Western Anatolia Ancient Route with New Ford Ranger (2)
Our West Anatolia journey continues with journalist Koray Muratoğlu, photographer Engin Irız and New Ford Ranger Wildtrak! Enjoy reading!
Article: Koray Muratoğlu
Photos: Engin Irız
Day 3: Selçuk - Nazilli - Denizli, Aphrodisias Ancient City
Distance: 263 km
Today is a brisker day, we will drive a little more than the first day. But except for a few sectors, the road will generally be fast. In other words, we will travel through the plains rather than the winding roads that we call "vidi-vidi" in Turkish rally jargon. We set off from Selçuk after loading a nice patisserie carbohydrate. The moving funk DJ sets in my photographer friend's archive first make Ranger's sound system hop, then us; I guess this is the only remedy for the weight of two dill pastries.
Our route is Tire. We have about 40 km. Starting with double asphalt, the axle returns to a single-lane trip after a short time. It is really a straight road, except for the bends you turn while passing a few settlements. You arrive in Tire by passing through a wide plain. It is visually obvious that you are passing through a green and fertile agricultural area. The region is fertile with a great variety in terms of agricultural products due to the soil structure and the influence of the Cayster River. I cannot say that our hopes for Tire meatball were failed because since we were aware of the early day passing, we already have disappointed ourselves by the night.
After passing the Tire city center, we pass by Ödemiş and head towards Beydağ. The road character is almost the same, again a slightly wider good asphalt that passes through the agricultural lands. As we get closer to Beydağ, the road gets narrower and we pass through small villages. The atmosphere of lovely Aegean settlements... Beydağ Dam is one of the must-see places... However, we have a long way to go and unfortunately, I cannot spare time. After here, our plain geography character changes suddenly and we start to climb towards the mountains on the way to Nazilli. Also, I can feel it is time for "bend" combinations again; on the contrary, too many flatness makes me dizzy.
Nazilli is not far from Beydağ, but there are two road options. I prefer the one that is said to be a little longer but better. I am sure the other one is also beautiful geographically; because they are close to each other but the region we are passing through is excellent. I will ride down via Işıklar and Rahmanlar villages. As soon as you start to climb, the mountainous region feels more Mediterranean than Aegean. High and abundant pine trees change the atmosphere together with the road character. These drastic changes, when they happen at close distances and quickly, well triggers that observation pleasure on the journey and keep you fit.
I climb with a "vidi-vidi" character and the Ranger's chassis balance in the combined bends gives me additional pleasure. It is extremely rigid for a pickup and manages to stay in line. As you can understand, I could not stand this beautiful road and increased the tempo. The towns and villages we see as we climb are interestingly reminiscent of the Black Sea mountain villages. Similarly, there are houses on high, long gravel foundations built on the slopes. They really are like the Black Sea highland houses. We continue in this atmosphere for a while... Then the descent begins, although we have not experienced a long climb or high altitude, I should mention that. The road is still narrow while descending but maintains its good asphalt character. We manage to reach Nazilli at the end of 40 km bypassing large and small settlements. Let me state once again, there is a very Mediterranean atmosphere including the towns and villages as well. And I enjoy this episode very much.
We arrive in Nazilli, and without the need to enter the city, we go to Aydın-Denizli main road. Aphrodisias, which I have been very curious about and never seen, is almost there. I will travel 12 km on the main road, this is a classic intercity road, probably many of you used it before. You know what I find most boring on intercity roads? Sections where I often encounter traffic lights... For example, I do not prefer the new Istanbul - İzmir highway, I always love the old road. However, I am most sympathetic due to that; from Akhisar to Manisa, we got rid of that stop-start, crossroad-light, etc., it was great.
When I arrive at Akhisar, I use it. Here, though not that much, we arrive at the Karacasu turnout with frequent lights, fortunately, it is a short distance. Afterward, the road is single line again, but it is wide with a cold asphalt and fine quality. We will arrive at Karacasu after 25 km. Here, the geography makes a sudden maneuver, of course, it is still green, but a little flatter area are abundant and gray colors are also visible. And at the far edges of them, you can see, the mountains stand as a delightful complement.
Before long, we arrive in Karacasu, a lovely district of Aydın. It is built on a gentle slope, and plenty of olive trees accompany you both on the entrance and exit. We could have avoided Karacasu city center but somehow I thought the brown Ethnography Museum sign was for Aphrodisias, anyway after 2-3 km I went down the same road again. In short, we have seen the district center with this mistake. It is okay, it took us just five minutes. After 10 km, we reached Aphrodisias, in fact after 500 meters from the main road, the city appears before you.
Again, it was a noticeably quiet moment and I reached the stadium, which is estimated to take 30 thousand people, without walking too far. With the beams of light coming through the dense trees and the high-pitched but peaceful sound of the locusts, it is impossible not to think how good it makes you feel while wandering around the city. Aphrodisias really has a different feeling, I do not know if it is because of the geography. Trees and flora have penetrated the city, maybe that creates a different warmth. Meanwhile, Ara Güler is an extremely important figure in the discovery of the city. The story is long but brief; Güler, who comes to the region for the dam groundbreaking ceremony, stays in a village at night. He notices and photographs thousands of years old columns and takes the photos to the İstanbul Archaeology Museum. Then, the adventure of that great Aphrodisias to come to light again begins. Those who wonder can get into the details with a little internet research.
Aphrodisias Ancient City, located within the borders of Geyre Neighborhood of Karacasu District of Aydın Province, is located on a plateau approximately 600 meters above sea level in the fertile valley formed by Dandalaz (Morsynus) stream, which is a branch of the Menderes (Meander) River. The marble quarries located in the foothills of Babadağ, to the north of the city, provided the greatest source of wealth to the city during the Ancient Era, which was fed by the natural features of the river basin in which it is located throughout history. Aphrodisias, whose settlement date goes back to the middle of the 5th millennium BC, was a small village in the 6th century BC, it gained the status of a city state (polis) during the period of intense urbanization in the Menderes Valley in the 2nd century BC. Aphrodisias, who had close relations with Rome in the 1st century BC, got the protection of Octavian, who later took the title of Augustus as the Roman Emperor by his words "I chose this city for myself among all of Asia". The city began to develop rapidly after the Roman Senate granted privileges such as tax exemption and autonomy in 39 BC. The archaeological importance of Aphrodisias comes from the exceptionally well-preserved structures and inscriptions and reliefs of structures built largely of marble that were revealing intense change of ideas and values from late Hellenistic to Roman and Byzantine periods. Aphrodisias, raised sculptures that had piece of arts all over the empire especially in Rome between 1st -5th centuries AD who had gained great fame in entire Mediterranean. The fact that marble quarries are so close to the city has made Aphrodisias a high-quality production center for marble sculpture. Thanks to this feature, it became one of the cities in the Asian Province of the Roman Empire that enabled the marble art and architecture of the period to be researched and understood in all aspects. It is known that the Aphrodite Sanctuary, which gives the city its name and played an important role in the development of the city's identity, and the original cult of Aphrodite in the city had a cultural impact on a wide area in the Mediterranean Basin. Because of these features, Aphrodisias Ancient City was registered in the World Heritage List in 2017, together with the ancient marble quarries located 2-3 km away in the northeast. Source: Ministry of Culture Inventory, Ankara
After a few brilliant hours, the roads await us, and Ranger's engine is started to reach Denizli. Approximately 85 km left. As always, the afternoon light has started to make the environment even more attractive, and a beautiful day finale awaits us. I will go via Tavas and I have 40 km, the first 20 km is a single lane with a fine asphalt. After arriving in Karahisar, it turns into a double road. We travel towards Tavas with mountain views and thousands of olive trees accompany us.
Then I turn towards Denizli, it is time to seep into the mountains we saw from afar. With the sunset, we descend to Denizli from the inner roads of Honaz Mountain covered with pine forests. The sun is so beautiful before me that I resist lowering the visor; I do not even lower it. This is a double lane road and a downhill sector with bends that give driving pleasure. Approximately 35 km later, we arrive in Denizli. But both we and the day are done, Pamukkale and Hierapolis are left for tomorrow... By the way, I realize that I have forgotten and missed that place in Tavas, which Vedat Milor called "the best kokoreç I have ever eaten" and hit my head on the walls. And then I hit once again...
Day 4: Denizli - Burdur - Ağlasun, Hierapolis and Sagalassos Ancient Cities
Distance: 203 km
After yesterday's brisk ride, I think today will be a relatively short day with less rush. After waking up in the morning, we make our way to Pamukkale in the early hours. Hierapolis Ancient City is also there, 20 km away from the city center.
After arriving in the city, a lemon is squeezed on our thought that the day will be more comfortable. Since the South Gate of the city is closed, we enter from the upper entrance and this strikes back to us as a long walk. Of course, it would not be possible to refrain from walking while visiting an ancient city, but the temperature kept rising.
Hierapolis Ancient City was founded by Eumenes II, King of Bergama in the 2nd century BC. It can be said that it was named Hierapolis because of the wife of Telephus, the legendary founder of Pergamon. The city was constantly demolished and rebuilt due to earthquakes that occurred as its location being an earthquake zone. However, the structures standing today are were built after the great earthquake in the 60's AD, and the city was built with a grid plan, taking the appearance of a typical Roman city and lost all its Hellenistic character. Hierapolis had been an especially important center in the Byzantine Period following the Roman Period. The reason for the city becoming a Christian center since 4th century AD is the murder of St. Philip, one of the apostles of Jesus, here in 80 AD. When the city was conquered by the Byzantines in the 4th century, an octagonal church called Martyrium was built in the name of St. Philip. Therefore, the title of the city elevates and takes the title of Metropolis. It was destroyed by a big earthquake in the 7th century and the city lost its identity. It became a small town in the 12th century AD. It was dominated by the Seljuks in the 13th century and was completely abandoned following the earthquake in the 14th century. The city has 2 monumental gates, a grid of avenues and streets running parallel and perpendicular to the main street. The main street, about 1 km long, divides the city into two, and on both sides of this street are stoa, public buildings, shops, and workshops. The necropolis areas outside the city walls and in the north, south and east directions of the city are the largest necropolises in Southwest Anatolia. Apart from that, the main buildings of the city are Bath-Basilica, Latrine, Theater, Ploutonion, Temple of Apollo, Water Channels and Nymphaeum, Churches (Martyrium of St Philip the Apostle, Church of St. Philip...) and the Great Bath Complex. The remains of the ancient city of Hierapolis (Pamukkale), most of which is from the Roman period, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 as a cultural and natural heritage, together with the Pamukkale Travertines, with which it stands with all its glory. Source: Ministry of Culture Inventory, Ankara
Hierapolis is a huge ancient city spread over a wide area adjacent to the travertines. Like all of them, this place has a unique atmosphere. A more barren area overlooks a flat and huge plain, and geography makes you feel the sense of eternity, perhaps a little more intense with the city. After a long walk, we continue our journey after visiting the ancient theater and the largest necropolis of Western Anatolia (containing about 2 thousand tombs).
Our next target will be Salda Lake, after heading towards Burdur, Acıpayam, and heading towards Yeşilova. We leave Denizli by climbing back from the foothills of Honaz Mountain, where we came through last night. With a short descent after the Tavas junction, again wide plains appear ahead of us. There is a total of eight plains within the provincial borders of Denizli with a total of 2,073 square kilometers. In fact, it is impossible not to notice it when you travel around like us.
After driving 45 km to Salda, I turn left from the main road. We drive on the standard intercity double lane road that you know, until now. However, after returning to Salda, the road transforms into a single lane. We dive into that smooth plain that we saw on our left, where the tones of the yellow and green blend on the road to Denizli. We have 35 km more to go and as I drive over I notice that the total number of bends is maybe 10-15. So, I am riding through such a straight sector. As we approach Salda, the plain ends and we climb to the low hills with a gentle climb, from here those flat landscapes end, and again the slopes and forest views begin. There is a little way left to Salda anyway.
After entering the provincial border of Burdur, the road turns into a much newer asphalt. Around Salda, this character is prevalent almost everywhere. We see the famous Salda Blue after a short descent with a low slope like the short climb before. I go to the lakeside and lie on the white sands to have some rest and sip the coffee in the thermos. It is very calm here, so it is even more pleasant... After setting off from Salda, we shoot a little bit in the vicinity, now Burdur is the target. I will reach the city via Yeşilova. The road is completely single lane, but the asphalt is generally new. In some places, it turns into a patchy cold asphalt. The environment is not plain like the vicinity of Denizli, but it can still be considered a plain. The rate of trees is also decreasing, and we see the vast agricultural lands where the crops are taking colors from yellow to green. The photograph of the region has a unique color. I have two options to go to Burdur. Almost the same in distance. I will either ride over Yarışlı Lake via Harmanlı or below it.
I prefer the lower road, there is 70 km to Burdur. As we get closer to the city, marble quarries, one of the important economic industries of the region, draw attention. Quarries, resembling white castles, stand out. Some of them are huge, the emphasis "I drilled the mountains" would not be an exaggeration. However, albeit quiet and old, the narrow road with good asphalt offers a nice driving pleasure. Approximately 25 km before Burdur, I take the main road. This is a double line road, but as the work has been going on for years, the lane is constantly getting off traffic and it is not an unbelievably cute road. However, as Burdur Lake shows itself on the left side, I console myself with the view.
After approaching the city and being exposed to frequent traffic lights again, we take the Afyon - Antalya road. We will not stay here long either, after 12 km, I will turn to Ağlasun for Sagalassos, the goal of the day. I arrive instantly, and after that point, there is another geography and road character. The spirit of "Road Trip" continues today with its fast and changing geography. As you know, our goal is not the goal itself, it is to be on the road... There is 20 km to Ağlasun and again here is a mountainous environment with more Southern Mediterranean flavors. Therefore, the road is curvier and more fun. There is a mountain on one side and the other side is covered with low slopes and landscapes. As the evening light shows and hides as playing hide-and-seek with you while you are driving on the curvy road, it becomes a quite enjoyable sector. Before going down for Ağlasun, we pass Çatak Beli, the altitude is 1,477 m.
Sagalassos is 7 km north of Ağlasun district and 1,700 meters above sea level on the slopes of Akdağ. Sagalassos is the most important city of the Pisidia region during the Roman imperial period. Most of the buildings in the city belong to the Roman period. The first discovery of Sagalassos was made in 1706 by French traveler Paul Lucas. At the city in the clouds there are residences at the entrance, baths below, lime and metal furnaces, lower agora (bazaar), fountain and Odeon, northward residences above, theater on the right, Neon library, Hellenistic fountain, ceramic production center, upper agora in the city center, parliament building, church, heroön, temple and Cladius gate on the upper left. Sagalassians descent from Pisidia people, a branch of Luwian tribes living in Western and Southern Anatolia at the end of the third millennium. Alexander the Great captured this city in 333 AD. Sagalassos came under the rule of Seleucids and Attalids. In 25 BC it was annexed by King Amyntas of Galatia and then Emperor Augustus of Rome. The much greater economic growth that started when Hadrian chose Sagalassos as the official center of the Pisidian imperial cult in the 120s, initiated a century-long development growth. The city, which continued to develop until the middle of the 6th century, was destroyed in the great earthquake in AD 590. A few small villages remained in the ruins of the city until the Seljuks eliminated the last remaining Byzantine castles in the middle of the 13th century AD. The magnificent Antonine fountain is the most distinctive structure is the magnificent. The city experienced its best period in economic, political, and social terms during the rule of Emperor Hadrian (2nd century AD). Sagalassos is perhaps one of the best-preserved ancient settlements in Asia Minor since the day it was abandoned. Sagalassos was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List in 2009. Statues of Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Emperor Hadrian, estimated to be around 5.5 meters long, and other artifacts unearthed in the excavations are exhibited in the Burdur Museum. Source: Cultural Inventory, Ankara 2007.
After entering the district, you must climb a short but exceptionally beautiful road of 8 km to get to Sagalassos. It is a type of climbing tracks that will make you ask for more. We arrive at the city, Sagalassos is a less known but special city in terms of its location. The view of Sagalassos, seen from high, where the vast valley and the Western Taurus Mountains meet, make everything feel even more ancient. Be sure to visit it!
To be continued...