Friday, February 11, 2011

A Gardener's Travelogue Part III

Aleppo (Syria)
    Because this city is rife in Shakespeare (remember Othello’s last speech )...
…I have always imagined it to be the utmost in exoticism and, in fact, that is exactly what it turned out to be.    Bristling with life and a kind of societal intermingling unknown to us…we were fascinated.  It is an old old city and we couldn’t begin to explore it – but have vowed to return……the bizarre and labyrinthine  Grand Bazaar was the soukiest of all the souks I have ever seen in the world – the real thing – the cow’s head seller didn’t really intrigue me, but we had just scratched the surface. Shopping dreams might have been dashed but cultural awareness was in high gear.

A taste of Aleppo:

I couldn’t quite capture the Iphone of this young woman, but the new tech and the old customs coexisted seamlessly .  The various outfits came in a staggering array of burkhas, abayas and some like long skinny fashion coats that you might find in 60’s London …..some of the headcoverings so dense that it was impossible to detect  how they saw anything at all…..
The Syrians have fantastic taste and a particular knack for my very favorite color scheme of black and white

The Citadel dates back to the third century before Christ!  Its throne room has just been gloriously restored

Starbuck’s is no match for this man traveling about with the
beautiful coffee pot on his back….

Limassol, Cyprus
We sailed into this port to see the remains of situated-on-the-sea Graeco-Roman  Kourion which is awash with still incredibly vibrant
mosaics, the first picture is a wonderfully mannered representation of tulips
And much of the other mosaics are various representations
of a private Christian house

A graceful Greek theater facing the sea and a beautiful temple
with simple columns influenced by the Nabateans nestled
among old trees that suited the old stones

But otherwise, Limassol itself was not so great except for
one stunning Greek Orthodox Church and if we had to choose
one port to skip — this would have been it

Antalya in Southern Turkey
But this place was totally-unexpected- fantastic.
We had both been to this part of Turkey before and so didn’t expect to find  that Antalya has experienced a boom, has grown to over a million people  and is vibrant and welcoming — the climate affords one to be able to ski on a mountain and bathe in the sea all in the same day.  Of course, we weren’t there for the modern trappings of the revitalized Turkish coast…and we sped right to the ancient Roman trading town of Aspendos with a remarkably significant and enormous theatre while no longer being used for chariots and sacrifices  is incredibly vital as a classical and rock music venue.  Fantastic.  It had its own special patina on the stone and its own carved personality.


Lys says I shouldn’t show my lack of knowledge of the ancient world…but our next stop was a blockbuster if there is such a thing when it comes to ancient ruins.  Well, this one I had never even heard of ….  Perge?  (That’s PEAR- gay, did you ever hear of it?)  Well, everyone should hear of it because it has so much character that it’s hard to believe that nothing goes on there anymore…  the colonnaded streets still, somehow, have a tinge of bustle about them.   They lead to the stores, the banks and the incredibly still- intact bathing rooms (oh those Roman baths!) with a room for derobing followed by big baths (like small swimming pools) of varying temperatures:  the coldest  called convincingly a frigidarium, the hot a caldararium and the luke warm, of course, a tepidarium.


And talk about thick walls…… wonder all of
these wonders are still standing…

And the never-heard-of Archaeological Museum of Antalya, I promise you, is better than the famous new Acropolis Museum in Athens or any fashionable photo shoot that I have seen in a long time.  Forget here today and gone tomorrow…when these great ancient people wanted to capture something…they did it is stone and it was worth keeping.  Look at these clothes!

What great style and what fastidiousness.  The amazing attention to detail, the tradition, the craft, and the pride in what was built…and the celebration of what is beautiful.  Each culture so definitive…
Look at these amazing sarcophagi

And look at this little one of the dog………so sweet

Last Stop – Athens
Well, I don’t want to be an antiquities snob, but what can I say?  After seeing so many world wonders, the ever-famous Acropolis looked sort of puny and unprepossessing,  A tad sad actually.
The contents of the new Acropolis Museum – handsome as it might be architecturally — really don’t hold a candle to little museums clustered around many of the ancient sites so rich in statuary, friezes, reliefs and artifacts.  The wonderful part of the trip to Athens is that we did get to see my sister Adele  and brother-in-law and David who flew from Abu Dhabi especially to see us, which was even sweeter than the little dog house.
We arrived on a Sunday just in time for the changing of the Palace Guard…though the dog here was nonplussed, we thought it
the perfect welcome

Well,  finally,  Genuine Alive Acanthus Leaves!  If you are not going to see the real thing in Greece – you’ll never see them anywhere.  I had come to expect all sorts of exotic ones (because Tony Avent has pictured great ones in his article about Crete on the Plant Delights web site), but all we saw were these plain green ones surrounding a statue of the actress turned politician and very effective Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri.
We never got to the esteemed Athens Archaeological Museum because it was closed due to the aforementioned fermenting-of-a-riot.

So we walked around the perimeters of the also closed parks and wondered what came first?  The tree or the fence………….

I’ll end this travel sojourn with a little motto of mine:
Nothing is more important than the power of language…everything is exchanged with and touched by words…it’s so important that we choose them carefully, uphold them and keep them alive…  

And one last reminder…
Everyone loves a diva…or several divas as the case may be

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