Turkey is paradise for ancient history fans. It’s packed with historical sites, but some of them, like Ephesus and Troy, are vast and often overrun with tourist groups, which makes it difficult to enjoy the place and get that particular thrill which comes when imagination runs riot and you feel like following the footsteps of Greek or Roman heroes.

A wonderful alternative is visiting the Apollo Oracle in Didyma, today Didim. It’s located on Turkey’s Aegean West coast, more or less half way between Izmir and Bodrum. Get on the motorway which leads from Izmir to Bodrum and follow the
turnoff towards Didim/Didyma (which is the ancient name). It’s clearly marked and the trip is already a pleasure as you pass through a Turkish village by the name of Accoy. The tree shaded, cobble stoned market place with a cafe or two, where Turks are sitting outside playing domino, is worth a stop and a Turkish coffee or tea. From there it’s about 20 minutes to reach the oracle. Here is the insider tip: go early, so you get there at 9.00 am, when the place opens. At that hour, you have the tempels and the site all to yourself, only to be shared by cats and lizards. No guided tour is needed, you can wander around at your leisure and will have read up on the significance of the oracle beforehand. I could hear the murmur of the sacred spring and imagine people like Alexander the Great approaching to hear what the future held. Admission is about $2 and you can also buy a small booklet which explains the history and the excavations. It’s not only helpful but also fun because of the somewhat ‘twisted’ English.

What impressed me most are the two beautifully preserved images of the Medusa. I love historical sites where you can get really close to things, look and touch and walk where you please instead of being herded along by an umbrella touting tour guide. Didyma fits the bill perfectly.