and wet winter day than starting off with a good breakfast, enjoyed in the cozy little dining room of the Caravanserail.
Happy New Year to all my readers.
The ‘all inclusive’ jaunt is over. I couldn’t rip the hideous tag off fast enough. Ah, the joy of being an individual again rather than a tagged member of a herd. Done that, been there, but now it’s time to continue traveling in my own way.
What better place to go and celebrate New Year than a boutique hotel, steeped in history. The hotel Caravanserail in Kusadasi fits the bill. I have visited many times and always wanted to stay..now I do.
The beautiful building is one of the main attractions of the Aegean seaport of Kusadasi, located right in the center of town, close to the port. Built in 1618 by Grand Vizir Öküz Mehmet Pacha, it is indeed a caravanserail, accommodating tradesmen who brought their wares and animals from a long distance and used the caravanserail as a place to rest, restore and trade. There are two floors with a total of 26 rooms arranged around a large, square courtyard where the animals were ‘parked’. One entrance served to guide the animals in, another housed the guards. Speaking of which, as a very knowledgeable friend explained to me, the doors were kept closed, until departing tradesmen confirmed that nothing of their wares had gone astray overnight. Only then were they opened.
Slaves and employees of the merchants stayed for free for three days, the wealthy traders had to pay. My room is a single on the first floor, and at night I can hear creaks of the wooden floor and imagine the many people who have rested here after the arduous journey from far away countires. They didn’t have the modern benefits of TV, internet connections and a top notch bathroom, amenities which are much appreciated by modern day travelers.
Stepping out of my room, I sit in a wrought iron chair, coffee in hand and admire the magically illuminated roof with the old beams, stone floors, staircase and courtyard and look up at the sky through the open roof. It can’t get more romantic and historical and I can’t wait to see what the New Year celebration will be like.