The Amazing Ruins at Aphrodisias in Turkey

One of the day trips that we took from Kusadasi in western Turkey was to see the Greek ruins at Aphrodisias. Of all of the ruins that we visited, Aphrodisias was actually our favorite even though it is not as excavated as the ones at Ephesus. The cruise ships don’t typically do tours to Aphrodisias, so you will not be surrounded by crowds and will be able to get up close to all of the different sites within the area. The ancient city gets its name from the Temple of Aphrodite that is located at the site, but one of things that makes Aphrodisias so unique is that was the location of the school where artists learned to carve statues, so there is a museum featuring many statues that the students had created.

Memorial Gateway, Tetrapylon
Amphitheater or Bouleuterion
Columns of the Temple
Classical Bust Done by a Student
Very Large Stadium for Chariot Races
Walking the Grounds
View of the Agora from an Overlook

As with many ancient Greek cities, it was later occupied by the Romans who built a large stadium for chariot races as well as Bouleuterion or amphitheater for the leaders to give speeches as well as to hold performances. Unfortunately, because the site doesn’t attract as many tourists, it hasn’t been as restored as other more famous locations. It has also suffered from several catastrophic earthquakes throughout its history, but what has been restored is truly quite stunning.

A Soldier’s Remains in the Museum
Another View of the Tetrapylon
Interesting Architecture
Many Statues
Reliefs on a Wall Near the Museum
Seats in the Stadium
Statue Amongst the Ruins

We would highly recommend visiting Aprhodisias when staying in either Kusadasi or Izmir as it is definitely worth taking time to see. From the monumental gateway, tetrapylon, the Temple of Aphrodite, the stadium, and the museum, there is enough to see to take at least a couple of hours walking amongst the ruins. As with any historical location, it is also a good idea to have a guide who can explain the history and culture of the city. Even in its current condition, one can certainly imagine what it would have looked like during the times of the Greeks and Romans who originally built it.

Looking Up at the Gateway Arch
One of the Many Carvings
Temple of Aphrodite
Wall Full of Carvings in the Museum
Pomegranate Tree
View of the Amphitheater
Getting a Sense of the Scale of Aphrodisias
Interesting Carving of a Family
Looking Up at the Columns of the Temple

The Fascinating Statues at Buddha Park in Laos

We saw many wonderful and fascinating places when we took a few days trip to Laos during our time in Vietnam and Buddha Park was certainly one of the highlights. Located near Vientiane is a park that is filled with sculptures representing Buddhist and Hindu images. Built in 1958, the park is a popular tourist attraction for those who travel to Vientiane. Buddha Park is also called Xieng Kuan or Spirit City and has over 200 statues of various sizes. We visited the park with a guide who was able to explain the meaning behind many of the different statues, which made the experience even more interesting.

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Jaws of Hell Entrance
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Two Reclining Buddhas (They are Farther Apart then It Looks)
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Interesting Statues in Buddha Park
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Unique Details
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Hell, Earth, and Heaven Statue Building
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Hindu Statue

One of the main sculptures is a large, round building with a demon face as its entrance. It is a three story building meant to represent Hell, Earth, and Heaven. To enter the building, you walk through the mouth of the demon, also referred to as the jaws of hell. There are many statues inside each of the levels and when you make it to the top you are rewarded with views of the entire park. Another focal point of the park is a large, reclining Buddha statue. We saw many similar such statues in Laos, but this one was definitely interesting.

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Inside of the Jaws of Hell Building
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Buddha Park
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Creepy Statue
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Giant Snake
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Clear Blue Sky Behind the Statue
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Colorful Flowers Among the Statues

Even though the park is only a little over 60 years old, the statues look as though they are centuries old. The park is near the Mekong river, which separates Laos from Thailand. The same sculptor also built a park in Thailand after fleeing Laos in the 1970’s, but the park in Laos is the original park. To fully enjoy the park and take time to see the details of the statues from various angles, you should plan on spending 2 to 3 hours in Buddha Park. It is certainly a fascinating experience and is a contrast to visiting all of the various temples (wats) that are in Vientiane.

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Four Elephant Heads
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Reclining Buddha
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Impressive Statues
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More Statues Inside the Building
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Wandering through Buddha Park
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View of Reclining Buddha from the Roof

The Best of Bratislava’s Old Town District

The historic old town district in Bratislava, Slovakia is a fascinating area with wonderful medieval architecture. It is a very popular area for tourists as well as different artists selling their crafts or playing music. Like many other medieval cities where the city center was originally surrounded by walls, most of the walls have been removed to allow the city to grow, but some of the original walls remain as well as one of the original gates. St Martin’s Cathedral is also a dominant feature of the old town with its bell tower making it the tallest building.

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St. Martin’s Cathedral
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Walking the Cobblestone Streets
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Michael’s Gate
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Building with Part of the Original Wall
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Colorful Architecture

The wealthy citizens of the area all built their homes within the walls of Bratislava, each trying to show their prestige, which makes walking the streets of old town architecturally interesting. Michael’s Gate, or St. Michael’s Tower, is the only remaining entrance to the fortified city of the four original gates that previously existed. It is certainly one of the most recognizable features of Bratislava with its clock tower and it was the gate that future Hungarian kings would enter through while on their way to be coronated in St. Martin’s Cathedral.

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Looking Up at St. Michael’s Tower
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Walking the Path of Kings
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Schone Naci Statue
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Inside of St. Martin’s Cathedral
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Ornate Artwork Inside of the Cathedral

Like all cities in the region, the history of Bratislava is one of occupation from a variety of different conquering armies. Much of its history was under the rule of Hungary and for several centuries it served as the location where the kings of Hungary were crowned. There are crown emblems in the cobblestone streets that denote the path that the king would follow from his coronation to the celebration of the citizens. During this period, from 1563 to 1830, the kings were coronated in St. Martin’s Cathedral making this church an important location for both Slovak citizens as well as Hungarian.

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Historical Piece in St. Martin’s Cathedral
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Figurines on the Pews
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Interesting Features Inside of the Cathedral
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Walking Towards Michael’s Gate
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City Wall

In addition to the different buildings in Bratislava’s old town, there are also several statues and monuments that are worth seeing as well. Some of the most well known are the Watcher, which is a worker coming out of a sewer to look up women’s skirts, and the Schone Naci Statue, which is a statue of a former citizen who was extremely friendly and had a childlike demeanor. Crowds gather around these statues to take photos of themselves with them, which isn’t particularly our style.

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The Watcher
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Family Pews with Figurines
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More Artwork in the Cathedral
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Another Church in Bratislava
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Old Building in Old Town

We spent about three hours wandering around the streets of Bratislava’s old town and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The buildings are quite colorful and architecturally interesting making every street unique. Although there were quite a lot of people on the streets, we found our time in Bratislava to be quite relaxing and even bought a piece of art from an artist near the main square.

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Bell Tower of a Church Above the Streets
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Clock Tower in the Town Square
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People Walking in One of the Squares
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Monument in Bratislava
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Roof Inside of St. Martin’s Cathedral