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Published: November 9th 2015
Our train pulled into Selçuk station just over 3 hours after leaving Denizli. We then walked across the tracks (after the train left!) and made our way to our hotel which was about 1km away.
As we walked through the door we were met by the very friendly owner of our hotel and his puppy Lokum (Turkish delight). We checked in and got his recommendation on what we should do with our time in Selçuk before heading up to our room to relax for a bit.
That evening we had dinner at the restaurant recommended by our hotel; we ordered some lentil soup to start as well as a mixed grill (various different kebabs and a token bit of salad) for Scott and a fried aubergine stuffed with onions, tomato and rice for me. My dinner was so delicious; possibly my favourite of the trip so far. As we ate we were surrounded by 2 kittens and 3 cats all making ‘feed me, I love you’ eyes at us so we’d give them offcuts of our dinner.
The following morning we headed out to check out the sights of Selçuk. We started at the Basilica of St John
which was built during the reign of a Byzantine emperor; construction commenced in 548 and was completed in 565 AD. Apparently the emperor was inspired to build the Basilica when he heard that St John (John the Apostle – one of the 12 disciples) had spent time at Ephesus twice during his life (including his final days). He built the Basilica over the ruins of an old church which was believed to be built over St Johns tomb. There isn’t a lot of the Basilica left; despite extensive restoration having been undertaken the building is still largely in ruins. Whilst there we befriended a cat, fed her some cat food and had a cuddle while sitting in the sun.
From the Basilica we made our way up the hill towards the Ayasuluk Fortress. The fortress, which sits on top of one of the hills, was built by the Byzantines. The fortress walls have been almost entirely rebuilt; the point at which the original wall ends and the restoration begins has been marked with a thin line of red tiles built into the wall. Extensive archaeological excavation is ongoing at the site and they have apparently discovered some ruins of
castles dating back beyond the time when Ephesus was settled. The view from behind the walls over the surrounding countryside was fantastic.
From the Ayasuluk Fortress we made our way back through the Basilica and to Isa Bey Camii Mosque which was constructed in 1375. We took some photos in the courtyard of the mosque but chose not to go inside.
From the mosque we headed into the town to have some lunch, before heading back to the hotel to relax for a little while prior to tackling Selçuk’s main drawcard, Ephesus. At about 2:30 we caught a taxi to the upper gate of Ephesus, purchased our tickets and headed into the massive complex.
Ephesus was the capital of Roman Asia Minor; at its peak there were an estimated 250,000 people living in the city. The city was founded in the 10th
century BC, and eventually abandoned in the 15th
century AD though it’s population had dwindled significantly long before that. Only about 18%!o(MISSING)f the site has been excavated which, given how massive the complex is, gives you some appreciation of how impressive it must have been during its prime.
We made our way down
through the site past the Varius Baths (where visitors to the city washed before entering), the Upper Agora (a large square used for political discussions), the Odeon (5000 seat theatre), the Prytaneum (where virgins kept the city’s eternal flame alight), the Asclepion (side street leading to the hospital), Temple of Domitian (which was demolished when the unpopular leader Domitian died) and the Pollio Fountain.
From there we turned onto the Curetes Way (the main street of Ephesus) where we walked past Hercules’ Gate (constructed to prevent wagons entering the Curates Way), the Trajan Fountain (constructed for the honour of Emperor Trajan), the Men’s Latrines (which could fit 50 men at one time), and the Temple of Hadrian (with intricate carvings of Medusa, Tyche and a representation of Ephesus’ foundation myth).
When we reached the Terraced Houses we opted to pay the additional 15TL (7.50AUD) entry fee which was well worth it. The seven well Roman homes are quite well preserved; the paintings on the interior walls can still be seen. Apparently the Terraced Houses, which were built by the Romans, were constructed over a graveyard.
From the Terraced Houses we continued past the Brothel (no explanation necessary)
towards one of the most impressive structures at Ephesus; the Library of Celsus. The impressive façade of the library appears to be largely intact, but apparently a lot of the statues are replicas of the originals which are in a museum in Austria. The library was constructed in the early 2nd
century AD and was the third largest ancient library.
From the Library we headed down the Marble Street (another main thoroughfare) past the Lower Agora (food and textile market) to the Great Theatre. The Theatre could seat 25,000 people (which apparently supports estimates of Ephesus peak population – archaeologists multiply theatre capacity by 10).
From the Great Theatre we made our way down the Harbour Street which was built by a Byzantine emperor during his reign from 395 – 408 AD in an attempt to revive the fading city. We backtracked a little and headed back to the Library in an attempt to get some photos without people in them as the number of tourists had dwindled significantly. Finally, about 2.5hours after entering the site, we headed out the lower gate and walked back towards Selçuk.
Ephesus was a very impressive site; some other interesting aspects
include the extensive drainage network and sewerage system running throughout the site. It’d be interesting to return in another 30 years or so and see how much more they have uncovered.
After dinner we spent a few hours chatting to the owner of our hotel about Turkish politics, life in Turkey and various other random topics including favourite TV shows.
The following morning we had a fairly slow start before we set out for the Ephesus Museum. The museum contains artefacts from Ephesus including jewellery, coins, pottery and statues. The museum was smaller than I had expected; it seems that a lot of the artefacts from Ephesus are in museums overseas.
From the museum we headed to the Temple of Artemis which is one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. The temple, which was originally constructed in 6th
century BC, was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction through an act of arson in 401 AD. Fortunately I had researched this beforehand as if we had turned up expecting an awe inspiring temple we would have been sorely disappointed by the lone column in a paddock surrounded by some rubble.
We stopped for
pide on the way back to our hotel before spending the rest of the afternoon lazing around (we ventured out for a walk and to pick up some baklava and dough balls soaked in sugar syrup).
For dinner that night we headed back to the same restaurant we had visited on our first evening in Selçuk. After dinner we packed up ready to depart the following morning.
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