Friday, December 10, 2010

Selçuk, Turkey

Friends: Turkey's Mediterranean coast line abounds with ruins 2,000 years old and older. If they had any sort of bicycle connection, I'd be stopping several times a day and making detours left and right to give them a look. But no, they are just ruins that all look the same after a while, so I've just been giving a glance to those that are right on my route, awaiting Ephesus, the class of the ruins and the only World Heritage Site among them.

Most of those I've seen truly are ruins, a rubble of rocks and stones only minimally restored and uncovered. When I entered the ruins of Olympos a week ago through the back entrance from the beach, I reached the front entrance without being aware of ruins at all they were so overgrown. The 15,000 seat amphitheater in Side was closed for restoration, so I could only be impressed by its exterior walls. The agora, the open space for commerce in Graeco-Roman cities, leading up to it, was typical of most of the ruins, haphazardly littered with fallen pillars and large stones that had been the building blocks for assorted structures.

Having seen the ruins of Pompei and Angor Watt and Tikal and Machu Pichu and Palenque and the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xian, these were all quite trivial. And I'm sorry to report Ephesus wasn't much more impressive. I arrived early this morning, much earlier than I anticipated, well before they were open, thanks to a four a.m. deluge that flooded my tent, forcing me to make a quick evacuation.

I'm not sure if I was lucky to have been staying in a campground or not, as the campground had such a hard surface it didn't allow for any drainage. If I'd been in a forest, it would have been a different story. But the rain came down so fast and hard, I may have been swamped there as well. At least in the campground I had the refuge of the bathrooms to retreat to.

The road this morning was an obstacle course of mud and rocks and other debris that had washed down from the hillsides, so I might have been caught in a flash flood if I hadn't been in a campground. I chose to pay to camp as I found myself in Kusadasi, a large port and tourist town, with dark descending. I feared the twelve mile stretch from Kusadasi to Ephesus would all be built up with no possibility of wild camping. Turns out it wasn't and there would have been some good forest camping.

But I didn't mind at all a shower and a worry-free night in a safe zone, with no panic stabs to the heart when I heard a dog bark or the rustle of leafs or the snap of a twig.  It was a rare pleasure to take an evening meander on the bike.  My ride took me along the beaches of Kusadasi and to the dock where a huge cruise ship lay at anchor and past the blocks and blocks of tacky souvenir shops and some of the 700 hotels in this sea-side resort.

My early arrival at Ephesus allowed me to circle its circumference and peer in from its two entrances before it opened and bus loads of tourists from the cruise ship descended upon the place. I could see that these ruins hardly warranted the twenty lira entry fee. Ten maybe, even though that is close to my daily budget. A large crane marred the one photo I would have liked of the 25,000 seat amphitheater built into a hillside.

Ephesus also offered a couple of Christian pilgrimage sites. The apostle John and the Virgin Mary lived out their lives nearby. John wrote his Gospel here. A church built over his tomb in Selçuk, just two miles from Ephesus, also lays in ruins on a hillside. Mary's home is four miles beyond Ephesus up a long, steep climb out in the countryside. St. Paul also lived in Ephesus for several years. His letter to the Ephesians is one of the books of the New Testament.

Next significant site up the coast, 250 miles away, is the ancient city of Troy, another set of ruins. They don't promise much either, as Lonely Planet says a huge wooden Trojan Horse was placed at its entrance to give the tourists something to photograph. Whether or not the site stirs the blood, I will at least gain a first hand image to associate with the storied site that Homer immortalized. Tomorrow morning I will be passing through the city where Homer lived, Izmir, Turkey's third largest city.

It remains dank and overcast. I need a splash of daylight to dry out my soaked tent or else I will have quite a bit of swabbing to do this evening after I set it up and before filling it with my gear. At least I saved my sleeping bag before the water level inundated me this morning.

Later, George

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