Ancient Ruins: Aphrodisias, Pamukkale and Ephesus

Izmir Pamukkale

This is more of a what’s there to do in Izmir and its vicinity kind of post. Fair warning, I might be a little biased because I found the place underwhelming. Depending on which guide you follow, Izmir is often one of the main recommendations, after Istanbul and Cappadocia of course. After hearing so much about Izmir and its glorious ruins, we decided to add it to the itinerary. I wasn’t impressed.

Certainly, Pamukkale was a very interesting place, with its hot springs and travertines—did you know that it actually means “cotton castle” in Turkish? Before I did my research, I thought it was a variety of Kale. Ephesus was certainly impressive with its endless ruins but what spoiled the experience was the lack of explanation. The place was also terribly maintained, which was very sad. Similarly, Aphrodisias (near Pamukkale) sold me on its name alone (a city named after the goddess of love? Yes please!). However, I felt that the entire experience was underwhelming and left me a little curious for more, but not in a good way. More of a confused and “that’s it?” kind of way. Without further ado, let me share the photos with you and you can make your own decision!

We start in Aphrodisias, a small ancient Greek city 230km South East from Izmir where you might find yourself based in. Aphrodisias is also which near from Pamukkale which makes sense for you to visit both on the same day. It is a 3 hour drive each way. 

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In the main entrance, there is a museum which houses more delicate pieces. Although in my humble opinion, most of these should be housed. Because if not the marble starts corroding and erases all the intricate carving done by the ancient Greeks, specimen above. But alas, I’m not a museum curator.

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Don’t get me wrong, the ruins themselves were spectacular and kind of makes you wonder what exactly went wrong, how did we end up so far removed from the Greeks… How is it that the Greeks, a civilisation 2,000 years before us, managed to get so many things right and here we are still struggling with our existentialism and learning about the teachings of men who thought that their Gods lived atop a mountain but were too lazy to check.

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More amazing carvings that have been misshapen by nature. 

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This is the Odeon, or council house located on the north side of the Agora. ( For those unfamiliar with Greek architecture, the Agora is sort of like a square where people could meet and gather, like a plaza for the Spaniards, but Greek). 

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What was quite disturbing for me was that tourists could roam the place freely. And that was exactly what we did. We completely desecrated the place. We climbed up and down these 2,000-year-old steps and disregarded the damage we may have caused in the process. Ah wells.

It’s kind of like the collective action problem. You know if you don’t do it, someone is gonna do it. Might as well be you. 

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The Odeon even had a backstage. I’m not even kidding. When the rest of the world was busy trying to figure out how to hunt animals with sticks, the Greek were hosting tournaments and musicals. Great.

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We also took this opportunity to pose with the different marble archways which made for a nice OOTD.

  “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” 

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” 

View of the Odeon from the stage.

 I wanted to make some snarky, narcissistic comment about how there is contrast between the old and the new and blah blah blah but I guess this entire post has been about me complaining about that. So. 

I wanted to make some snarky, narcissistic comment about how there is contrast between the old and the new and blah blah blah but I guess this entire post has been about me complaining about that. So. 

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Here’s a naked statue with no head but retained its dick. Magnificent. Turns out if men could keep only one, you know what they’d choose.

Aphrodisias also had a stadium which could fit 30,000 spectators whatttt? It would make for an awesome Coldplay concert venue considering their concerts keep selling out here in Singapore. The stadium is badly damaged from an earthquake in the 7th Century but it’s still considerably well-preserved. Fun fact, it’s even larger and more extensive than the stadium in Delphi. The stadium itself is not very photogenic. So with the help of my feline friend, here’s a photo:

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Next up was the temple of Aphrodite, which was seriously underwhelming given the ridiculously high expectations I had for it. I mean I expected tits and phalluses where people fornicated at the steeple but I only got this sad delipidated thing. Jokes aside, I felt that it was quite sad that such an amazing temple was allowed to fall into such disarray. I’ve always felt that ruins had some sort of melancholic beauty. Poetic. 

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AND HERE WE HAVE PLATO. Having ended our little walkabout in Aphrodisias, you’ll never expect who I found in the museum. YES A FACE STATUE (or a bust, for adults who can say it without giggling) OF PLATO, HUNG UP LIKE CECIL THE LION AFTER THE DENTIST GUY KILLED HIM IN COLD BLOOD. Sorry, too soon? BUT YES. For those of you who know, I love Greek Philosophers. I haven’t studied extensively about them but what I do know, I like. 

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Here is the plaque(?) or head statue (I’m going to stick with head statue) of Plato in all its glory. I had a tough time figuring out who exactly the next one was but I’m sure as hell this is Plato. I can recognise that funky hipster bowl cut from anywhere. Ah, if only I had a time machine. 

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I’m pretty sure this is Socrates but I’m not entirely sure because of the corrosion. Socrates has a big bald spot and a beard, which this dude also does. Just remember, no matter how annoying you might be, you will never be as annoying as Socrates who didn’t let his friend save him from jail and eventual death. All that trouble for nothing???!?!

BOOM, 2 hours later and we’re in the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis. Just next to Pamukkale. Hierapolis is a spa city, yes that had that in ancient Greece. Are you impressed yet? Kinda like Hakone in modern time Japan.

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I’m not entirely sure what the structures were, because again, there were no signs. But a little digging on Wikipedia suggests that this is a theatre. What is really impressive is this: “In AD 352, the orchestra was probably transformed into an arena for aquatic shows, which had become fashionable”. Aquatic shows?!?!?!? Seriously, why were the Greeks so cool.

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And now, Pamukkale proper. Yes, feast your eyes on the white (no longer very white) travertine terraces at Pamukkale.

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Honestly speaking though, I felt that Pamukkale was quite overrated and overcrowded. There were bus-loads of tourists alighting at every other minute. The water in the travertines weren’t warm as advertised as well.

Closer to Izmir was the ancient city of Ephesus. Undoubtedly, in terms of scale and complexity, Ephesus was one of the most impressive Greek cities I have seen. It’s home to the famous Temple of Artemis— but there isn’t much of Artemis left though, you can thank the brits who excavated most of it, fret not, you can still see it in the British museum.  

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If you had to ask me, my favourite part of Ephesus are the cats. Whoops. They were everywhere and adorable on every level! 

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Of course, then there was the Library of Celsus which was originally built in 125AD, about 2000 years ago. 

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The library of Celsus is considered to be the largest theater in the ancient word. Holding almost 25,000 people. It also contained 12,000 scrolls. While originally used for drama (I am thoroughly impressed), it was later used for gladiator combats. 

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I.. I kinda climbed up one of the pillars and got stuck.

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And to punish me, Shermaine decided to post for multiple candid shots of me while I was immobile.

And back to the animals! 

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To be completely honest, if I were short on time, I would have given Izmir a miss. The ruins were impressive but because of the lack of maintenance and proper signage, I felt that it wasn’t as meaningful as it should be and perhaps I would have appreciated the wonders of the ancient world a little more rather than stalking the poor animals.

I hope this guide and review on Izmir and it’s vicinity has been useful to you! Let me know your thought on the comments below!