Delighted that Paul Andruss is joining the blog as a regular contributor on the first Friday of each month, and if you missed his two posts before Christmas you can find them in this directory in the menu.
Today Paul shares his trip to the land of gods and heroes....and you can see more photographs of this trip at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/book-drawings/sets/72157625509728092/
Ionia by Paul Andruss
This land of gods and heroes fills me with irrational love and irrepressible longing. Here a sister married her brother and built him a tomb so magnificent it became a wonder of the world. Here, a nymph saw a young man drink from her spring. Fiercely desiring him, she prayed they would never part. With cruel humour, the capricious gods joined flesh to flesh, creating the first hermaphrodite.
This is Bodrum, once Halicarnassus, home of the mausoleum. Behind the town, hidden in hills of olive and pine, is the spring of Salamcis where the son of Hermes and Aphrodite took that fatal drink.
The heartland of Ionic Greece was already ancient when the Parthenon shone brand-new on the lion coloured rock of the acropolis. Cities, old as time, ringed the Gulf of Latmos. Even then a dying seaway choked with mud from the Meander River. First Priene and then Milatus were left high and dry. Abandoned since antiquity they provided tourist attractions for Ancient Romans.
To one side of the silted estuary is Lake Bafa, formed by the tears of the Moon goddess weeping for the shepherd boy, Endymion. On the other, the city of Miletus, where in the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Paul awaited the Ephesian elders.
Once, Lake Bafa was seashore. The freshwater lake only formed when the estuary silted. The men of Heraclea faced with the retreating sea, desperately dug navigable channels, causing seawater to turn the lake brackish.
Legend says the moon goddess, Selene, was so smitten with Endymion she threatened to forsake the sky. In response, the fearful gods made him sleep for eternity, and as she wept for her lost love, she cried a lake. It was a good day in November and Bafa was body warm, we swam and can confirm the water does indeed taste of tears.
The Meander estuary is now a fertile plain. Having never seen it in November we were surprised by hundreds of cotton wool balls littering the roads. It was cotton-pickin’ time. Turkish women, in traditional rural dress of headscarf and baggy trousers, picked tufts of gossamer from branches of stunted, scrawny bushes. It could have been a hundred years ago, if not for the huge blocky harvester devouring the adjacent field. Its parallel rows of vertical teeth left only broken, skeletal stalks. In factory courtyards were cotton castles of pearl-grey lint, while caught in the wire of the perimeter fence, grimy candyfloss streamed in the wind.
First stop was the ancient city of Eurymos. All that is left is the Temple of Zeus. We were the only people there. It was like discovering it for the first time. As if we were some Victorian explorers with Sir Richard Burton – the one who translated the Arabian Nights, not the one who married and remarried Elizabeth Taylor.
The only problem with fantasy is truth. Although sites look undiscovered they are actually the result of extensive excavation. Unexcavated, they are under 2,000 years and at least 20 feet of wind blown soil – like the rest of Eurymos. One undistinguished field is the forum and another is the theatre. Each has its herd of indifferent sheep, munching as they have munched for millennia, placidly unaware of their contribution to history falling out the other end.
The temple of Apollo at Didim was never finished because during the centuries it took to build, Christianity became the state religion and pagan temples were abandoned. It is impossible to convey the sheer size of the site. Nothing is on a human scale, the column bases; the cyclopean stones walls – now only a third of their original height. All of it dwarfs you; awes you. It is like something built by the giants who stormed Olympus.
There is a sacred spring in the temple grounds. It had recently rained and the area was marshy. It should have prepared us for what was to come at Miletus. It didn’t. Here we saw tortoises mating. And it was lucky they were tortoises. When Tiresias saw two snakes copulate, he changed sex.
Because of his unique perspective, Zeus and Hera asked Tiresias to settle an argument about who needed love the most. Tiresias replied that if love had ten parts, women needed nine. Hera was so furious she blinded him. Leaving Zeus to compensate with the dubious gift of second sight and a lifespan increased sevenfold. However, thoughtless Zeus forgot to bestow Eternal youth so Tiresias grew old and stayed old for a long, long time. More of a punishment than a gift one would think.
Back at the car, we saw a stone placed at the base of a wall. As it was obviously for looking over, we discovered part of the sacred way stretching from Miletus, 26 km away, to the shrines of Apollo and his sister, Artemis.
We had read Miletus has a fantastic theatre but not much else. Because of this, our friends decided they had had enough of scrambling over ruins and went to the site café, leaving us to explore alone.
Reaching the top of the theatre we saw the rest of the city hidden to the side, the wreckage of the harbour mouth monument, now miles inland, the forum, the stoa and senate house lining the start of the sacred way.
The site was boggy and halfway through, mosquitoes attacked. According to the guidebook the café owner was trying to sell our friends, when the Meander River silted up, the city became a malarial swamp and that was another reason it was abandoned.
One of our friends said we came tripping from the ruins like Tippy Hedron in Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ – obviously in search of a phone box to shelter in. In our defence, the mosquitoes were the size of seagulls.
One friend on the trip was thinking of writing a travel book. Caught up in the idea, he had a tendency to pause after each utterance as if waiting for an unseen amanuensis to jot down his thoughts for posterity, which is probably not far from the truth as he was feverishly committing the phrase to memory for future use.
From Miletus we drove through the alluvial plain to Priene, crossing the mighty Meander, now tamed to the size of the Regent’s Canal. Approaching the site, we saw the remaining columns of the Temple of Hera on the hillside and a ruin-lined road snaking down to the old port, now farmer’s fields.
Priene is another huge area of tumbled stones, smashed columns and fractured walls sheltering under black cypress and pine. Unchanged since the time of Caesar and Christ, the view across the plain takes your breath away.
The next morning, no doubt due to a sleepless night of trying not to scratch souvenir mosquito bites, we were up at daybreak. Duly covered up like Turkish cotton pickers, we walked down to the lake to watch the full moon turn the waters silver, while the light bringer, Lucifer, the morning star, ushered a dawn of lemon, pistachio and rose – the flavours of Turkish Delight.
©images Paul Andruss Ionia 2017
About Paul Andruss in his own words…..
If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.
I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy.
‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!
About Thomas the Rhymer.
11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother
What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer
‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’
‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’
‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’
Download Free from Paul’s website: http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/
Find out more about Paul and connect to him.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9