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After I finished the blog last night, we went out for a final meal in Dalyan. As we were walking towards a restaurant, we realised that the ancient tombs on the far side of the river had been illuminated at night. They'd been impressive to see during the day, but they were really quite eerie and spooky at night! We had another lovely meal, with some delicious flatbread to start. While I was fairly unadventurous with garlic chicken, Tim decided to try a special Turkish dish. It consisted of chicken and potato in a sauce with onion, tomato and lemon, and it was served sizzling hot. I finished the meal with a Turkish coffee, while Tim decided to try Turkish tea. I'd planned to make an early start this morning, as we had a fairly long day of driving ahead of us. After yesterday's experience with searching for breakfast, however, it seemed like it probably wasn't worth setting out much before 9am. We took a little walk along the weather on our way to the same cafe as yesterday, and realised that there were some really tiny tombs carved into the rock which we hadn't noticed the other day. You'll struggle to make them out on the photos without zooming right in, but they're to the left of the photo, just above the reeds where the cliff face comes to an end. It was a really beautiful view The views down the river in the other direction were really lovely too. We admired the tombs for a final time, then went to get breakfast. I had a cheese omelette today, while Tim had a bacon butty. Once we'd had breakfast we checked out of the hotel and set off on our journey towards our ultimate destination for the evening: Selçuk. When I was planning the holiday I decided that taking a direct route to Selçuk wasn't going to be very exciting, so I'd built in a bit of a diversion. The diversion would add an extra hour of driving onto our route, but it also meant that we got to visit an archaeological site which I was hoping would be really impressive. The journey certainly got off to a good start, as we drove on small roads with some incredible views of the surrounding countryside. After around 3 hours in the car, we reached the archaeological site at Aphrodisias. Aphrodisias was an ancient Greek city and was the capital of the Roman province of Caria. Aphrodisias was famous in the Roman world for its sculptures, mostly main from local marble. In particular, the local sculptors seem to have produced a lot of marble sarcophagi and a display of those was the first thing that we saw once we'd paid our tickets and entered the site. Lots of them had faces carved on them, some scarier than others! Sarcophagi weren't the only carvings; we also walked past these. No idea what they were, but they looked in impressive condition. We also came across various stones which looked like they were inscribed with Greek lettering. We followed signs towards the first main sight: the temple of Aphrodite. When we came to the structure in the photo below, we assumed we'd found it. It turned out we were wrong. This wasn't the temple, but apparently a tetrapylon; a large monumental gateway. This would have stood at the end of the main road leading towards the temple. It was really impressive anyway and we've definitely been to places which claimed to have Roman ruins but had nothing quite as impressive as this We got distracted in our search for the temple when we saw a sign pointing towards the stadium. We followed the arrows and wow, this was huge! The stadium at Aphrodisias is one of the biggest and best preserved ancient stadiums in the world. It was built in the first century AD and would originally have been home to popular Greek sports such as races, wrestling and boxing. Later, it would also have been used for Roman gladiatorial combat. The stadium was capable of seating 30,000 spectactors! To give a sense of scale, if you look towards the right of the photo below then the small person you can see is me. It was really amazing to see and pretty incredible to have it to ourselves Once we'd finished admiring the stadium, we finally stumbled upon the Temple of Aphrodite. A temple to the Greek goddess of love is thought to have originally been built here in the 6th century BC. That was later replaced by a more impressive temple in the 1st century BC. The temple would have been the focal point of the city of Aphrodisias and people would have travelled on pilgrimages to see it. The temple was later repurposed as a Christian basilica by order of the Emperor Zeno. There are enough columns left standing to give an impression of what it must have looked like. Though some of the columns look more stable than others! We encountered a small group of Russian tourists here, but once they'd moved on we had the entire place to ourselves again. This is definitely not one of those sites where you have to arrive early to avoid the crowds Our next stop after the temple was the Bouleuterion, which would have been the council house of the town. It looked like a small Roman theatre. Again, there was no one else here! I was able to try out one of the bench seats in the top row. Next to the council house we found the public baths. After the sights we'd already seen today, they seemed less impressive; but they had a lot to compete with! We figured we must have seen everything in Aphrodisias now so began to make our way round towards the exit. On the way we found the agora area, where there would have been gardens and even a pool. The pool was here in the centre and looks like it would have been huge. From this point the path began to lead uphill. We climbed reluctantly - it was such a hot day - but when we got to the top of the slope we were glad we'd made the effort. If we hadn't, we'd have missed this enormous theatre. Wow! Now we really were almost at the exit. On the way out we walked past a wall made up of different carvings found around the site. We passed this temple, which also had some incredible carvings. Then one final wall of sculptures and we really had seen everything Aphrodisias was incredible; definitely one of the best archaeological sites we've ever been to! From there we had a drive of another two hours or so until we reached Selçuk. We're staying for a couple of nights in a hotel on the edge of the town. We found it without too much difficulty and it's in a lovely location, but once we'd arrived we couldn't find any reception or instructions about what we were supposed to do, which was a bit frustrating. A phone call later, we finally got into our room. Phew! It's been a busy day but one with some spectacular sights. Ephesus is going to have to be really good tomorrow to beat Aphrodisias!
We don't have breakfast included at the hotel where we're staying in Dalyan, so our first task this morning was to find somewhere to eat. That did indeed end up being quite a challenge; we weren't up particularly early, but as we wandered around the streets at 9am we found that most places were still either closed or in the process of setting up. It did at least give us another opportunity to admire the view of the ancient tombs in the morning sunshine. Eventually we found a cafe that was advertising English breakfasts. Not necessarily what we would have chosen, but it had food and was open so that gave it an advantage over everywhere else we'd seen. I had scrambled egg on toast, while Tim had beans on toast plus a surprisingly large bacon & chip butty! Not quite what we expected to be eating in Turkey, but the eggs were lovely and the bacon was surprisingly good too. Once we'd eaten breakfast our aim for the day was to drive down the coast for an hour or so, towards a place called Ölüdeniz where there was supposed to be a cable car with really impressive views. The journey itself had very impressive views, as we made our way through a scenic wooded landscape, getting occasional glimpses of the coast. We arrived in Ölüdeniz around midday and successfully navigated our way to the carpark for the cable car station... only to find that it was closed There was a sign saying something about technical maintenance. A man emerged from the carpark booth and said that it would be open again in an hour so we should come back then. We decided to drive down into the centre of Ölüdeniz and have a walk by the sea while we waited. As we made our way downhill to the coast we had an amazing spectacle in front of us: there were dozens of people paragliding through the sky. I'd read that the mountain above the town, Mount Babadağ, was popular with paragliders, but I hadn't expected there to be quite so many, or for some of them to be quite so low! We had a stroll along the town's main beach. The coastline was absolutely gorgeous here. And the sea was a beautiful shade of blue. Ölüdeniz is famous for its "Blue Lagoon", a nature reserve with a sandy beach and incredible blue water. If you do a Google image search for "Ölüdeniz blue lagoon", you'll see what I mean. We spent about 15 minutes walking down a peninsula to see it... and were a bit underwhelmed! The water just didn't look very blue! If anything, it looked less blue than the water of the sea around the corner. Also it was quite a busy, popular beach so it was difficult to take many photos. Perhaps the lagoon doesn't look blue when you're up close next to it, but does if you see it from the air? That might explain why so many people were paragliding! We were still hoping to see it from the air if we managed to get up the cable car. An hour had definitely passed by this point so we jumped back in the car and drove back up the hill to the cable car parking. Unfortunately, when we arrived it was still closed. A man explained to us that the estimated completion of the maintenance work kept being extended - it was only supposed to have taken an hour in the morning, then it was extended to midday, then 1pm and now the new estimate was 3pm. That didn't sound too promising, so we decided to give up on the cable car plan and drive to the nearby seaside town of Fethiye instead. Fethiye is quite a big town with a population of 178,000, so it took us a while to navigate our way through it and find somewhere to park. Once we did, we were able to have a nice stroll around by the harbour. There was a nice promenade, line with palm trees. Regrettably I didn't get a photo of this, but there was also a really nice cycle path... which the local population were enthusiastically driving up and down on mopeds and scooters. There wasn't much cycling going on We found a cafe to get a late lunch near to the harbour. There were loads of large yachts parked up there, including one with a Russian flag! After lunch we had another stroll alongside the water. It really was very picturesque here. Then it was time to get back in the car and navigate our way out of the city and back towards Dalyan. It was a shame not to be able to go up the cable car, but we've had a fun day in Turkey nevertheless