Ahmet and Ali (driver)
We started our day with a delicious breakfast at Atilla’s, again made by Mum: fresh veggies, delicious fresh toast, egg, cheese, and tea. We were picked up by Ali our driver and Ahmet our guide as the sun and blue sky were breaking through. Onboard, we met two of our other tour companions, a mother-daughter pair from Germany. We were waiting for 4 more people coming from the airport so we stopped for some apple tea and simit. Once our other group members arrived, we set out for the House of St. Mary. This is way at the top of a hill with views of Ephesus and the Aegean sea on the way. There are many olive and fruit trees lining the road as well, contributing to the Mediterranean feeling.
Our first stop was the House of St Mary or ‘Meryemana’. The house of St Mary is so called because it is believed that she lived there for a short period of time. This site is small and maybe most interesting and significant if you are religious. Still, it is very peaceful there…marred only by the people trying to sell you stuff at the gate…
There is a wishing wall there, unlike the wishing column in Aya Sofya, that you can tie a scrap of something onto after writing your wish onto it. These scraps are widely varied, ranging from tissues (my parchment of choice), to what appeared to be wet wipes to someone’s very nice looking scarf! I took a moment and included my wish on the wall, figuring it can never hurt to make a wish.
With that, we departed for Ephesus, our raison d’être for coming to Selçuk. Upon arriving at the gates, Ahmet lead us through the surprisingly large site, on a roughly 2 hour walk consisting of informative talks interspersed with free time. The ruins are slightly more ruinous than I had expected, but due to earthquakes, things being carted off to various other sites and museums, and so forth, this is unsurprising. The library and big odeon at the end of the visit are the most impressive, with Elton John and Sting having performed in the Odeon which can seat 25, 000! The toilets were also really interesting to see.
With Ephesus done we headed for lunch at my worst nightmare: the tourist buffet. Granted, it’s included and it’s all you can eat, but we still had to pay for our beverage on top of the meal (what?!), and I just hate those massive halls where the tourists just pile in with no choice. Ugh. Anyhow, we had a nice meal and conversation with our group. The other 4 were American, a father/son from Cali and a couple from NYC, all quite well traveled and informative people! I just can’t say enough for the amazing humans I meet while travelling. They are one of the main reasons travel is so rewarding. They were recommending the archeological museum and Dolmabache Palace in Istanbul as being two worthwhile places we did not visit.
With lunch done, we headed to the Temple of Artemis. This site is essentially completely in ruins apart from one tower and the base. Also, mind the poop! There is a LOT scattered around from the various critters that inhabit the site now. Still an interesting place to visit.
From there, we drove over to Isabey Mosque, a 14th century construct with bits of Ephesian pieces included in it, making it a very unique site. On our way here, we could see the Selçuk castle and the St John Basilica both of which looked beautiful but we did not stop at.
Lastly we stopped at a carpet making site, which has a program teaching girls to make these beautiful pieces of work and receiving a government subsidy to do so. Very cool. It was fascinating to see the carpet making and how intricate and unique it is. Some carpets can take 7 years or more to make! Even the border of the carpet (the fringes) mean something: you can tell the marital status of the maker from it! Each style of pattern and the dyes used are specific to each region of Turkey, further making each carpet unlike any other. I now understand the durability and value of these pieces of art! Learning about that was worth the awkward bit at the end where they were trying to sell us on a carpet!
Once we got back home, I convinced Leah to hike up a wee bit of a mountain to get a great view of the valley. With a bit of convincing, she was game. What resulted was some awesome jump shots. Another delicious dinner by Atilla’s mum at the bottom and conversation with some awesome Irish folks, hi Edie and Andy! , and it was off to bed!