DSC_0107The weather has continued glorious. Mid sixties. Pleasant breeze. Perfect!

This morning, after another typical Mediterranean breakfast of bread, meat, cheese, and olives, we packed our bags, checked out of our hotel, and trundled off to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Yesterday, passing in the vicinity of the museum, we’d asked about a cloak-room—someplace where we could leave our backpacks. “No problem!” they waved off our concerns.

So, of course, when we arrive this morning—looking and feeling a little like over-burdened pack-mules—the cloak-room was closed, the guards showed us no sympathy, and we had to schlep our bags every step of our visit—including up and down flights of stairs for three floors!

But the museum was worth it. What a collection! I don’t usually get into sarcophagi (a sentiment with which, I am sure, you would be in heated agreement). But this is the finest collection of burial boxes I’ve ever seen. The “Alexander Sarcophagus” depicts a battle between Macedonian and Persian forces. (Even in death, Greeks and Romans were obsessed with battle scenes!) The relief carvings are so deep, the figures are almost stand alone statues. And the detail! Archers and horsemen. Exultant victors and dying victims. Lions tearing at horses. It’s stupendous.

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DSC_0116The “Mourning Women Sarcophagus” is just as impressive. Individual women caught in the posture of grief. Stunned expressions. Faces hidden in weeping. Slumped shoulders and lost looks. It is the most evocative portrait of bereavement I’ve ever seen.

And the collection just goes on and on until you are overwhelmed with the manner and care with which the ancients committed their loved ones to eternity. A husband commemorating a wife who was “ever my treasure.” Soldiers commended by comrades. A man laid to rest with the warning: “Death is near to all of us.”

DSC_0154Next is a wonderful collection of statues: gods and goddesses, ordinary men and women, Nero and Hadrian. On the second floor is an extensive display of “Istanbul through the Ages” showing artifacts excavated in this ancient city from the early stone ages to the final gasps of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.

DSC_0171The third floor is devoted almost entirely to Troy and the nine “layers” that have been uncovered on the ancient hill of Haserlik. The seventh layer probably represents the city made famous by Homer from the years 1250-1100 b.c.. But the first layer dates back to over 3000 years before Christ and the ninth shows evidence of late Roman occupation. Imagine a city that has a history over 5000 years long! 350 years defines “old” here in the States!

IMG_0629We left the museum with heads full and shoulders sore (remember, we’re carrying our bags!) and caught the Metro back out to the Ataturk airport where we picked up our rental car. We are presently making the long drive (eight hours) to Pamukkale and the ruins of Hierapolis. Sarah is driving our Turkey leg (no pun intended) and doing her best to impersonate Mario Andretticonius.

The countryside (now that we are out of Istanbul) is beautiful: rolling hills, gentle rivers, bay vistas, quaint villages. The road system here is excellent, although the same can’t be said for the quality of driving maintained here. We are on a four-lane interstate and just passed someone on a moped traveling on the shoulder of our lane in the opposite direction! You have to be constantly on your toes here. You never know when you might encounter the next snail-paced tractor, abandoned automobile, or overladen lorry struggling to crest the next molehill.

Late tonight we arrived at our hotel, the Dort Mevsim and were greeted by a friendly gentleman who served us tea. The hotel will provide transportation to the Hierapolis site tomorrow, saving us parking fee and some walk time. Until then!