Moving on from Bergama (where I spent two days walking through ruins) I arrived in Selcuk… where I was to spend even more time walking through ruins.
I jumped off the bus, and feeling a bit lazy this time, and not 100% sure where my accommodation was anyhow, I opted for a taxi ride to the hotel. I was dropped off at what was basically a plain brown door built into a white wall, literally on the edge of the street. The owner opened the door to greet me and took me through to where I could get a full appreciation of this amazing view that I was to enjoy over the next few days.
This hotel itself was very picturesque and Mediterranean looking (even though he hadn’t filled the fountain yet). The rooms were a bit meh but the owner and his family were awesome which more than made up for it.
By the time I got sorted at the hotel, it was mid-afternoon, which gave me a couple of hours to head into town and knock off a couple of the sites to see before my big day at the ruins the next day.
As I walked down the hill, I soon spotted the remains of the old aqueducts from the Roman/Byzantine period, used to carry water from the slopes of the hill where I was staying, over to Ayasuluk hill, where the castle is. What’s interesting is that between March and September, migrating storks take up residence in their nests built along the top of the aqueducts. I think the town put metal frames on top in which the storks build their nest.
First stop, after gawking at the storks, was to make my way over the Basilica of St John (or St John Church). The church was built over the tomb of St John and whilst quite impressive in its glory days, there’s not much left of it now.
The large Ayasuluk fortress/castle that dominates the city is supposedly accessed via the Church, but there were signs saying that is was closed. I asked at the ticket booth and I couldn’t understand the full story, but she said that it was closed but I could ask at the gate to be let in. So, not one to turn down a challenge, that’s what I did. After wandering through the church, I followed the short dirt path leading up to the fortress. There was a security guard standing there so I asked him what the story was. He couldn’t really speak English, but nodded and said to follow him. So I did. He opened the padlocked fence and took me into the castle for my own very private tour!
He tried to explain a few things to me in broken English and fluent Turkish. I had read about the castle ahead of time so could kind of put together some key things he was telling me. Excavations started in 1990 and they have only just opened the castle to the public, albeit on a limited basis, by the looks of it.
After my little private tour of the castle, I headed a bit further down the hill to the Isa Bey Mosque. It looked nice, but it didn’t strike me as being anything special, especially after seeing the ornate mosques in Istanbul.
Next, was the Temple of Artemis, reportedly one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But on the way, I passed a few thing of interest – like the Isa Bey Hamam – or Turkish Bath. It was built in the mid 14th century, used for 60-80 years before being used as a cemetery. Unfortunately it was closed so I couldn’t get in to have a look (and no nice security guard to use my charms on).
And so on to the Temple of Artemis. Remember I said it was reportedly one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? I’m not sure what criteria they use to put something on the official Seven Wonders list, but this is what it supposedly looked like back in its day:
Yep, it looked pretty impressive. And here is what I found after walking across town in search of this Wonder.
Hmmm…. Not quite as impressive now. That’s the castle and mosque in the background (on the right) and the St John Church (directly behind it). Back in the day, when all the structures were complete, they really would have made a spectacular sight to see.
The Ephesus ruins
So whilst all of the above were somewhat interesting and pleasant to explore, I was really here to see the Ephesus ruins, the main drawcard for coming to Selcuk. And that’s what I did the next day. Me and everyone else.
My heart sank when I jumped off the bus and into the carpark. There wasn’t just a couple of buses like I saw in Bergama. There were dozens. I wasn’t impressed. But there’s nothing you can do about it – and I just thanked my lucky stars that it wasn’t even the busy season yet. It’s only April – the height of the tourist season is July/August so I can only imagine what bedlam reigns then.
Oh well, as they say, if you can’t beat them, then join them. And so I did.
Ephesus, the capital of Roman Asia Minor, and was once a vibrant city with a population of over 250,000 and is now considered the most complete restored metropolis in Europe. It is huge, and I have to say, very impressive. No wonder it’s so popular.
I won’t bore you with all the history and the zillion of pictures of more crumbling ruins – you can check the slideshow for those. But they were impressive, and I’ll just show you some of the more interesting highlights here.
Of course, the most spectacular and instantly recognisable (to most people, I think?) was the Celsus Library, built in 135AD. There are four statues standing between the columns, each personifying the virtues of Celsus: Wisdom, Virtue, Intelligence and Knowledge. Some are missing heads, one has it’s head, but is missing it’s face.
Another interesting thing to be found at Ephesus were the public latrines. Go figure that latrines would be interesting… some things never change I guess. Anyhow, here they are:
They weren’t exactly private, but the robes worn back then allowed some for some basic level of modesty. Apparently.
The latrines were located around a square pool of fresh water for cleaning. The seats were placed over a channel that also had running water to take it all away. What I haven’t found out yet is whether or not they separated the men from the women.
What I found most fascinating at Ephesus were the terraced houses. Surprisingly, these were ignored by most people visiting Ephesus, possibly because you have to pay extra to see them, and guided tour groups don’t take the extra time to go through them. I spent an easy hour there, and only had to share them with a dozen others. See what you miss you on the tour groups!
The terrace houses were multiple-storied houses constructed in the first century AD and inhabited by the wealthier citizens of Ephesus. They were so sophisticated that they incorporated drainage and hypocaust underfloor heating.
It was like someone had peeled the roof and sides off of an apartment complex. You could see the painted frescoes on walls, the beautiful marble on the walls of the Marble Hall, and mosaic floors. The houses were damaged by several earthquakes over the centuries and it has been a massive ongoing restoration project. But it’s amazing to see what they have been able to restore, and how well it’s been restored. The entire complex is now underneath a fibre glass cover to protect it from the elements and to allow ongoing restoration.
The picture above shows the main drag, Curetes Way, leading down from the towards the Celsus Library. The terrace houses are under the roof structure you see on the right. The public bath, latrines and brothel were down the bottom, on the left. The marble street was once lined with statues and porticoes on both sides of the street provided shade and behind which various local shops operated. The main sewer system runs underneath.
Yep, the ruins were pretty impressive, even though overrun with tourists. But it was also easy to get away from them at time – just by venturing off the main path a bit and exploring things on the side. 90% of the people there wear blinkers I think!
And back in modern day Selcuk
Here are some other random pics that I took around town. It was market day one day in Selcuk which is always interesting to wander through. And to sample the produce like the fresh cheese, pistachios and apricots. Yum!
It was all too much for this guy:
While the rest of the men gathered for their afternoon tea and games.
And at the end of the day, I retreated to the terrace at the top of the hotel to watch the sunset. I may have indulged in the odd glass of Turkish red wine while doing so….
Waiting, waiting… and there it is.
I guess the title of this post is a bit misleading. I haven’t been ruined. But I’m “ruined” out now. I’ve seen more than enough ruins, mosques, churches and museums to last me for a while now.
At that ends my time in Selcuk. From here, I changed the pace a bit and caught a train to….. (well, you’ll just have to wait!)
If you still haven’t had your fill of broken old buildings, market stalls and cats – check out the slideshow below. (Unfortunately, some pics are unlabeled or have typos. Me and WordPress are having an ongoing battle getting my blog pictures updated and labelled properly. Today, WordPress wins. I’m going out to dinner. 🙂 )