Monday, October 3, 2011

And then we succumbed to Rug Disease

Yes, we didn't get far into our 5-week Turkey sojourn before being bitten with the inevitable Rug Bug. But first we had to make our way to Selcuk, our destination for two nights after we left Istanbul.

After an uneventful, cheap flight on the discount airline Pegasus from Istanbul to Izmir, we picked up our National rental car, which we are keeping for the month of October, plugged in the GPS unit we'd brought along with us (with a Turkey driving directions we'd downloaded in the States), and headed off in the direction of Selcuk.

Things initially didn't go well, as often seems to happen when we arrive in a new place. First, I drove the wrong way on the road out of the airport, which became apparent when we saw a bus coming toward us in our lane. Although we were in the right lane, it was a 4-lane road with a median strip, so we weren't in the correct lane. Thankfully there was an opening in the median that allowed us to get into the proper section of the road without causing too much havoc! Second, the GPS led us directly to a security zone with armed guards who stopped us from going any further. Whaat??? We tried to explain we were looking for the road to Selcuk. They didn't really speak English, but they turned us around and pointed in the opposite direction. Apparently we needed to get OUT OF THE AIRPORT before programming the GPS. Once we did that our misadventures were behind us and we headed off through the warm, dry country (reminiscent of inland Southern California) toward our destination.
St John Basilica with the castle behind it
We arrived at the town of Selcuk in about an hour and easily found our small hotel, the Bella, which has a beautiful location right next to the main attraction in Selcuk itself, the ruined St. John's Basilica. This is the site where St. John stayed with the Virgin Mary between 37 and 48 AD (a long time ago!) and wrote his gospel 50 years later. If you're religious, I'm sure it's a place with a lot of meaning. There's quite a bit of rubble around, but much restoration has taken place so it's easily identifiable as a formerly huge structure. We walked over there about 5 p.m. so the light was beautiful and there were only a handful of people around--we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The next day from midmorning to late afternoon it was inundated with tourist buses. What a difference!

The Bella has a lovely rooftop terrace decorated in Turkish style (Turkish rugs everywhere, low tables and divans), with great views over the town, the ruins, and the castle above them. What a nice place to relax, enjoy the breeze, and have drinks and dinner. In contrast, our second-floor room was tiny, with a minuscule bathroom and a window that opened just above the table and chairs in front of the building where the hotel staff sat and conversed with passers-by. The road to the basilica is small but surprisingly busy with truck and bus traffic, so it was doubly noisy. But the decorations in the hotel were beautiful--colorful plates with traditional Turkish designs, pretty rugs covering the floors and many walls--and the staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful, so, combined with the terrace and the convenient location, it was a nice place to stay.

Yes, he could sell us a rug
Attached to the hotel was a rug and craft shop run by the hotel owners. We had no intention of buying a rug, but decided to look anyway (we had avoided going into any of the zillion rug shops in Istanbul). The owner was more than happy to take the time to show us a selection of rugs and tell us the stories behind them. In the winter he and his partner spend their time visiting the villages in the hills, searching out new and old rugs made by the local villagers. He told us that traditionally village rugs are made by young, unmarried women, who make maybe 7 or 8 rugs, including 2 dowry rugs, before they marry. The designs are not as elegant as the more formal Turkish rugs, but they are definitely attractive. Before long we found ourselves thinking about which rug we would like to buy (it happens, just like that!). We ended up with a smallish one, maybe 4 x 6, that will be shipped to us in January when we get home. We feel confident that it will arrive as promised!

Curetes Way, Ephesus
Nike -- yep, it's a swoosh
The purchase completed, we could now turn to the original purpose of staying in Selcuk: a visit to the ancient city of Ephesus, as Lonely Planet says, "the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean" and once the capital of Asia Minor. Just after breakfast the next day the Bella staff drove us to the upper entrance of the ruins, a few kilometers from Selcuk, and we spent the next 3 hours or so wandering down the hill through the ruins. There were a few large tour groups doing the same thing, but it was by no means crowded--we are here at the perfect time!

There has been plenty of reconstruction of the ruins, and sights like the Great Theater, the wide Curetes Way, and the Library of Celsus are really impressive.

The library at Ephesus
We paid $9 extra to enter the fascinating Terrace Houses, where painted walls and mosaics have been uncovered during the restoration. There is ongoing work on restoring the marble walls of the apartments, which looks like an impossible task but is definitely progressing. A not-to-be missed part of the Ephesus site, though not one person from the various tour groups we saw visited the houses. Their loss! 
How would you like to do this all day, every day?
Even the cats love spending time at Ephesus
Next: on to our home for the month, the coastal town of Kas.

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