Written April 29, 2012
Early Sunday morning it was an easy drive back to the airport for our 9AM flight to Izmir where we picked up the rental car for the next week. Our first destination, Selcuk, the gateway town to Ephesus, claimed to be one of the most magnificent Roman ruins in the world.
The drive into town was hassle free with little traffic. Directions to the hotel were straightforward but the narrowness of the road caused us to second guess the last turn. A friendly Turk gave us directions, followed by a lively exchange. He having just returned from the States and offering a soft invitation to visit his rug shop. Maybe tomorrow.
Rooms at the Hotel Nilya surround a geranium-filled shaded courtyard. A fountain bubbles in the corner giving the space a tranquil inviting ambience.
The reception area and rooms are clean and newish (having just opening in April of 2011), and decorated with colorful, ornate ceramics and carved dark wood against white walls.
After we were settled in the owner came to chat with us about our stay, giving us options for the afternoon and our visit to Ephesus the next morning. While he gave us pricing for a private guided tour of Ephesus, he also suggested a self-guided tour and lent us a guide book of the site. The conversation ended with a visit to their sister hotel, Hotel Bella, just around the corner, and a stop into the adjoining shop filled with the same colorful ceramics that decorate the hotel. Unlike so many other tourist destinations around the world Turkey seems to be home to the super soft sell. Warm hospitality and friendly chatter followed by a suggestion to visit their shop. An easy “maybe tomorrow” gets you off the hook.
With the map given to us by the hotel owner we take his suggested route around the sights of Selcuk, first stopping for lunch at Pinar, a small pide and pizza place on Zigburg Caddesi (street), one of the main restaurant streets in the center. Fresh pide style bread topped with meat and cheese and served fresh hot from the oven. A bargain at 5-7TL (about 3 to 4 $US).
The smallish Ephesus Museum has a nice collection of artifacts from the archeological site including – marble statues, small precious objects, sarcophagi, etc. The most striking pieces are the effigy of Priapus, displayed in a dark case for obvious reasons,
(push the green button to turn on the light); and the geometrically decorated statue of Artemis with multiple rows of breasts and whose skirt is a grid of various animals carved in relief.
The giant head and forearm of Domitian, near the exit, has a creepy baby on steroids effect.
A short walk through town and down the road towards the lower Ephesus gate is the turn off for the Temple of Artemis. Today a mostly empty field with one lone column topped by a stork’s nest marking the spot of one of the most important temples of the ancient world.
Past the temple a grassy path takes you to an opening in the fence where you can get back to the road.
A left turn will take you to the mosque, Isa Bey Camii, with a pretty sunlit courtyard.
Around the corner and back up the hill on St. Jean Cadessi (street) are the ruins of St. John’s Basilica (Apostle not the Baptist), built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century on the site of St. Johns tomb with a view of the town below. The restored walls and columns emerging from the surrounding rubble give an outline of what this imposing structure once was. A model at the top or back of the site will give you a better sense of the original plan.
St. John’s Tomb
For dinner we tried the terrace restaurant of Hotel Bella, mentioned to us by our host. The dining room with inside and outside seating has a pleasant view of the city as well as the ruins of St John and a well-placed inhabited stork’s nest for pre-dinner entertainment. Before we were seated we were shown the display case of hot and cold meze dishes with a wide selection of the usual salads, vegetables and beans. Meat options included chicken, lamb and meatball kebabs as well as lamb chops and fish. The full 25TL dinner includes soup a choice of 2 meze, a meat dish, and dessert; or a la carte 5TL per meze and 15TL for a meat dish. Tasted the roasted red peppers, eggplant, garlic yogurt with eggplant, and white beans followed by the grilled fish and spicy meat.
The food is OK but somehow lacking in flavor and quality, the soup a little too watery, the beans flavorless and the meat portions on the small side. A convenient place to dine for a first night, but go elsewhere for better food.