Tag Archives: ruins

Monte Albán

Mar 8 – One of the many reasons to visit Oaxaca is its proximity to the ruins of Monte Albán, which was the largest city known in Mesoamerica, inhabited by up to 20,000 people, that thrived over a period from 500BCE to 1000CE. We took a taxi across town to catch the bus that drives up the mountain once an hour. You can explore at your leisure, then get back on a return bus when you’ve seen all there is to see.

Not much is known about the Zapotec and other peoples who used to live here, or why they abandoned their city. The site was known to archeologists in the 19th century, but excavation didn’t start until the 1930s. The work is still in progress:

The structures just looked like hills…

…until they started to dig and uncovered the bricks and stones beneath. This is the other side of the hill above:

Archaeologists have had a fine time guessing what the buildings were for, what type of religions may have been practiced, and the culture of the peoples who lived here. They uncovered monuments drawn with figures, called Danzantes, as the initial theory was that they depicted dancers due to their weird leg positions. Now the theory is that they represent captives being castrated and readied for sacrifice. What do you think?

There are other figures, wearing armor, carved upside down. These are believed to represent tribes that were conquered.

Still others were originally called the Swimmers, but are now believed to represent human sacrifices.

The buildings are huge. Here is a stairway up one of them. Look at how small the people are at the top. See Jim jogging up with his red backpack?

View from the top – see how tiny the people are on the far side of the plaza?

This was believed to be a stadium where some sort of ball game was played competitively.

There is also a museum that showed some of the neat stuff they found in the buildings:

If you go, bring a hat, drinking water and sunscreen – there is not much shade! Definitely a worthwhile way to spend a day!

Olympos – the Ruins on the Other Side

12/29 – today we decided to bring our sandals down to the inlet with us. Crossing the water barefoot for the last two days left our feet sore from all the sharp rocks. Wearing our sandals made all the difference – we practically danced across the inlet! Look how happy Jim is!

The ruins of Olympos on the far side are definitely visited less – not everybody wants to get wet! We had the ruins to ourselves all day.

Here are the remains of the theatre:



The Hamami (public baths):

The harbor basilica:

The weather changes quickly here. The sun is shining, a wind comes up, it rains for five minutes, then the sun comes out again.

When we had puttered in the ruins to our hearts’ content, we followed the trail markers for the Lycian Way. This led us to the Necropolis – a mountainside dotted with 354 tombs, dating from the 1st to the 3rd century CE. Some were elaborately decorated:imageimageimage

Many were just square openings with sliding rock doors: image


A fascinating day!

Olympos – the Ruins

12/28 – today we went back to the ruins of ancient Olympos, and took our time exploring. The ruins are open and accessible to anyone who wants to climb around in them.

There are tombs, of course.




A fifth century episcopal church.



A second century Roman temple dedicated to Marcus Aurelius.



We are right on an ocean inlet, and there is lots of water to navigate around.


A helpful someone built this very shaky bridge.


Like everything in Olympos, half of the ruins are on the other side of the inlet. How to get there? Take off your shoes and wade!


Here’s a sign we found on the other side:


We found a path up the mountain, and a sign that said the ruins of a hillside village were here. We climbed and climbed, scrabbling over big rocks on a very narrow trail. We finally reached a sheer cliff and some Germans rock-climbing up the face. Oops! We certainly weren’t doing that!image

The view from the top was worth the climb. Note the ant-like humans down on the beach!image

The descent is always easier than the climb.image

When we got back to the beach, Jim found a feathered friend:image

We never did find our way to the ruins on the other side. We’ll come back tomorrow and try again.

Kas – the Doric Tomb and the Ancient Theatre

12/21 – Another beautiful hiking day. Kas is on the Lycian Way, so we are continuing our day treks, wherever the trail takes us. Today we climbed up to a Doric tomb, 4th century BCE, freestanding and carved out of the bedrock, with a walkway all around. The sign said it was decorated with images of 24 dancing girls, but, try as we might, we could not see them. You can just make out some flowers carved inside.



There was room to sleep four – two slabs on each side. I tried to lie down for the full experience, but was a little too tall for the lower berth…


The trail wound down the hill to an ancient theatre, from the 2nd century BCE. It could seat 4000, and seated us while we ate our lunch.




Imagine our surprise when we were joined by a family of goats! The billy and the nanny really seemed to enjoy gamboling up and down the tiers.



The baby goat and Jim, checking each other out.


I’m still tickled to see flowers blooming in December.

On our way home, we found a sarcophagus and the ruins of a Hellanistic Temple, right in town.image



A man was feeding meat to the stray cats. He told us that he fed 100 a day. He asked for money to continue his good works, then was insulted when Jim only offered him two lira (about a dollar) and refused the money.

Another beautiful day.image


Ölüdeniz – Kayakoy/Karmylassos

12/16 – today we went back to the Lycian Way and walked the other direction to visit Kayakoy, a hillside village that was abandoned after World War I, when the Turks drove the Greek Christians out of the country. The Greeks called it Karmylassos. Kayakoy is now being restored as a heritage site.

As we were walking, a car pulled up and asked if we needed a ride. We weren’t sure how much farther we had to walk to get to the village, and it was all uphill, so we jumped in. The Dutch couple had retired to Turkey, and thought we looked like foreigners. Nice People of Turkey!


It was strange to see what ruins look like after less than 100 years. We have been learning about the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the nationalization of Turkey in the early 1900s. For an excellent historical novel that tells the story of this village, I highly recommend Birds Without Wings, 2004, by Louis de Bernieres.

The village was eerily quiet. Here is the St. Nicholas Church.image

The remains of a mosaic on a chapel floor: image

The houses had been painted pink and blue.image


The houses were cut into the mountainside, so the downstairs room was cool. No hint of electricity or plumbing. Here are the remains of a kitchen hearth.image

We climbed to the top of the hill.


Some of the buildings at street level have been repurposed as restaurants, as tourists are starting to travel here.

The grass still grows, and the flowers still bloom.image

Such beautiful surroundings for such a sad story!


12/9 – Guess what? When St. Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians, where do you think it was delivered? Right here to Ephesus! Today we took a minibus (dolmus) about 4km down the road to see the ruins at Ephesus. This is why most visitors come to Selçuk.

Ephesus was a huge, bustling harbor city back in the eighth century BCE, the capital of Asia Minor. Emperors had temples built to honor themselves here. The rich and famous lived here, and invested lots of marble and silver coins into making this a showplace. Then the harbor silted up and big ships no longer stopped here. Over time, and with the assistance of several earthquakes, the city was abandoned. For the last century, archeologists have been trying to reconstruct Ephesus, while hauling away any good bits back to museums in their own countries. The British built railroads and the Germans built highways in exchange for hauling away the best stuff. Modern Turkey is trying to get some of their stuff back, but not having much luck.

Here’s what’s left of the main street heading down toward the harbor:


There was a huge theatre that held 20,000 people for dramatic performances and community meetings. The acoustics are still very good, as demonstrated by members of several tour groups who couldn’t resist bursting into song. Here, the decision to exile the Apostle John was announced.imageimage

The showpiece of the ruins is the Celsus Library, erected in the year 110, and re-erected in the 1970s, thanks to the Austrians. It has more than one story intact, and four statues on the ground level depicting Wisdom, Knowledge, Thought, and Virtue. (Actually, these are copies of the statues – the originals were hauled off to Vienna.) The library once held 12,000 scrolls, and the walls behind the shelves were hollow to reduce moisture.imageimageimage

Lots of buildings and gates being pieced back together:

Here is the Goddess Nike. We overheard a tour guide calling her the Goddess of Shoes.image

Any ancient metropolis worth its salt had a good plumbing and aquaduct system. We stopped by the public latrines – marble seats, but not much privacy!image

The Church of Mary, with its cruciform baptistery and large fountain:

As we’ve seen everywhere in Turkey, lots of cats live here. Jim and I both got scratched by cuddly felines who thought they should have some of our lunch.

A brilliant day!

Monday in Selçuk – St. John’s Church

12/8 – Today we saw the tomb of St. John, the one whom Jesus loved, the purported author of the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, the caretaker of Mary after the death of Jesus, and the last Apostle on our list!

If you recall, we have been seeking out the tombs of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, or at least some of their relics. We found:

Thomas – Chennai, India, 2008
James the Greater – Santiago de Campostela, Spain, 2011
Matthias (replaced Judas) – Rome, Maria Maggiore Church, Oct. 2014
Philip – Rome, Church of Holy Apostles, Oct. 2014
James the Just / Less – Rome, Church of Holy Apostles, Oct. 2014
Bartholomew – Rome, Church of San Bartolemeo, Tiberia, Oct. 2014
Paul and Peter’s Skulls – Rome, St. John Lateran Church, Oct. 2014
Peter – Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Oct. 2014
Jude (Thaddeus) – Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Oct. 2014
Simon the Zealot – Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Oct. 2014
Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist – Salerno, Italy, Salerno Cathedral,Oct. 2014
Andrew – Amalfi, Italy, Basilica of the Crucifix, Nov. 2014
Mark the Evangelist – Venice, Italy, Basilica San Marco, Nov. 2014
John, Apostle and Evangelist – Selçuk, Turkey, Church of St. John, Dec. 2014

If you’re counting, that is more than 12, as some consider Paul to be Judas’s replacement instead of Matthias, and we included Mark the Evangelist as we also had Matthew and John. Luke the Evangelist wasn’t on our original list – with his remains divided between Prague, Padua and Thebes, we’ll have to catch up with him on another trip…

So today we walked across the street from our pension to the Ruins of the Church of St. John.




John was buried in a cave. The four pillars show the place of the tomb in the original church that was built over the cave.



The locked grate covers the tunnel dug to exhume the body of John during the reign of Justinian in the 500s, purportedly to distribute his relics. No bones were found, only dust. John is the only Apostle who does not have relics scattered around Christendom. The dust, also called manna, was gathered for many years, and was said to cause miracles.

Jim made friends with St. John’s cat.image

The baptistery had three steps down on either side to allow for total immersion. We watched several tour guides explain this at length to tourists unfamiliar with the concept.



At the entrance to the baptistery, part of the original mosaic floor was visible.

Three original frescoes, of Jesus, Mary, and an unidentified holy person are being restored in the Treasury, which also has its original floor. The frescoes are behind glass, so please excuse my reflection.



St. John’s Church was built here twice, with Justinian’s huge construction in the 500s the biggest church of its time. It covers the entire hillside. image

Here is a model of what it once looked like:image

When destroyed by an earthquake in the 1400s, the church was not rebuilt. Archeological reconstruction began in the 1920s and is still going on today. So many pieces to put back together!


Rabacal to Conimbriga to Condeixa-a-Nova

9/13 – Ave Maria got us out of bed and back on the road. There was no kitchen in the hostel or cafe in town, so we got a sluggish start, but we don’t have far to go today.

We came upon a little hamlet that claimed to have the actual road where St. James had trod, and there we met a lady out walking her three goats. She graciously allowed me to take her picture, and is my Nice Person of Portugal today.

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A Belgian pilgrim named Jacques caught up with us, and he and Jim talked economics and politics for a while. This was his second Caminho, having walked through Belgium, France and Spain two years ago.

We parted ways as we approached the town of Coimbriga, where we detoured to see the oldest Roman ruins in Portugal, where objects have been found dating from the 9th centurny BCE.




I especially liked the intricate mosaic floors of the homes, which were intact and still beautiful after so many years.



One house had patterned swastikas on the floor. I wonder what the symbol signified back then? The excavations began in 1898, and are ongoing.



From Coimbriga it was just a few kilometers to Condeixa, where we are spending the night at Residencial Ruinas. There we saw an artist’s rendering of the House of a Fountains ruin we had just visited, where the fountains still worked. I’m happy to report that it was a very nice place, not the ruin implied by the name!



For supper we found a restaurant that served pasta, and I had fettuccine with Parmesan and chicken – what a treat! We’ve had enough pork and fried potatoes to last us a lifetime…