We’re in Asia!

Bodrum is a port city on the southwestern side of Turkey. We arrived early in the morning and headed straight to the bus station to inquire about transport to Selçuk. The bus station is a terrifying chaos. Every company has a small office and men outside yelling their destinations out; people loiter around smoking and drinking tea while buses pull in and out in a bewildering manner; bewildering because they didn’t crash or ran anyone over. We bought tickets on the only bus available, at 3:30pm. The ticket vendor allowed us to drop our packs off in his office and we hurried off to visit Bodrum Castle

20130814-173530.jpgBodrum was the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Mausoleum of Mausolus built in 350 BC. An earthquake destroyed it after it had stood for 1700 years and the Crusaders then used its remains to build the Castle of Saint Peter, or Bodrum Castle as it’s more commonly known.

The Museum of Underwater Archaelogy is housed in several of the castle rooms and is billed as the most important museum of its kind in the world (then again, how many museums of underwater archaelogy do you know of?) The Black Sea was once a lake; as the last ice age came to an end and glaciers melted, sea levels rose. This caused the Mediterranean Sea to begin exchanging warm & dense saline water which then sinks under the cooler and less saline water from the rivers that feed the Black Sea. This, in turn, causes the deep Black Sea to be highly toxic and thus almost devoid of life. Why am I telling you all this? Well, it turns out that this is the perfect environment to preserve a shipwreck. Thus, Turkey can boast of having the best underwater archaelogy museum and to have recovered the remains of dozens of them.

20130814-173316.jpgEven if you’re not into old basins (although this 14th century BC center basin is exciting)
20130814-174108.jpgthe castle is worth the visit simply for itself and the views of the bay that it will afford you.

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There are also different exhibits with glass artifacts and jewels that have been recovered (no pics are allowed in those rooms), and a small dungeon where prisoners were kept.

There is a lot of climbing to be done in the castle and although arrows are supposed to mark the route, they are missing in some places. We had to visit at the height of the midday sun but if you have a choice, do it in the early morning: the sun is oppresive and of course there is no A/C.

The bus ride from Bodrum to Selçuk takes 3 hours. Buses are new and have individual tv’s where you can watch movies in Turkish or even the road if you prefer.

20130814-180701.jpgYou would imagine it’s an easy trip but…although the bus is airconditioned the driver turns it off often to save gas. At around 8USD per gallon, it’s understandable; but when temperatures reach 104F even my environmentalism flies out the window. We couldn’t wait to get off.

We arrived in Selçuk tired and sweaty and without a place to sleep. As I was taking a picture of the bus schedule to review later, a man approached me and asked if I needed bus information. We followed him into his airconditioned office. Tony fixed our schedule for the next two days and even found us a place to stay. We don’t even know if he took advantage of us but if he did, he did it in such a kind manner that we’re ok with it. This has been the biggest surprise about Turkey: people are very kind and generous, not to mention soft-spoken. There is no fighting, no cursing, no yelling. Tony treated us to apple tea while we looked at bus schedules and he secured us a room at a nearby pension.

We arrived in Turkey on the last day of Ramadan: Muslims everywhere fast from sun-up to sun-down during this month although some have confessed to us that they cheat a bit. Ramadan is followed by Eid al-Fitr which are three days of celebration in which many businesses close and people vacation and travel. We had been warned that getting accomodations or transportation during these days would be next to impossible. Having experienced it now, I don’t think there should have been cause for concern. That night as we went out for dinner we found all of downtown full of men sitting around smoking and drinking tea. It was a bit unnerving. We also noticed lots of barbershops which seemed all to be full. We understood later when we ran into Junith, our pension owner, who was looking for a place to get a shave. Since it was the last night of Ramadan, every man gets a haircut and a shave before beginning the celebrations the next morning. Junith later told us that he didn’t get in until 3am!

Selçuk is a nice quiet town with a castle which has been closed for renovations since 2010

20130814-183303.jpgand lots and lots of storks!

20130814-183501.jpgSelçuk’s true importance though is that it is located right beside Ephesus.

The Temple of Artemis here was another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, only a column remains.

20130814-184155.jpgDid you notice the stork on top?

As has become our custom, we were at Ephesus’ gates at opening time, 8am. There are two entrances/exits from the archaelogical site: North & South. The South entrance has the advantage of it being a downhill walk from there. While Ephesus began as a Greek city, with time it grew to house a population of 250k people and became one of the largest Roman cities in the Mediterranean. Even today it looms enormous and takes at least two hours to walk all the way thru, more if you deviate from the main road.
20130814-194817.jpgThere are lots of awesome ruins in Ephesus:

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20130814-200623.jpgAmong Ephesus’ most impressive ruins are the Traian Fountain

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and The Great Theater

20130814-195857.jpgwith its dressing rooms

20130814-203622.jpgbut the true gem is the Library of Celsus.

20130814-201013.jpgIt was built to honor a Roman senator and housed 12,000 scrolls. Since it was squeezed in between two older constructions, an architectural trick was used to make it appear bigger than it was. The outer columns are more slender and placed lower than the inner columns. A third row of windows was added to give the impression of an extra floor. Secondary walls were also built on the inside to produce an isolating layer of air and protect the scrolls from humidity. Pretty impressive.

20130814-202205.jpgYou know what else there are a lot of at Ephesus? Cats! Everywhere, lots and lots of them.

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Outside we browsed souvenirs

20130814-204001.jpgand were offered “original” coins with the figure of Alexander the Great for 400USD while we waited for Junith to pick us up. A great Turkish man who went out of his way to drive us back and forth and make sure we had a good time, even having a late breakfast waiting for us when we got back from Ephesus.

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At Selçuk are located two other famous sites: the St. John Church and Fortress

20130814-214633.jpgand the Virgin Mary’s house. The story is that St. John and Mary traveled together and hid in Ephesus where St. John wrote his gospel and they both died here. St. John is buried under the church and Mary’s house is where she spent her last days. After reading the serendipituos way in which her house was allegedly discovered, we were less than enthused about it and decided to skip it, much to Junith’s dissapointment.

He decided to take us to a carpet weaving school instead

20130814-222446.jpgwhere we saw silk cocoons being washed

20130814-215953.jpgand a master student working on her carpet.

20130814-220104.jpgIt will take her 9 months to finish it!

Although we insisted we didn’t want to buy a carpet, we were shown dozens of them and offered all manner of discounts, easy payment options and even free shipping. It was though, but we managed to walk out without buying anything and they even drove us back to our pension afterward.

Tony had arranged for us to take a day trip to Pamukkale, site of the travertine pools which are formed when the flowing waters deposit minerals, mostly calcium, on the terraces.

20130814-220936.jpgThere is not much to do here except soak in the cool waters.

20130814-221153.jpgThe ruins of Hierapolis lie above the travertines but to be honest we were too “ruined” out to trek all the way up there. We didn’t have much time either as we had to catch the bus back, which we barely did. We found Junith waiting for us at the bus station when we arrived, as usual.

Categories: Asia, Europe, Turkey, Turkey, UNESCO site | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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