Travels to Turkey

My incredible travels to Turkey in 2007

Archive for the ‘Selcuk’ Category

Ephesus ruins – Day 12 in Selcuk

Posted by Mardee on May 16, 2007

A new hotel – a new Turkish breakfast. Actually, they’re all pretty much the same. I really love Turkish breakfasts – they are extremely healthy (tomatoes, cucumbers, yogurt, fresh cheese, eggs, olives) and are beautifully presented (the vegetables and fruit are always sliced and arranged so that the colors show to advantage), and the bread is to die for! And I must mention the oranges, which have a deep color and a flavor that literally bursts in your mouth. If only the coffee was a little better, although today’s coffee was pretty good.

The Hotel Akay arranged for a driver to come and take me to Ephesus. I could have walked it – it’s only 3 km – but I wanted to get there as soon as it opened to avoid the tour groups. The hotel clerk – a lovely young woman – also lent me a book on Ephesus to read for background information. The driver let me off near the second ticket office at the Magnesian Gate, which allowed me to walk downhill through all the ruins rather than uphill. I got there around 8:40 am, 10 minutes after it opened, and was amazed at how many people were already there. However, the advantage of being a solo traveler is that you can work with or against the crowd – and I’m a master at slipping around tour groups and getting off on my own.

I could go on and on about Ephesus, but will inject just a few historical bits here. The city originated several hundred years BC and was rebuilt several times. The population was in the range of 400,000 to 500,000 inhabitants in the year 100 AD, making it the largest city in the Roman empire at that time. The city was distinguished for the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), for the Library of Celsus, and for its theatre, capable of holding 25,000 spectators. This open-air theatre was used initially for drama, but during later Roman times gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage, with the first archaeological evidence of a gladiator graveyard found in May 2007. The city was relegated to a small village when the harbor filled in with silt from the Kaystros river in the 8th century, and was completely abandoned by the 15th century. Ephesus was an important center for early Christianity and both Paul and the Apostle John spent time writing and preaching there. In addition, a nearby house is believed to have been the last home of Mary.

Historical info aside, the site was just amazing! It is huge with ruins extending as far as the eye can see. The terraced houses take you into the rich families’ homes with unique mosaics and frescos, and the Library of Celsus alone is worth the price of admission. I have GOT to get these photos uploaded! It took me about 3 hours to go through the whole area and I probably would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so hot. The sun really beats down against that white stone (and the people standing on the white stone). After I was finished, I headed out the entrance and saw some ruins with a small sign saying “Tomb of St. Luke.” It was a small forlorn pile of stones surrounded by wildflowers. I don’t think it’s the real grave of St. Luke – I looked it up and he is supposed to be buried in Padua (although he was originally buried at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Istanbul – now the Fatih Cami, which I walked by while I was there). I’ve always like St. Luke, especially after reading The Silver Chalice.

After leaving Ephesus, I had planned to walk back but the heat was getting to me. So when a cab pulled up and asked me if I wanted a ride, I asked, “How much”? He responded, “15 lira but for you, 10!” Wow, what a bargain – 10 lira to drive me 2 miles. I declined and he asked how much I would pay. I held up 3 fingers and we wound up settling on 5 lira. After getting back to the hotel, I jumped online – I was changing my itinerary again. I was enjoying my stay in Selcuk, but after seeing Ephesus, there wasn’t a whole lot to do unless I took more 4-5 hour bus trips to the outlying area. Therefore, I decided to leave a day early and head for Izmir, where I would catch an overnight bus to Istanbul, arriving Thursday morning.

You may recall that I had sworn I would never take a night bus again, but logistically it makes sense. It’s a lot cheaper than flying and is a lot less hassle. Plus this time I was upgrading to the top of the line Varan bus line.

Before heading back out again, I spoke to the hotel clerk. I had been wanting to discuss my room with her as it was lacking in some amenities that were advertised by the hotel, i.e., hair dryer, TV, etc. She told me that there were actually 2 different sections to the hotel – a cheaper no-frills section and a deluxe area. I explained that if I had known I could upgrade for a mere 15 lira I would have done so. I wasn’t trying to get another room since I would be leaving the next day, but she was nice enough to switch me to the deluxe room for the same price as the one I had been in – 35 lira. This new room was wonderful – bigger, nicer and a stone’s throw away from the gorgeous pool.

She told me they would make the switch later that afternoon when I got back, so I headed over to the Ephesus Museum in town. This is where many of the artifacts and sculptures are located that were found at the Ephesus site. I’m glad I waited to see the museum after seeing Ephesus as it meant a lot more. Many of the pieces were huge but some were tiny with great detail. After seeing the Ephesus exhibit, I went over to another section of the museum that was an exhibition on gladiators. The gladiator graves discovered at Ephesus have told scientists a great deal about the lifes (and deaths) of the gladiators from that period. The exhibit showed photographs of the skeletons and how forensic scientists and anthropologists have worked to determine the manner of death, their diet, and many other fascinating facts.

After the exhibit, I stopped by Tugba, which is considered one of the best sources of Turkish delight and tried a couple of samples. I couldn’t decide between the the ones stuffed with pistachio or the fruit-flavored ones, so I bought some of both. The store makes its own Turkish delight and it is delicious! Next I headed back to the hotel and switched my room, which took about 5 minutes. After that I had a quick swim in the pool to cool off. A small group of people on a tour came up as I finished and I had a beer with them. Several of them were from San Francisco and the rest from Australia and New Zealand. After they left, 2 women stopped over who were staying in the room next to me and we talked for awhile. Coincidentally, they were also from San Francisco and were traveling by themselves (although they were taking small tours here and there). As it turned out, they were traveling to Fethiye next and would be staying in the same hotel I stayed in – the Villa Daffodil. They were happy to hear the rave reviews I gave.

After my swim, I went for a 4 km walk along a shaded tree-lined path. It was a popular spot for runners and walkers, and there were many out for an evening stroll. I passed the Temple of Artemus on my walk – it seemed strange to see it just off the side of the road. It’s also a little sad that one of the Seven Wonders of the World is reduced to just a single column in a dirt field. Afterwards, I went back to the hotel for dinner on the roof terrace. I was the only human up there (besides the staff) but a calico cat came and joined me. I’m sure it was my personality that attracted it and not the pieces of fish I threw in its direction. The dinner was wonderful – fish and bulgar and some wonderful mezes (appetizers). Plus I got to see the sun set over the distant mountains as I sipped my wine. All in all, a perfect evening…

My feline friend accompanied me back to my room and seemed somewhat insulted when I refused to let it inside. I tried to watch some TV but all I could find were Turkish channels so I soon gave up and went to bed.

Tomorrow – a day in Izmir, a night on the bus…

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Posted in Ephesus, Gladiator Graveyard, Hotel Akay, Selcuk | 4 Comments »

From Fethiye beaches to Selcuk ruins – Day 11 on the road

Posted by Mardee on May 15, 2007

Ayasoluk Hill - St. John the Baptist BasilicaAfter waking up bright and early, I finished my packing and headed for breakfast. The morning was perfect (as usual) and I was a little sad about leaving Fethiye. However, I finished up, grabbed my gear and headed down to the desk to do a quick email check and then check out. The car from the travel agency was supposed to pick me up at 10 but when it hadn’t showed by 10:15 am, I started getting worried since my bus was supposed to leave at 10:30. Just then, Burkhard and Ulle stopped by on their way to the beach and chatted with me until the car came. We each promised the other that if we were ever in the other’s neighborhood, we would look each other up (I’m not sure how correct these pronouns are but hopefully everyone understood what I was trying to say). I could tell they were a little worried about the car not showing up, as was I, but it finally got there a few minutes later. I got in, the driver took off and he zipped around the Fethiye streets like Mario Andretti, pulling into the otogar right on the dot at 10:30.

We were soon on the road to Aydin, where I would then change buses to Selcuk. The first portion of the journey was beautiful – we drove past gorgeous deep blue inlets and bays, and then headed up into the mountains. The rest of the trip was sort of a blur as I was pretty tired and the sun was making me sleepy. We pulled into the bustling Aydin otogar station around 3 pm and I grabbed my luggage and looked for the Selcuk minibus. It was around the corner – unfortunately it wasn’t leaving for another 45 minutes so I took a seat and waited. Eventually it was time to board. By this time, I’d learned one of the first lessons you should know when riding a dolmus – always sit near a window. Turks will rarely open the windows in buses even in 90 degree weather – which is why I sit near the window so that I have control of the air.

This ride was long and excrutiating – it was only about 50 minutes in length but seemed like 5 hours. The bus was cramped, very hot and smelled of male Turkish body odor. In addition, the bus driver felt compelled to honk his horn in greeting at every single passerby and bus. We were listening to honks every 30 seconds or so. To make matters worse, he stuck his head out the window every few feet or so to look for additional people to honk at. I appreciated the fact that he was friendly but by the end of the ride, I was ready to throw something at him, the horn, or the bus – or all three. During the last 20 minutes of the ride, one of the men on board decided he needed to get some groceries. He muttered a few words to the driver, who immediately zipped across to the other side of the highway and pulled into a little grocer. The passenger ran in then came out about 5 minutes later with a bag of bread. Everyone else seemed to take it in stride and I tried to curb my irritation. The bread did smell good – it must have been fresh out of the oven.

Eventually we pulled into Selcuk and I paid my 5 lira. As I retrieved my luggage I was immediately accosted by several men who assured me that their hotels were better than any of the others. I managed to ignore them and found a young man who pointed me in the direction of the Hotel Akay where I had made a reservation the day before. One taxi driver offered to drive me there for 5 lira and as I was debating whether to accept, I noticed a sign that the hotel was only 200 m. away. The hotel is on a quiet street near Ayasoluk Hill, the site of the tomb of St. John the Evangelist and his Basilica. After checking in around 5 pm, I headed up towards Ayasoluk Hill and toured the grounds. St. John died here in 100 AD and the Byzantine emperor Justinian built a huge basilica to honor him. The basilica was destroyed in the 1400’s by Mongols but much of the site has been restored by a religious foundation based in Lima, Ohio.

Sunset from Hotel Akay TerraceAfter that, I headed down and explored the town and had a bite to eat at a small family-owned restaurant named Seckin Cigerci that seemed to be feeding mostly locals (which is always a good sign). My next stop was Tugba, which makes Turkish delight in all flavors. I didn’t buy anything today but did try a couple of samples – one with lemon and one with walnuts. Both were delicious and I can see why Tugba has received national awards for its Turkish delight. I walked around, enjoying the sights. Selcuk is home to a Byzantine aqueduct, which now serves as a nesting place for storks. They return here year after year to lay their eggs in April and May and then stay through September.

Back at the hotel, I went up on the terrace and had a glass of wine – there is nothing like sitting up high watching the stars with a cool breeze and Turkish music playing lightly in the background. Even the occasional cat came up for the atmosphere (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the crumbs that may have fallen from the breakfast tables). Soon it was time for bed.

Tomorrow – Ephesus!

Posted in Ayuasoluk Hill, Basilica of St. John, Cats, Dolmus, Selcuk, St. John the Evangelist, Turkey | 3 Comments »