Tag Archives: roman

Egypt: Alexandria

The funny thing about Alexandria is that the all the things that it’s famous for are no longer in one piece; it’s a city famous for what it was.

First stop are some Roman ruins, a small but well preserved amphitheatre. One spooky part is a spot in the middle where your voice gets amplified, you hear back anything you say with a slight delay.

Next stop: catacombs. These were the tombs of a rich, egyptianised Roman. Most interesting was some of the art work which combined Roman and Egyptian style, sometimes with errors (deliberate or accidental?), such as only three jars next to the mummy (there are supposed to be four for the internal organs of the deceased) and the dead having head-gear normally reserved for gods.

Last stop of the city tour was the fort right on the sea front. Built by Muhammad Ali — not the boxer — to keep out the Turks (unsuccessfully) it’s mainly interesting because it was built partly out of the original Pharos lighthouse — one of the original seven wonders which fell down in the 13th century during an earth quake.

Next we head out of town toward the hotel, but by avoiding a low bridge the bus gets lost. It takes us down lots of small streets, past various small, local markets and through neighbourhoods that see few tourists. The novelty eventually wears thin as the supposed thirty minute drive ends up taking nearer ninety.

And that was my very quick tour of the city. In the morning I was heading back to Cairo.

Jordan: Jerash

Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan

I remember when I was at school doing history I loved the Romans. They were so advanced and yet had these brutal elements, a combination that I found fascinating. Even now I continue to be amazed by Roman ruins. Nothing we build now seems to last more than a few decades yet this massive, two thousand year old empire still has buildings standing.

So I’m happy that the first major site of my trip through Jordan and Egypt is Jerash. If I’m honest, it’s not a site I’d heard of before I booked this tour. I’m pleased to say that it would have been a mistake to miss it, though.

Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan

I enter the site through a triumphal arch, which is located right next to the road and the rest of modern Jerash. It makes quite a contrast. The site is large, so eventually the sound of the traffic subsides.

Roman ruins, Jerash, Jordan

Some parts, mainly those near the gates, have been reconstructed. They are, no doubt, authentic but looking fairly new it’s not really the look I was expecting. For similar reasons I didn’t feel inclined to hang around and see the jousting. I was more drawn to the paths lined with columns, piazza’s and mosaics. Not as pristine as the reconstruction but amazing in their own way.

Certainly the most surreal part of the whole time at Jerash is when I reach an amphitheatre, where three men entertain us with drums and… bagpipes. Yes, you read that right.

Bagpipers and drummers, Jerash, Jordan

They play for about ten minutes, marching around the floor, saluting members of the audience and, generally, confusing the hell out of most of us. Bagpipes? Jordan?

Overall it’s an impressive site with much to see. But it’s only a fleeting stop as I next head south towards Kerak.

Bath, UK

Pulteney Bridge and weir

We decided on Bath as a good location for our first wedding anniversary. B had good memories of the place from when she first visited a few years ago and, somehow, it’s one of those places that I never quite got around to visiting. If I’d known quite how pretty it was I’d probably have made the trip long ago!

The back of Pulteney BridgeOne of the nice things about Bath is that it’s compact — almost everything you want to see is well within walking distance. The bad thing, and I’m nit-picking here, is that the place has been photographed to death making any half-way original shots practically impossible. Hence, above you can see a “standard” shot of Pulteney Bridge and the weir. To the left you can see the bridge from the other side1. Not quite as picturesque; you can understand why virtually all of the images you see are from the other side!

Bath Abbey

Not far from the bridge is Bath Abbey. A church has been on this site for over a thousand years but this one “only” dates back to 1499. Bathed (pun intended) in late afternoon light, its sandy textures look amazing. When we passed by earlier in the day there was a large Police presence making sure that a protest against the ongoing military action in Iraq went peacefully.

Protest outside Bath AbbeyThe Royal Crescent, BathStatue looking over Roman Baths in Bath

After the distinctly modern protest we sought out much older sights. Only quite old — just a couple of centuries old — is the Royal Crescent. It’s a large semi-circle of imposing but attractive houses overlooking Victoria Park. If you have to ask how much they cost you almost certainly can’t afford to live in one.

The Roman Baths go back nearer two thousand years. It’s amazing to note that the plumbing still works correctly after all this time. Not that you’d want to bathe in the algae-tinted water right now! It’s an impressive site, not only in terms of what is still visible but also when you think about how sophisticated their bathing habits were all that time ago. Less impressive was the taste of the spring water that appears in a fountains in the “Pump Room.” I think it was the fact that it was slightly warm that made my stomach turn. We decided that a coffee in one of the many cafe’s was a better option…

Overall, a great weekend in a lovely city. I’m sure we’ll be back at some point.

If this has piqued your interest, you might like to have a look at the following sites:

  • Bath City Trail. A very 1996-style web-site, but we vaguely followed this entertainingly written walking tour of Bath’s city centre.
  • Bath on Google Maps. Bath from above.
  1. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view. []

York, 2006

Well, we did the “between our birthdays” trip to Winchester so it was only right that we did something near the real thing too. Plan “A” was to be Bath but for reasons that I now forget we ended up heading up the East Coast Main Line to York. It’s only an hour or so from my parents place and it’s a city that I’d been to a number of times previously but not in the last ten years.

York MinsterOutside York MinsterThe Shambles, YorkYork City Walls

Although I don’t know the geography of York very well, it’s easy to find your way to the biggest site. The Minster is visible from almost anywhere in the city and, arriving at the time we did, looked amazing bathed in late afternoon light.

York is not a large city. Most of the main areas of interest are inside the city walls and are, therefore, near the Minster. Also near the Minster are a large number of cafes, one of which we dove into to get something to eat. It’s late and we’ve not had anything since breakfast!

Next stop after a refreshing cappuccino is The Shambles, a narrow, old street that used to be where all the butchers hung out. There’s not much evidence of that now and most shops sell various forms of tourist tat.

From here we wander back over the Ouse to the hotel. Realising that there are few remaining hours of daylight left we go back into town almost straight away. Rather than take the exact same route we hit the cities Roman walls.

We head pretty much all the way around, stopping to look at the Minster from all angles and well as finding some strange audio/visual exhibit in one of the bars (gates).

Whip Ma Whop Ma GateAnother feature of the city are the street names. Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate is perhaps the longest name you’re likely to find on such a short street. In fact they had to lengthen the street just to accommodate the sign. Actually I made that bit up. We also found Mad Alice Lane (subsequently renamed Lund’s Court, which isn’t nearly as interesting).

There are also a lot of bars. I was disappointed when I eventually found out that these are just gates to the city and do not serve alcohol. All the “gates” in the town are just streets, after the Viking word. Very confusing.

St Mary's, YorkThe plan for Sunday was to meet my family in the afternoon, which left the morning for us to fill. After breakfast we headed into town and stopped off in the Yorkshire Museum Gardens. We found St Mary’s there, looking amazing in the early morning light. It’ll be really nice when they finish it. (Sorry, the old ones are the best, no?)

Overall, a great weekend. Looking forward to heading back to Yorkshire again soon.

Turkey, 2003

Turkey is a big country. Opinions you’ve heard about Ankara or Istanbul do not necessarily apply. But that’s fair, smaller towns in a country are rarely anything like their capital city. We stayed hundreds of Kilometres away from either of Turkeys major cities, instead we hung in or around the Mediterranean Sea. We flew into Dalaman airport, moved to Fethiye, across to Antalya and back to Dalaman more-or-less along the coast.

This makes somewhere like Bodrum a fairer comparison. But even there, the tales of “in your face” sales techniques make it sound very different.

Even in the tiny part of Turkey that we saw, there was immense variety. On the trip there was everything from thriving local towns (where we felt like we were the only sight-seers) to tourist centres (where the first language appeared to be German) to “wilderness” that felt like it was hundreds of miles from any form of civilisation. In-between there were vast amount of Roman and Greek ruins, statues and busts of Atat?rk, lovely bays that reminded me of Italy and snow-capped mountains.

Few countries can claim to much variety in such a small area. If you can’t tell, I was impressed and I haven’t even spoken about the locals hospitality.

Click the small pictures below for a full size version.

The obligatory Atatürk statue in Fethiye.Early morning in Fethiye. An amphitheatre near Termessos.The sight on our walk from Olympos to the Chimaera
The partial roof of the theatre in Aspendos.The aqueduct at Aspendos. The landscape in southern Turkey is greener than you miThe harbour in Antalya.
The fluted minaret in AntalyaMosque in Elmali On the way to Kas.On the way to Kas.
View over Kas as we approached from the surrounding hilKas A view from Kekova Island and how we got there. The bayA view from Kekova Island.

All pictures here have been taken on my EOS300 using Fuji Sensia II ISO100 slide film. Most of the outdoor pictures were taken using a polarising filter.

If the pictures have piqued your interest, there are a few resources that you might want to have a look out for:

  • I read Jeremy Seal’s “A Fez of the Heart”(Amazon UK/US) to get the feel of the place before I got there. Unfortunately the area I went to was barely mentioned, but it’s a good book and well worth reading.
  • Turkey.com has lots of interesting stuff including city guides and travel tips.