Note: This entry is part of a series about our 2012 trip to Turkey.
Our final destination before returning to Istanbul was the city of Selçuk–gateway to the ruins at Ephesus. We stayed at Jimmy’s Place hotel. This was a fine budget hotel but admittedly, my least favorite accommodations of our trip. We had one minor issue with the sheets in our room, which the staff took care of and their breakfast wasn’t quite as impressive as what we had become accustomed to in Turkey but for the price, quite adequate. We met some of the nicest fellow travelers here, who finally introduced us to salep, which we enjoyed during our return trip to Istanbul. It’s also in a good location–a short walk to the bus station and the “central” area.
For a small fee, the hotel arranged transport the next morning to Ephesus. Ephesus was one of my “must sees” in Turkey and it really is quite spectacular. After our experience at Hierapolis, we had some expectations that couldn’t be met due to the large crowds from cruise ships that visit Ephesus. While Hierapolis seems to be in a state of preservation, Ephesus is in a state of restoration. It’s still a ruined city but it has a more “polished” feel about it, which to us made it seem a little less genuine than Hierapolis. That said, we still had a wonderful time and there are many breath-taking sites to be seen at Ephesus.
Settled earlier than the 10th Century B.C., the city endured more than a millennium before its decline in the 6th century A.D. During its peak, Ephesus was home to over 250,000 people, many of whom worshiped the fertility goddess, Artemis. The temple built in her honor, the largest on earth, later became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Apostle Paul famously preached at Ephesus’s Great Theater against the worship of Artemis (Acts 19), inspiring a riot, and penned his letter to the church at Ephesus (now the book of Ephesians in the Bible). Additionally, the Apostle John supposedly settled in Ephesus with Mary, mother of Jesus.
We visited Ephesus on Christmas Eve, which seemed a fitting way to celebrate Christ’s birth in a Muslim country. As we sat in the Great Theater admiring the view and acoustics, a group of British women entered and began singing “Silent Night.” It was an amazing moment that I managed to record on my phone (you may have to turn up your volume to hear):
After our day at Ephesus, we walked back to the hotel, then set out to find Ejder Restaurant, which was recommended in our guidebook. It was a cold evening so we had to wait for tables to open up in their tiny dining room but it was worth it. We shared a table with a Japanese couple who spoke some English. In addition to the excellent food, the restaurant is known for its books of comments and trinkets left by customers. The owner was quick to show us Steve Irwin’s note (of Crocodile Hunter fame). We enjoyed our meal and left our own note, along with an outline of our intertwined wedding bands and one of my hair barrettes. I should have come better prepared for trinket leaving!
The following day we planned to visit the Ephesus Museum but learned after walking there that it was closed for renovations. Not to fret, however, we ended up exploring Selçuk on our own and had a wonderful time in the process.
Because the museum was closed, we had time to explore the Basilica of St. John, which somehow didn’t make it onto my original list of places to see in Selçuk. What a shame that would have been! The place is amazing and offers great views of the city. The Apostle John was said to have come to Ephesus twice. The first time between 37 and 48 A.D. with Mary, mother of Jesus, and the second time in 95 AD, when he wrote his gospel on Ayasuluk Hill. Emperor Justinian erected this magnificent church on top of the 4th-century tomb that was said to hold John’s remains. A c.1375 earthquakes and plunderers left the basilica in ruins until a century ago when restoration began.
For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
It took my breath away, imagining that John might have penned these words atop this hill.
For lunch we ate at the Mehmet & Alibaba Kebab House. It was another home run of a meal, but our real enjoyment was talking with Mehmet. We asked him about the practice of Islam and he talked about the secular nature of many people’s faith in Turkey. It was one of the most enlightening conversations we had with a local. We had contemplated purchasing a rug as a souvenir in Turkey but had put it off since we didn’t want to pack it with us the entire trip. The owners of this restaurant also have a rug shop next door and we enjoyed looking at them. We felt like it was a very low pressure situation (unlike what you’d find at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul).
In the end, we did end up purchasing a rug in Selçuk from the store in our hotel at Jimmy’s Place. We found one we loved and Jimmy explained the symbolism in it. After comparing prices in Turkey and even since coming home, we’re pleased with our purchase–it’s our favorite souvenir that now hangs on our living room wall as an every day reminder of our fabulous trip to Turkey.