Monday, May 12, 2008

Turkey Monday May 12


Today, we traveled most of the day to see two marvels of engineering: one in the present day, the other 3,000 years ago. But let me set the scene for this writing. I'm in the bar at the Hotel Nemrud, in Kahta, Turkey. Ten young men are sitting around me smoking and watching a turkish version of the game show with Vanna White and Pat Sajak. You know, the one where contestants guess letters which make out phrases. Anyway, the reason I'm down here choking and developing a smell in my clothes that will take quite an airing to be worn tomorrow - is because the wireless internet in our fourth floor room is too faint to upload photos. Yes, reader, it is so you can see these amazing Turkish ruins that I endanger my health. Oh, and it's also that I'm addicted to getting out the day's fun right away.

What can I say about the Ataturk Dam and the Southeast Area Project. It's the fourth largest water project in the world, took twenty years to build, and cost $10 billion (all of it Turkish funding). No IMF, no World Bank, no European or American investment. It took so long because Turkey had to spend $300 billion fighting their own brands of terrorism in the 1990's. It's irrigating an area twice the size of Southen California, and providing 10% of the country's power. That's Brian skipping a stone across its source: the Euphrates River.

The second marvel is even more overwhelming: Mt Nemrud. There was this guy Antiochos) in 62BC who convinced the locals that he was descended from Alexander the great on his father's side and Darius of the Persians on his mother's. His country was poised between these two civilizations (Greece and Persia), and he built the statues of Greek gods with Persian hat and clothing. On the backs of them, he inscibed his genealogical tree to proclaim that he comes from both civilizations. It was kind of the first peacemaking temple, saying that our gods are your gods, so don't invade us. He also built it as his own tomb, and is reported to be buried under the summit. It has to be included in the top wonders of the world.

The mountain is no easy climb. At 7,300 feet of pyramidic design, it took us some effort to get there. The three terraces which surround the top contain some of the most awe-inspiring rock bodies and heads you can imagine (Zeus, Appollo, Heracles, etc). In fact, you don't have to, I caught most of them in these photographs. But you should understand, the top of the mountain was blown off by tomb robbers, and what is there now has been provided by carrying river rocks from down the mountain to rebuild the summit. The statues stand guard over an archeological travesty, but one can still feel the enormity of the engineering task to build and maintain this monument at so high an altitude so long ago.

We also visited another mountain temple built by Mithrades (Antiochos son), dedicated to his mother, sister and niece. What a nice thing to do for the ladies in your life. Hmmmm. Don't I have an anniversary coming up?

To view the photographs for the day, click on: Turkey Monday May 12

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