Planet View: N37°56.915’ E27°22.079’
Street View: N37°56.915’ E27°22.079’
Temperature: 28°C (82°F)
Three buses and about four hours up the Aegean coast took us from Bodrum to Selcuk, the quaint country town a couple of kilometers from the famous ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. We only had one night in Selcuk, mainly to visit Ephesus, so we had Alibaba the owner of the local carpet shop and brother of one of the owners of our pansiyon give us a ride to the southern end of the ruins. Ephesus is an absolute tourist mecca, luxury buses from the nearby port town of Kusadasi (one of the interchange points for our dolmus ride) transport holidaymakers from cruise ships to walk through the ruins for the afternoon, so even in the early high season the place was packed. The tour guides speak seven languages, we felt like we were solidly on the tourist trail for the first time while we were visiting the ruins.
The ancient city of Ephesus (N37°56.704’ E27°20.342’) if the best-preserved Roman city in the Mediterranean. In its prime it was the trading and cultural center of the cult of Cybele, an Anatolian fertility goddess. We overheard one of the tour guides explaining that a lot of the intricate stone carvings in the city signify freedom of sexuality. When the Romans conquered over the area and declared it part of Asia, Ephesus became the Roman provincial capital. While the city has had a number of different societies call it home over the past couple of millennia, the main portion of the ruins were constructed by the Romans around the second century AD.
A walk through the ruins for the afternoon really gave us a feeling of what it would have been like during Roman times. Extensive colonnaded streets, an amphitheater with capacity of 25000, a huge central marketplace with a road leading to the city’s inland harbor, the city was a sight to behold. Perhaps the most publicized ruin remaining is the front wall of the Library of Celsus (Lisa and I are pictured sitting in it below), the facade is still in very good shape and the intricacy of the writing carved into the stonework was great to see. Unfortunately the city’s harbor and stadium are permanently closed to tourists, but our two-and-a-half hour walk certainly was a fun trip back in time.
As most of the visitors to Ephesus seem to flock from cruise ships and luxurious resorts on the coast, Selcuk (which is only about two kilometers away) remains off the beaten path and thus retains its welcoming Turkish culture and fantastic food. There are a few pansiyons and up-market guest houses about the place, catering to holidaymakers and backpackers alike, but for the most part the people we saw in the streets were Turkish. It’s a fantastic little town, the start of the line for the train into the bustling metropolis of Izmir to the north, the town center is a mix of trinket shops and a strip of eateries surrounding a fountain. We stayed at the ANZ Guest House which is run by an Turkish Aussie who moved to Turkey after growing up Down Under (who was actually a bit of a tit) and his more-than-friendly partner Murat (Alibaba’s brother). On the recommendation (again) of the Lonely Planet we ate dinner at Edjer Restaurant, it’s probably the best meal we’ve had in Turkey so far! Fried eggplant, sarmas (very similar to Greek dolmas), lamb shish and our first sampling of Turkish yoghurt, the food was just to die for. The family running the place were great: the father takes care of the meat, the mother the vegetables and the boys comprise the wait staff. Next stop: Istanbul.
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