Troy Hightower

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Private Ruins

The ancient Grecian ruins at Ephesus and Pergama in Turkey are fabulous, but are marred, in our view, by the hoards of bus-tourists which populate them like thousands of ants. There are literally thousands of ruins, all over Turkey, and on our private gullet cruise off the Turkish coast we luckily discover a private one all our own: As the sun begins to descend and the day’s heat abates, we hike up the hillside above our mooring cove for the night, intersect a stoney trail, and after a steep 40 minute climb come upon a ruin-covered knoll with a long mountain meadow behind, and pine forests climbing beyond.

Unnamed, unrestored, it is one of the estimated 20,000 ancient sites in Turkey—our private ruin. It’s a spectacular place—wide vista down to the sea, back across the meadow through a forested saddle to the distant crags. There are several partial structures, the highest a square structure, almost a cube. Two arched-top walls remain, with enough of the stone vaulting between arches to show its dome—Hellenistic ashlar stone construction. Fragments of friezes & pediments are scattered about, egg & dart and acanthus leaf decorated. One fragment is chisled with a greek inscription, commemorating what?—untranslatable by us.

Atonal bells clack and knock in the still evening air as small goats move up the hillside. There are low stone shepherd’s huts in the meadow. The dropping evening sun washes the ruins and knoll-top in a warm, rosy light. As its orange orb touches the western ridge, we descend the trail—hot work, the two hour round trip, and a swim back to the boat in the cool blue water is pure tonic.

As the light fades and water darkens, small fish begin to feed, slurping and plopping in the dusk. Doves call in the pines, their cries echoing back and forth across the cove. A lone cicada onshore twitches his rear legs in persistent rythmic drone. The low swoosh of tiny waves on the smooth gravel shore adds a lulling white-noise background, as we sip welcome pre-dinner cocktails on the boat's rear deck.

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