A wonder of the Ancient World: Selçuk

Days: 525 (2 December 2015)

Total distance travelled: 133,422.2 kilometres (82,870.94 miles)

It had taken two connections, and what had remained of the day, but like our arrival in Bergama a day earlier, it was dusk when we wandered from the local bus terminal in search of our Selçuk  hostel.

I don’t honestly recall how we settled on this place (our accommodation), but if you Google Selçuk, it even appears on the town map!

Anyway, it was by now dark but didn’t prove all that difficult for us to find, and we were pretty soon at the bustling ANZ Guesthouse.

Perhaps eager to keep some space in their otherwise almost full dorms, we were quickly offered a free upgrade to a private room, an offer we eagerly accepted!

After a short evening wander, we retired for the day, eager to hit the ground running the following day to tick off the key reason for our visit, the ruins of Ephesus.

Conveniently, Selçuk sits very close to the ancient Greek city, the walk from our hostel looking roughly three kilometres, so it wasn’t long after breakfast and we were on our way.

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Looking back towards the town and the fortress of the same name

Having turned off the main highway towards the ruins, the occasional tour bus already passing us by, we were faced with the option of continuing our present course, or following another of those now familiar, brown tourist signs towards a location that simply said ‘The Seven Sleepers

With the traffic seemingly headed the other way, we opted for this left turn, figuring we had the rest of the day for Ephesus should it be required.

The empty road took us past lush orchards, the trees laden with plump, ripe looking mandarins.

Generally, I’ve always found the mandarin to be an insipid option compared to the orange, but with these trees hanging over the fence and sagging under the weight of their own burden, I thought why not give them a sample.

Wow!

Without a doubt, simply the best mandarins I’ve ever tasted, so good in fact I pocketed a sneaky couple for later on as well.

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Getting a taste for the best Mandarins in the world!

Before long, we arrived at a handful of presently closed souvenir stalls and an eatery where, but for Sarah and myself (I was probably covered in citrus juice), there was not a soul around.

We soon passed through the empty stalls and up a rocky incline, and just like that, we were there.

In truth, the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers didn’t present us with a lot to see.

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Exploring the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers

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As is often the case, we had the place to ourselves

Apparently their stories have popped up in both biblical works, as well as the Quran, but I’ll confess I don’t fully know the story. From what I was able to gather, this location was used to escape religious persecution by hiding in a cave… maybe there were seven of them?

Perhaps the full tale is even better than the site itself?

I guess it, like our subsequent explorations of Ephesus, are for another time (as in a separate post)…

Several hours later, well satisfied after our experience within the ancient Greek city, we were to be found retracing our steps on the walk back to Selçuk.

Just shy of the township proper, we took another small detour to scout yet another piece of classical history.

Since some company (I can’t recall who it actually was) had the clever idea to relaunch the tag and in doing so, give themselves an awful amount of PR, the “Seven Wonders of the World” has been regularly bandied around once more.

Down a short side road, and we found ourselves face to face with one of the original “Seven Wonders of the World”, or at least we would have been, had it not been in ruin for almost two thousand years.

Here once stood the Temple of Artemis, one of the original seven wonders outlined in what some consider the oldest travel guide in the world.

These days, marked by a lone, mismatched column and a murky, scum ringed pond…

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These days, not so much to wonder at… the Temple of Artemis

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A little damp around the edges

All this ancient history helped work up both a thirst and an appetite, and basking in the glory of yet another stunning winters day, we took a different route than the by now almost stock standard kebab.

Today it was time for what many consider the Turkish equivalent of the pizza, a pide (in fact two of them), all washed down with a nice cold glass of Ayram (a yoghurt drink) and pomegranate juice.

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His and hers (or more correctly, her’s and his): Ayram and Pomegranate juice

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Pide the fool!

With bellies full, and an afternoon spent lazing in the sun, we had one more local sight to enjoy before calling it a day… although in truth it was actually two sights.

As the shadows began to lengthen, we made our way to the higher part of town, both to enjoy (hopefully) the setting sun as well as the fortress that commanded views in all directions.

But before we could get up there, we had to get a touch biblical.

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The grand fortress towers over the basilica

As you’ve probably gathered, I’m hardly the pious sort and neither is Sarah, however there is no way in hell we weren’t familiar with the name of Saint John the Baptist.

Well to reach the fortress, we’d need to pass through old Saint John, or more precisely, through the basilica that bears his name.

It certainly was not a chore, and when a small posse of German travellers (perhaps on some sort of pilgrimage) began a canticle, the place took on a rather lovely feel (I’m sure better again for the fact we could not understand the words).

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Exploring the Basilica of St John the Baptist

Eventually we found ourselves up beyond the basilica, which from the information signage was once a monstrous building.

It was somewhat fortuitous timing, as we were allowed the time to explore this fortress that overlooks Selçuk, only discovering as we were sipping back out its gate that it was actually to be locked as soon as we’d departed.

This was bad news for the trio headed in our direction (they just missed out on getting in), but we on the other hand, got to witness a stunning conclusion to another wonderful day.

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A stunning winters evening…

 

 

Notes:

* A microbus from Bergama to Izmir cost us 10.00 Lire per person (with pick-up from our pension).

* Our microbus connection from Izmir to Selçuk cost another 10.0 Lire per person.

* Entrance into the ruins of Ephesus were included as part of our Ionian Museum pass (separately, entrance cost 45.00 Lire).

* Entrance into the Temple of Artemis was FREE, whilst the Cathedral of St John was also included in our Ionian Museum pass (normally 5.00 Lire per person).

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