Selcuk - Turkey
21.05.2012 - 24.05.2012 28 °C
Our past 2 days have been spent touring some of the archaeological sites for which the Anatolian region of Turkey is justly famous. This area was largely developed by the Greeks and Romans and charts the development from pagan times, to Greek gods, to Christianity and Islam. While some relics date back to 2000 BC the majority of the action (and remaining evidence) occurred from 1000 BC to 600 AD.
Ephesus is the big drawcard in the area and, as such, is pretty packed with sightseers. However, the crowds seemed to thin the longer we were there and we were able to get many moments to ourselves which we thought may not have been possible. The scale of the ruins was enormous. We spent about 3 hours wandering what really felt like a city. There were baths, temples, meeting places, a library, a theatre, a school, houses and market districts etc. all in varying stages of completeness. The pics probably say more than I possibly could except to say that we were in awe of the level of social complexity that gave rise to the city and the skill of the marble sculptors. However, I do need to say that it was a big buzz speaking on the stage of an ancient theatre designed for an audience of 25,000. Certainly the biggest venue I’ve ever played.
We also visited Mary’s House – a chapel built in the house where the Virgin Mary is purported to have died. While not of a Christian persuasion myself, the history buff and Sunday school raised child in me are fascinated by seeing so many biblical tales come to life on this trip. Mary’s House is high on a hill in a peaceful municipal park setting. The tranquillity of the place is palpable. There are also strong connections between St John and the Ephesus region. He is supposed to have brought Mary to this area, then moved to Patmos and returned to the region again at the end of his life. While this trip is certainly not a pilgrimage, our inadvertent journey along the trail of St John has been interesting none-the-less, and provided a continuing historical thread for us.
Our final stop on day 1 was the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple was “a bit pissy really” (quote Brian French) with a lone column of the original 127 columns standing forlornly in stagnant marshland. We did venture to the museum where we were able to get a better impression, via models and statues, of the Temple’s former splendour.
Our second day in the region was spent visiting Afrodisias, another ancient city of considerable size that is still undergoing excavation. Here Brian got a chance to run, Chariots of Fire style, in a stadium designed for 30,000. There were quite a lot of school groups touring when we were there. It was interesting to watch the interaction between teachers and students and the kids themselves. Many were keen to practice their English with us or wanted their photo taken.
We then went on to Pammukale, famous for its series of pools set along bleached-white calcite terraces. Again a bit of a tourist-mecca but most seemed to stay in a fairly restricted area. We walked the length of the terraces through lukewarm running water which took about 45 mins. By the end of our journey there were very few people with us, which made the experience a little more intimate.
We stayed at a fab small hotel in Selcuk, Akay Hotel. It was situated smack-bang between the Isa Bey Camii (mosque – 1375 AD), the Bascilica of St John (6th. century AD) and the Temple of Artemis (600 BC). I can’t speak highly enough of the hotel owners. They went out of their way to help us. Most importantly, they sourced tonic for our gin, a very important requirement for us at the end of each day. They also presented us with tall ice-filled glasses at the end of a long travelling day so that we could enjoy our G&Ts ice-cold on the little terrace outside our rooms. When we felt like baklava after dinner one night they raced out and picked some up. When Brian needed another trip to the berber, they drove him there. It felt much more like we were staying with friends than staying in a hotel. And everything was done with a smile and sunny attitude. Just delightful.
Our time with Sabina and Chappie has now come to an end. Today they headed to Istanbul while we have moved on to Bergama. It was great to share a travelling birthday party with them (Sabina, Brian and I have all turned 50 in the last 6 months). Lots of laughs, adventures and memories that we can return to for years to come. All birthday parties should be this good!