Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Turkey - Selcuk and Ephesus

Dedicated to Lee on his 21st Birthday - Congratulations mate! Hope the party was a blast!

Yesterday was spent exploring the regions around Selcuk, mostly on a small tour bus dropping us off at sites of antiquity and pilgrimage.

Undoubtedly the best and most crowded site was Efes, or Ephesus in English. This is amongst the most popular ruins in Turkey, with highlights set out along a central columnade in white marble. There were tour groups everywhere, flowing around each other like schools of fish. Trying to get photographs without too many people in them was a challenge, and but there are invariably one or two present for scale purposes. I also got a few pictures just to show how swarming the crowds were - apparently the local authorities are building a miniature railway to cope with the 'cruise ship crowds', and currently issuing tenders for lighting specialists to create facilities to tour Ephesus by night!

I also took note of the most recent contenders for my Worst Dressed Tourist award. A pair of lookalikes for Paris and Nikki Hilton (and compulsive posers), and over-tanned, bulbous, hairy Europeans with gold jewellery and open shirts are currently in the lead. It's a lousy prize, so I can't fathom why the contestants are so eager to participate...

The library, terraced houses, theatre and odeum (parliament theatre) were the most spectacular features for me. The remains of the medical institutions also featured fascinating stone reliefs with the predeccesors of the modern medical motif (called, I think, the Apscelion). I'm referring here to that snake entwined around the crook seen outside some pharmacies in Australia.

After that, we checked out the Christian shrines of the House of Mary (a very peaceful reconstructed church in a well-aged garden), the Cave of the Seven Sleepers (a Rip Van Winkle story and Byzantine mausoleum - one of several vying to be the cave!), the oldest mosque in the region, the site of the temple of Artemis (one of the ancient seven wonders), and a carpet factory. The last one was more interesting than I expected, and provided us with a very thorough overview of Turkish carpet heritage.

I was dropped off somewhere in central Selcuk. The city had been transformed since I left that morning into a massive stall market. Every street had a theme - fruit and veg, spices, clothes, sharp / dangerous and difficult-to-export things, belts, machinery, etc. The lady who sold me a bag of dried apricots tried to marry me to her daughter. Most stallholders seemed to think I was French.

That evening I located a good quality antique place, the first I've encountered in Turkey so far, and picked up my first two souvenirs. I'm not going to say what they are just yet! It was a fun shop with an encylopedic collection, and a knowledgeable dealer keen to answer my questions.

This morning I've been exploring the Selcuk (Ephesus) museum. A very worthwhile experience - all the best finds from the ancient city, plus that priapetic statue of Bes that appears on every postcard stand in Turkey. Do a Google Image search to find it. Their exhibition on Gladiators in Ephesus, and most notably their mortal wounds found on their skeletons, was fascinating.

Off to Izmir and Bergama now, to see the last antiquities-focussed region on my Turkish travels.


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