Our tour group is quickly figuring out each other’s quirks and quarks:
who is an early riser, who likes to stay up for that extra Efes beer at night. Who eats breakfast and who doesn’t. The loners and the outgoing participants. We are a mixed and varied group, both in age, background and budget, but we all seem to be getting along just fine. This is day four of our 17-day odyssey. Jan, Sarah, Frank, and Matt will leave the Turkey part of the trip at the Syrian border on day 15, for a three-week continuation of their journey through Syria, Lebanon and on to Cairo. Erin, John, Haluk and I will head back to Istanbul on an overnight bus. Our itinerary tells us that today is a free day, but the obvious and most desirable event on everyone’s agenda is a visit to Ephesus. This site is one of the best examples of ancient town life that exists in Turkey and indeed in all of Asia Minor and is a popular visit for all tours including coaches, cruise ships, and backpackers.
Ephesus: Delightfully Deserted
This ancient town started out Greek but was later rebuilt by the Romans. Our group, lead by Kiwi Jan (one of the early risers), decides to be out the door and there by 8:30 and we are duly rewarded for our early approach. We get the site to ourselves for a good 90 minutes before the hordes of tourists descend on the ancient town, sporting their loud clothing and impractical shoes, trailing their bored guides, group standards flung high, flapping in the early morning sun. We spend almost three hours on a self-guided tour with the help of both Jan’s and Erin’s Lonely Planet guidebooks, each one taking time to read out loud the unique aspect of the particular house or temple or building we are looking at. And Ephesus is quite the town. We begin with Harbour Street and quickly connect to the Main Theater. Delightfully deserted! We continue down Celsius Street to one of the main attractions, Celsius Library, in its day as important as the Library in Alexandria, and take many photographs in the hot sun. Our tranquil visit quickly fades as we see busloads of tourists washing down the ancient street, a noisy, gaudy, enveloping wave bearing down on us from the north gate. We continue our journey up to the end of the town and spend some time in the Odeon before we walk the 3 km back into Selçuk.
On our way, we stop at the Temple of Artemis, once considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Unfortunately, all that is left is a pretty lagoon and a single column, telling us of its former glory.
The group drives up into the hills about 6 km to a beautiful small Greek town of Sirince (meaning “loveliness”) for a simple meze dinner with two bottles of local wine.
It is truly a lovely place to sit and enjoy dinner and the views across the ancient valley.