More Ruins

Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
Trip End Dec 12, 2005

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

We hadn't planned to leave for Selcuk for another day as we had booked a bus to Afrodisias (more ruins not far from Pamukkale), but the tour was cancelled because there weren't enough people. That's one hazard of travelling out of season!

So, another bus ride with yet a different bus company. The bus was quite crowded with a few tourists - us, some Koreans and Germans - as well as quite a few Turkish "babas" (elderly women wearing headscarves and voluminous skirts/trousers). It's amazing how a simple "merabah" (hello) will bring out the smiles on those lovely old faces!

For some reason, I slept most of the trip. I'm sure there was a lot of head bobbing going on - my neck told me so! Although it was chilly outside, it was hot in the bus. I did note lots of orange trees and many houses/buildings with solar panels and hot water tanks on the roofs. We've seen a lot of partly finished buildings here; I read that because interest rates are so high, people choose instead to work on their homes as they have the money, so finishing a dwelling can take a very long time.

For once, the otogar was at the centre of town and when we arrived in Selcuk we didn't have to take a servis or dolmus - it was only a few blocks to our accommodation. We arrived about 4 pm and there are hundreds of birds chirping in the trees as we walked to our hotel. Like Pamukkale, this is not a large town and we saw may people driving tractors through the streets.

We came to Selcuk to visit Ephesus, yet more ancient ruins in Turkey, dating to 800 BC. Our guidebook describes Ephesus as the "best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean", but we were somewhat disappointed as there's been little restoration work done here compared to the likes of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Tikal in Guatemala or Chichen Itza in Mexico. (Admittedly, though, the ruins in Turkey are much older than the forementioned and that in itself is very impressive.) Only the library has been partially restored and it looks as though there is quite a bit of restoration work going on now. (I later found out that Austrian archeological teams have been working here for years.) In fact, a number of the areas were closed - another reason not to travel off season! We arrived at the gates the same time as a number of tour buses, so the place was crawling with tourists. I can't imagine what it would be like in summer!

At the exit of Ephesus are all sorts of shops and vendors selling everything from jewellry to scarves to candy and metalware. While Martin was waiting for me to make my rounds through the shops, he was continually approached by people wanting to sell him things like "genuine fake watches" (i.e., imitation Rolex and other very expensive brands). Of course, they always speak to him in German because they think that's where he's from. It was a very pleasant 3 km walk back from the ruins to town along a shaded sidewalk.

Selcuk (pronounced sel-chuk) is a popular traveller destination, not only for its proximity to Ephesus, but because it's just south of the Gallipoli trail. Several of the pensions here are aptly named for the people who stay there: "Australian and New Zealand Guesthouse", "Kiwi Pension" and "All Blacks" (the name of the national NZ rugby team). We managed to find a place to stay that was clean and comfortable - I've learned to test out the bed first! The only problem with hotel rooms in Turkey is the carpet. They put it down without any underlay (so it's all lumpy) and they don't seem to be able to clean it properly.

We are still enjoying all the fresh food available in Turkey. At breakfast this morning (the cost of your hotel room usually includes breakfast) we had newly baked warm bread (the bread here is so good - God help me!). The vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) are always tasty, as is the fruit. Fruit currently in season includes apples and watermelon. Watermelon makes Martin's mouth go "furry", so I get to eat his, too! Today we got cereal for breakfast (a real treat - you do get tired of the traditional cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, olives and bread). Turkish tea and coffee are very strong. I usually ask for "acik cay" (clear or weak tea) and Martin, "Mr. Coffee" himself, even finds the coffee too much and opts for Nescafe (i.e., instant coffee). Tea and coffee are often provided complimentary with meals.

Selcuk (population 23,000) is geared to the tourist trade. There are lots of tourist shops, restaurants and hotels. Besides Ephesus, there are also a number of sights to see within the city, like the old basilica and mosque. Basilica St. John which dates back to the 4th century AD was definitely worth the hike up the hill. The ruins there were festooned with flowers and the views of Secuk were fantastic.

On one of our walks through the town we stopped to talk with a guy who was selling carpets. We find that we have seldom been given the hard sell here; mostly people are just interested in you and want to talk. He told us he was unmarried and had found it difficult to find a wife. Traditionally in Turkey it is the man who provides the dowry and he is also expected to pay for a huge wedding which many men cannot afford. He commented that he thought Canadians were very "warm" people. I found that interesting because, although friendly, I think most Canadians are quite reserved and perhaps a bit stand-offish. The man also informed us that it had snowed in eastern Turkey so travelling there (and we hope to get there) may be a bit cool!

While in Selcuk we met Barrie from "windy" Wellington, New Zealand, an engineer who had resigned from his job to do some extensive travelling. (I gave him the gears because he was the only Kiwi I had met who had not visited Gallipoli.) We are planning to travel in the same general direction so exchanged email addresses and may try to meet up later.

The Turkish seem much more conscious about energy consumption/wastage that we are (which isn't surprising considering that Canada has the highest consumption of energy in the world). Lights are only turned on when absolutely necessary and there are often motion sensor lights/lights that shut off after so much seconds. We've also seen a lot of energy efficient light bulbs being used. Toilets also seem to use a lot less water here.

We did not bring travellers cheques with us; rather we have been relying on ATMs which has been quite sufficient. Even in the old part of Sanfranbolu you could find an ATM. I find it quite amazing that half way across the world you can put your card in a machine and up pops, "Welcome, Kim Marilee Kennett". Sometimes on your receipt it will also provide your bank balance in the local currency.

Our last night in Selcuk we went to a lovely open air restaurant and ate underneath a grapefruit tree. Although it was chilly, with our jackets on it was quite pleasant. There were three cats battling underneath our feet vying for attention and scraps of food. The meal was delicious of course (the meat is always so tender!) - it was a perfect way to end our visit here.
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