Saturday, March 21, 2009

ASCSA Turkey Trip: General Intro

Every year John Camp, the Director of the Agora Excavations, leads an optional trip to Turkey. I’ve now been on this trip since Saturday.
The view of Caria from Alinda (the best ancient site in the history of the world).

In some ways, Turkey is everything I imagined it to be and in other ways things have come as a surprise. The landscape, for example, has been a lot more stunning than I reckoned. On only the first day I saw more olive trees than I have ever seen in my life. On the second day, there were rolling hills and bright green flatlands stretching to distant mountains, not an olive in sight. A few days ago, I was sure I had taken a jaunt over to Ireland without realizing it. And now the landscape that meets my eyes through the bus window is pretty much Greek in all ways.

The trip so far has been nearly perfect (I say nearly because I wish it was just a smidgeon on the warmer side). I’ve learned a whole lot about ancient Ionia, Caria, Bithynia, and Lydia. We’ve visited some really huge, well-preserved and amazing sites – the kind that make Greek archaeological sites appear decidedly scrappy.
A column base at Didyma, earlier this afternoon.

Many of the ancient cities we’ve visited have been sprawled along hillsides or in groves and nearly all have been unexcavated. Thus we’ve been clambering up and down mountains in search of fortress walls or temples, sketching our way through grazing fields or hopping over the kind of babbling brooks you hear about in Medieval fairy tales.
The Medieval fortress at Herakleia-under-Latmos, yesterday afternoon.

The wildflowers are in bloom: carpets of white daisies, violet and red posies and pale pink versions of blue bells.
The magic of the flower button.

Our trip leaders, John Camp and Ibrahim Yildirim, are old friends who have been leading this escapade for some 18 years.
Yildirim and John Camp at the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

You really couldn’t ask for a more relaxed and laid-back pair. Yildirim is a Turkish guide well trained in all periods of Turkish history; he’s got a sweet, gentle nature and I think a pinch of shyness (at least when he’s not wearing his trip leader hat). Yildirim tells a great story in a gravelly but reassuring voice, and he’s really one of the more good-hearted people I’ve come across in a long time. All questions are welcome, whether it’s about Mehmet I or how to order a kebab. Today he saved me from getting run over at Didyma.

John Camp reading to the group members at the 'Tomb of Endymion' at Herakleia-under-Latmos.

His counterpart John Camp is a study in chilled-out. Assured, droll and laissez-faire, he’s the kind of guy you can imagine being unperturbed in the most stressful of situations, like werewolf attacks, alien invasions or missing graduate students. I imagine that when the next major earthquake hits, I’ll shoot out of the hotel in my pajamas, projecting disarray in all directions, only to find John Camp reading Pausanias over a block built into the parking lot. On site, he provides really detailed handouts and a six minute intro, then gently shoos us on our way, with the single commandment to be back in two-hours. Or thereabouts. Then he’s off in his own direction to draw some inscription or record the number of staircases in a theatre or to investigate fresh trenches. Anyone is welcome to tag along, and John Camp has the strange ability to make every new thorn-covered discovery seem like your very own. Even if he’s known it was there for the last five years.


doug said...

Always wondered what the flower icon was for.

Anonymous said...

Glad you're having such a great time. Turkey is definitely a country I want to visit. I want to see all those sites that make the sites here look "scrappy". :p

Sorry the weather there is cold but trust me, it wasn't exactly warm here for the last couple of days. It was always raining too, I'm SO fed up with the rain this year.

It sounds as if you're not going to be back by Wednesday which sucks, you'll miss the big Independence Day Military Parade downtown and your chance to see tanks rolling in the streets of Athens.

Jeremy LaBuff said...

Excellently accurate description of a Camp trip! I wish I could be there, alas! Getting settled here as been rather daunting unfortunately. But your pics have me licking my chops for my own Karian trip :)

Katie said...

Love this post, Rask! You have perfectly captured JC's leadership style. He is so chill, that dude.