Selcuk, Ephesus & Sirince

April 28

We had a hard time getting Ted to leave the comforts of the Venus Hotel in Pamukkale but we managed and turning down the offer of a ride up to the highway we bid goodbye to Karyn, Ibrahim, his mom and aunt (who makes up the rooms), and dad. It didn`t take us long to reach the upper highway. We were early and had some time to wait. A man walking by indicated by pointing at his watch and making gestures with his fingers how much time we had to wait. Another couple who had also stayed at the Venus Hotel joined us in the wait. A man in a car stopped by to see if he could be of some assistance. He looked Turkish but spoke with an Aussie accent. The hospitality is simply outstanding so it was a little shocking to our state of mind when the bus drove right passed us. We waited and got concerned about having time to make our next bus. The young couple (he German and she Spanish) waiting with us were not quite as concerned because they had not yet purchased their ongoing tickets. Terry thought there was a good chance that Ibrahim might be waiting on the lower highway where the bus had originally dropped us off. He started down. Sure enough Ibrahim was there and when he heard Terry`s calls he jumped on his motorized steed and came to our rescue. He asked a couple of questions and then zipped off down the highway. A few minutes later he arrived back assuring us that a bus would be along momentarily explaining that the first one was full and a second was on it`s way. He stayed with us until it arrived, helped put the backpacks into the back and spoke with the driver.

Our connection to the long distance bus went off without a hitch and after lemon cologne, water, tea, coke and cookies plus a movie (in Turkish) on an overhead screen, we reached Selcuk (pronounced Sell-chook) and were picked up by a staff member of the Bella Hotel.

Venus Hotel, Pamukkale
Bella Hotel, Selcuk   Bella Hotel, Selcuk Selcuk stork's nest

Our room on the first floor (second floor to those in North America) was small but clean and well appointed. The view looked out to St Johnís Basilica and up to a storkís nest on a pole across the street.

Nazmi Uyanik, one of the owners of the hotel, invited us up to the roof top terrace where he treated us to drinks and succulent fresh strawberries. From this vantage point the view to the storkís nest was almost level and the two long-legged birds were making loud clacking noises with their long bills and throwing their heads back. Nazmi said this behaviour had only started the day before. They thought the male bird had gone off for a wild week-long affair two weeks ago and when he finally showed up at the pole top again, she had a few cross words with him and shunned his approaches. So upset was she, that she pushed one of her eggs out of the nest. The next day another one was pushed out.

Selcuk storks Bella Hotel, Selcuk

These fights lasted day and night for a whole week with loud squawks and much flapping of feathered wings. But he was persistent and yesterday she finally let this fellow stay with loud applause from the hotel guests who had been watching this drama unfold. Now the hotel staff is thinking this is a new fellow stork. Perhaps something happened to the old guy. Today there was some mating dances going on and some lovey-dovey (or in this case is it lovey- storky?) and all is right in the pole-top nest again. Now the small birds and one pair of crows who have nests (Nazmi estimates 20 nests in all) built under and in the storkís nest can get some shut-eye.

Selcuk Museum - Bust of Marcus Aurelius 2nd Century AD Selcuk Museum - ancient glass

Nazmi helped us plan our day trip to Ephesus tomorrow and made transportation arrangements for us. He also suggested if we had time tomorrow that we should try to visit the small nearby village of Sirince. He also told us he would arrange transportation to Kusadasi early the morning after next so we didnít have to go to Kusadasi tomorrow and stay overnight there to catch the early morning boat to the Greek Island of Samos. Very pleasant fellow, very hospitable. Nazmi then turned his attention to the rest of our day and made suggestions on how we might best use our time in what was left of the day.

Selcuk Museum - ancient toys Selcuk Museum - Ancient backgammond table Selcuk Museum - ancient surgeon's tools

We took his advice and walked down to the museum which houses artefacts from Ephesus (where we would be sightseeing tomorrow). There are friezes from temples, furniture of a style that would fit into most homes today, statues, delicate glassware, jewellery, beauty and health aids, toys and even a sundial. It is a small museum, very nicely presented and well signed in English.

We then walked up to St. Johnís Basilica where St John was buried. All the tour buses had gone and except for one other fellow, we had the place to ourselves.

Selcuk Museum - friezes Selcuk Museum - holding hands with a statue
Selcuk - St. John's Basilica Selcuk - St. John's Basilica According to records of the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD it was generally accepted that St. John came to Ephesus together with Mary, mother of Jesus, some time between 37 and 48 AD and where they spent the remainder of their lives. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus entrusted his mother to St. John, his most loved disciple, and "After this the disciple took her into his own house". Some conclude from these words that when St. John came to Ephesus, Mary came along with him. He started to preach the gospel after 67 AD, and was twice threatened with death by the Emperor Domitianus. He was then exiled but return to Ephesus in 95 AD, died around the age of 100 and was buried there according to his last wishes.
Selcuk - St. John's Basilica Selcuk - St. John's Basilica In the era when Christianity began to spread (3rd - 4th centuries) a Maryrion (Monumental Tomb) was built over the grave, then a basilica over that which was rebuilt again after an earthquake demolished the first. When Ephesus fell into Turkish hands after 1304, part of the church was converted into a mosque which itself was levelled by an earthquake. Excavations have been ongoing since 1920.  


Dinner was partaken on the hotelís roof top terrace. Again ... delicious tastes of Turkey.



Erdal, childhood friend and business partner in the Hotel Bella with Nazmi, drove us and two other couples to Ephesus in the morning.

Though there was evidence of settlements in the area as far back as 6,000 BC, legend has it that Ephesus was built where it is because a soothsayer told a prince he should build a grand city where a fish and a boar meet. The prince went out hunting for such a spot and came across some fishermen frying up some fish for their dinner. As they got to talking a fish jumped from the frying pan into the fire (hmmmm) and from the fire into a bush taking a hot cinder with it; the bush caught on fire and guess what .... yep ... out comes the hiding boar and ... ta da ... the prince had his building permit.

The sea in those days was a whole lot closer and Ephesus quickly grew into a major trading centre. Having such a jewel of a city and having no defensive walls built around it, was an open invitation to a lineup of invaders who, for a spell, would call it their own. Each in turn adding something to its structure.

Ephesus Ephesus Ephesus

We sauntered through arched gates and along roadways where once there were homes, shops, baths and a gymnasium. A place where people once thrived and where now bright red poppies live. We stopped at the odeum, a small theatre built in 150 AD. Imagination can take one back to a time when the marble seats (now only a few left near the bottom) held an audience spellbound by the actors on stage, or aroused by a political speech (there have always been politicians) or thinking ĎI could do the job betterí while watching the local council make decisions.

Ephesus - Gates of Hercules Ephesus - toilets Ephesus - Curetes Way Through the Gate of Hercules (4th century AD) and down a bit on the right were menís toilets. A number of marble seats still remain. Now marble isnít the warmest of material to sit upon on a cool evening after the toga has been lifted, but if you were rich enough, you could have your servant run ahead to sit in your place and warm the seat.

Crowds of people filled Curetes Way (a major roadway) leading down to the Library of Celsus. The hum of people talking and walking today must have been similar to times so long ago.

Ephesus Ephesus Ephesus Ephesus Ephesus

The Library of Celsus, with its impressive facade, was built by a son in honour of his father, a Roman governor, who died in 114 AD and was buried under the building. The library was built into a narrow gap between other buildings and because of this confined situation, the architect used the illusion of perspective to make the building appear larger. Horizontal lines are curved and outside columns and capitals are smaller and closer together than the ones in the middle to make the building look wider. Four statues along the front represent the Virtues: Goodness, Thought, Knowledge and Wisdom.

Ephesus - Library of Celsus Ephesus - Library of Celsus

Inside, the building had double walls, spaced approximately a metre apart, in an attempt to protect the 12,000 scrolls from extremes in temperature and humidity. The library was brought down by an earthquake and because the material, though damaged, remained, todayís reconstruction was done using over 75% of the original materials. 

Ephesus - Great Theatre Ephesus - Harbour Street

The Great Theatre at one end of Harbour Street was built in 41 AD on top of a previously built theatre. The Romans then reconstructed it again in 117 AD. Today grasses fill in between the seats which once held 25,000 people.

We walked along wide Harbour Street, which in its day was "the" street. Brilliant white marble flagstones paved the way and covered unsightly water and sewerage channels. Street lights flooded the colonnades providing glitz and glamour for those long ago shoppers.

Harbour Street Ephesus Harbour Street and Great Theatre Before leaving the Ephesus site we were treated to a display of milestones. Same as today, milestones were stones laid on roadsides to indicate the distances between cities. Although generally local stones were used, there were some rare samples of marble milestones as well. Ephesus - milestone

On milestones dating back to the 3rd century BC the measurement was "stadia" (185 m). Later the first Roman milestones used a measurement called "milla passuum" (thousand steps). During the Roman Empire, besides the distance information, the name of the emperor who had the road built or maintained also had his name carved on milestones. In order to increase the visibility of the information, the carved letters and numbers were painted in red. During the late Roman Empire, in order to honour and show loyalty to the emperor, whether in fact he had anything to do with the road or not, the emperorsí names were carved on the stones, especially those stones placed at important crossroads since these were often points where emperors and governors were welcomed or bid farewell by members of the city councils. It became more important as to where the milestone should be placed for goodwill rather than for distance information. Every time a new emperor was declared, milestones were ordered changed. Since the cities had to bear the expense, milestones were often turned to use a side not yet carved.

It was most kind of Erdal to meet us and one of the other couples at the lower gate of Ephesus. He encouraged us to continue our day with a visit to the small village of Sirince. We were eager. Since the other couple preferred to return to the hotel Erdal dropped them off there and then the three of us drove up into the countryside past fields of young grape leaves on thick gnarled vines and olive trees whose gray-green leaves feathered out from dark spread-limbed tree trunks.

Ephesus - milestone
Turkish countryside between Selcuk and Sirince

Erdal and Nazimi told us they were investing money into olive groves. "It is a lot of work to gather the olives ," Erdal said driving along the narrow winding road, "but we make it a family day. Grandparents, parents, children, aunts and uncles, cousins; we all go out and pick together. It can be a lot of work but a lot of fun."

It was evident when we arrived in the village that we were not the only ones there. Tourists were milling around the streets, stores and restaurants. Erdal said he would drop us off and pick us up later. He thought some other guests would like a lift up and could pick us up at the time he dropped them off. We arranged a time. He then pointed the way up the hill to a church. "Behind that church is an eating place I think you will like or," he hesitated not knowing if we had had our fill of walking today, "there is this restaurant." He pointed to one within view. We thanked him and were on our own. Just the way we like it.

We made our way passed the souvenir and trinket stands, the clothing stores and coffee shops and headed up the steep alleyways where tourists dwindled to a trickle and locals were seen in a more natural setting going about their day.

Young boys ran up and down between houses as they had done since toddlers. A lady whose beautiful soft face showed wrinkles of age with the clearness of youth, was making daisy rings for young girls to wear as crowns.

Sirince Sirince Sirince

Farther up a goat nibbled on the edge of a rock retaining wall and a lady below the wall was pulling hot pans of bread from an outdoor, wood fuelled brick oven. We watched as she eased the fresh bread by callused hands from the hot pans and put the bread out on clean clothes to cool. There wasnít any assembly line here. Each pan was a different size, some rectangle, some round but each had just the right amount of dough. We watched in fascination as she took one loaf out of a large round pan. With fingers momentarily pulling back from the hot surface, bit by bit she broke the steaming circle open and then with determination she grasped it with both hands and ripped off a large triangle. Then she did the unexpected. She came over to the wall on which we were perched and handed up the chunk to Sherrie.

Sirince Sirince
Sirince  Sirince 

A mother and young son had joined the audience. With many thanks and huge smiles, we bowed to the lady, then not as skilfully, broke the piece again to share with mother and son. Not expecting anything but our gratitude she returned to her loaves turning once to show her own pleasure in giving with a smile which beamed despite the missing front teeth. We broke the remainder of the bread between us and continued up the hill passed ladies selling rugs and table clothes. They pointed out which ones were homemade and which were imported. They also pointed us in the direction of the church.

The church was old and appeared to no longer be in use. Some old, very worn frescos in niches are now protected behind glass.

We left the church and climbed a little higher, leaving the tourists behind and came to the place Erdal had told us about. It was worth the trek before we even sat down.

Sirince   Sirince

It had a dirt floor and basic wooden tables and chairs. On the far side the eating areas had been raised, in stages, with each holding sofas on three sides around a low central table. Children played at one of the tables. In the main part of the "room", which was wide open to fresh air and valley views on two sides, all but one of the tables were covered with cloths. Three ladies and a child sat at the uncovered table which was closest to the kitchen.

The main "kitchen" was a three sided room. On one side stood a tall make-shift counter-height table and some open shelving. On the back wall was an old soot stained fireplace not currently being used. Blocking a door way was a tall narrow cupboard, the kind once used as food larders.  On the third wall was another fireplace which was being stoked with wood branches by a lady in a long skirt, blouse with sleeves to the elbows and a head scarf leaning over a crude round wooden table whose legs were no more than 25 cm high.

Sirince Sirince 

After stoking she settled back down on a cushion behind the round table with the short legs. It was covered with flour and about a dozen small mounds of soft dough. Without pomp or ceremony she took one of the soft balls of dough and as she had done hundreds ... no thousands ... of times before she rolled out the dough to a wide, thin white disc using a long dowel no bigger around than one might find between the legs of a childís stool.

As orders came to her she would layer upon the disc fixings from plastic wash pans which sat in a semi circle to her right. For our order she put spinach and feta in one and eggplant in the other. She folded the ladened disc in half, flipped it over the narrow dowel and with a twist of her body, placed the half circle of dough on a round flat pan suspended over the open fire.

A man came by and asked us what we would like to drink. He suggested some homemade wine. We agreed. How smart was that? The wine was so smooth and so fruity. A real treat. As were the .... well ... when Erdal translated he said "pancakes" but donít be mistaken they were not anything like a North American pancake and oh so much tastier. Perhaps a crepe would be closer but still not right. We found out later they are called "gozleme".  

We concluded that the coverless table was for the owners. We gave names to the people sitting there.

Sirince  Sirince 

First on our right was Little Mama. Did she start all this? She was a little bit of a thing. Even though she sat near the edge of her chair only her toes touched the ground. She wore the typical Muslim fashion - long skirt, long sleeve blouse over which hung a long homemade wool sweater-vest and a scarf around her head. We did not hear her speak. She sat eating olives and drinking tea, first stirring in a good amount of sugar. The lady with her back to us, we named Big Mama. She was about three times the size of Little Mama and also dressed in a long skirt and long knitted vest over a shirt and a head scarf wrapped hat-style on her head. No doubt she was queen of this miniature empire perched as it was upon the hill. People spoke with her from other tables. Locals came in and greeted her. One twenty-something man came in and ceremoniously lifted her right hand and touched it to his chin and then his forehead. Staff scurried if she wanted something. Yes, she was definitely the queen ... a well liked queen. Was the younger lady Ė Recent Mama Ė with child the daughter and successor to the throne?

Sirince - Little Mama 
Sirince Sirince

The food was delicious. The atmosphere unmatchable. As the place filled up, the children who had been playing at a table on one of the "stages" continued to play while the sofas around them filled with people and happy conversation ensued.

We looked out into the valley and wondered how tourism had affected this village. Was it a good thing? More money to spend perhaps. But was that better? We couldnít complain, money and an affluent society had allowed us the blessing of coming here to share the experience of their village and themselves. Little Mama slowly, step by step, made her way from the table, past the cook and the wash basins of ingredients and perched herself on a small chair next to the tall food cupboard that blocked the door. It was our time to go as well. We knew this would be a travel memory we would cherish for a very long time.

 Sirince Sirince Sirince    Sirince 

Erdal indeed dropped off another couple and the three of us returned to the hotel. Erdal told us that Nazmi was going to give a carpet demonstration to some of the guests and would we like to join them. "Certainly," we said, knowing it was a carpet sales pitch thinly disguised. We found the presentation excellent, informative and to their credit not high pressured in the least.

It was our last night in Turkey. We went to the rooftop terrace to enjoy a drink and our last light Turkish dinner. We were having a lovely conversation with two couples from Edmonton, who had come to enjoy the atmosphere even though they were unable to secure a room at the hotel, and a couple from Victoria  (who know a couple we know), when to our joy, the couple from Edinburgh, whom we had met at the Venus Hotel in Pamukkale, came through the door. "Thought we might find you here," they said and joined us. After dinner another surprise arrived. Karyn and Ibrahim entered. It was like old home week with lots of hugs and European cheek kissing. Karyn has to go to Samos (Greek island) every three months to renew her Turkish visitorís visa. She does some shopping there, reads and returns on the next ferry. She and Ibrahim use these times as mini holidays from the hotel business.

Nazmi Uyanik of Bella Hotel, Selcuk Karyn & Ibrahim from Venus Hotel in Pamukkale 

Sharing wine and laughter with new friends is a wonderful way to say goodbye to a fascinating beginning to our Eastern European Experience.

click here to continue to April 30 and Samos Island, Greece ... 

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