The Mosque was almost completely destroyed by earthquakes, but after serious refurbishing reopened in 1975. As it is a functioning mosque we approached it respectfully....
I walked up the steep and worn stairs and took a few photos of the courtyard.
Soon enough the call to prayer began, and we decided to leave the mosque to the faithful....... plus, I was getting hungry.
We walked up then back down the hill to the center of town, which is a pedestrian only area.....
Lest you think this a tourist only area, you'd be wrong....this is literally the center of town, and this was where all the older men hung out, drinking tea and coffee, playing backgammon, reading the paper, talking politics and what not........
After looking around a bit, we decided on a restaurant called Ejder. The owner was very friendly and when the Missus requested a selection of mezes, was happy to oblige.
Seating in the public dining area across the restaurant we were soon joined by some very eager guests.
Can you see the remnants of the aqueduct in the background?
I went with, what else, the Adana Kebab (12 TRY - $9):
The kebab was very moist.... in fact almost all the kebabs we had in Turkey was way more tender and moist than most of what we get here in the states. This one was slightly gamey but not very spicy. The rice was too wet for my tastes. The grilled peppers were wonderful.....the char brought out some sweetness and some were a very sneaky hot.
The Missus's selection of mezes were pretty good, especially the red pepper dolomar (stuffed pepper).
The ezme was too watery and mild in flavor, I liked the beets, but the missus thought they were too sour.
Overall, this was a satisfying meal, the food was far from bland and put me in a good mood. The very friendly owner who came over to check on us several times also made for a pleasant meal. I even gave the cats some of my adana kebab..... I was a bit worried that the spices would be bad for them, but they seemed to love it!
We returned to the hotel full and happy, and had a wonderful night of sleep. We woke early the next morning and headed down the street past the parked tractors......
And caught our train to the airport in Izmir. Of course, no one in Turkey can even think of going a morning without simit (sesame bread), thus the vendor who got the train at one stop walking thru the cars selling bread, then got off a couple of towns later.
We returned from Ephesus hot and tired. A quick shower revived us and we decided to grab some lunch. We'd heard that there's a large market held behind the bus station.... and this being Selcuk, nothing is very far away. We decided to do some "self-catering" and check out the market. We were both quite surprised at the size of the market.... starting from the household goods sold on the streets approaching the market.....
To what seemed like acres of cheese, olive, and fruit stands.........
We'd noticed children dressed up in all sorts of costumes.... after asking around we were told it was Children's Day.
You not only had piles of fruit and vegetables to keep your attention.......
But had to heed what was above you as well........
The somewhat elaborate make-up of various booths made me think about the amount of work it took to set-up, then take apart these booths every Saturday.
We'd covered maybe a third of the place before stopping and deciding to start getting stuff for lunch, otherwise we'd be walking around all day. Of course, this was when all the sampling started. Every olive and cheese stand we stopped at gave us samples....we could have filled up just by mooching! We ended up getting three types of cheese, including a really tasty Cecil/Tel Peyniri, basically string cheese.
Most of the places would try to sell us a kilo and we'd have to tell them that we just wanted a "little bit". So they'd give us the smallest amount that would work for them. In the case of olives..... well, we'd be eating the olives for a couple of days. One of the cheese stands told us "no pay, this is my gift to you!" Which was very nice and typical of the folks in Turkey. I ended up insisting on giving him a couple of Lira.....
We purchased a loaf of bread from this little shop......
Man that was a pretty big loaf; we'd also be eating that for a couple of days as well!
We'd decided to head across the street to the park and have our lunch. Along the way we noticed that outside one of the shops there were a group of women working hard making lavas and selling various items. The Missus immediately headed to the shop watching and wandering around, to the amusement of the women.
This seemed to possibly be the equivalent of a bake sale perhaps? Of course, you'd never get anything like this at your typical bake sale here in the US.
And the kicker was that the park had tea service! A young man walked from a nearby kiosk taking orders for tea. A few minutes later you'd have a nice cup of tea for .5 TRY, about 30 cents.
We enjoyed the sunshine and had a little picnic of sorts.... it was a wonderful end to a great day. And of course there was a nap afterwards to top things off.
We got up early on our Saturday in Selcuk, though both the Missus and I had enjoyed our time in Selcuk, we were here for one main reason; to visit Ephesus. We had an early breakfast, as with most of these places, breakfast is provided free. In comparison to other places this was just ok. Everything had been plated out ahead of time.
All the usual suspects were in attendance, the cheese, butter, tomato, cucumber, olives, honey....
And of course, bread...... lots of bread....
The best thing about the breakfast was the tea. Hotel Bella made a nice, fairly strong cup of Turkish Tea.....full bodied with a hint of Bergamot.
Breakfast did us good, in spite of the fact that the hotel provided free drop off and pick-up from Ephesus, we'd be walking the 5-6 kilometers to Ephesus.
We arrived at the upper entrance in a little over an hour, just after opening, and just before all the tour buses from the cruise ships ported at Kusadasi arrived. By not heading to the main gates, we'd be able to check out some of the major attractions before they too crowded. We also decided to spend a few more lira and do the audio tour, which turned out to be really informative.
It is believed that the city of Ephesus was founded somewhere around 10th century BC. Located at the crossing of major trade routes and being a major harbor town, Ephesus was once the second largest city in the Roman Empire, with a population estimated at 250,000.
Upon entering we walked down a short side path to the Church of Mary (above photo). Rebuilt and altered several times it is thought to have been built over and earlier Basilica.
Walking past the ruins of the gymnasium......
One sees the first of several amazing structures at Ephesus. The Great Theatre.
Dramatically located on the slopes of Panayir Hill, the theatre seated 25,000 and the seating is designed for maximum acoustics and view.
The theatre was also the scene of a well known biblical event. For three years the Apostle Paul lived in Ephesus, preaching the gospel. According to the book of Acts, Paul must have been pretty successful, as the silversmiths who made their living selling idols of Artemis (Diana) had started losing business and started a riot against Paul and the spreading of Christianity. You can read it here.
Stepping out of the theatre, I got a good look at Harbour Street, At 500 meters long and 11 meters wide, this was once the grandest street in Ephesus.... and probably still is.
Walking to the end of the restored area of the street, the obvious question you'd ask yourself is, "where's the harbor?"
Ephesus had become a power because of location. Besides being at the crossroads of trade, it was also located at the mouth of the Kayster River, right where it met the Aegean. In the end, it wasn't Christianity nor the Ottoman Empire that doomed Ephesus, it was the unconquerable build up of silt. Today, the last harbour of Ephesus sits over 6 miles from the river.
The beautiful marble paved "Sacred Way" goes South from the theatre. There are spots where you can see the sewer and water systems that lay beneath these streets. There are grooves in the marble which were created by carts and wagons......
Which probably made its way to the Agora which you can view from the street. This was probably the busiest street in Ephesus.
To the left of the Agora are the Gates of Augustus......
Which led to my favorite site, and possibly my favorite site on the entire trip (including the Parthenon), the Library of Celsus.
The Library of Celsus was built by Julius Celsus Polemaeanus by his son Gaius Julius Aquila. The library was built with double walls to protect the 12,000 scrolls and book from heat and humdity. The four statues in the niches in the walls of the library represent wisdom (Sophia), knowledge (Episteme), intelligence (Ennoia) and valor (Arete). That's Sophia to the right.
I had a bit of a difficult time tearing myself away from the Library of Celsus, but it was starting to get crowded.....
The street leading away from the library is called Curetes Way. Apparently it was a business and "high-rent" district of Ephesus.
Off one of the side trails along the road is what is one of the most popular sites in Ephesus.... the communal Roman Men's toilets. Yes, there were lines of folks waiting to check out the toilets. And most could not help but to "try them out for size." Says a lot about us, doesn't it?
You can see where the residents lived, walk past some wonderful monuments, and see the shopping areas on the street.
There are some beautiful mosaics alongside the street.
Along one of the side streets is the Temple of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. Remember the huge head and arm from the Ephesus Museum? This is where it came from.
There was just so much to see, and I'm heaing into over 850 words right now, so let me just put up a few more photos, ok?
Before we knew it, we had spent almost four hours at Ephesus. It was also pretty darn hot. When we exited the Missus asked audio tour booth folks if they could call the hotel (you gotta love Turkey) which they gladly did. About fifteen minutes later we were on our way back to the hotel.
I realize that there wasn't much food in this one, so thanks for reading!
After an ok dinner at the hotel, the Missus and I still felt a bit unsatisfied. And the Missus suggested we take a walk, which sounded like a great idea, since it was either that or reading. And I'm glad we took that walk because halfway down the hill we passed this part of the Roman Aqueduct and I took one of my favorite photos of the trip.
I'm not sure why I enjoy this photo so much, but I do. If you click on the photo to enlarge it; you'll see a stork's nest on top of the pillar. The aqueduct runs right through the main part of town, and adds a "little something" to the place.
We headed to the place that the owner had recommended to us earlier in the day. It was right behind the place we stopped at for lunch. And while the scent of grilling meat was somewhat intoxicating, we made our way to Pinar Pide Salonu, a little shop specializing in that Turkish speciality Pide, a leavened flat bread usually topped with ground meat. The version here was stellar.
The crust was crunchy without being hard, the flavor of the leavening came through without interfering, and it just seemed perfect. The meat topping the pide was mildly rich, well spiced, and somewhat gamey tasting. This was very satisfying....
The lahmacun, the very popular (and cheap) thin and topped flat bread, wasn't so good.
The crust didn't stand up too well and just cracked when I tried to fold the vegetables in it. The meat over-powered everything on this making it seem kinda greasy. Actually, the version at Sultan in El Cajon is better in my opinion. Still at 2.5 TRY (about $1.50 - the pide was 3.5 TRY - $2.20), it seemed like a bargain to us.
And of course I had some ayran, the yogurt drink, which was a typical market brand. Not bad....... for reason, I really took to ayran.
Here's a photo of the shop we took the next day. The smiling young man in the front was grilling up meat the night before, and was always smiling at us. When we passed on this day, he gave us a smile and waved...... Man do I miss the people.... After our "snack" we strolled around a bit, then dropped by one of the little stores to buy some water. That's where I really noticed beer for the first time in Turkey.
They only had cans, and we didn't have a bottle opener anyway, so I got a can of Efes Pilsen, which had a mildly sweet upfront note, but was kinda "skunky" and stale in flavor. I think this was a bit past it's due date. The Tuborg Gold, a Danish Malt beverage brewed in Turkey was just plain nasty. Yuck. I know that Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim, and alcohol is forbidden, but man, there's no excuse for brewing such a bitter, kind of strangely grassy flavored, with weird sour notes, and a tin can finish beverage. I'd try Efes again later on in bottle form, and it wasn't too bad.
Oh well. We hit the sack early since we had a full day ahead of us.......
Yes folks, all that is left of the Temple of Artemis is a column of fragments, standing down a dusty driveway, in a field. A sad sight of something that Philo of Byzantium said, " He who had laid eyes on it will be convinced that the world of the immortal gods has moved from the heaven to earth." So what happened to this Wonder of the Ancient World. In an act that goes to show you the quest for fame at any cost isn't something new; on July 21st, 356 BC (supposedly on the very day that Alexander the Great was born) a young man named Herostratus, seeking immortal fame, set fire to the Temple of Artemis. The temple was eventually rebuilt, but never to the same level of grandeur. Eventually the temple was sacked by the Goths, and when Christianity became the religion of state, destroyed.
We circled back a bit, and walked back toward our hotel, passing the Isa Bey Camii (mosque), coming up in a future post. Here's a photo of the mosque from the Basilica of St John.
Roman Catholic history believes that the Apostle John fleeing from Jerusalem, ended up in Ephesus, where he wrote his gospels and the book of Revelation. Theodosius had a church built over what was believed to be the tomb of St John. Justinian had an even greater temple built on the site during his reign.
Much of the basilica was turned to rubble due to earthquakes and was just a pile of rubble when restoration began. Enough of it has been restored so that you can get some idea of what a grand structure it once was.
What really makes this site worth visiting are the views from Ayasuluk Hill.
After spending a bit of time here, we walked across the street to our hotel. It was time for a short... and at least for me, a well earned nap.
When we awoke, the sun was starting to set, so we walked back across the street to the parking lot of the basilica.
And took a photo of our hotel.
We had heard that the food at the Hotel Bella was pretty good, so we thought we'd enjoy the views from the terrace and have dinner.
Dinner goes like this, you can choose a protein and meze for a set price, or just a choice of three meze for a cheaper set price. The Missus didn't feel like meat, so I ordered a Adana Kebab and the Missus just mezes. Of course, this being Turkey and all, everything started with a ton of bread.
My meal came with a soup; in this case tomato, which was in serious need of salt.....
Knowing the Missus loved celery root; I chose the celery root with vegetable hot meze. It was very mild in flavor. My Adana Kebab, this one a combination of beef and lamb was not very spicy, tender, but not especially moist.
The eggplant stew was also pretty bland.
The best two items were the stacked tomato and eggplant. The tomato added a nice sweetness and acid to the wonderful eggplant flavor. The olive oil gave a mild layer of fruity richness to the dish.
The stuffed eggplant was also quite good.
The slightly bitter greens and the mushrooms were my favorites in the dish.
I had this pegged as "tourist food". But in Turkey, it's not the usual bad renditions of European/Western cuisine even for tourists. Most times you'll get Turkish food, even if it's toned down a bit. Of course, no meal is complete without some baklava and tea.....
All of this was ok, the views were nice, the sun was going down, and I was feeling a bit unsatisfied. So what to do?
Getting to the town of Selcuk from Izmir was an absolute slam dunk..... into the kiddie baskets (though at my age, that ain't exactly a sure thing anymore). You land at the airport in Izmir (Selcuk doesn't have an airport) and walk to the train station, which is attached to the airport and catch the train (4TRY - about $2.50 per person), which takes about an hour. Finding our hotel was even easier. For some reason I got off the train and proceeded to walk North past the gentlemen who spend their day having tea, smoking, and playing backgammon. Up the cobblestone street, and lo' and behold, there was Hotel Bella! Just halfway up the hill.
The hotel is quaint and colorfully decorated with paintings, rugs, and pictures that would usually seem gaudy. But here it works. After a short wait, we were led up the staircase (like many of the smaller hotels in Turkey, there's no lift) to the roof terrace........ this clinched it. We really loved the view:
That's the view of Selcuk.
On the other side of the terrace you can check out the Basilica of St John (an upcoming post), which is across the street from the hotel and further in the background is the old fort which is closed to the public.
A few feet from the ledge of the terrace is this.
Here's a closer look.... it's a pair of storks!
We were told that the storks return to Selcuk every year to nest, often staying until the early fall. We were also told that the same couple will return to the same location of their nests year after year. Storks nest everywhere above the ground; on pillars, the old aqueduct, telephone poles....
One of the owners of the Hotel, Erdahl, sat down with us, and explained that our room wasn't ready yet. He mentioned that perhaps we'd like to leave our bags, and take a walk down the street (everything is down the street in Selcuk!) to check out the Ephesus Museum, Temple of Artemis, and the Basilica of St John. He explained that the walk was 2 kilometers..... which by now was a piece of cake. So we set off...... in about a minute we arrived at the main street, Ataturk Caddesi, and decided to grab something to eat. Erdahl mentioned a Pide place, but the Missus was fascinated with this place.
No, not the water closet, but the restaurant that was sending wonderful bursts of the scent of grilled meat down the street. Actually, I really tried to discourage the Missus from stopping here.... this place only sold two things, beef on skewer (cop sis) and meat balls (kofte), and these were beef, not lamb.... and the Missus was trying to stay away from most meat. But we ended up taking seat behind the grill area.... a very nice little courtyard. There we encountered a very positive sign. Everyone eating here was local...... all business men in suits.
The Missus ordered the Cop Sis, basically beef shish kabobs, which smelled heavenly, but was hidden under four huge slices of bread..... ubiquitously Turkish.
Instead of huge chunks of meat on a skewer, these were tender and juicy slices of beef..... with a rich gamey flavor like good grass-fed beef. The shaker of spice provided was not sumac like I thought, but ground cumin.... making this like a wonderful Niu Rou Chuan.
The missus actually enjoyed my kofte even more. Very moist, holding firm until melting into your mouth once you got past the charred exterior.
Along with the pile of bread, the other usual accompaniment for this type of meal was pickled cabbage, tomatoes, and peppery arugula.
By the time I finished sipping my all too salty ayran (yogurt drink), all the guys in suits had left.... back to work I guess.
And it was time for us to be on our way....... just a couple of blocks down Ataturk Caddesi, taking a right turn on Dr Sabri Yaylar Bulvari, and you'll come to the Ephesus Museum. The museum houses many statues and artifacts from Ephesus and what little there is from the Temple of Artemis.
There are a couple of items that are famous in the museum, the first being the statue of Priapus, a god of fertility...and well something else. For more info, you can check out the Wikipedia entry. IF you don't understand, think of the medical condition priapism. The other are the statues of the Greek Goddess Artemis. That photo to the right is of I believe the statue they call "The Beautiful Artemis" or the "Small Artemis".
One statues, or part of a statue I found interesting was the head and arm of Imparator Domitian taken from the ruins of The Temple to Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian in Ephesus.
You can't tell by my photo, but that cabeza and forearm are huge! Plus, for some reason, that face, sort of babyish, kinda spooky looking, stays with me.....
It was great spending about an hour and a half in the museum, but there were still a couple more places to see this afternoon!