To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Turkey Tour Day 11 &12: Selcuk

After a brief layover in Pamukkale, we took yet another bus to Selcuk, a 3 hour journey in which we almost we vapourised by a wayward truck. Luckily it only took out the mirror.

One brand new mirror and chocolate milk later we were on our way and arrived in Selcuk just after 1pm.
Selcuk is probably the second biggest town we've been in on this tour next to Istanbul. It pales in comparison to Istanbul in terms of size and people but it is still a fairly large place. We checked into our hotel named Hotel Canberra, allaying any homesickness we might have felt.

Immediately we left to take a bus to Sirince, a small town in the mountains about 15 minutes away from where we stayed. Sirince is a quaint little town built in the 15th Century but abandoned until freed Greek slaves settled there and named it Cirkince, which means "Ugly" to deter any visitors from coming.
The town named was changed in 1926 to Sirince by the Mayor of Izmir.

Sirince is also one of two places in the world that was supposed to be able to survive the Mayan Apocalypse in 2012.

I liked the town, it had a very old school feel to it with cobbled streets and old fashioned buildings with the red clay roof tiles. You can also see the Greek influence in not only the buildings but the people as well. 
We had lunch there (Danni and I had a mince gozleme and then a chocolate gozleme for dessert) and then explored the town. There wasn't much really to explore, there are a lot of markets selling the usual stuff they do everywhere else in Turkey and a church or house, not sure which, of the Virgin Mary after she moved to Ephesus after the death of Jesus.
The church/house was basically a large room but devoid of anything interesting and people had left their own marks on it (ie. graffiti). 

We returned back to our hotel and relaxed for about an hour before meeting again and walking to dinner at a nearby restaurant. After having an awesome lamb shish kebab, and Danni had a Moussaka Casserole, we returned to the hotel and had some much needed sleep.

The next day we awoke and had breakfast before meeting up with a couple of others in the lobby. The morning and most of the afternoon was free so we decided to walk down to the Basilica of St John. The Basilica was constructed in the 6th century and hold the tomb of John the Apostle, who was Jesus's favourite disciple/ass-kisser. 
The ground where St John is buried is amazingly well preserved, but the rest of the basilica is practically in ruins with only few of the buildings partially standing. Still, it is amazing to walk around. The place is pretty big and you can easily spend an hour in there exploring the site. 
There is a lot of ancient greek written on the pillars that are still standing and one of the entrances is mostly in tact. 
Near the basilica is an old fort but people are not allowed to visit it or enter which is a shame, it looks pretty cool and it is huge.

St John Basilica

After the basilica we walked down the road to what is known as the recycled Mosque. It is a mosque that has been built using recycled materials from the basilica and the nearby Temple of Artemis.
It was surprisingly big but nothing special. 
The inside of it was nice as well and it had some tablets with old arabic written on it.

Next we got to visit one of the Ancient Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis. Today it isn't really a temple but more of a giant pillar and some other ruins that has been flooded and is occupied by a lot of tortoises. However it is one impressive pillar.
It was built by the Greeks in 550BC though destroyed by a flood. It was rebuilt again before being permanently destroyed by Herostratus, a arsonist/ego-driver nut job who wanted to become famous. Which he succeeded in doing, even though he was executed and was told to have his name stricken from all records.
Of course there is also that one guy who defies Kings and recorded what happened and thus we know his name.

Like I said, the column is huge and the rest of the site is just a few ruins here and there plus the indent of where the building was. Water sits in most of the indentations and there are heaps of little tortoises there.
I find it surprising that this Ancient Wonder of the World is free to enter and hardly advertised.
Worked for us though since there wasn't anyone else there.

The remains of the Temple of Artemis

Once we had finished at the Temple of Artemis, we had lunch at a nearby cafe and returned to our hotel where Danni and I had another nap.

Gee you'd think we were on holidays.

At 4pm we met everyone in the lobby and headed to Ephesus.

Ephesus was amazing. It is a former Greek and Roman settlement of about 250,000 people that built in the first century until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 614AD.
There is still a fair bit remaining, although nothing fully intact and a lot of bits and pieces just laying around however they are still excavating the site and probably will be for a long time to come. They think they have only uncovered 15% of the site.

The small theatre

There is a lot of references to the old greek gods, including a tablet to the Nike, the goddess of Victory. The Heracles/Hercules Nemean gate, a reference to one of the his trials where he slay the Nemean Lion.
They have a few of the main sites though that have been pretty well preserved. One of them being the Odeon, a small 1500 seat theatre that was used for plays and concerts. It was believe this theatre had a roof as well. There is also the Great Theatre, a 25000 seat stadia that was used for theatre, plays, concerts, as well as political and philosophical discussions but gladiator duels. Nearby they found over 100 graves for the gladiators where they learned of their behaviours, including their diets (they were vegetarians) and life expectancy (they lived until the age of 23 - 33 normally).

The Temple of Hadrian

Both theatres were incredible, but the great theatre was awesome. You can see into where the animals were kept, and the tunnels for the gladiators to enter. The back of the stage is partially intact and beyond is a pretty darn good view.
Also worth the visit was the Library of Celsus. The front has been reconstructed after it was discovered but it was initially built in 125BC in honour of Tiberius Polemaeanus, who was a Govenor in the Roman Empire, and paid for by Celsus out of his own money.
Celsus is buried under the Library. The tomb is still there but can't really make it out. The front of the library is huge though. It is 2-storeys high with 4 statues sitting in the reliefs at the entrance. The design was made with the pillars thicker at the bottom and taper at the top to make it look bigger than what it really is.
The library held over 12,000 scrolls but were destroyed by the earthquake.

The entrance to the Library of Celsus

We also visited the Latrines, the public toilets which still has the toilet seats in tact, made from marble. Sometimes, when it was cold, the rich people would send their slaves in to sit on the seats to warm it up. You also had to pay to use it but the middle of the latrine was reserved for entertainment...yes, they had people perform in the toilets.
There were also two temples at the site. The temple of Hadrion, and the temple of Domitian. The temple of Hadrian is dedicated to Hadrian, one of the five good emperors (basically one of five consecutive emperors - Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius)
The temple has a depiction of Medusa at the front entrance for protection and Androklos shooting a boar, Dionysus, Athena, Apollo and the Amazons.
There is also a depiction of a person on the front that is thought to be of a young boy Hadrian was deeply in love with (eww).
The temple of Domitian is the largest temple on the site of Ephesus. Domitian was an emperor from 81- 96 and nearby is the Fountain/Tomb of Pollio which was dedicated to Sextillius Pollio who built the aqueducts in the city.

The Great Theatre

We spent a good amount of time in Ephesus, it was simply one of the more fascinating places I've been too. It was similar to the ruins on Pamukkale but much larger and naturally much larger with a long history.
I could have spent a lot longer there if I could but unfortunately we had to leave and returned to our hotel. We had dinner at the hotel and went to bed.
Tomorrow we have to get up early to head to Canukkale.

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