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Published: March 21st 2015
Another belated blog...these were so easy to write when backpacking...but so much more difficult to get round to when you're on holiday or living and working in a country. Anyway, in May we had 10 days holiday from our jobs in Odessa. We had planned on travelling to Crimea....but I'm sure anyone reading this knows why we changed our plans. So, with friends living in Istanbul and further friends currently living in England, but on holiday in the country at the same time - we set off for a May break in Turkey!! And this is what happened.... Fast and convenient e-visas
Istanbul is just a teeny flight from Odessa at just over an hour and we flew in with Turkish Airlines. On arrival we had to process our visas and despite having bought them online in advance to make the transaction smooth and effortless....we waited in a queue in Istanbul airport for about an hour and a half. It was mental. Standing there in one of those zig-zagged queues you get in airports with the flimsy metal and rope barriers and watching usually normal civilised people turn into queue-jumping hooligans
. I'm sorry, maybe I'm being British, but come
on, we all want to get through the queue. Seeing a grinning party of middle-aged people in front of you beckoning 10 of their friends to duck under the rope and join them in front of us made my blood boil and my eye twitch with rage....
Of course, I said nothing. Being British. I left it to a more outspoken woman of unknown European nationality to dramatically shout 'SECURITY!! HELP!!! THESE PEOPLE ARE JUMPING THE QUEUE!'.
We tittered at her drawing attention to herself..and then tittered again at the offending respectable looking man in his 50s being sent back down the line by security. Ha! The embarrassment!! I shook my head. Just subtly enough so he wouldn't see and it wouldn't cause a fuss. Then we settled in and made the best of it. If only we'd had a flask of tea... On to Selcuk (pronounced 'SelChuck' - sorta..)
After finally getting our visas we passed through to our connecting flight to Izmir with Pegasus Airways and from there got a train to Selcuk - our first port of call. The train was brilliant and it was a really easy journey through some lovely
countryside. We arrived into the small town of Selcuk and made our way to our hotel on foot.
Selcuk is a really picturesque town surrounded by mountains and countryside and made up of a lot of narrow winding streets peppered with ancient ruins. The occasional line of stone pillars will suddenly cross a road providing perfect nesting spots for the huge birds that populate the area during this time of year. This ruined ancient architecture is key to Selcuk's attraction as it is the main town near the honeypot site of Ephesus. But more on that later.
We stayed in a small hotel called Rebetika
where we were greeted by Suleyman and Ebor, our hosts. Only having a couple of days in town, we immediately booked a day trip to Ephesus for the next day and we were then directed over the road to a restaurant to dine on BBQed meat prepared by a charismatic chef with too many cats which terrified the East Asian couple next to us
. But the food was great.
The next day, after a buffet breakfast on the sunny roof terrace with a view of the mountains we popped downstairs to reception
before joining our tour and bumped into Ebor from the hotel. We noticed that on the reception counter there was a bottle of Thai rum. Not Sang Som - the other brand. I can't remember the name. Hong Thong or something..? Anyway, we commented on this and it turns out Ebor, a Turkish guy from Selcuk, spends a lot of his time in Thailand! So we chatted about living there too and places we'd visited. He then revealed he was organising Thailand's first import of Turkish raki which was at that very moment in a container on a ship sailing in that direction!
Anyway, on with Ephesus... Ancient Ephesus
So after chatting to Ebor about Thailand for a while our tour bus arrived and we boarded and met our guide and set off for the ruins and various other sites of interest. The first being a house where Mary had lived.
Yup, THAT Mary. Jesus's Mary. Apparently there's a house outside of the town where she lived for a bit. Which was nice. And obviously there's some water there with healing properties. So, feeling refreshed and healed, we set off for the main attraction.
I could give you a detailed historical account of the origins of Ephesus. I could, for example tell you that it was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan
capital by Attic
Greek colonists. I could also say that during the Classical Greek
era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League
. Maybe I'd even show off and matter-of-factly mention that the city was famed for the Temple of Artemis
(completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
. However, if I told you that in 268 AD, the Temple was damaged in a raid by the Goths
...I'd have to resist the temptation to make a goth joke relating to wearing white make-up and black clothes. Anyway, needless to say...all of the above has been lifted from Wikipedia, so if you want the detailed history you know where to go. For the remainder of this section I'll just tell you about what I saw and experienced.
Our tour bus dropped us at the entrance to the ancient city next to a load of shops selling souvenirs, drinks and 'Genuine Fake Watches'
and from here we started our walk through the ruins. True to
the word of our guide there are no facilities inside the city so he advised us to carry water and make sure we were covered up from the heat of the sun as it would take 2 hours from one side to the other. He was right. My parents had been to this part of Turkey in August and told me their Ephesus trip was cancelled because it was too hot. I can see why this would be the case. Luckily in May it was probably just right and we wandered around spectacular stone pillars (populated by hundreds of stray cats, surprisingly) and down an ancient high street and by an incredible amphitheatre. All breathtaking when you think of the age of these structures - particularly the library - see pics!
As I said, my parents have been to this part of Turkey before and my mam said to me on the phone before I went 'Kris! You must go to the brothel!'.
She doesn't say that to me when I visit just anywhere, so I knew this brothel must be particularly special. Basically there is one of the oldest adverts in the world preserved at Ephesus and it's
for a brothel opposite the library (conveniently). There's the imprint of a foot on the pavement and to find out if you're old enough/big enough to go to the brothel you have to see if the imprint fits your foot. Obviously the picture is protected so people can't stick their foot in it...but I'm pretty sure I passed the test. I mean, if I had wanted to visit an ancient brothel, I could. Which I don't. Obviously. Anyway, it's closed, so..... Shall we move on..? Extras on an Ephesus tour
So you buy a full day Ephesus tour. A big bus pulls up in the morning with a guide and they take you to all the famous sites, as you'd imagine, right? Yeah, well there's also a few other stops that might be of interest. Very informative stops where maybe, just maybe, you might be tempted to buy something...While some people might find these stops annoying we actually quite liked them. You were under no obligation to buy and they were all quite entertaining. Here are the highlights... Carpets
We stopped at a carpet 'workshop'. Yes! Carpets! Everyone's favourite holiday souvenir right
? I personally
like to pick one up wherever I go... yeah, I'm joking. Anyway, the workshop allegedly trained people in the ancient art of carpet-making (what's that called? I was drawn to the word 'carpentry', but know that's not right). The owner warmly welcomed us and took us on a little tour showing us how silk was made and spun from the pupal case of a silk moth (Bombyx mori
, if you're interested..) and told us how silk was stolen from China by some Ottoman traders in the distant past. So far so good!
Then we were taken to the show room. At this point carpet after carpet was spectacularly unfurled (that's what carpets do) at speed across the wide wooden floor while we sipped some apple tea. It's quite impressive how fast these blokes did the unfurling. I never knew it was a thing people did. So we oo-ed and ah-ed at the workmanship and the colourful designs...and then declined to buy any and got back on the bus. Olive oil and Turkish delight
Next on the trip was a stop at a shop specialising in olive oil and a huge variety of Turkish delight. We wandered in
and looked around and thought it all looked too quiet....then from out of nowhere came a huge and hugely flamboyant man in a suit with a huge mane of curly hair. He made a noise like a large bird
. I can't really record it in words. Sorta like a big eagle or something. Just as I was wondering if he worked here or if we were actually in physical danger he took his position behind a huge table laden with multicoloured sweets and bottles of oil and beckoned us to look at his wares. Again, he made the bird noise. Seemed to be his 'thing'. I think Lenny Henry used to do something similar. Anyway...he passed around complementary Turkish delight and samples of fruit teas and explained the amazing health giving properties of every item. And again he did the honking bird call. At one point he made us wash our hands with olive oil and rubbed it through his luxurious lion's mane - suggesting that if we did the same we could have hair like him too (bird call). This actually quite put me off. Then in a flash he was gone out the door for a fag, the
The Temple of Artemis
One of the Ancient Wonders of the World is also near Selcuk, but largely destroyed.
performance over, and we were left to peruse the produce for a few minutes (without buying). Then we got back on the bus. Leather
I've saved the best for last. The last stop was at a 'Leather Fashion House'. I sniggered, imagining some weird fetish show...and then as we were led into a darkened room to sit in seats surrounding a long 'catwalk' I had flashbacks to something in Thailand and wondered what was about to happen.
It was a leather fashion show of course!! No, not leather bras and masks - mainly coats. Lights flashed, music played and a procession of male and female models strided before us clad in leatherwear. An amazing gimmick of this particular company was that all the items seemed to be convertible. Yeah, like leathery transformers. A girl would come out carrying a black leather handbag casually slung over her shoulder....and then...in flourish of flapping leather - it was a small jacket! The awe! Coats turned into bags and bags turned into coats repeatedly
. I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the next thrill - would someone turn some leather trousers into a leather umbrella??
never happened. But they did organise some audience participation. This is why I never sit at the front and usually avoid eye contact - I'm not fun
, you see? Actually that's a lie, I once saw Harry Hill live in Bradford and I would have happily gone on stage to have dressed as a 'hamster in a chiffon top' - but I was sitting too far back. Opportunity missed. Anyway, they dragged two 'more-fun' people out and took them back stage and clad them in leather and made them frolic and gyrate with the models. Not for me...
And with that, the lights came on and we were taken through a hidden door to the 'showroom' - a big shop full of leather jackets (that could probably be changed into bags - or, who knows, maybe small cars. I avoided any of the ridiculously expensive ones - they'd be the jacket-cars I guess). The salesman then presented us with various grades of leather, inviting us to caress the material. Which we did (again, a bit fetishy..). Then afterwards as we were fondling a particularly soft piece of jacket he said ...
'This is our highest quality leather'
...we cooed our agreement. 'It's made entirely from the skin of baby lamb's necks'
Bloody hell. Several people recoiled at the thought of wearing a jacket made completely of sewn together lamb necks. But not the salesman. He loved it.
...and then we smiled and got back on the bus......without buying anything.
All in all a successful trip round Ephesus.
PS The raki shipment made it to Thailand while were still in Selcuk according to Ebor. If you're in Thailand now and see a Turkish restaurant in Bangkok - see if there's any left.
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