Selcuk/ Ephesus : Everything in ruins etc...
Selcuk Travel Blog› entry 198 of 268 › view all entries
After a week in Istanbul, great city though it is, it feels good to be on the move again. Movement. Itâ€™s become a bit of a habit this last year or so. A compulsion for propulsion. A good long jump it is too for the first stop. Eschewing the historical draws of the Gallipoli peninsula and what (very, very, very) little remains of the ancient city of Troy Iâ€™ve gunned by night bus 600 kilometres and more southeast to the city of SelÃ§uk. Just a stones throw from the Aegean coast - an area in fact I will also entirely bypass - SelÃ§uk is the surprisingly quiet town that would probably drop into dust were it not for the near presence of a city that has already done so.
A nice easy start to the day. Me and my new bus-pal Randy (Arizona) amble in the direction of our hostel of choice. The predictable man claiming to work for the â€˜Pansion and Accommodation Booking Agencyâ€™ is on to us quicker than the time it takes to spell the word â€˜scamâ€˜. â€˜Where you going? Do you have somewhere to stay? I can help you. My job is to work for the accommodation booking agencyâ€™. Yeah right.
So yeah, the reason eeeeeveryone comes to SelÃ§uk and the site that brings an endless conga-line of coaches pouring into and out of the town day upon day is of course The Ruins. Some of the best preserved ruins from the former Roman empire in Turkey.
And as with Gods, so with man and his physical constructions. One city; one civilization seeking to efface the existence of the former. Great cities built with foundations formed of the broken bones and ruins of those that stood before. One supplanting or destroying another.
Itâ€™s early doors and the walk to the Ephesus archaeological site is only 3 kilometres or so from town but Alison gathers four of her guests together, Randy, Laura (Canada), Bram (Netherlands) and I and sets us off to her Turkish ex-husbandâ€™s shop from where weâ€™ll be given a lift. Our crests fall as we spot itâ€™s a carpet shop but itâ€™s not about a soft or hard sell at all. A nice cup of elma Ã§ay (apple tea) and then a car lift to the North Gate of the site, handing over our 20TL entrance fees (Â£8) and ready to stroll through a little bit of history.
Not sure what to say of the experience really? Hot and crowded for sure.
Skipping off to the sides and taking yourself into every available patch of field, or shaded nook or cranny is the only way to grab some semi â€˜privateâ€™ moments with The Past. For the most part tour groups are shepherded directly along the two main â€˜streetsâ€™ of the â€˜Sacred Wayâ€™ and â€˜Curetes Wayâ€™ with obligatory photo ops all the along.
If, as with I, youâ€™ve become pretty accustomed to such sites, no matter how large their history hangs over the tumble down collection of now largely characterless blocks of locally quarried stone and clattered-to-pieces Corinthian columns, itâ€™s hard for the experience to be brought to any sense of life. Iâ€™m not sure greater historical context would have helped enliven the experience for me greatly although the official tour guides I overheard (of which there are many) did, for once, sound engaging and knowledgeable.
There are some undoubted highlights of the 2 hours or so I spend at the site. The partially reconstructed and restored faÃ§ade of the Library of Celsus are the cameraâ€™s favourite, recalling somewhat those of the city of Petra for me. Its replica statues of the Four Virtues (Goodness, Thought, Knowledge and Wisdom) staring down mournfully and broken nosed (noselessness a common affliction in pre-plastic surgery times it seems) from on high.
If, like me youâ€™ve commenced from the North Gate you will also have saved the structure with the biggest impact until last, the 1st Century AD Great Theatre that sits built into the hillside and once holding an audience of up to 25,000 people. Sat on the very top circuit of seats, I observe a little way out of the theatre at ground level the little historical costume show played out to the passing audiences that I had seen closer to hand only 10 minutes ago. Exactly the same show. A gathering of an Emperor, his Empress and consorts and a small collection of three dancers, a juggling master of ceremonies, three soldiers and two gladiators who are all made to play through the same bored motions again and again and again in the sweltering heat whilst the audience are encouraged to clap, but donâ€˜t.
I get a lift back to town with a nice Australian/ French couple Iâ€™d acquainted myself with in Istanbul. Later, back together with Randy, Laura and Bram we decide to take it easy for the day. Our work done. Another hard days ogling at the treasures left of glories past. What travellers would do without the fall of mighty civilizations to amuse themselves with I really donâ€™t know! Until the next one drops dead and covets itself an â€™I Am Officially Very Interestingâ€™ sticker and badge from UNESCO itâ€™s time to stroll to the orchard encircled swimming pool that belongs to the Kiwi Hostel and cool in its waters and catch some rays besides.
Itâ€™s a fair old walk through town to get there and ambling back we begin to wonder at the number of clearly abandoned construction projects that litter large areas of little SelÃ§uk. Concrete skeletons of houses, half-formed hotels or boutique shopping centres all about its outskirts. Often no roofs, doors or eyes. Their untouched, empty innards bared to the skies. An entire herd of White Elephant projects that may well have fallen victim to the withdrawal of investment that has followed in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis (or GFC as I most recently heard it referred to as - â€˜Hey! Ya know a problemâ€™s gotta be serious when itâ€˜s earned its own acronym!â€™ ). Or just old hopes abandoned. Pipe dreams founded on bad money and awaiting their time to crumble to dust.
Making this observation to Alison later in the evening she says that she too is the proud owner of an ill-advised (by her now ex-husband) and long aborted â€™Boutique Hotelâ€™ that lies 75% constructed in the shadows of the SelÃ§uk Citadel and with no money left for her to throw at it. Another ruined dream. There are a lot of those in SelÃ§uk I feel although the town retains good heart and a most genuine cheer at its centre. Alison has hopes to sell it on to some prospector or other in the future but the current downturn in tourism makes this less likely than ever. As Randy, Laura, Bram and I while away a pleasant evening of beer, mint nargile (sheesha pipe) and sweet Ã§ay I ponder that whatever happens, SelÃ§ukâ€™s future is secured either way and for all time ironically by its firm foundation of ruins.