Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead


This is the 13th in a series of articles abut a trip to Turkey


By Charles N. Stevens

Up early after a deep sleep, we listen to the Moslem prayers pour out of the minaret loudspeakers and echo through the quiet, still dark city. We open our window a crack, letting in both the wailing prayers and a draft of ice-cold air. As this space will be our home for over a week, we finish putting away all our belongings, bracketing the Turkish room with our own sense of order.

When enough light spreads across the cloudless sky, we step out on our small balcony. An old mosque with its high pointed minaret dominates the foreground, but the snowy mountains appear to loom over the city to the north. Through spaces between the buildings lies the flat blue of the Mediterranean.

At breakfast I have “orange juice” a half slice of brown bread with small slices of meat and cheese, cold cereal with a canned peach, a boiled egg and what may have been pickled melon rind, a condiment too sweet for me.

The bus leaves the hotel at nine, the skies still sunny and clear. We stop first at a bank so that some of us can change our travelers checks for Turkish money.

Outside Antalya we speed by cotton fields and vegetable gardens, the splendor of the snow-decked mountains always with us far to the left. Sheep graze in the cotton stubble fields, eagerly munching on the stalks. They also nibble on the green grass shoots at the side of the road as well as the shaggy lawns in the median dividers down the middle of the road.

We soon arrive at the stony remains of Perge, one of the most important cities of ancient Pamphylia, a Greek state  . The place had surrendered to Alexander the Great in 333 B.C., and had been the home of Apollonius of Perge, a great Greek mathematician, born here in 260 B.C. We walk around the crumbling late Roman gate to the shattered towers of the original Hellenistic gate, carefully watching our step to avoid oozy mud and puddles. A stray sheep cries as he trots among the stones looking for the rest of the flock. Hearing its cries, a shepherd walks back to retrieve him. A cold wind out of the north ruffles the grasses and whips around the decaying towers.

We stroll down the ancient colonnaded way which at one time was the main thoroughfare of the city. A few columns still stand along the way, and the marble pavement of the ancient roads shows the deep tracks of carts that had plied the road two thousand years ago. I can imagine the grating sound of the wheels as a Greek or Roman drove his cart and horses down the once-magnificent street. I can also sense the sound of the horses’ hoofs as they clomped on the smooth stone, even the shouts of busy people crowding to the many shops along the street. Gracing the middle of the wide marble boulevard, a raised water channel with cascading pools once added its soothing beauty. The water is all gone now, but some of the stonework guiding the channels and pools still stands.

We walk on to an extension of this street where the channels lead to the fountain which provided the water for the whole system. In a niche among the remaining columns of the fountain rests a reclining, headless statue. Perhaps the statue once symbolized the restful, relaxing sound of flowing water, a sound that is mesmerizing to modern man as well. Dolores climbs behind the fountain and peers at me through one of the stone arches. The hill directly behind her was once covered with the large houses and villas of the wealthy.

Slowly making our way back along the colonnaded way, we admire the traces of mosaic floors, now partially covered with gravel and dirt but still showing in some places. We take off our gloves to feel the small, flat stones, then run our bare hands sensuously over the smooth, cold stones of the columns. Most of the mosaics are near the entrances of the ancient shops, perhaps placed there to attract customers into the stores. Off to the side on the brushy hillside, several women with “baggy pants”, coats and veils stumble through the thick shrubs looking for firewood. They pause at the larger, dead-looking stems and branches, then chop them down. They seem very primitive in this day, but without the wood they will have no heat and no fire to cook their food. I think too about our differences. The amount of money they might make in years of hard labor would not equal the price of my airline ticket to get here. As they work, they casually look at us. I wonder what they think about the ruins and what they think about us. To our right the columns of the old agora stand against the backdrop of the snowy mountains far in the distance.

We then walk over to the stadium where we see the arched structures on the outside that once supported all the seats and served as large concave spaces for stores and shops. The curved, tapering shop roofs match the slope of the stone seats on the other side. We pass through one of the arches into the stadium itself where we stand in the open and look at the flat stadium floor surrounded by curved and straight rows of stone seats. Had we been foolish enough to stand here two thousand years ago, we would have been in the middle of athletic contests, gladiator fights, wrestling and battles with wild animals. Twelve thousand screaming spectators would have been watching us, perhaps as snarling lions gradually tore us to shreds. Far across the way on a small hillside is the old theater, closed to us because of excavation.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 49 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

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