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Published: November 23rd 2021
We are here in Turkey on a 90-day visa, therefore decided to stay for most of it in order to fit in some travel around Turkey. High on our list to get to was the archeological site of Ephesus as we had heard from many others it was definitely worth seeing. There are other places along the Turkish coast that we will more than likely get to next season that are closer to Ephesus, but with extra time and less tourists here now, we decided it was worth the extra travel time to do it now. We found we could easily catch a daytime bus from Marmaris to Aydin so we could actually see some of the scenery on this trip. We could leave at 8:30AM and get to Aydin by 11:40AM, then wait about 30 minutes to catch a mini-bus (a van) for the rest of the trip to the town of Selcuk which is the closest to Ephesus. We have been finding bus service has been excellent here in Turkey and very inexpensive. Our round trip to Aydin cost $30 total for us both (remember that was a 3-hour bus trip) and the round trip on the mini-bus was
about $3.50 total for both of us (1 hour trip). We know many people prefer to rent a car, but we like the bus travel as you can relax, see the sights and even read or sleep if you want to (and not bother with figuring out directions or dealing with traffic). The bus between Marmaris and Aydin was a large commercial bus that you can charge your electronics on and they even serve beverages and snacks – what a deal!
I have included a map of our journey from Marmaris to Selcuk in the photos showing the topography of our travels through some mountainous areas as well as valleys. As the photos were taken while on a moving bus, hope that they at least give you an idea of the beauty of the area we passed through. We are impressed that the road systems here seem to be in very good condition, even if some have quite the switch back turns due to the mountain passes (but that would be true in any mountainous area)
We found a very nice Airbnb in Selcuk that had a wonderful host (Sevgi) who made you feel welcome as
soon as you set foot in the door. Her place was in an excellent location within walking distance to town, shops and restaurants and she even has a wonderful view of the castle from her living room balcony. Her English was very good which allowed us to have some wonderful discussions and she provided us with some lovely traditional food as well. The first night we were invited to meet some of her family which was a nice bonus as her niece was getting her first puppy so we waited to meet her, the new puppy, her parents, an uncle and her grandfather. A very nice bonus for us to be included in this family gathering!
In researching Selcuk we found there were a few other sights we could take in so that first afternoon we stopped for lunch and then headed out to see St. John’s Basilica and the Ayasuluk Castle, both on the World Heritage list since 2015. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, but still cool so a great day to be hiking around the hillside in Selcuk. The bascilica was built in the 6th
C. AD by Emperor Justinian (who reigned from 527-565 AD) and
Queen Theodora as they believed that a tomb where St. John the Evangelist was buried was located here and wanted to build a church over the site. They built a 6-dome church in the form of a cross – a model of what it would have looked at is located at the site to get a better of idea of it as the actual site now is in ruins.
St. John was expelled from Jerusalem and he and the Virgin Mary came to live the rest of their lives in Ephesus. St. John spent many years here and wanted to be buried in this location. With it honoring St. John, this site became a Christian pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, by the 12th
C. it was in disrepair and needed much work to be done to it. The Turks took over this area in 1304 and decided to convert the church to a mosque, but earthquakes in 1365-1370 destroyed much of it. Excavations of the site did not begin until 1921 and the fortifications and surrounding areas were worked on between 1960-2006. Archeological work is still continuing to this day on both the bascilica and the castle
which is located up further on this same hill.
As you enter the site there is a fortification that surrounds it which was built in the 7th
century to protect Ephesus against Arab attacks. The gate that remains which was the main entry is the Pursuit Gate and can still be seen as quite a strategic deterrent. As this was located on a hill in Selcuk and it was a clear day we were treated to some beautiful scenery of the area. It is obvious that much of the valley is farmed with crops and we also noticed many olive and citrus trees as well.
Farther up the hill from the St. John Bascilica you reach the Ayasuluk Castle which was built in 6th
C. AD. This area had been used much earlier as told by the numerous pottery shards that were found here. The archeologists as a result have determined that as these pieces date from the Early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC) as well as from the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1500 BC) this area may have been the original settlement in the area. The general consensus is that the settlement then moved in 560 BC
as the harbor had started to silt in and went to the current location of Ephesus. Even with the move of the settlement, the citadel became important again in the 7th
C. AD as it contained a palace, cisterns to hold valuable water, a mosque, houses and a Turkish bath as well as a fortified wall with 17 towers for security.
Even though we read these dates at numerous places we have been, it is still hard to comprehend how old these settlements are. The details that are still visible on the stone carvings after all these centuries are truly impressive. I don’t think we will ever get over our sense of awe of what they built. We also keep thinking of the archeologist that work on these sites trying to put all the clues together.
The first evening while we were out having dinner, we received a message from Sevgi that we could join her at her brother’s hotel to meet some of her family. They were waiting for her niece to bring by a new puppy she was just getting that evening. It was very nice of her to include us so we went over and
enjoyed a glass of homemade wine while talking to her father who is a retired police chief (who spoke very good English). Mira and her parents then showed up with the new puppy, a poodle they named “Sushi”. We went up to the lobby of the hotel with them and met Sevgi’s brother as well. We stayed for a while and then left to go back and leave the family to visit. Again, a nice way to meet more wonderful people – always a great part of our travels!
The next day we knew would be a long one as we always take quite a bit of time going through historic sites and with the size of Ephesus, we knew we would need the day to take it in. The site is about a 40- minute walk from town, but with the amount of walking we knew would be ahead we walked to the bus station instead and caught a small mini-bus over (costing a whooping 5 TL total for the 2 of us – equal to less than 50 cents). There were numerous people offering to guide through the site, but we always like to go at our
own pace and as they had an option of getting an audio guide, we chose to do that. The entrance fee for Ephesus and an extra fee for the Terrace Houses (which I had read was worth the fee) plus audio guide was 160 TL each (about $14). We never mind paying these fees as it helps with the future development of these amazing sites. There are two entrances, one at the lower end and one at the higher one. Again, in doing my research ahead of time I found out that the suggested way to do this is to enter at the lower gate early in the day as many of the more important sights to see are at this end and the tour groups enter from the upper end. In this way, the places you really want to spend time at are less crowded. Even though you will have to walk uphill, it is not a difficult one and with the numerous stops along the way, you hardly notice that you are going uphill. As you have to leave an ID at the entrance when you take an audio-guide, you need to return to the same entrance giving
you a second chance to see places that you may have missed on the way up. We found that the information that I read was indeed spot on and worked out very well for us. In the beginning there were very few people and we actually didn’t see any tour groups until we were almost to the upper exit. There is a port town nearby that cruise ships come to so many of the tour groups are from those ships. With covid, they hadn’t been coming, but we did read in the news that just this past week 2 cruise ships had arrived so more would be coming. It is definitely good news for the country to have more visitors, but not for the crowds that seem to take over the space when they walk through a place. We definitely were glad we started our exploration of the area soon after they opened up in the morning.
One thing that is important to note about Ephesus was that it was a very important Aegean port city in the 6th
C. BC. Its importance as a trade port connecting Europe, Asia and Africa lasted as long as there was a
viable port, but unfortunately the harbor silted in over the years so today the site of Ephesus now sits 3 miles from the sea which caused its decline. At its zenith Ephesus had a population of 250,000. This area remained dormant from 1450 – 1950 when archeologists from the UK and Austria started to investigate the area.
With that many centuries of history it is not surprising that this area was under the control of numerous people – it was controlled by the Athenians, the Greeks, the Persians, then the Greeks again which is when it became a quasi-democratic city. There was a brief period of control by the Egyptians and then the Romans in 133 BC. In 27 BC the Roman Emperor Augustus proclaimed Ephesus the capital of the Asian province and it became one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. It even was one of three cities to install street lighting! We found out that most of the remaining buildings we see today are from the Roman period and honor many Roman administrators and wealthy patrons.
Needless to say, there is an amazing amount of history here not only with the various rulers, but
also with the division between pagan beliefs, the introduction of Christianity, a thriving Jewish community and Muslim beliefs. Even though we have read much on the area, listened to the audio guide and read all the signboards, there is so much to try to keep straight that I will not even attempt to provide any details of the history of the area. Those that are interested can find lots of information on this area as it has become a very popular tourist destination.
I will try to highlight a few of the well-known locations here in Ephesus. When you enter from the lower gate you very quickly come to what is known at the Arcadiane, the 500 meter (about 1/3 mile) long street that connected the harbor to the Grand Theatre. As mentioned earlier this harbor silted in and the sea is now 3 miles away from this location hitting home how much silt settled in and eventually destroyed this as an important and very thriving port city. We have seen numerous theatres on our travels, but this one in Ephesus was almost overwhelming in size. It is said to have been able to seat 24,000 people. It, like
many of the others, was used for a multitude of purposes -originally for religious and political events and then later when Christianity and Pagan beliefs clashed, gladiator battles were held here as well. There was a smaller theatre at the other end of Ephesus, but by that time in our day, we decided to not even enter that theatre so no photos of that one.
One of the most impressive buildings here in Ephesus is the Celsus Library. When it was built in 117AD it had to be squeezed into a small area between two building. They used an ingenious design to create an optical illusion making it look like it was bigger than it was in reality. To accomplish this, they made the columns at the sides of the building shorter than those in the center. It was also built as a 2-story building and had individual niches to be able to hold up to 12,000 scrolls safe from humidity. It had an impressive entrance with sets of Corinthian columns and numerous statutes to represent wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and valor, all virtues of Celsus (the governor of the province) whom the library was built in memory of (and
holds his tomb). We had seen numerous photos of it when doing our research on the area, but it was still more impressive in person.
To the right of the Celsus Library there is the Mazeus Mithridates Gate which leads into the Agora (a central gathering place for social and political activity as well as shops). It is quite an elaborate gate with many stone carvings. It is named after the two men that had been enslaved, but recently emancipated. They built the gate in honor of their former master. We were told on the audio-guide that there is an inscription on it with a stern warning “whoever urinates here will be tried in court”. This was to indicate that those that enter the agora should do so with respect and reverently! Amazing what the archeologists find!
One area that we purchased an extra ticket for was entrance to the Terrace Houses. We found that the oldest of these was built in 1 C. BC and that they were used as residence until the 7th
C. AD. Fortunately, there was funding a few years ago to build a protective structure over some of the residence that have been
uncovered to protect the numerous friezes and mosaics within. There are 6 residential units all built on three terraces into the hillside, but only 2 of them have been restored and are open to the public. They have much more to discover on the terrace nearby with the other residences. These were definitely for the wealthy of Ephesus as they were able to demonstrate with the numerous paintings and mosaics throughout the houses. The houses also had a heating system with clay pipes buried beneath the floor and into the walls carrying hot air to the various rooms. They also had the luxury of hot and cold water.
We have seen many mosaics and friezes on our travels, but we found that this was the largest concentration we have seen in one location. These were only uncovered in the early 1960’s and therefore many are in excellent condition. As with artwork throughout the ages, these also help tell the story of the times. Historians have learned more about the plants and animals of the times, the fashions people were wearing at the time, and who was being revered enough to be honored by being shown in a mosaic or
Upper Left - When Artemis Statute Was Uncovered
on the right, a copy that stands in the town of Selcuk
frieze. The display was very well done as it allowed us to see many of the areas but yet protected the work with staircases and floors made of glass in order to see the mosaics underneath our feet.
We saw numerous temples, fountains, baths and even the public latrine – way too many things to explain, but hopefully some of the photos will give you a glimpse of what we were able to learn about during our day in Ephesus. As all places have now moved to winter hours with most of the tourists gone, we knew we had to be done by 5PM, which actually worked out well as by about 4 we were ready to get off our feet. We were just very glad that it was a dry day as we kept thinking how slippery and dangerous it would be walking around on all the marble walkways. The temperature was perfect as well so if we were going to recommend to anyone going to Ephesus, we would definitely tell them to go off season to avoid the crowds and the heat.
For those of you that decide to come to the area there are other
sights to take in such as the House of the Virgin Mary, the Isa Bey Mosque, The Temple of Artemis and the Ephesus Archeological Museum. We typically would have taken in the museum but with only a few hours the next morning and knowing how slowly we go through a museum to absorb as much as possible, we knew we would have felt rushed and would not have enjoyed doing it that way. Maybe we will just have to go back another time to take the museum in as it sounds like many of the items found at Ephesus are on display there.
We had no idea of a schedule for a bus back into Selcuk from Ephesus, but when we got close to the bus shelter there was a gentleman there that told us to wait and he made contact with the bus company. After there were enough us ready to return to town, a mini-bus came and carried us back to town – a great service! Instead of going straight back to the apartment, we decided to find a place for a cup of tea and possibly a small dessert. We finally found a small bakery and
Plenty of Stork Nest in Selcuk
must be something to see when they are nesting
bought a piece of baklava and tried a couple of their almond cookies. We had asked for tea and found out that they didn’t serve tea. We said that was OK, but were told it wasn’t a problem and the woman went across the street to get us some tea from a small café. That is definitely service! By this time, we were ready to head back to the apartment to get warmer clothes on as it definitely cools off quickly when the sun goes down. When we saw the bed, we decided maybe just a short nap would fit the bill as well.
About 8PM we headed out to find a place to eat. Unfortunately, so many of the places we walked by only had outside dining areas. With the temperature dropping we decided we’d continue walking and try to find a place with seating inside. Finally, we found a place – there weren’t any menus that we could see but the gentleman that helped us spoke perfect English! We noticed later there were numerous photos of him at a younger age while he was traveling to various cities in Europe and the US.
Bob always likes
a kebab as his fall-back meal if he doesn’t know what else is on the menu at every place serves those! My fall back has been kofte (a Turkish meatball that doesn’t look anything like a meatball but taste great!) I ordered this but was told that they have a great chicken stir fry. I wasn’t sure about a stir fry in Turkey, but decided to give a try – I’m sure glad I did. As he told me, you can get kofte anywhere, but you can’t always get stir fry. It was definitely not an Asian style stir fry, but chicken and veggies with very different spicing served in a wok. A real bonus was that we were also given a lovely plate of appetizers to start our meal with – very generous indeed! For both meals, a glass of wine and a beer it came to a total of 15.85. We know we are being spoiled here and will be in sticker shock when we get back to the US. The great thing here is not only the price, but the freshness of the food that we are eating – it really can’t be beat!
Lemons Are Definitely in Season
as well as lovely roses and citrus trees around town
out to be a nice little town as it was easy to walk around in, the train and bus station are very handy and everyone was helpful. We even walked by a carpet shop and before the salesperson asked us to stop in, Bob told him that we already have too many carpets. This time the gentleman just laughed and told us that in that case he’ll have to come to our place to buy carpets! Further on our walk we came across a woman pushing a cart through town. When we crossed the street, she had stopped and a young gentleman had joined her and joked with us posing with a pinwheel and broom for us without even asking – a very friendly couple of people that just enjoyed joking around!
Unfortunately, our time was up and we had to get to the bus station to catch the mini-bus back to Aydin to make our connection to our next bus. Everything worked like clock-work and both buses left on time so we were back in the marina by 6PM. A great couple of days outing.
Now we will have to work on that “to do list”
Signs that It Gets Cold Here
with winter coats and plenty of stoves for sale
in order to get everything set to haul the boat out of the water on November 30th
. Instead of living on the boat on the hard we decided to rent an apartment in town for a few days until our flight to Istanbul on December 5th
. We needed a few more days here to get work done on Tsamaya while on the hard so with having shuttle buses between the marina and town that will work out well. I also have to squeeze in a little time to do some more research on what we want to see in Istanbul as will be there a couple of days. The other item we have to schedule is a covid test before we can board the plane back the US on December 9th
All in all, a great getaway and an enjoyable and educational trip to visit Ephesus, St. John’s Bascilica and the Castle in Selcuk – not bad for the amount of time we were gone.
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