It was day four already, three days had carelessly slipped through our fingers almost without noticing like sand spilling through an hour glass so today we decided to do something different and walk to the ancient site of the Temple of Apollo at the northern end of Didim (previously called Didyma).
This was a long way which required walking once more along the Kemal Atatürk Boulevard but on this occasion there was no option to give up half way along because to get to the temple we had to walk the full six kilometres or so, uphill all the way with the midday sun getting hotter and hotter. To be absolutely honest however we couldn’t make it all the way without taking a break half way along the route.
Finally we began the final approach to the ruins of the ancient site which were predictably surrounded by tourist shops selling all manner of cheap rubbish and carpet shops selling all manner of expensive floor coverings. The owner was quite persistent that we should go inside and seemed quite unable to interpret our response that we had come to Turkey for a holiday and not to buy a carpet not least because we were travelling skinflint class on Monarch Airlines and only had a ten kilogram baggage allowance.
We carried on to the entrance and then paid the entrance fee of ten Turkish Lira (about £3.50) and then went inside where there was a crowd of people whose attention was grabbed by two mating tortoises. I have often wondered how they manage this so I was intrigued to watch the smaller male chasing the love of his life and head butting her rear end to get her attention until he had her wedged in a crevice and could have his wicked way. She wasn’t very attractive I have to say and after all that head butting and finally getting a good look at her I am surprised he didn’t suddenly claim to have a headache and show no further interest!
With the tortoise bonking show over the assembled crowd dispersed and we carried on down the steps and into the ancient site. Next to Delphi in Greece, Didyma was the most important oracle of the Hellenic world, first mentioned among the Greeks in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo.
This place would have been huge, one hundred and twenty columns, fifteen metres high and each taking an estimated twenty thousand man days (fifty-five years) to cut and erect. It was never completely finished however because during the construction process the money kept running out but if it had been then it is said that this would have been one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in precedence over the Temple of Artemis at nearby Ephesus.
It is claimed by some to be the finest single ancient monument in this part of Turkey and this is a part of Turkey which has an awful lot of ancient monuments. I can confirm that it is very impressive indeed although little of the original structure remains standing; it was destroyed by the Persians in 494 BC, ravaged by time, rearranged by earthquakes and plundered over the centuries for convenient building material, but regardless of the damage I found this to be a stimulating place with history literally oozing out of the cracks and fissures in the columns and the stones.
At the centre of the structure was the inner temple and in ancient times the only person to go inside was the Oracle who would take water from a sacred natural spring and then deliver predictions and advice. In Classical Antiquity an Oracle was a person considered to interface wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future. Oracles were thought to be portals through which the gods spoke directly to people. Some now believe the water contained something that induced a hypnotic or psychedelic state in the drinker. Alcohol probably!
We walked around the entire site and then as we left and read the information boards it was suddenly time to feel guilty again. Apparently there were once statues and friezes surrounding the temple but at some point British archaeologists uncovered them and carted them away and they are now in the British Museum. I felt my palms getting sweaty, my pulse rate increasing and an Elgin Marbles moment coming on!
Our plan now was to walk back the way that we had come but a convenient Dolmus came by just as we approached a bus stop and neither of us had the willpower to resist the lure of a ride back to the apartment. The cost of a Dolmus ride is a flat rate two Turkish Lira and this particular fare turned out to be very good value indeed as it took us back via a long winded circuitous route which provided us with a thorough introduction to the town.
By late afternoon we were ready for a swim so we took the track to Paradise beach, which today, in contrast to only the day before was almost completely deserted. This might have been because it was a week day or because the holiday season was now over or it might have been because today the sea was rather rough and agitated with a keen wind that whipped up the surface into waves and which made swimming rather difficult.
In addition to the wind it was becoming increasingly cloudy now so we dried ourselves off and took the track back to the apartment where we closed the door behind us, prepared a second self-catering evening meal (kofti meat balls in a spicy tomato sauce with rice and salad) and over a few hands of cards worried about the weather for the next day.