Friday, August 31, 2012


A flight in Izmir and a transfer drive to Selcuk was quick and easy. The hotel, Kalehan, is a family style place built almost courtyard style around a pool and garden, so green and cooling after the heat outside. The rooms and the hotel itself are decorated in Turkish eclectic and are small, but the staff can’t do enough for you.

ephesus, wing of Kalehan

Our room middle left

halehan dining room
The eclectically decorated dining room

Selcuk, at about 20,000 inhabitants, still has the air of a farming town; trailers full of watermelons for sale, many men in the “men only” cafes playing a sort of matching tile game, called, I think, OK, drinking tea or coffee and waiting for the time to work in the fields.


Selcuk, men at work N
The men of the town solve the world’s problems
Selcuk, stork nest N
The storks’ nest. Vacated the day before when they all flew to Morocco.

Eateries tend to be a few tables and a window in a wall selling kebabs, pide or similar. I am enjoying the fresh salad parts but find we don’t really much like the food. A bit like Greece really; many long stewed vegetable dishes and casserole type things, some grilled meats on or off skewers, rice, meatballs and so on. And so MUCH food on a set menu, at least 4 courses.

Our trip to Ephesus, which is close to town, was interesting but terribly crowded. Ali, our guide, only 6 months out from his 5 year stint at university to gain guide status, was happy to recite lots of facts and help extend our knowledge of the site. I think perhaps he will develop more of an easy style as time goes on, but he was cheerful and willing and certainly more immediate and informative than a guide book.


Ali, our cheerful guide
Ephesus, fake watches N
Probably the most photographed sign
at Ephesus
Ephesus, The crowds on the colonnaded way
An idea of the crowds

Ephesus was an important Roman port city with temples, including a rather lovely Temple of Hadrian, a massive theatre where they actually had gladiator and wild animal fights (unusual for a theatre) a very large library built by a son in memory of his father, paved marble ways, communal male toilets, agoras, shops and the works. Plus the nearby Temple of Artemis, now marked by one badly reconstructed column, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and must indeed have been a marvellous sight as the sailors came into the port.

Ephesus, Odeon and the way in
The odeon to the right at the entrance to Ephesus
Ephesus, communal toilets
The communal male loo, good for a chat as you sat butt to butt
Ephesus, medusa on Temple of hadrian N
Possibly the only Medusa where the body was shown as well. She was protective, like an evil eye amulet. Here on the Fountain of Hadrian
Ephesus, Nike
The Nike, or goddess of victory. The famous swoosh is under her right hand.
Ephesus theatre
The theatre. Note the height of the front wall to stop the animals getting to the audience

Ephesus, theatre seats
The stairs and seats
library of Cestus

Library of Celsus, reconstructed facade

The Terrace Houses are 7 rich Roman houses under excavation. While we could have seen them, and would have loved to, the climb to reach them and the temperature of the day precluded that, so I think we missed the best.

In time, the river silted up the site, the harbour receded and is now 5km away, the marshes bred mosquitoes and therefore fevers and much of the site was abandoned, the material was stolen and used in other constructions, even in Agia Sophia in Istanbul and all that was left was ruin. So what is seen now is mostly reconstruction and it looks that way. And it is on the itinerary of every ship that docks at nearby Kusadasi so it is impossibly crowded.

Ephesus, temple of Artemis

All that is left of the temple

Later we visited the local museum which has some of the beautiful artworks found, including the many breasted Artemis and a room devoted to pieces about Eros. Small glass objects found intact in some of the houses indicated the delicacy of decoration. Very peaceful and giving maybe more of a feel of the ancient city than the ruins themselves.


ephesus museum, Asclepius N
Asclepius and the snake
Ephesus museum, warrior face
An exhaused warrior
ephesus museum, winged lion
Winged lion (minus the wings)
ephesus museum, eros and anteros N

Eros and Anteros

 ephesus museum head of Eros

Head of Eros

 ephesus museum, glass

Delicate glass container


ephesus museum, ArtemisThe amazing and rather alarming statue of Artemis

The nearby Basilica of St John has his supposed grave though there is little evidence to support this. Maybe the presence of a quite large treasury and the size of the building itself lend credence to it being a very important site for Christianity. From the area surrounding the Basilica we could see the beautiful old mosque, reputed to be the first in Turkey and with a peaceful garden courtyard which was supposed to influence the Blue Mosque, 300 years later. The mosque was simple and quiet. It is still in use today.

ephesus entry to St John's basilica
Entry to the basilica of St John
Ephesus, grave of St John
The suppose site of John’s grave
ephesus, mosque, N
The Ali Bey mosque from above
Ephesus, mosque N

The mirhab

ephsus, mosque fountain N

Peaceful garden and fountain

ephesus, ali bey mosque

Ali Bey Mosque

And as John was thought to be looking after Mary, there is a story that she lived and died here, a small house near a spring being dreamt of by a German nun in about 1800 and later discovered in the mountains. I am afraid it did less for me spiritually than Mary’s house at Loreto in Italy, but some were obviously moved to prayer.

Overall, while it is a huge site and only partially explored and excavated, I did not find that it excited or moved me as other places such as Mycenae have done. Nick liked it better, I think, but hated the crowds.

But more tomorrow; this time Pergamon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


While we spent three days in Istanbul, we will return to the city later, and so i will post about that later. Instead, lets begin with our adventures out of Istanbul starting in Cappadocia.
We had a 5am pick-up at our hotel for the flight to Nevhesir airport. All was well and he arrived on time. Unfortunately he dropped us at the International terminal and we needed to find our way back to the domestic terminal to catch the right plane. Which we did. A short trip later we were delivered safely to our tour guide Neily and Mehmet our driver. We had arranged the trip through Byzas Tours and they co-ordinated all our fares, accommodation, transfers, tours around and most meals. It sounds luxurious but it was really no more expensive than arranging it all ourselves, and a lot less hassle.
Off, then, into the very hot and dry areas of Cappadocia to experience the effects of a volcanic landscape formed of layers of ash and lava and then moulded by wind and rain into extraordinary shapes. As the ash layers are softer, they can easily be dug out to make houses, churches and underground cities, while the harder layers on the top form hats and protective layers.
Cappadocia, Green among the ash hills,
The soft rock formed by the overburden of volcanic ash
Cappadoccia Fairy Chimneys
Fairy Chimneys
Cappadocia, Fairy Chimneys 2
A group of Fairy Chimneys including one that is due to lose its hat
Cappadocia, outdoor muiseum
In the Goreme open air museum
Cappadocia, hats
Chimneys thta have kept their hats
Cappadocia, Neily our guide
Neily our guide
cappadocia, Valley of the Imagination
Valley of the Imagination. Perhaps you can see a hand and a cowled woman
Cappadocia, evil eye tree
A tree festooned with evil eye talismans
Cappadocia, panorama 2
Nick’s panorama of one valley
We stopped for lunch at a pretty and cool restaurant beside a river in Avanos but, alas, the food was very poor, thin in textures and flavours. We hoped this wasn’t a foretaste of things to come.
Cappadocia, River at Avanos
We also stopped at a pottery factory for which the region is famous, and were treated to an individual pottery throwing show, followed by a tour of the painting and glazing factory. Very intricate work and very expensive. We felt some obligation to purchase something, eventually settling on a hand painted tile for which we probably paid too much.
The combined effects of an early start, excessive heat and too little water too its toll. By the time we reached our hotel at three we were ready to collapse and I suspect I was close to heat stroke. We surfaced for dinner at the hotel, a pretty cave place carved into the soft rock, and then went to sleep again. So no balloon ride fro us the next morning. We simply couldn’t have managed another 4am start.
The hotel was sweet and quite popular. It has a series of individual rooms each a cave, set around a courtyard area,  with windows and doors at the front and nice bathrooms. Unfortunately for me, the lovely big tub provided had sides too high for me to negotiate safely and I had to have recourse to the basin for my ablutions. Nick just managed. I did ask at the desk if something else was available, but none were as nice as our room, so I decided I could manage for two nights. I did try to explain to the lovely guys on the desk, but they got the giggles at my drawing showing me to be too small. An additional and unexpected feature was the pitter-patter of falling sand from the ceiling, which left about a teaspoon on the comforter by morning. Ah well, all part of the adventure.
Cappadocia, Etkep Evi gate Cappadocia, Etkep Evi Hotel
Breakfast was in the lovely, airy terrace, obviously fairly new, with views out over the valley and a delightful breeze. The food comprised a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, olives and cheeses, some cereals and breads and eggs also. We are eating far too much, though I suspect, also working it off.
Off on the second day, this time to the buried villages or the underground museum. This is a six level city, underground and connected  via tunnels and ramps, where people could escape any raiders, store food and wine in the cool and share life in a community. They had cooking rooms in common, family rooms and places they could seal with rolling stones to cut off the enemy. It is rather difficult to photograph this meaningfully, so just a few shots.
Cappadocia, Nick and Neily at buried city
Nick and neily in the Underground Museum
Cappadocia, underground city
Connecting rooms
Cappadocia, air shaft, underground city
Looking down an air shaft with steps cut in the sides. Not for me thanks!
Nick found walking the small tunnels bent over quite difficult for his breathing and it made us realise that some of the challenges of age are affecting the sort of travel we can do in future. We will see how we fare with the trains in Spain where we need to manage our luggage.
I found it interesting that there is quite a pigeon thing here. Even in the first eras of the monks living in isolation in these valleys, they kept pigeons, but it appears it is mainly for the guano to fertilise the fields, and not for food. The pigeon houses and boxes are carved into the rock and the entrance sealed except for tiny windows for the birds. Once a tear they are opened and the guano removed.
Cappadocia, pigeon valley
Pigeon houses, Pigeon Valley
Cappadocia, pigeon roosts
Ancient pigeon roosts near the outdoor museum
Cappadocia, panorama 4
Houses partially carved into the soft rock
Certainly the land is frequently arid and bare, the grape vines grown low on the ground, as in Santorini, so the heat will ripen the grapes quickly and only by using underground water sources can crops like potato or sunflower be grown. The fields seem small and the crops are in small strips. They grow pumpkin too, but jusy for the seeds; the rest is thrown back on the land as fertiliser.
Love Valley was fairly obviously named for the shape of the Fairy Chimneys there. I think they all look a bit like that.
Cappadocia, Love valley
Love valley
Cappadocia, Greek house
A Greek house. In 1922 Greeks living in Turkey were exchanged for Turks living in Greece and many of these houses ended up abandoned
Before lunch we visited a Turkish Rug house where the women made the rugs, doing double knots in wool or silk so swiftly, trimming each knot with a deft twist of a tiny knife. Ther may just possibly be one knot in one Turkish carpet made by me, but I suspect it was inferior and was later removed. I asked how much they could do in a day; maybe 3-4 cm, depending on the material. That means a 3m rug may take 100 days and may sell for $25,000, or $250/day, though probably less. I wonder how much of that goes to the women? Regretfully, we had to decline the offer of checking out all the merchandise, though we did get to see the spinning of the silk in 25 ply strands.
Lunch this time was in an old Greek style house which caters for tour groups. Very busy and very good food. A walnut and rocket salad and meatballs in yoghurt for me, fried cheese (very yummy and bad for him) and lamb skewers for Nick.
Lastly, a visit to an old cavaranserai from the Silk Route. Largely restored, it is now a cultural centre (read tourist venue) where one could be entertained at night with an historical light show followed by a Whirling Dervish ceremony. Neily explained the meaning of the dance, even though we have not seen it. The building was beautifully done with separate areas for meeting and trading, winter rooms that could be made warm and larger sleeping quarters. I imagine the smell with all the camels and horses inside the courtyard and the doors all locked for safety must have been rather pungent. They built the caravanserai every thirty kilometers, a day’s trip apart, and you could stay for free for two days. I guess the trade was worth enormous amounts to the pashas and sultans.
Cappadocia, caravensari gate
Entrance gate with clever jig-saw blocks holding the arch
Cappadocia, fountain caravenserai
Cool fountain and door to a winter room
Cappadocia, summer area caravenserai
The open courtyard and summer rooms
Cappadocia, dome in caravenserai
Gorgeous dome over the closed area where people could sleep on wooden platforms
Next post, Ephesus