Selcuk/ Ephesus : Everything in ruins etc...

Selcuk Travel Blog

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Roman water pipes... they were clever little bunnies weren't they :)

After a week in Istanbul, great city though it is, it feels good to be on the move again.  Movement.  It’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 I’ve gunned by night bus 600 kilometres and more southeast to the city of Selçuk.  Just a stones throw from the Aegean coast - an area in fact I will also entirely bypass - Selçuk 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.

Stevie at the Odeum
  The ruins of the (in its final incarnation) Roman city of Ephesus (or Efes).  One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (İ Thıink?) and one of any number of archaeological treasure troves that litter Turkeys landscape, particularly here in the South West.

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 ‘Pansion and Accommodation Booking Agency’ is on to us quicker than the time it takes to spell the word ‘scam‘.  ‘Where you going?  Do you have somewhere to stay?  I can help you.  My job is to work for the accommodation booking agency’.  Yeah right.

Pillars upon pillars etc...
  ‘Oh, we’re just heading to the Kiwi Hostel’‘Oh that one is full, but I know a place…’.  Yeah, yeah, whatever Mack.  I’ve heard it all before.  I’m actually pretty certain it will be full, but I ain’t taking that from him.  Thankfully things are pretty darned quiet in Selçuk right now and room is available.  Long term ex-pat Brit proprietoress Alison is not amused to hear of this business poaching hoaxer.

So yeah, the reason eeeeeveryone comes to Selçuk 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.

Ephesus columns.
  Predating the Romans, Ephesus had originally been a trading city drawing its identity from an Anatolian societal cult of the pagan Goddess Cybele, a fertility goddess in possession of quite a staggering number of breasts amongst other virtues no doubt.  Successive peoples, the Ionians and later the Romans would see her transmuted first to Artemis, the chaste Goddess of the hunt and the moon and finally to the Roman goddess Diana.  New Gods as ever built open the ruins of old ones. 

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.

  One after the other.  Each with its own turn to tumble to come in good time.  And always in the end it seems.

It’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-husband’s shop from where we’ll be given a lift.  Our crests fall as we spot it’s a carpet shop but it’s not about a soft or hard sell at all.  A nice cup of elma çay (apple tea) and then a car lift to the North Gate of the site, handing over our 20TL entrance fees (£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.

Yep, Ephesus is CROWDED!!! :)
  There probably isn’t a time of day better advisable than others to come to avoid the crush.  Whilst many day trip buses will hit around the midday heat it was still phenomenally busy at 10.00 in the morning.  Maybe later evening, I don’t know?  So there’s little left to do other than to cast yourself into one of the two streams of people and cameras that flow up or down the concourse of the ‘city’ depending upon at which gate they arrive. 

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 ‘private’ moments with The Past.  For the most part tour groups are shepherded directly along the two main ‘streets’ of the ‘Sacred Way’ and ‘Curetes Way’ with obligatory photo ops all the along.

(Ephesus) Muju 1 (
  I’m amused to start the struggle by climbing to the top of the little Odeum theatre (a baby Coloseum) from where I witness some poor lady tumble herself down four or five rows of stone seats having taken that one fatal step too far back in aid of photographic pose perfection.  Hey, it could happen to any of us.  Right?

If, as with I, you’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, it’s hard for the experience to be brought to any sense of life.  I’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.

The impressive (restored) Library of Celsus.
  But there’s just no getting away from the fact that as I move rather impassively from one weather-worn partial wall to the next; from one pile of inventory numbered beige blocks to another ( a scattered pile of Lego bricks for the Gods, ineptly plonked back together by Man I muse) and unconsciously point ’n’ click my camera at some set of stone angles and time-softened carvings or other, it might well be that finally, for now, my interest in ruins is… well?… in ruins. 

There are some undoubted highlights of the 2 hours or so I spend at the site.  The partially reconstructed and restored façade of the Library of Celsus are the camera’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.

One of the Four Virtues : replicas, the originals being housed in the Ephesus Museum, Vienna.

If, like me you’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 don‘t.

The stunning sized and situated Great Theatre of Ephesus.
  I’d heard of history repeating itself, but every 10 minutes?! ‘C’mon!’.   

I get a lift back to town with a nice Australian/ French couple I’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 don’t know!  Until the next one drops dead and covets itself an ’I Am Officially Very Interesting’ sticker and badge from UNESCO it’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.

Playing out History :)

It’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 Selçuk.  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 - ‘Hey!  Ya know a problem’s gotta be serious when it‘s earned its own acronym!’ ).  Or just old hopes abandoned.  Pipe dreams founded on bad money and awaiting their time to crumble to dust.

(L - R) Laura, Randy and Bram : my Selcuk pals :)
  The ruins of Selçuk. 

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 ’Boutique Hotel’ that lies 75% constructed in the shadows of the Selçuk Citadel and with no money left for her to throw at it.  Another ruined dream.  There are a lot of those in Selçuk 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 çay I ponder that whatever happens, Selçuk’s future is secured either way and for all time ironically by its firm foundation of ruins.

Detail of carved stone block.

dothoin says:
I was in Turkey again recently at the end of August, but back home now to reality and work. Have you ever been to Dalyan Steve? Its a lovely spot made famous by Kaptan June and her campaign to save the turtles breeding ground from the developers, her book is probably still available on Amazon (Kaptan June and the Dalyan Turtles) . When I was there I bought it and actually called to her house and she kindly signed it for me. Worth a visit if you're still in Turkey if only to see the Lycian cliff tombs.
Posted on: Sep 08, 2009
Stevie_Wes says:
Yeah, Lieke İ think you,re right. The combination of moving Out of Season and further East in Turkey mean that İ never again since Ephesus experienced such crowds in my time here. İ had no idea you were heading this way too pal! I managed to meet Devika in İstanbul.
Posted on: Sep 08, 2009
liekevo says:
I was in Ephesus last week and it wasn't as busy anymore, so probably the best time to visit is when schoolholidays in most countrys are over. And it helps too when there isn't a cruiseship in the harbor of Kusadasi.
Posted on: Sep 07, 2009
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Roman water pipes... they were cle…
Roman water pipes... they were cl…
Stevie at the Odeum
Stevie at the Odeum
Pillars upon pillars etc...
Pillars upon pillars etc...
Ephesus columns.
Ephesus columns.
Yep, Ephesus is CROWDED!!! :)
Yep, Ephesus is CROWDED!!! :)
(Ephesus) Muju 1 (…
(Ephesus) Muju 1 (www.mujuworld.c…
The impressive (restored) Library …
The impressive (restored) Library…
One of the Four Virtues : replicas…
One of the Four Virtues : replica…
The stunning sized and situated Gr…
The stunning sized and situated G…
Playing out History :)
Playing out History :)
(L - R) Laura, Randy and Bram : my…
(L - R) Laura, Randy and Bram : m…
Detail of carved stone block.
Detail of carved stone block.
Two ladies adopt a pose :)
Two ladies adopt a pose :)
The Lego Bricks of the Gods :)
The Lego Bricks of the Gods :)
(Ephesus) Muju 2 (…
(Ephesus) Muju 2 (www.mujuworld.c…
Beautıfully carved stonework at E…
Beautıfully carved stonework at …
Mute Love
'Mute Love'
photo by: peterbc2