Thursday, December 10, 2009


By Chuck
We awakened this morning to 46º F. Spring has sprung, fall has fell, winter is here and it's colder than...usual. A perfect day to keep on the move seeing sites. We finally decided to drive rather than bike as we wanted to use our time efficiently in order to relax and enjoy my birthday, tomorrow.

We are staying in the town of Selçuk. This was once the seat of the Roman Empire in Asia. In January, 2010, it will be the site of a world beauty pageant.

First we drove out to the ancient site of Efes (Ephesus). We decided to go to the nearer entrance, even though we knew there was a parking fee; it would be worth it because the final leg of the visit would be downhill. We were not sure where camping cars should park. A nice man gestured to where we should park. Of course, he was a shill for rug sellers.

He told us how he could provide a free shuttle to the other gate and then we would only have to walk the course once; there was no obligation, but the culturally appropriate thing to do, he explained, was to see the demonstration by a government agency of how rugs are made; we could take pictures; again, no obligation. We accepted, with reservations, largely because the time saved walking would be welcome; but, we then realized that we would lose that time with the rug dealer.

A “cousin” drove us to the upper gate. I thought we were going to be stopped as there was a military (I think) roadblock along the way. We have seen several of these along our route, but previously they have all been on the other side of the road. Our escort rolled down the window and shouted out to the guards and they waved him past. I asked if this happened often; he responded “They know me.”

We decided that this was a spectacular site and we should spring for the audio guides, which were recommended by Lonely Planet; the price had doubled since the 2009 printing and we paid TL 20 plus a TL 50 deposit for the two units. We were a little nervous about the deposit; but, they did provide a receipt, unlike many transactions here. The audio was uninspired, but helpful, especially if you don't want to pay for a personal guide or continually refer to a guidebook.

The highlights were the Library of Celsus, the public latrine (next to the euphemistically named House of Love), the Church of Mary and the 25,000 seat amphitheater. Interesting, too, was Harbour Street (The Arkadiane); it used to lead to the harbor; but, the sea has receded and it now ends (we are told) 8km from the Mediterranean – a harbinger of global warming, no doubt.

Trajan's Fountain

Temple of Hadrian

Ancient snail?


Library of Celsus

Marble/Sacred Way

Finishing our audio tour and heading for our camper, one of the carpet people came up and reminded us that he was prepared to take us to the government showroom. I said we wanted to eat first and we could go after. Upon eating and then leaving, I was immediately greeted by “my friend” who wanted to drive us to the showroom. I informed him we would follow him. Hesitation, then “OK.” Turns out that the carpet place is very near our campground; our host was very nice, had spent several years in America and was, apparently, employed by the government to promote and preserve the culture of Turkey's carpet production and the tribal values represented in their manufacture. He had one of the workers demonstrate the unique double-knot technique used in Turkey. It was quite educational and the carpets were simply beautiful.

We drove back toward Efes and then turned to the left to visit the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers. This is a sacred place. Seven persecuted Christians fled to this spot in the 3rd century A.D. and slept for 200 years before awakening to find that Rome had embraced Christianity. When the finally died, “they were buried in the cave and a cult following developed.” The site is also a Byzantine necropolis with tombs cut into the rock.

Grotto of the Seven Sleepers

From there we drove on up and up to Meryemana. In about 1891 a German nun had a vision that the house of Mary, mother of Jesus, was near Efes. Clergy from Izmir “determined” that the house was located several kilometers from Efes up Mount Coressos. Pope Paul VI visited here in 1967. Muslims believe that Meryemana bore Isa Peygamber, who is the Prophet Jesus. The most interesting aspect was the wall of rags tied to a wall below the chapel that is, apparently, built on the site of the house. The people use anything at hand: scratch paper, toilet paper, plastic, you name it.

We drove back toward the campground and parked near the Isa Bey mosque, where the street was wide enough to accommodate Homer; this also allowed us to avoid the TL 5 parking fee for St. John's Basilica. This ruin, if reconstructed, would be the seventh largest church in Christendom. John moved here with Mary around 43 A.D. and returned again about 95 A.D., when he wrote his gospel on Ayasuluk Hill, where he is believed to be entombed. The Emperor Justinian erected the basilica here in about 530 A.D.

Above the basilica is the hilltop citadel constructed by the Byzantines in the 6th century. Sadly, it is now closed due to a wall collapse some time back.

Campground view of castle

Next we walked over to the Temple of Artemis which we can view practically from our campground. Along the way, we stopped and tried out the exercise equipment built into the nice walkway along the main drag that goes to Efes.

Temple of Artemis with stork's nest on top

Then we visited the Isa Bey mosque built by the Emir of Aydin in 1375 in a post-Selçuk/pre-Ottoman style; the courtyard is large and lovely.

On the way home, we admired several abandoned hamams (bath houses) that probably date from the 1300s. Turkey has a culture of cleanliness. This one is right over the fence from the campground.

Ancient Hamam

Later, we wanted to check email; we walked over to the patio by the campground restaurant to get the WiFi signal; the caretaker immediately brought out apple tea for us to drink; we were delighted. We have never had this before, but find we love it; it's not as strong as normal tea; it has natural sweetness, but is offered with sugar to add. Our guidebook says that locals wouldn't be caught dead drinking this; it is only for tourists; but, we are no slaves to fashion—we know what we like.

The caretaker had already helped us hook up the electrical upon our arrival: I tried both our connectors several times but was unable to fit them into the socket. He took the cord from me and hooked it into a socket in another row; it never occurred to me that some of the sockets would be different from the rest; we had never encountered this before.

Garden Camping is like so many other European locations: If you want something you have to ask. We tried to clarify the price, whether there was electricity, water, hot water, hot showers? “Yes, of course.” Well, that is only true if the sun shines and that limits you to pm showers on sunny days. Shame on us for not clarifying. Finally, after a day without showering (sponge bathing in water we heated), we complained about not having hot showers; “Oh! Electrical” It turns out they only have to flick a couple of switches to activate the hot water for showers and sinks. Thankfully, they did this.

There is nothing permanent except change. ~ Heraclitus of Ephesus

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