Our home town in Turkey is very much a package tourism destination. Young families and the retired from the UK come to lie on the beach in the mornings and afternoons and drink in the bars and clubs in the evening.
Turks from nearby towns and villages daytrip in Altinkum, the beach area of Didim, and residents of Ankara or Germany spend some of the season in their summer homes.
The vast majority go nowhere near the Temple of Apollo, Didim’s only notable attraction aside from the beach. It is the same story for the Turks who staff the bars for six months each year before returning to their homes dotted around the rest of Anatolia.
Didim is both a new and an ancient place. Other than on the main thoroughfares we walk down the middle of the road, a consequence of only having pavements laid in the past year or two. Our apartment, and those of most of our neighbours, didn’t exist six or seven years ago. Stubborn shepherds refusing to accept the recent loss of grazing land to development occasionally wander past our balcony with their herds. Though the recession has slowed things down the empty shells of new builds are common throughout the town.
Didim’s unfinished business started in antiquity. The Apollo Temple is one of the greatest and lengthiest building sites in history. A spiritual site centred around a sacred spring existed from the eighth century BC until its destruction by Artaphernes’s Persians in 493 BC at the end of the Ionian Revolt.
Alexander the Great commissioned a new temple in 334 BC that, had it ever been completed, would have been the largest in the Greek world and a contender for being regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World – overshadowing the Temple of Artemis at nearby Ephesus.
Instead construction continued for 700 years. Never completed, the grandeur of the project eluded the temple’s builders before its abandonment in the Christian era.