After spending over a week in Bornova (a suburb of İzmir) happily avoiding anything remotely related to tourism, I finally decided to take a day trip out to the popular ancient city of Ephesus.
About 90 minutes outside of İzmir is the city of Selçuk. And about three kilometers outside of Selçuk are the ruins of Ephesus.
It was a clear, crisp morning, and ultimately decided to brief the brief distance (instead of waiting around for 40-60 minutes for a minibus to depart). I'd followed the signposts out of town and after a few kilometers of strolling along an enjoyable pedestrian path flanked by cotton fields and miscellaneous agriculture, and arrived at the entrance—or so I thought.
It turned out that I'd walked west out of town and over to the exit, instead of walking south and ascending to the official start of the ruins. Although it's totally permissible to walk from the "exit" to the entrance, you'd be doing so uphill and against the flow of the other tourists.
All this I learned from a man who'd approached me as I encroached on a collection of parked tour buses and taxis.
He said there was a free shuttle service to the top, but first—I was waiting for the catch—I'd be asked go check out a little hand-made carpet school for women on the way, back down the road 100 meters or so.
Never trusting such people who approach me unsolicited, or revealing my true nationality when subsequently asked, I told the man I was from Costa Rica, and that I'd take him up on his offer.
As the van drove all the way back the distance and direction I'd just walked from town, I was told there were two Argentine guys working at the school I'd be visiting.
I was handed off to Alex from Buenos Aires and given a little tour. Ah, but here was entertaining bit: the entire tour was in Spanish, as I didn't have the heart to tell the guy that I'd lied to the driver.
I'm sure most people get a sales pitch, but I was probably spared because of the Spanish (and because this guy seemed genuinely interested in showing off the girls at work and how they do their carpet weaving thing).
I said ciao to the friendly Alex and off to top I went. Total time elapsed: 15 minutes.
Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins east of the Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated.
The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which was destroyed by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom in 401 AD. The emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. The town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614.
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John might have been written here.
At an estimated 44,000 seating capacity, Ephesus is believed to be the host of the largest outdoor theater in the ancient world.
The complex was actually a lot smaller than I imagined (easily walked at a casual stroll in 30-40 minutes). I didn't get too worked up over the 20 lira admission fee (≈US$13, no student discounts available) as I figured that these would likely be the only touristy ruins I'd see in this visit to Turkey.
Truly my favorite part from my time inside Ephesus involved a prolonged sit on a stone above the gate of Hercules. I must've spent nearly an hour sitting there, smoking my pipe, eating a sandwich, and playing with/feeding two friendly (greedy) cats. I loved listening to and observing the passing tour groups, and chuckling at the snap-happy Asian tourists with excessive photography and video equipment.
Not far along on my walk back into Selçuk a friendly young Turk pulled his car over to pick me up. We got to talking and had some great conversation for about 45 minutes near some ruins in the center of town.
He's 23 years old and already has a 16-month-old daughter. And one month after he got married in 2005 he was shipped off to the army for 15 months of service in eastern Turkey. Suck.
He also told me how I was lucky to see the place in the off-season, as some 10,000 people per day flood into Ephesus during the summer. Something along the lines of 800 tour buses from the cruise ships can be found parked alongside the roads leading back into town.
Let's see… 10,000 people/day at ≈$13 a pop… $130,000/day in admission. Yeesh.
My cost: 34 Turkish lira (US$21) for transportation and admission.