22 July 2013

Around Ephesus

If you're in Ephesus and you have a little time, it's worth it to spend the night and take a little time exploring the area. People seemed nice and generally quite helpful-and there seems to be more English in little Selcuk than in all of Istanbul.

For example, we managed to get ourselves on a free shuttle the airline provides to get you from Izmir to the town, which is about a 45 minute drive. The driver dropped us off on a random corner and all we had to do was look slightly confused before someone asked us, in very good English, where we were going, which hotel we were looking for etc.

"Oh Tom!" he said as soon as we mentioned we were headed for the Artemis. "Hang on, let me call him." And five minutes later there was Tom coming to get us. Fantastic.

Among the interesting things in Selcuk (the town where Ephesus is), was this...art.

I don't know. I don't ask questions. It's like a 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil or a seagull will break open your skull' kinda thing. Why not. In addition to seagulls we also saw a lot of storks. They were just hanging out on the random ruins of things that seemed to pop up around town.  

Selcuk also has a pretty happening night life for such a small town. We wandered out of our hotel in the evening and saw that not only were all the cafes full, but there was some sort of dance something happening in the local park. We think it might have been for a new sports center that was offering dance classes (seems like a good explanation anyway). The dance teacher (?) was demonstrating a number of Latin dances and trying to get people to follow along. Of course all the little girls were enthusiastically twirling around but there were a surprising amount of adults trying as well. How well they followed was another question since she didn't seem to be a very good teacher and was too involved with spinning around and around and showing off her own skills than actually teaching anything.

If you've got the time it's also a quick dolmus (a mini van like public cab) to nearby Srinici which is well-known for its fruit wines.

Sirinci is a lovely little "typical" Turkish villa...which is now completely full of shops and restaurants and whatnot. The fruit wine the village is so famous for is somewhat less lovely. Like many Turkish wines it's very hit or miss and you can definitely tell which wines are made with real fruit and which are made with a lot of artificial flavorings and colors. The ones with artificial flavors taste, as Lonely Planet warned us, like cough syrups.

In addition to wine you can also buy olive oils, for which Turkey is becoming more well-known, teas, nuts, lotions made from local herbs and fruits, home made jams, and something called gum mastic. No idea what that is but it's the white jars in the below.

The nice thing about the town though is that you can walk into any shop and taste any, and every! wine they sell. If you don't want to buy anything no problem. Some of the fruits are what you're used to finding in fruit wines: apple, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, peach, etc. Some of them leaned a little stranger though.

Since this is Turkey the apricot and mulberry weren't all that unexpected. But the watermelon, citrus, and kiwi (?!?) were certainly not something you see everyday. I think we tried most of them but most definitely not the kiwi. The kiwi we steered well clear of. I shudder to even remember the bottles of lime green kiwi "wine".

The best sign ever

Because of the awesome sign we stopped here for a drink. The sign was a little misleading sad to say. However after all that tramping around, bargaining for everything except the wine, and wine tasting, we were in need of a break. So we stayed for a glass of chilled strawberry wine.

We left Sirinci with two bottles of the mulberry and a bottle of local red. One of the mulberries is currently in my growing wine collection, the other (and the red) we drank at the barbecue our hotel put on that night. If you do decide to spend the night in Selcuk definitely book yourself into the Artemis Hotel. It's pretty basic but very close to the bus/dolmus station and Tom, the owner, is very friendly and helpful. I suspect I'll be back in Selcuk in a few months and I imagine I'll be staying there again.

If wine that largely tastes like cough syrup isn't your thing and a trip the the House of Mary didn't fully cover your pilgrimage needs, Selcuk is also home to the first basilica dedicated to Saint John. Sadly there's not a whole lot left; but it's nearby the Selcuk bus station and totally worth the 8TL to get in.

I love me a pillar
From the ruins of the basilica you can also see the Selcuk castle which was sadly closed while we were there. Another view afforded by the basilica is of the remains of the Temple or Artemis. Not saying it's not worth going to see that if you're in Selcuk, but there is just the one pillar left (I think a lot of it was torn down to make the castle and basilica actually) but since you can see it from the basilica, why bother?

The coolest thing about the basilica? It's not just dedicated to Saint John the Apostle...it's also his final resting place and home to his tomb.

Tomb of St John
What remains of the basilica has some very interesting things. For example,t he baptistery. Now in the Catholic Church, even adults who are baptized just lean over the font for the priest to pour a little water over ones head. Apparently in the early days we were full immersion folks.

Steps leading into a full immersion baptismal font

There were storks hanging out even here too.

I can only imagine how gorgeous this place must have been. The detailing on some of the columns is still impressive today.

Aside from the taxi that ran over my foot at the House of Mary, I very much enjoyed the whole pilgrimage aspect to my trip.

Next up...a three hour bus ride and the amazing travertines of Pamukkale!

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