Adventures in Anadolu

Asia Minor is called Anadolu by the Turks but in the U.S. we say Anatolia.  Think about it, Anadolu, it’s like saying full with mother.  We know that the fertility or mother goddess [ Kybele,Artemis, Diana, just a few of her many names] has been important since ancient times from the many relics discovered.  Figurines of her have been found from the 9000 year old town of Çatal Hüyük near Konya to Efes at Selçuk where a wondrous temple to Artemis was erected in 334 BCE.  With the name Anadolu, the mother is still honored.

İstanbul is at the apex of the Thracian peninsula which is considered to be part of Europe not Anatolia, and this is where most first time visitors arrive.  However, on my first adventure to Turkey in 1993, I landed by boat on the shores of Anadolu.  On the most recent trip I had the good fortune to meet a couple who arrived by train from a two-plus year stint in Sofia, Bulgaria working for the Peace Corp.  The wonders of travel are meeting interesting people with a different approach to life thus renewing the spirit.  Andrea and Michael fit that category and introduced me to “couch surfing.”  A network of people around the world occasionally share their home with travelers who find each other through the Internet site www.couchsurfing.com . This enables those interested, in encountering the side of society most tourists miss and others dream about. 

Andrea and Michael are “surfing’” through Anatolia with plans to travel to other countries as long as the desire and finances afford.  Spending two weeks working on an olive farm for room and board is one way to pinch pennies, and their blog site www.glory-ho.com  shares this experience as well as other “surfing” adventures.  We met by chance in Eğırdır on a rainy night over a cup of çay in a pension restaurant. Traveling all day by bus is exhausting but a refreshing beverage and good conversation sends one to bed in comfort.

The eleven hour bus trip was worth it to see my friend Kadir Can.  His Galeria Nomad [for carpets] and Nomad Bike Tours and Rentals is what introduced us two years ago.  A bike tour of Lake Eğırdır was inorder on such a delightful fall afternoon during apple harvest. This year the time had come to investigate the recent discoveries at Sagalassos.

The spectacular site high on Ak Dağ near Ağlasun, 80 kilometers to the southwest of Eğırdır, has been inhabited by many people but the Roman ruins are what remain today.  The outstanding reconstruction of the Antonine Nyphaeum alone makes the visit worthwhile.  Constructed sometime between 161-180 CE, during the tenure of Marcus Aurelius, the monumental fountain was weakened by many earthquakes with the one in 650 probably completing the destruction.  It now stands, with original as well as reproductions, pieced together to form the handsome structure again.

On to İstanbul to meet Ahmet Sezgin, a student studying Mimar Sinan. His PhD research is fascinating; it takes a different perspective, the construction of Sinan’s identity in Turkey.  He is one of the project coordinators of “Respect to Sinan” Project of the CEKUL Foundation, and they have published a map of Sinan sites in İstanbul as well other parts of Thrace.  Soon they hope to have English on their site, www.cekulvakfi.org.tr , and possibly some of their publications translated as well.

I learned from Ahmet that Sinan is honored each April in his home town of Ağırnas, and that a dwelling thought to be Sinan’s boyhood home is now a museum.  It can be very cold there in April but for the Sinan enthusiast it would be an interesting addition to their studies of the Master.

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