Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bear Among the Ruins

I feel sorry for Izmit - and I know that it must sound strange (feeling sorry for a city) but as far as much of the world is concerned, apart from the 1999 earthquake, Izmit doesn't really exist. But I know it exists but maybe that's because I am, by nature, a very compassionate bear (it's pretty much a prerequisite if you want to be a Freelance Goodwill Ambassador). And I'm also currently living in Izmit.

Today, I took the bipedals for a little outing to Izmit's Archaeological and Ethnography Museum which is down by the railway station. In fact, they've incorporated the grounds of the old train station into an open-air museum for most of the marble artefacts.
Of course, if you google the museum, you probably won't find anything, or if you do, it will actually be for the Archaeological Museum in Izmir not Izmit in the south of Turkey. Poor Izmit.

It's important to remember how important Izmit once was in the ancient world. I know I talked a bit about this in a previous post but it bears (!) repeating. Izmit was founded over 2720 years ago and was called Astacus or possible Olbia (how scholars confuse those two names is beyond me) and eventually was rebuilt and renamed Nicomedia. One of the most famous philosophers of the Roman period, Arrian, was born here. His writings on Alexander the Great (not born here) are still the most widely read account of the young warrior-god.

In 244, the Emperor Diocletian made Nicomedia the capital of his eastern Roman Empire. Although a reformer, he is probably best remembered for his savage persecution of Christians. He believed that his palace in Nicomedia had been set on fire by them (with the help of a few eunuchs) and although the ensuing investigation found no evidence of this, heads quickly started to roll. Literally. And bodies flayed and boiled alive over an open flame. Some 3,000 Christians were killed and many more tortured and imprisoned. And people think bears are dangerous!

ultimately, Diocletian was unsuccessful: within 21 years, the Emperor Constantine (who would later die just outside Nicomedia) made Christianity his religion of choice. Diocletian was the first Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate and spent his retirement pottering about in his vegetable garden in modern-day Croatia. Not such a bad end, all in all.

Anyway, this is my long-winded way of saying that with so mu
ch Greek and Roman history - and I didn't even mention the Ottomans (the people not the foot stools) - there are lots of bits of statuary (some headless, some with other parts cut off!), mosaics (although nothing to rival Ravenna's tiles), columns & fountains (see above right) in Izmit. Or at least in Izmit's Archaeological & Ethnography Museum.

Of course, it was awfully nice of the guard not to charge us the
usual 3 lira ($2 Cdn) entrance fee and I suspect that he did so because he recognized me and not because - as my female bipedal attendant suggested - it's Sunday and perhaps museums are free. I mean really. She's just miffed because I caught her in a lie: she and my male bipedal attendant skipped off to Istanbul the other day and not only did they not take me but they told me they were going out to buy a carton of milk. For 12 hours? Do I look like I was born yesterday? - although, I admit that using a light moisturizer and sunblock takes years off my face.

I doubt this posting will put Izmit - or
Astacus/Olbia/Nicomedia and Kocaeli (rhymes with 'toe jelly') as it is also known - on the tourist map but even if it gets to outshine sunny Izmir for one minute, then my job is done. At least for today.


Snowflake said...

GB, what a nice story you tell. I'm sorry about her - I can't believe she's taken to lieing to you now. It and Them say hello!

Grey Bear said...

I'm starting to wonder how many other lies she's told me over the years. And what about him? Has he lied too?

Give my love to It and Them ... as well as Senor Artichoke Heart! ( - and to you as well.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Bear
I am enjoying your trips as much as you do.
This is my way to see Europe.

Grey Bear said...

Hi Anonymous,

I'm not sure seeing Europe through my bear eyes is the best way to travel but thanks for the compliment. Maybe some day you can make your own (bear) tracks over here.

Anonymous said...

I think the Turkish government should hire to promote their tourism!

They don't do very good job in house.

Grey Bear said...

I don't think I would make a very good tourism spokesperson but thank you for thinking of me. I don't know where you live Anonymous but the Turkish tourism board does advertise in some places. I used to see billboards for Turkey when I was living in Spain.

If you're interested, this is their official website: