Friday, August 15, 2014

Selkirk, Ephesus, and Home

I didn't mean to abandon my report on our trip to Paris and Turkey. I have one more entry to post, about our visit to Ephesus, an ancient city as amazing as anything you might find in Greece or Rome. Here we go....

In the morning we fly to Izmir airport, a huge new empty airport that serves this area south of Istanbul along the coast. This time our driver picks us up without mishap and we go for an hour long drive through the Turkish countryside. We see fields and distant mountains, set amid an arid Mediterranean landscape. We see rain storms in the distance, but above our heads the sky is blue.

Selkirk turns out to be a small city at the edge of the ruins. Our hotel, Bella, is an antique itself. Our room is tiny, with barely enough room to move, but we're not planning on spending much time there. We climb the stairs to their pleasant terrace restaurant overlooking the local ruins. After a late lunch we go for a late afternoon exploration of the citadel and ruins of St. John's basilica. We start to get a sense of the layers of history here, Pagan, Greek, Roman, Christian, Muslim.

After exploring the fortress and the remains of the basilica we walk down the street to the old mosque. Along the way a little old man asks if we want to see his little mosque too. A comedy of sorts ensues. He tells us with hand gestures and broken English that he is the meuzzin for the little mosque. He shows us the prayers he will say, the times he will say them, even sings a bit as a sort of preview, showing us the English so we can follow along. I'm charmed and amused; is he trying to convert us?

We have dinner on the terrace, watch the flaming lanterns from a party below us, talk to a friendly family from San Francisco, admire the stocks and their nest right on the other side of the balcony. The only thing is I don't sleep well that night. I'm kind of itchy and hot and feel like I'm getting Lee's cold. Oh well!

The following day, Tuesday, June 10th, is a day of intense touring. After a short run along a pedestrian walkway and a quick breakfast off we go. First stop is Ephesus with a guide. His English is good but heavily accented and full of strange colloquialisms. "Of the people, like that" repeated just about every sentence. Ephesus is a lovely ruined city with marble streets, baths, temples, marketplaces, houses. Our favorite part by far are the terrace houses, elegant apartments on a hillside where the remains of mosaic floors and painted walls can be clearly seen.

The library and the theatre are the most magnificent remaining structures. It's sunny, and hot, and a cruise ship, or maybe several cruise ships, have descended on Ephesus. Neither of us can take in any additional knowledge. Time for lunch.

Nazmi, the owner of hotel Bella, has arranged for us to eat lunch at a tribal (native Turkish) outdoor restaurant. The make baked flatbread with various fillings, thin little hot sandwiches. Nazmi orders for us, one sweet that tastes a little like peanut butter and honey, and one with something like spinach and cheese. Interesting. Then we go back to the hotel for a bit to rest and cool off.

Finally we go to Nazmi's carpet shop. He buys carpets in nearby villages for resale in his shop. He explains how each family in a village has their own pattern, handed down from mother to daughter. How the carpets are created, some for sale, others for the daughter's dowry. We really have no intention of buying another carpet, and in fact are not sure exactly where we will put it, but I find one of the smaller village carpets irresistible.

We have a late flight that evening back to Istanbul. Lightning flashes decorate the sky along the mountains to our left on the way back to the airport, A brief thunderstorm delays our flight but eventually we are back in Istanbul. A short taxi ride takes us to a sleek modern hotel for a late room service dinner and a brief sleep. We have to wake up at 3 am to make our flight home in the morning. Istanbul to Frankfurt to DC and finally Boston. It's been a great vacation but I'm ready to be home.

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