Once we returned to Eceabat we were taken to a restaurant for lunch where I asked TJ what the plans were for us to get to Selçuk (Sell-CHOOK) that afternoon. The tour included return transport to Istanbul or onwards to Kusadasi or Selçuk and we had requested transport on to Selçuk. It was only at this point that TJ advised me he had booked an overnight bus for us to Selçuk. Well, I had already booked accommodation in Selçuk for that night! When I told TJ this, he seemed to imply I should have known I wouldn’t be reaching Selçuk that day (“well you were never going to get to Selçuk today anyway” – apparently it takes 7 hours to travel under 400km) but did apologise and said he would call the pension we were going to stay at and sort it out. I thought this meant we would not have to pay for the night’s accommodation or at least TJ would offer to cover it, but no, we were told if Dervis (the owner of the pension) could not fill the room that night we would have to pay for it. Ugh. Later in the evening TJ offered us the option of staying in Eceabat overnight and joining one of his tours the next day to Troy and Pergamum and ending in Selçuk, but even with the reductions in price (he discounted the amount we would be charged for our accommodation that night and the amount we’d already paid for our bus) it was a bit pricey so we said no. During that conversation he also offered to cover the night’s accommodation even if we didn’t take his tour, then acted like he never said such a thing when I contacted him upon our return to the UK. Whatever, at least it was only 90TL (less than £30).
We passed the time waiting for our bus by sleeping in the common room of TJ’s hostel, watching Gallipoli, getting dinner and having a walk around the war memorials along the esplanade. Finally a bit after 11 we were taken down to the bus depot (otogar) and the guide who was with us chatted to the guy behind the counter in Turkish, confirmed we were going to Selçuk, then left. We hadn’t been issued with any tickets but I assumed because it had all been pre-booked that must be fine. Fifteen minutes later the TJ’s guide appeared back again. “Do you have tickets?” We told him no. He headed over to the counter, handed over some money and got tickets printed for us. What the?! Soon another couple turned up for the same bus, two kiwis who had also been in town for Anzac day. We were very grateful to have some other english speakers around! About ten minutes later our bus arrived and we followed it onto the ferry before climbing on board. Our tickets only had the destination as Izmir, and our kiwi acquaintance told us apparently this was normal and they would know we just have to change buses at Izmir on to Selçuk (he and his wife were doing the same but going on to Kusadasi instead of Selçuk).
I managed to sleep most of the trip fortunately, waking up whenever the bus stopped but going back to sleep soon. Poor Andre didn’t get any sleep as he was on the aisle seat and people kept knocking him whenever they walked past. We switched buses in Izmir at about 6am – and as assumed, everyone involved seemed to know Andre and I were going on to Selçuk, what bus we needed to get onto and the fact it had been paid for and directed us around as necessary, although no English was ever spoken, just “Selçuk?” Affirmative nods then pointing in the appropriate direction or the ‘follow me’ hand wave. The bus from Izmir to Selçuk didn’t take long, about an hour perhaps. Almost as soon as we got off the bus in Selçuk we were met by someone coming out of a bus company office. He asked us what pension we were staying at, and when we answered he gave us directions. He also recommended that if we wanted to take a trip to Ephesus to come and book with his company! We thanked him and said goodbye and set off in the direction he’d pointed us. We found Homeros Pension & Guesthouse easily – it was only a short walk from the otogar. We checked in on the beautifully decorated terrace upstairs (the sign at reception told us where to go) and were offered breakfast which had only just started being served. And what a breakfast! Unlike our previous accommodations it was not a buffet, you were brought a plate with everything piled on but we were never left hungry. An assortment of two or three fresh fruit, hard boiled egg, olives, tomato, cucumber, cheese and a basket of bread with butter, honey and jams. After breakfast we were taken down to our room and I asked if there was a place we were able to do laundry. The lady who had assisted us so far (the owner’s sister) told us they could do it for us at the pension for 20TL. A bit more expensive than using a laundromat in the UK but very convenient as it freed us up to do whatever we wanted to do – which at that point, was have a nap! We slept for a good two hours before getting up and deciding to go sight-seeing.
Our first destination was St John’s Basilica, the remains of a Byzantine church (more like a whole complex) where St John was apparently buried. Legend has it that when the Ottomans chased them out, the Byzantine Christians took John’s body with them, so it is no longer in the tomb in the church. It was an interesting set of ruins though with a good view of Selçuk.
On our way out Andre was ambushed by a peddler claiming to sell Ancient Roman coins. I ignored him and kept walking but Andre stopped and talked. NEVER DO THIS. I waited impatiently for upwards of fifteen minutes, periodically returning to where this guy was trying to convince Andre to buy his coins. Eventually I saw Andre point my direction and make apologies and begin moving off. I grabbed his hand and we began moving down the pathway towards the road, the coin seller still following us. I told Andre to ignore him, but near the road Andre stopped again to try and politely say no and that he was getting in trouble from his wife. The seller tried to physically force coins into Andre’s hand, at which point I spun around and marched up to him, yelled “NO!” in his face before pulling Andre out into the street. Do not even try to be polite to these people. They are criminals. You need to blatantly ignore them. You don’t need to feel bad because they are scammers and frauds and trying to rip you off. Andre told me a bit later he felt a little bit sorry for the guy “if his story is true”. His story was that he worked on the archaeological excavation and had found these coins himself. To which my reply was that if – IF – that was true (which I was willing to bet it was NOT), it’s still illegal to sell or take antiquities out of the country in Turkey (unless you have a permit), as all antiquities automatically belong to the government, so either way whatever the guy was doing was still illegal.
We made our way further through the town in the direction of the otogar because we were told at breakfast that there were markets on behind the otogar. And were there ever! They sold everything from shoes to watches, from spices to vegetables, from sweets to t-shirts. Andre bought a block of halva and two polo shirts because we established very quickly upon arriving in Turkey that we had not brought enough short-sleeved shirts with us! We bought a late lunch at one of the little cafes tucked in behind some market stalls, where we got the best chicken doner kebab sandwiches ever, in the most amazing baguettes, for only 3TL! (Less than £1).
Dinner that night was back at our pension, where we were served a multi-course traditional turkish meal. It started with lentil soup, and then the other dishes came out rapidly; crumbed chicken on rice, salad, chickpeas, bread with tzatziki (or whatever the turkish name for tzatziki is), some vegetable dish and kemal pasha for dessert again!
The next morning we were picked up for a day tour to Ephesus that we had arranged through Dervis (who owned our pension). Our first stop was at the house of Mary, where Mary the mother of Jesus lived with St John after the death of Jesus (apparently). It’s all very catholic, with a prayer wall and taps where you can fill your bottles with holy water (not even kidding) and an outdoor catholic chapel.
Fortunately we didn’t spend too long there before moving on to Ephesus. Ephesus was spectacular. Only 20% of the city has been excavated and even that amount is impressive. It’s amazing to think how much might be uncovered in 50 years’ time. We saw the market place where Paul would have preached, temples, baths and public toilets along with the famous ‘landmarks’ of Ephesus such as the Celsus library and the theatre (which seated 25,000 people). It was a very warm day and being surrounded by reflective white marble didn’t help.
After Ephesus we went to lunch, which was a pretty mediocre buffet restaurant (the most uninspiring food I saw the whole time we were in Turkey) before heading back in the direction of Selçuk to see the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the wonders of the ancient world. There is next to nothing left of it – just a few blocks and stones strewn around and one column (which has been haphazardly reassembled). You can see the outline of where the temple was though. As was common around that time, when one building was no longer used (particularly with a change in religion) it was largely demolished and the materials recycled – pieces of the pagan Temple of Artemis are now present in the Byzantine Christian churches of St John’s Basilica and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
We also visited a pottery demonstration which was actually very interesting to see and while we did not buy anything there it gave us ideas of what to look for when we got to the bazaars of Istanbul! To finish the day we visited a carpet-making demonstration where again they tried to get you to buy stuff but it was actually interesting to see the process of how silk is extracted from silkworm cocoons, and to watch some of the carpet weavers in action.