Sunday, October 31, 2010


It was a seven-hour process getting to Selcuk, which serves as a base camp for a visit to Ephesus. During the ride there, I met some Canadians from Vancouver. That further drove home the fact that during this entire trip, I haven't met a single American. But these guys seemed fun to hang out with and we made vague plans to meet up at the ruins the next day before finding our accommodations.

There's not much to Selcuk. It's basically a farming/market town that just happens to be next to Turkey's most popular ruined city. At this time of the season, I can't blame them for being a little sick of tourists. But they still go out every day, trying to sell visitors "genuine" ancient coins. I fell for that the first time I was there, paying a whole six dollars for three specimens. That was 14 years ago. I'm wiser now. The first time somebody hit me up with coins, I'd been in town for all of about 15 minutes. He also tried to sell me weed. Five minutes later, a bunch of friendly guys had entire pocketfuls of coins to sell. Another ten minutes after that, some dude in front of the museum tried again. Yeah, all those coins are fake. They make nice souvenirs if you can get them cheap, but don't think - as I actually did 14 years ago - that you're ferrying antiquities out of the country. You're not.

OK, so my hotel was quite pleasant. I had - I'm not kidding - the smallest hotel room ever. I'm sure it was a converted broom closet. But it was quite comfortable and the price was right so I was happy to be there. There was a good view of the old Turkish fortress from my window. It looked very much like this:

It was closed for renovation, so there was no point in getting any nearer.

The night was windy and stormy. I woke up to a morning of heavy rain. Yes, it was still warm rain, but cooler than that of Patara. It didn't make any difference. There is just one Ephesus and this was my chance to see it. However, the weather was so intense that morning that I had to take shelter in the museum. Here's some of what I saw:

The guy above is, I think, Marcus Aurelius. It's tough to tell the Antonines apart. There are at least four of them: Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius and the uber-awful Commodus. They all had beards and curly hair. Likewise, the first four emperors, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, all strongly resemble each other. They were all from the same family line, but their resemblance is quite striking. The guy below is - if memory serves - Tiberius, but he could easily pass for Augustus:

OK, so with the weather finally starting to cooperate, I went off to Ephesus. It was about a three-mile walk from town. It would have been more pleasant if it hadn't been raining, but at least the thunder had passed. And so I arrived. I forgot about the carnival-like atmosphere by the front gate:

What scarves and handbags have to do with this place is beyond me, but hey, if it works for them, that's great. As luck would have it, I spotted the nice Canadians immediately after I arrived, so we went though the place together. Of course, the famous theater is always crawling with tourists like us:

I was actually a little dismayed about how much of it had been reconstructed. In fact, a very large part of Ephesus has been rebuilt or, at the very least, shored up with concrete and whatnot - in particular, the Library of Celsus. Well, it's understandable; they want people to see what the city more or less looked like back in the day. And that's the draw of Ephesus. Plus, the theater still hosts shows of all sorts. I heard tour guides explaining that Ray Charles, Sting and a bunch of lesser lights have had concerts there. And yes, the acoustics are quite admirable. So I guess that rebuilding it to accommodate modern audiences is just fine. Still, there's something about it that doesn't rest with me. I can't quite say what it is. Anyhow, here's a lot of stuff from around the Library of Celsus:

Yeah, it's pretty glorious - and infested with tourists. It's weird; people are always falling down the building's stairs. The first time I was there, two people tumbled. This time another two fell. None of the four was injured, but it happens a lot. Hey look, toilets!

The toilets and the brothel are both popular stops. Unfortunately the brothel was closed due to (re)construction. Boo! OK, so more stuff:

At first, I though this odeon was in a nice ruined state, but no. It's been reconstructed, too. The thing is that for every reconstructed building, there are ten things like this:

Now that's just silly! They just pile debris on debris. That ain't a city. Here are just a few more things:

It was good seeing the place and the Canadians were curious about stuff and overall good company. But we weren't quite done. The so-called Artemesion (the Temple of Artemis) awaited us on the way back. Every single guidebook warns in advance that it's very disappointing. Back in the day, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; it was the largest building constructed by the Greeks. These days, it's a swamp. This is what it looks like:

Apparently, there were 127 of those giant columns in the original temple. But one day in 356BC, a crazy guy had a dream that told him that if he set the Temple of Artemis on fire, his name would be remembered throughout the ages. His name was Erastratos. His dream was right. According to legend, Alexander the Great was born on the very night that Erastratos set the place ablaze. Today, no glory remains of the former temple. Souvenir hawkers abound. It's not really a good place to linger and contemplate the transience of existence.

OK, that was Ephesus. Troy awaited me up the coast courtesy of a dreaded night bus. More on that ordeal in the next post.

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