Selcuk, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Izmir

Neither Pam nor I make any claims for prescience or any other psychic abilities so perhaps it was only common sense leading us to book a cab for early the next morning on our return journey from Antalya Archeological Museum.

We are good to go by 6:45am and just as we walk down the stairs from the apartment foyer the cab pulls up which means we have over an hour to make the airport for our flight to Izmir.

Luckily we were thinking ahead for there is the inevitable traffic accident reducing three lanes down to one on the major road to the Antalya Airport and we spend nearly half an hour fretting in the jam to get through.

Long security queues just to enter the interior of the airport provide the next time waster. It is the first time either of us have seen such an arrangement and we are disappointed to find that after checking in for our flight another long security queue awaits before we can access the flight gate.

The whole airport complex is incredibly busy with long queues for food and drinks so despite not having had breakfast we simply await our flight time which is not that far away.

Bye Antalya, Bye Lycian. It really has been grand.

A smooth couple of hours later we land in Izmir at the Adnan Menderes Airport and rush towards the railway station which is accessed via a footbridge from the airport terminal in an effort to make the train to Selcuk only to find it is running over half an hour late.

Of course we have forgotten that we are travelling on a Saturday and when the train finally arrives every carriage is so full that we have to squeeze our way on with full back backs. As I crush the packs into a lucky space in the luggage rack by the door Pam and I become separated by the flow of more people entering the train and we end up standing at each end of the aisle as the train slowly pulls out of the station.

Pam is accosted in rapid Turkish by an outraged older gentleman and has no idea what is going on until he switches to English and explains that he was hoping she would stir some of the teenagers sitting adjacent to her playing video games so that he and his wife could sit down. Realizing Pam has no Turkish he begins shouting directly at them until they reluctantly stand.

Fortunately the train itself is modern and air-conditioned which makes the slow sardine trip bearable. Stopping for no apparent reason frequently and often moving at what seems like walking pace the long train journey seems interminable and we are well over an hour later than the scheduled arrival time when we finally pull into Selcuk.

Half the passengers seem to be disembarking in Selcuk (pronounced Selchook) and we chat for a while on the platform to a couple of guys from the US and Canada while the crowd dissipates.

Without full water bottles, our tent Vincent and the stool Sample my pack is light and easy to hoist aloft.

According to Wikipedia Selçuk is one of the most visited tourist destinations within Turkey, known for its closeness to the ancient city of Ephesus, House of the Virgin Mary and Seljuk works of art. The 6th century Basilica of St. John the Apostle which, some claim is built on the site of the Apostle’s tomb is also inside the town. The old quarter of Selçuk retains much traditional Turkish culture.

Ayasoluk Hill dominates the surrounding area, with several historical buildings on its slopes, including the İsa Bey Mosque built by the Aydinids in 1375, and the Grand Fortress.

After our full morning of travel leaving the train station is like stepping into another world.

Photo May 31, 1 02 16 PM

Photo May 31, 1 02 42 PM

Only a stone’s throw from the platform remnants of a once mighty Roman aqueduct now provide storks ample space to build their huge nests which at this time of year are full of hungry fast growing chicks.

Selcuk is colourful and bustling with people and just beyond the aqueduct remnants is a line of restaurants all doing a roaring late lunch trade.

Still not having eaten, by now we are both as hungry as the squawking stork chicks and first order of business is food.

Within seconds of sitting at a restaurant where we are greeted very friendlily in quite reasonable English and soon after we are munching on hot flat bread which is provided gratis. Moments later we are sipping our customary Efes and wine and trying to orient ourselves on Google maps to find the Paris Hotel where we have pre-booked and paid for three nights.

Our waiter is humorous as well as helpful and after we have finished our delicious lunch he points out the direction of the hotel which is apparently only a few streets away.

Directions to the hotel appear quite straightforward however almost immediately beyond the second street of restaurants and shops a bustling colourful market swirling with locals and tourists complicates things and after walking in circles for over quarter of an hour we are still at an absolute loss as to the location of the Paris Hotel.

Photo May 31, 1 49 11 PM

Photo May 31, 3 02 56 PM

Finally we find a local who speaks English and he laughingly points to a building about 50m from where we are standing. From the street there is only one small painted wooden sign nominating Paris Hotel and it is almost completely obscured by a market stand.

We have unwittingly walked past our destination at least three times already.

Light backpacks and full bellies make our confused block circling a humorous anecdote rather than an onerous hardship and we are in good spirits as we strip off our backpacks in the foyer.

The proprietor is friendly and speaks good English which he tells us he learnt from his Australian wife.

Asking us if we have plans to visit local attractions such as Ephesus he then launches an enthusiastic barrage of hard sell tactics to pre-book travel options to various destinations. Pam, a master salesperson herself, has no patience with hard sell tactics and brushes his expensive sounding proposals aside.

Having survived the Lycian Way we have no need for packaged lunches and guided tours. We play it slow and loose.

Our room is large, spartan and on the third floor with a window which gives a view of the covered market stalls in the streets below. Thankfully it has a modern toilet which has been precariously constructed atop the remnants of an ancient squat toilet. Our modest needs will be fully met here.

Selcuk is handily located very near to Ephesus which is the largest excavated archeological site in the world and is also only a couple of hours on a bus away from Pamukkale which is the site of a huge travertine deposit and thermal mineral pools.

Pam has been excited to have been contacted by a friend of Lexi’s and her’s, Lydia, who is also in Turkey with her partner Lachie at the moment and has deliberately planned the trip to Selcuk in an effort to be able to meet up with them in Pamukkale. She shoots off an email once we are in our room and is reassured that Lydia and Lachie will be in Pamukkale tomorrow.

With a concrete plan of action in mind we wind our way through the market in search of the nearby bus terminal which we find is a major hub for all manner of buses and dolmus and buy tickets for an early bus to Pamukkale tomorrow morning for less than a third of the amount offered by the Paris hotel proprietor.

The only issue is that we will not be able to get a bus back on the same day and will have to spend a night in Pamukkale. Accommodation is relatively inexpensive in these smaller Turkish towns, we are only paying about $25 Australian per night, so we decide we will leave our big packs in the hotel room in Selcuk and just pack a few clothes into my day pack for Pamukkale.

Afternoon drifts into evening as we spend a very pleasant few hours wandering through the busy market and having a few drinks at various bars.

During our walk about town we have noticed many of the Hotels and bars are named after foreign cities such as the Paris where we are staying.

The setting sun highlights the Fortress that dominates the hilltop skyline to the west of the market area and seeming sets alight the top of the aqueduct remnants in glowing orange as we find outdoor seats nearby the fountains at ‘The Wallaby’ which is an oddly named (for Turkey) restaurant. A large autographed team photo of the Australian Rugby Union team (The Wallabies) proudly mounted above the bar explains the unusual moniker.

Photo May 31, 7 57 24 PM

Photo May 31, 8 07 05 PM

A delicious meal in beautiful surrounds watching Selcuk swirl by whilst almost immediately overhead storks tend to their nesting young atop stone arches fashioned and constructed millennia ago.

Splendid.

Photo May 31, 8 17 28 PM

I am still shaking dreams from my mind as we stagger onto the bus in the early morning. Our bus is large and modern with video screens in the seat backs and I pay little attention to the highway landscapes rushing by as we head south towards Pamukkale.

All passengers on this bus are deposited at a busy bus terminal in the large inland city Denizli and those of us who are continuing to Pamukkale are shepherded into a mini-bus for the final westward leg.

The road we travel once we have left Denizli is four lanes with a central divider. Speed limits are clearly posted as 80km/h and I have a clear view of the speedometer.

Completely ignoring all posted speed limits our driver weaves through the sedate rural traffic, which includes tractors, reaching white knuckle speeds of up to 170km/h. Suddenly for no apparent reason where the road becomes two lanes with no divider he slows back to the posted limit. I see a police car stationed there as we pass, immediately afterwards he rapidly accelerates again overtaking anyone ahead with wild abandon.

I am on the verge of relaxing my death grip on my seat for long enough to stand and choke this madman into submitting to a slowdown when we reach the outskirts of Pamukkale and he slows of his own volition.

Leaving my fingerprints permanently etched into the vinyl seat rests I wobble weak kneed down the stairs.

Nothing like a huge shot of adrenalin to shake the cobwebs of travel out.

Immediately across the narrow road where we alight is a large hotel and keen to attack the vast white travertine slopes we have seen glistening from afar on the insane rush into town we waste no time looking further for accommodation.

We are led to a large comfortable inexpensive room with a small balcony overlooking the hotel pool which is filled with oddly cloudy looking blue water. Pam is keen to get to the slope so we waste no time getting back outside and head up the street towards the glistening hillside.

Pamukkale which translates roughly as ‘cotton castle’ has always attracted visitors, people have been bathing in the seventeen thermal springs within this area for thousands of years. The ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white ‘castle’ which is in total about 2,700 metres long, 600 metres wide and 160 metres high.

Up until relatively recently tourism ran roughshod over this beautiful natural site, hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis causing much damage, a road was built from the valley over the terraces and motorbikes were driven up and down the travertine slopes.

When the area was declared a World Heritage site in 1988 the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools. Today wearing shoes is prohibited whilst walking up the slope to protect the travertine deposits. Access to the terraces that naturally form on the slopes are no longer allowed and visitors are asked to follow the main pathway where only the small wayside pools are allowed to be used.

Water which emerges from the springs at over 35C is supersaturated with calcium carbonate which on exposure to the outside air de-gasses carbon dioxide and begins to deposit its mineral content. Initially the calcium carbonate deposits as a soft jelly that hardens over time into the white mineral travertine.

Crossing the bitumen road to the gravel path that leads to the vast white slope the sight ahead is nothing short of spectacular.

Photo Jun 01, 1 29 49 PM

Photo Jun 01, 1 32 33 PM

Ignoring the free to enter complex of manmade pools and lakes at the base of the hill we commence climbing.

‘Onwards and ever upwards’

We are far from alone, the broad walking path on the white slope ahead has a human ant trail hundreds strong.

The manmade gravel trail leading to the travertine slope comes to a sharply delineated end at a rushing gutter where a throng of children play excitedly in the diverted flow.

T’was ever childhood’s duty true to remind those a ‘lil short on remembrance of the low cost of high value fun.

Photo Jun 01, 1 34 20 PM

Removing our sandals we take our first hesitant steps onto the wet rough travertine surface.

Both of us are afraid of slipping and falling and just a few metres ahead we watch a lady go down hard. Luckily she lands on a body part where she has plenty of padding and humorously remains unscathed.

Water flowing about my feet is warm and immediately soothing to the skin. Underfoot the travertine surface is rough, textured and ridged like small solidified sand dunes which feel occasionally sharp edged to my boot softened hiker’s feet.

Photo Jun 01, 1 43 52 PM

Though completely unlike any surface I have ever walked on, I quickly ascertain that as long as our footfalls are on clean white surfaces where the water is flowing fast and clear there is plenty of grip.

Walking into the cloudy areas where the jelly deposits are forming is another story entirely and we witness plenty of people going down hard in the edges and shallows of pools.

Very entertaining as long as it’s not happening to us.

I advise Pam of what I think is the best way to avoid slipping and she graciously takes my sandals which allows me to continue clicking madly on the shutter button of the camera.

The mild slope ahead is deceptively long and dark clouds are beginning to gather with localized showers forming.

Pressing on undaunted, Pam is leaving me far behind as I pause constantly for shots of the pools and travertine surface of the path ahead and the valley below.

Photo Jun 01, 1 38 14 PM

Photo Jun 01, 1 42 45 PM

‘How about including me in a few photos’ she exclaims from afar which earns the usual reply ‘walk with me and thou shalt appear in shot’.

Photo Jun 01, 1 44 17 PM

2014-06-01 13.37.08

Photo Jun 01, 1 51 12 PM

Our fellow climbers are a diverse bunch with attire ranging from bikini to burka. A tanned leggy dark haired ‘model’ looking young woman in an iridescent yellow-green bikini draws plenty of looks as she poses for a multitude of photos with her male companion.

Mineral laden water flowing over my feet is very soothing and I take the risk of wading knee high into a couple of the slippery bottomed pools where calcium carbonate clouds stir in the water with each footfall.

Photo Jun 01, 1 47 09 PM

Photo Jun 01, 1 50 04 PM

Photo Jun 01, 1 50 17 PM

Pam has waited once again for me near the top and I do my best to force the amazing surroundings through the camera lens before we head towards the restaurant and bar that surround mineral bathing pools just beyond the crest.

Photo Jun 01, 1 57 38 PM

Photo Jun 01, 1 53 50 PM

Photo Jun 01, 2 01 45 PM

Photo Jun 01, 2 09 49 PM

This area is very busy and the entry fee for the pools is a bit steep for our taste, we only pause long enough for me to take a photo of the sign advertising the Dr Fish massage spa treatment where little live fish eat dead skin from immersed limbs.

Photo Jun 01, 2 20 16 PM

Beyond this busy area the ruins of Hierapolis await.

Photo Jun 01, 2 17 44 PM

Ruined Hierapolis covers a vast hilltop area and with a localized shower ahead beginning to crack lightning bolts into the valley to our left we elect to head right and make our way steeply upwards to the huge stone remains of the amphitheatre which has much of its almost 100m long facade still standing.

With seating for an audience of fifteen thousand still in good repair it is easy to roll back the millennia and imagine waves of roaring appreciative applause echoing from the surrounding hills.

Photo Jun 01, 2 34 47 PM

Photo Jun 01, 2 38 44 PM

 Photo Jun 01, 2 42 25 PM

In the time it has taken for us to walk from the bathing pools to the amphitheatre where we wander in awe and sit and ponder the clouds have darkened noticeably and lightning is cracking into the hill above us with the wind gusting hard.

‘Let’s make a run for it’ cries Pam and bolts off ahead of me towards the shelter of the bathing pool surrounds.

By the time I catch her under the shelter the wind is racing and the first few heavy raindrops are lifting little dust clouds on impact with the ground.

Deciding the entry fee is only for swimming in the pools we make our way into the complex unchallenged and take up residence under the shelters for some well earned Efes and vino while we ride out the oncoming storm.

Turns out that where we are this is only a storm in a teacup for other than the strong wind and barely enough rain to settle the dust the shower has fizzled out by the time we have had a couple of drinks.

With the rumored majesty of excavated Ephesus yet to come we have had enough of ruins for the moment and we elect to walk back down the hill we have so recently climbed rather than explore the extensive ruins of Hierapolis further.

‘Another day’ ……perhaps.

Pam finds the downhill journey much more treacherous than the climb and for once it is me way out in front.

Eventually we both make it down unscathed and crossing the fast flowing barrier that separates this  chalk white magical world from grim gravel reality we don our sandals once more.

By now it is getting on in the afternoon and the localized showers have dropped the temperature markedly. With the evening dinner yet to come Pam is complaining she is cold however we have brought minimal clothing and definitely have nothing suitable to ward off the chill.

As luck would have it immediately across the street from our hotel is a little shop selling locally made crafts and Pam scores a woolen shawl that she loves.

Soon after we join Lydia and Lachie and find a little restaurant just up the street from our hotel that has a second floor open covered area with tables and seats that offers an uninterrupted view of the pale travertine slopes under pink clouds in a now near clear sunset sky.

Photo Jun 01, 7 26 34 PM

Photo Jun 01, 8 24 16 PM

During our little walk through the town I have noticed that almost all the hotels have pools which are constantly fed by the mineral laden waters streaming down from the slopes above.

As we dine a group of younger more flexible diners share a hookah on a table surrounded by beanbags beside the mineral water pool below in the restaurant/hotel grounds.

Photo Jun 01, 9 46 30 PM

Lydia and Lachie are a lovely, young, intelligent, interesting and widely travelled couple and we swap laughter and travel tales into the early evening. Lydia is of Croatian descent and they intend to go to Croatia and Montenegro after Turkey.

It is very easy to be enthusiastic about our wonderful time in these beautiful hospitable countries and we are so wrapped in conversation that we barely notice that our dinner has been comprised of many very small dishes that have left us all still hungry.

Electing to ease hunger pangs with alcohol we take a short walk back to our hotel where I had noticed they were lighting a fire as we left.

By the time our warm fireside conversation slows the night is dark indeed.

Pam and I stumble back up across the main street into town in a vain search for late night food which enables me to get one last tipsy fuzzy shot of the electric light lit travertine slope.

Photo Jun 01, 9 50 09 PM

Blue skies greet us once more when we rise early to farewell Lydia and Lachie who are catching an early bus.

Turns out we were lucky to rise early for we manage to score the last two remaining  seats on the bus returning to Selcuk. With three quarters of an hour or so to wait for our bus to depart I make use of the clear morning light for a few more shots of the travertine slope.

Photo Jun 02, 8 50 46 AM

Other than the bus being so full that there are half a dozen people sitting in the aisle thankfully our return trip is uneventful. No stops in Denizli and no speeding maniac drivers this time.

Back in Selcuk by late morning we have a delicious lunch in a restaurant with a little walled courtyard that offers privacy from the streets.

No rest for the wicked, Pam is determined to cram as much as possible into our remaining time in Selcuk so after lunch we walk down by the council buildings making our way towards the ruins atop the hill that is dominated by the Grand Fortress.

Initially we head up the bright green lawn covered hill towards the lower ruins which supposedly contain the burial tomb of St John.

Women, who seem to do a disproportionate percentage of manual labour in Turkey, are bent over weeding the steep slope as we climb.

Photo Jun 02, 4 52 58 PM

Photo Jun 02, 4 53 08 PM

Between the lower ruins and the upper entry gate we are approached by a young man who tries to sell us old excavated coins using the sales technique of dropping them into my hand and then asking how much I want to pay.

Turkey has very strict laws regarding transporting antiquities out of the country and there is no way we would entertain such a purchase even if we were interested in such things.

Photo Jun 02, 4 53 50 PM

Scenes from Midnight Express flash through my mind as I hastily return the coins and the vendor goes in search of another sale.

Ten Turkish Lira each grants us entry to the excavated Basilica of St John ruins site and we spend a long time wandering aimlessly between the remaining labyrinthine walls and columns.

Photo Jun 02, 5 05 21 PM Photo Jun 02, 5 06 57 PM Photo Jun 02, 5 07 15 PM Photo Jun 02, 5 13 25 PM Photo Jun 02, 5 23 23 PM Photo Jun 02, 5 26 12 PM

Archaeological excavation must be a real labour of love for there are thousands upon thousands of cleaned fragments all numbered and stacked carefully in rows.

The tomb of St John is in smooth white stone with four standing columns and a nearby ancient baptismal font is still in great condition.

Photo Jun 02, 5 12 57 PM

Photo Jun 02, 5 18 34 PM

With still plenty of light left in the day we make our way toward the Grand Fortress which encloses the entire hilltop only to find a security guard in the process of locking the gate to the fence that surrounds the entire structure.

‘Five o’clock shut’ he tells us.

With absolutely no signage advising a closing time different to the seven pm listed for the lower ruins we are a little indignant however arguing in English would have zero effect.

‘Watcha gonna do’

As Pam turns on her heel to head back down towards town I take photos through the fence before doing my best to catch her.

Photo Jun 02, 5 28 35 PM

Photo Jun 02, 5 34 29 PM

Photo Jun 02, 5 39 54 PM

Three tortoises also drag race me. I come in fifth.

Back in town we go in search of a shop selling Cigkofte which are delicious vegan treats Lydia recommended Pam find in Selcuk and we eat them on a little plastic table and chair in the street before heading back towards the aqueduct remnants in search of a bar.

From where we are sitting I observe one of the many male hairdressing salons in operation and on the spur of the moment decide it is time to get rid of the face fungus I have accumulated.

As the result of a dare from Pam, last time I shaved was back in Cricklade, UK which seems an eternity ago.

Turkish men seem to spend an inordinate amount of time playing tabletop games in busy sidewalk cafes and almost as much time preening and taking care of their hair. Every town has a multitude of cafes and male hair salons to cater for these habits.

Perhaps it is the early evening hour when most people are eating, in any case I am the only customer in this normally busy salon.

A young man who speaks little English sits me down and through a process of pointing and pantomime I communicate I would like my customary #2 buzz cut as well as a clean shave.

Once he is sure of my requirements the young man moves fast.

First a quick buzz of my excess facial fuzz with the hair clippers.

Using a hot towel he softens my snowy beard remnants and then foams up my face with shaving cream and brush.

Adroitly dipping the razor into clear alcohol before sparking it alight with a cigarette lighter he then quickly blows out the blue flame. We are disinfected and good to go.

Using his fingers he pulls my facial skin tight in sections before applying the blade. Hair follicles are no match for the keen edge and foamy clumps are quickly washed off before he moves to the next section.

The shaving process is swift and painless however I am definitely not comfortable with a stranger holding an extremely sharp blade to my throat.

Not a drop of blood is shed.

After wiping my now smooth face clean with another hot towel my young friend swiftly changes guards on the hair clipper and deftly runs it all over my dome.

The straight razor quickly tidies up the back and edges and I think I am done.

Apparently not, he indicates I should stay in the chair and then gives my entire head and face a very soothing massage.

With the whole process taking less than quarter of an hour I am still surprised by the inexpensive charge for such a swift and pleasant service.

Fifteen Turkish Lira he writes down on a piece of paper, which is about $7.50 Aus. I give him 20 TL and thank him profusely for not spilling my blood all over his clean tile floor.

No more scratchy itching

No more bloody-bastard-beard bitching

No more silken web spun spiders hitching

Smooth Dude

ion¤¿¤s

Pam of course has her own little ditty she greets all my standard buzz haircuts with.

‘Who cut your hair and called you baldy’?

 Pam

Mocking, always mocking, at my chamber gently knocking.

Clouds which had begun gathering yesterday afternoon are low and threatening grey on our last morning in Selcuk.

Having already ascertained that the train back to Izmir runs almost hourly on the weekdays we plan to see as much of the ruins at Ephesus as the weather will permit before returning to our hotel where the proprietor has agreed to look after our packs.

Two nights in Izmir will allow one full day in this much larger city and then it’s off to Istanbul.

Ephesus is only a few kilometers from Selcuk and local dolmus do regular runs from the bus terminal to the ruins site.

We are swiftly delivered at the end of a long line of parked tourist buses where a few disconsolate looking horses stand attached to carts ready to ferry tourists to the top gate.

2014-06-03 10.02.56

Beginning with the sales pitches from the cart drivers we brave the throng of hawkers doing their noisy best to attract sales for guided tours and tourist traps selling all manner of maps and trinkets that line each side of the pathway leading to the entry gate.

Thankfully once we have forded past this congested entry way we are left to our own devices.

We are however far from alone.

After the long Lycian trail where it was common to stumble solo upon ancient ruins sites left completely untended and where even larger ruins sites nearby towns are sparsely visited, Ephesus comes as a bit of a shock.

There are already thousands of people here with large full tourist buses constantly dropping waves more at both the lower and upper gates.

The Mission, should you chose to accept it, is to take as many photographs with as few people in them as possible.

Ephesus has a long and bloody history of settlement. Initial construction is thought to be Grecian in the 10th Century BC. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League.

The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor after Sardis and Alexandria Troas.

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed or damaged in a raid by the Goths. It may have been rebuilt or repaired but this is uncertain, as its later history is not clear.

Emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths.

Following the Edict of Thessalonica from emperor Theodosius I, what remained of the temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St John Chrysostom. The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD.

The city’s importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River.

Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here and a church dedicated to Mary supposedly is the site of her tomb.

Ephesus is also the site of a large gladiators’ graveyard.

The town surrendered, on October 24, 1304, to Sasa Bey, a Turkish warlord. Contrary to the terms of the surrender the Turks pillaged the church of Saint John and deported most of the local population to Thyrea, Greece when a revolt seemed probable.

During these events many of the remaining inhabitants were massacred.

Stone upon stone, blood upon blood. This is the human race after all.

History offers no lessons we seem capable of learning.

Today of course any lingering ghosts have been phased beyond existence, webbed fast in a digital stream of tourist photography.

We make our way from the entry gate towards the massive amphitheatre ahead along a wide cobblestone path shaded on each side by a row of conifers.

2014-06-03 10.08.16

Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% of the enormous site has been excavated.

At its peak Ephesus must have covered the slopes of the surrounding hills and extended all the way to the nearby Mediterranean where there was a major trade harbour at what is now referred to as Ephesus Beach.

The Basilica of St John where we wandered yesterday afternoon is also considered part of Ephesus.

Row upon row of carefully cleaned excavated stones lie almost everywhere.

2014-06-03 10.11.41

The massive theatre ahead is built into the stone of the encompassing hillside and is the largest of its kind that Pam or I have so far seen. At an estimated 24,000 seating capacity, the ‘Theatre’ is believed to be the largest outdoor theatre in the ancient world.

As is now customary for us we climb the stairs to the highest level possible which offers great views of the flat stone paved Harbour Street stretching arrow straight towards the sea.

2014-06-03 10.17.49

2014-06-03 10.27.03

2014-06-03 10.27.42

At right angles to Harbour Street another broad flat stone path takes us towards the Library of Celsus, the facade of which has been carefully reconstructed from all original pieces.

2014-06-03 10.47.07

2014-06-03 10.50.32

We join the throngs of people goggling at the ornate stonework before walking under the arches of the Gates of Augustus and doing a lap of the nearby huge flat square housing thousands of cleaned stones via the wooden boardwalk.

2014-06-03 11.01.31

2014-06-03 10.41.01

2014-06-03 10.45.37

From here it is all uphill following the Processional Way and we are definitely going against the flow of hordes of tourists who have been released at the top entry gates.

2014-06-03 11.07.05

A translation of inscribed stones has me laughing out loud amidst all the hubbub. We are still the same ridiculous officious bureaucratic species we have always been.

2014-06-03 11.08.07

2014-06-03 11.08.19

I find it extremely funny and depressing at the same time.

To our right as we climb is a section of ruined terrace housing that is now lodged under modern roofing where an additional entry fee is required to enter.

Duly ignoring this blatant rip off we climb onwards passing the much smaller Odeon theatre which was once roofed and enclosed in stone for all weather presentations to a much smaller audience of about 1500 people.

2014-06-03 11.29.33

Ephesus is still an active archeological site and further uphill we see scaffold and workers giving evidence of this process.

I am doing my best to listen in to the English speaking tour guides in the dense crowds, it would be very easy to just tag along with any of these large groups.

Signs indicating contents of various ruined building sites are all photographed as fodder for the blog.

Pam poses at the Heracles Gate in a rare gap in the crowds and we continue up to the top where only the modern entry gate lies beyond.

2014-06-03 11.17.16

2014-06-03 11.14.04

2014-06-03 11.13.38

By now we are both feeling kind of ruined out however Pam deems visiting the site of the Church of Mary of utmost importance so after taking a few shots of the views from the top we thread our way back down.

2014-06-03 11.18.23

2014-06-03 11.22.29

2014-06-03 11.25.17

As we descend we realize we have rushed past one of the most important and functional parts of the entire city complex.

The free public latrine which filled three sides of an open colonnaded courtyard served both city citizens and the visitors to the nearby Varius Baths. Fresh water channelled to constantly flow under the seats washed away the effluent into the river and harbour beyond.

2014-06-03 11.44.39

Leaving the crowds in our wake we follow a gravel path that winds down towards the sea. On the left more active archaeological excavation is occurring.

2014-06-03 11.55.52

2014-06-03 11.59.44

Beyond this small dig lie the ruins of the Church of Mary where we wander for a while thankful to be almost alone.

2014-06-03 12.06.15

2014-06-03 12.07.09

Beginnings of a light shower impel us back towards the entry gate. ‘That is it for me and ruins’ I declare emphatically, ‘I’m done’.

It is early afternoon by the time we make it back to Selcuk and after picking up our backpacks from the Paris Hotel we make our way towards the train station and decide to have lunch at Nur Restaurant which is the same place we stopped to eat when we first arrived.

The same waiter greets us with a big smile ‘did you have a good time in Selcuk my friends’? he asks.

It’s easy to give an honest reply, ‘it has been grand’.

2014-06-03 15.17.07

By the time we have clickety clacked our slow way back to Izmir, grateful to have had seats for the return journey, the sun is almost setting and after we have set off from the city heart train station in completely the wrong direction, returned to the station, reoriented ourselves and set out once more it is getting dark.

It has been a long and tiring day and both of us are second guessing ourselves as we walk uphill via a narrow shop and cafe lined pedestrian backstreet in what we hope is the direction of our hotel.

Obviously this part of town is not heavily frequented by tourists for we are drawing plenty of stares and when we crest the hill and enter into a little open square where men are busily engaged in game play at the outdoor tables there is definitely an air of hostility.

Seeing our discomfort one of the men leaps to his feet and greets us very friendlily asking us if we are lost and where we are going. His response of pointing out the hotel which is just a little further down around the corner triggers a palpable wave of relaxation in the square, suddenly it is all good, he is obviously a man of consequence.

‘Let me know if you need anything’ he tells us politely before returning to his game.

The hotel staff are very friendly and we are soon shown up some narrow internal stairs with a wobbly steel railing where the space between the stair top and the next floor is so low it catches at my backpack.

We pass some tiny open rooms where there is naught but a single bed and no windows and are wondering what we have gotten ourselves into however our room turns out to be standard Turkish hotel fare with a modern bathroom and a window opening to the street below.

The only meal served in this hotel is breakfast and Pam insists I go back out in search of food while she recovers in her room.

With absolutely no idea where to find any food other than the hostile little street we have just walked up I venture out and return to the square where our new friend gives me a thumbs up.

‘No problems’ I reply to Pam’s lifted eyebrow on my return, ‘it’s you they don’t like’.

Neither of us are up for much the following day however after a late traditional Turkish breakfast Pam insists on seeing at least a fraction of this new city.

A short distance from the backstreet our hotel is located on we rejoin a major four lane road that leads straight down the hill towards the sweeping harbour and ignoring signs for ruins located nearby within the modern city boundaries we set off.

2014-06-04 13.25.53

At the base of the hill there is a busy fabric roofed covered market place filling back streets between buildings with stalls selling everything from seafood to bridal wear however Pam is as disenchanted with markets as I am with visiting another ruin and we end up just continuing towards the waterline.

Izmir is vast and densely populated, the streets and footpaths are bustling with traffic and the final multilane road that winds around the waterline can only be crossed via an enormous footbridge which we have to walk a considerable distance to reach.

Of course I suggest just skipping across the road as a shortcut which Pam wisely ignores.

Izmir is largely constructed on the steep slopes of the hills that ring three sides of an enormous bay. We end up at a modern harbour side shopping complex that is basically identical to every other harbour side shopping complex I have ever been in.

By now I am done with walking for walking’s sake and Pam placates me with an offer of lunch at one of the expensive waterfront restaurants.

Luckily our meal is truly delicious for it is by far the most expensive lunch we have had on the entire trip.

I take my second and last photo in Izmir as proof we were actually here.

2014-06-04 13.49.56

Returning to the footbridge we discover that someone has idiotically tried to cross the busy road in the manner I had so recently jokingly suggested and has been mowed down by the relentless traffic. Flashing lights of the attending ambulance highlight the sheet covered form on the gurney, this does not bode well.

Suggesting an alternate route for our return journey we plunge into the labyrinthine market filled back streets and are soon hopelessly lost. Completely by accident, hours later we miraculously end up back in the little square where our friend is seemingly a permanent fixture and I earn another thumbs up as we pass by.

Evening finds us both so tired that neither of us can contemplate going out in search of food.

In readiness for tomorrow morning I have plotted an absolute shortest street route back to the train station where hopefully we will be uneventfully spirited back to Adnan Menderes Airport.

Istanbul here we come.

Ready or not.

PLL

Pam and Mick

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s