Andrew breaks his bike and we see awesome ruins.

Trip Start Sep 06, 2010
Trip End Apr 13, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Turkey  , Izmir,
Monday, November 1, 2010

After a fairly long and stuffy bus ride, we pulled into Selcuk bus terminal. We managed to find our hostel despite the strangely vague directions and we had a chat with the hostel owner. He was an interesting mixture of Turkish and Australian with a very broad, flat, Aussie accent which would have made me feel quite at home except for the fact that he was a bit strange. Cool, but strange in a way that you were always left wondering whether he was a bit nuts or just having a laugh... After we sorted our beds and stuff out, we borrowed some bikes from the hostel (free which was a bonus!) and headed out to the main site of interest in the area. This was a huge ruined city called 'Ephesus' and we rode the 3 km to the turn off on the bumpy walking/riding track on the bikes trying to keep our fillings in whilst we dodged the pot-holes. The weather was just gorgeous and we were very comfortable in our tee-shirts with the breeze blowing through our hair as we cycled. When we got there, we had some confusion with the guards as we tried to find somewhere to lock up our bikes and when we did, we discovered that the bike locks were too short to do much with, so we locked them as best we could (although I did discover mine wasn’t actually locked when I got back - oops!) and I managed to get as much grease over myself as was humanly possible and we headed into the site.

We had been to some impressive ruins so far, but this was in a league of its own. Everywhere you looked, there were columns upon columns and endless crumbling buildings and structures. It was incredibly impressive and we took an age to get around it all. We saw great big coffins from thousands of years ago and walked on a circular route around the front of the city itself, eventually turning and coming towards the city on a straight road which would have been one of the main roads connecting this and other cities millennia ago. We walked along the beautiful marble road, flanked by pillars and ruins on each side towards the ‘Great Theatre’ within the main city. As we got there, we stepped over a chain, which when we looked back (towards the direction from whence we’d come) we saw that it said ‘no admittance’. Oops – but at least we had fun!

The Great Theatre was absolutely huge and it was fun to sit there and imagine what went on in the place. It is a strange feeling to sit in a place as old as this and imagine people who must have sat just where you are sitting but in a completely different era. The ruins of ‘Ephesus’ that we were walking around actually date back to around 300 B.C. (being built by one of the generals of Alexander the Great) but there is evidence of this site being settled as a city from 6000 B.C.!!! It is an incomprehensible span of time between then and now (at least for me) and it really blew my mind.

We walked along ‘Marble Street’, which was a long, paved street connecting the Great Theatre with the Library of Celsus. It is apparently where all the rich people of Ephesus lived in its hey day and there were countless little buildings and ruins to explore. The footpaths on the sides were raised (apparently to keep the pedestrians away from the chariots) and archaeologists have found elaborate sewer systems below the street – quite advanced really!

As we wandered, we walked past the ‘Tetragonos Agora’ which seemed to be an area of temples, fountains, statues and monuments – kind of like a square or something. We also found the impressive facade of the Temple of Hadrianus which was named after Emperor Hadrianus in 118-138 A.D and had several inscribed bases for bronze statues (I assume the actual statues themselves are in a museum, like much of the stuff in Turkish ruins).

We then came upon the front of the Library of Celsus. This was amazing. Tall, double-storeyed, marble Dorian columns with ornate  carving in the marble front made the whole thing look very grand. There were 4 females statues (copies) which displayed ‘Celsus’s characteristics of wisdom virtue, intelligence and knowledge’ according to my guide brochure. It was so very impressive and hard to properly describe. Apparently it functioned as both a library (with rolls of paper stored in niches on the walls inside) and a tomb monument for Celsus Polmaenus, the General Governor of Asia in 117 A.D.

The ruins at Ephesus were just so complete and there were so many of them. They made other ruins we’d seen (such as the Acropolis at Bergama) seem less impressive. After walking around for several hours and dodging tour groups (the bane of all backpackers) we were pleased to discover our bikes hadn’t been stolen and we rode back to the hostel. Just as we got near the gate, Andrew said he would go and get some money out from the ATM in town. I said ‘OK’ and headed inside. Andrew turned his bike around and started to ride down the hill when the whole thing just broke on him. When he returned, the bike was totally mangled – apparently he snapped the rear derailer – and it was all a bit amusing. He had been literally 2 metres away from returning it to the hostel owner before we remembered we needed cash! Bummer! Luckily the hostel owner was really nice and didn’t want anything for it.

The next morning, we headed out for the Basilica of St John, which overlooked the city from its perch high up on the hill. There was also a castle up there, but we discovered it was closed unfortunately. We wandered around the remains of the Basilica of St. John and found the tomb where his ruins supposedly lay. It is of course all a bit dubious... To quote the visitor’s guide:

‘The tomb at the center among them is regarded to have belonged to St. John. Nevertheless, no ruins cold be found at the tomb during excavations. It is already known that they have been empty since the 13th century and that the holy relics had earlier been transported to the Havarian Church in Istanbul.’

Ignoring the obvious problems with the direct translation from Turkish in the above, it is clearly all a bit contentious. The question that begs to be asked from the visitor’s guide is: If they knew it was empty from the 13th century, why did they bother looking?!

Even so, the ruins themselves were pretty cool but not as big or opulent as the ones we’d seen at Ephesus, save for the gates to the site. These gates were pretty big and originally would have had three arches, connecting the oddly named ‘Gate of Persecution’ and the basilica itself.

We enjoyed our time in Selcuk, wandering amongst really old chucks of marble and stone and we were refreshed and ready to make the bus journey the next day which would take us into Izmir and then out again to the Turkish port of Cesme and then onwards to the Greek island of Chios (a seedy place where we somehow managed to find ourselves in the middle of some Greek political rally) and then to the port of Athens the next morning (after sleeping in our sleeping bags on air mattresses in a quiet corner of the ship, being too cheap to buy a cabin!).

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