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Bodrum, Turkey (Ancient Halicanarsus)

Today we had a buffet breakfast on the sundeck. The spread, like all of the meals on the ship, was extensive, including most of the traditional American and European breakfast staples as well as thick Greek yogurt, a mix of local nuts, honey, and freshly dried fruit (apricots, figs, prunes, etc). I stuck to the local food and then went downstairs for a lecture on ancient Halicanarsus, modern day Bodrum. It is here that the Masouleum, an Ancient Wonder of the World was built in the 5th century BC and stood until it was toppled by an earthquake in the 13th century. Nearly all of the ruined structure had been taken for other building projects, including the building of a castle by the Knights of St. John, 15th century Crusaders.

We disembarked the ship after lunch and traveled first to the castle, one of the most unique historical sites I have ever visited. The castle itself was contructed and decorated by bits of the Masouleum and we were able to see one ancient piece that had not been stolen away (with "permission") to the British Museum by previous explorers. This was the head of a lion that had decorated the outside of the Masouleum. In addition to this ancient historical context, the castle itself was a fairly intact medieval fortress complete with engraved Coats of Arms from the knights who lived there and even medieval grafiti from knights of the 15th century who had engraved their names into the stone walls of the castle.

If these two glimses into history were not enough, the castle also now houses the largest Underwater Archaeological Museum in the world. It has ancient pottery, glass, personal items, and more from shipwrecks dating from the 13th century BC to the 14th century AD. The collections are amazing for all they have been able to tell historians about ancient trade routes, communication between cultures, ship building, and other trades. Particularly unique is the only known cartuche (gold seal) with Nefertiti's name. Apparently, later Egyptian priests had tried to eliminate anything with Nefertiti's name from the historical record because of her "heretical" belief in a single God. This single seal was saved because it had rested at the bottom of the sea for thousands of years. It is estimated that there are 10,000 such ship wrecks across the Mediterranean, many of them along this treacherous coast.

Also interesting at this castle museum was the skeleton and grave findings of an ancient princess, possibly niece of Masouleus. After leaving the museum, we walked through town up to the ancient site of the Masouleum. The foundations of this ancient wonder remained, as well as some broken column fragments, a few of the decorative sculptors (many more have been carted off to the British museum), and the walls of the actual tomb that was located beneath this 140 foot high Masouleum. I couldn't believe that they let tourists walk right on top of this old tomb, amongst these ancient pieces that are sitting out exposed to the elements and careless travelers. To me, it was breathtaking to be walking in the footprint of this Ancient Wonder of the World, along the same stones that the famous sculptors of antiquity sat as they prepared their carvings. Truly incredible!

After our visit, we returned to the ship for a lecture on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and then a Captain's Welcome Dinner.

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