Ephesus: No Clichés

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
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Trip End Sep 11, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Izmir,
Sunday, February 22, 2009

A large gap in my entries occurs for the period of time I spent in and around Selcuk, the town that one usually stays in for a visit to perhaps the most famous of the Classical archaeological sites in Turkey, Ephesus. At this point, almost a year later, written at home, I can't recall a specific reason for the gap. It could have been that I was too busy exploring to write. It could have been because what I might have written was lost when my computer was hacked while in a pension in Selcuk. In that attack I lost everything on my laptop, including my operating system. I'm surprised now to find I have pictures. I must have backed them up on a memory stick. So, what follows is a summary from memory from those days in and around Ephesus.

This occasion was my third visit to Ephesus. My first was in 1970. Then Ephesus had not become the "item" it is now. Nor was there so much to see. Much has since been revealed by archaeological excavations that continue through these days. In 1970 there was no fence, no entry fee. I slept the night beneath a tree up above the theater.

In the Summer of 2002 I made my second visit. It was a summer of a tremendous heat wave in Europe. It was so hot and humid I just sort of said "Howdy do" to the place, not being able to get out of there fast enough.

But in 2009 I got there earlier in the season of a milder year and the climate was no problem.

One of the first discoveries I made was of a new library which had opened in 2006, The Crisler Library in Ephesus (http://www.crislerlibraryephesos.com/index.html). It had been written up in the latest Lonely Planet guide book, and offered a chance to purchase some books. In Turkey, if you like reading you take every opportunity to find books in English. It is an invaluable resource center for anyone with more than a casual interest in the archaeology of Turkey. The director, Janet Crisler, certainly made my visits seem welcome.


I didn't head for the archaeological site without beating around the bush a little bit first. Off to the east of the town of Selcuk (Ephesus is to the southwest of town) I spied a hill peak that I set as an objective to climb, and from which I thought I could get a great orienting view of the larger geographical lay of the land.




A great thing about Turkey is that one can so very often just strike out cross country in the direction of an objective. Often encountering sheep and their stewards.










Looking back from that peak (or it's vicinity) did indeed provide a marvelous overview. The two low hill peaks to the left just beyond the the town of Selcuk obscure the ruins of Ephesus, at the base of the far side of the hills. The brown patch describes the silted-in ancient harbor of Ephesus. It was the sort of dinosaur-like hill crest to the left of Ephesus that I decided to next explore before entering the actual site and ruins.
 
I ended up hiking along the wall ruins that crested these hills twice. Almost more than the ruins themselves these kinds of walls--here and elsewhere--constantly provoked me to rhetorically ask myself, "How did they do it!?"

I climb over this stuff in fortified, modern-day hiking boots. (By the way, I was just breaking in a new pair of Timberland hiking boots recently purchased in a harborside mall in Izmir). It's tough enough stabilizing one's footing in the natural rock and brush terrain. How did those guys manage their labors over such a landscape; and moving and erecting such cyclopean stones?

It's just unimaginable. Surely they at least had sandals. They couldn't have been barefoot; this weathered limestone would just tear you up. It remains an awesome mystery to me. (And, I don't use the word 'awesome' so cheaply as many do these days).









At a high point along the wall remains along the crest of the hills I had a full, encompassing view of nearly of all of Ephesus.






 
I continued along the wall remnants, noting various features still standing out.












Eventually I came down to the saddle area seen in the upper left background of these two photos.

There was not enough time left in the day to climb on up to the little structure atop the little hill, there near the middle of the picture. The picture (and the season) very well shows by the dried reeds the form of the long since silted-in ancient Ephesus harbor. Just to the right of the long white way (The Harbor Street) is where  the Roman era gymnasium and baths were, a couple of chunks of which are shown here.



 

After some days I got around to legitimately visiting the formal archaeological ruins and reconstructions of Ephesus. And so on that day I also paid an extra fee to access and view the very latest of the present-day archaeological efforts, the domestic quarter of the wealthy citizens.


As seen in this photo, there is still plenty to do; plenty to work with.










On another day I went to the Archaeology Museum in Selcuk. At that time there was a temporary exhibit relating to some other somewhat recent findings, a gladiator cemetery, and certain of its contents. So, having seen that, I was all the more tempted to venture into an area of Ephesus that is not really open to visitors, the stadium, seen here.

A little "human interest" story. Just beyond the far corner of the stadium, as seen here, is the public road leading into the secondary (north) entrance to Ephesus. In my comings and goings I was first met there by a fellow who presented himself as a guard. Well, he did steer people to correctly keep to the right on a looping one-way road into and out of the parking lot, but whether he was officially tasked to do so, I can't recall being sure.
  However, in my several passes each time I would stop and have a chat with him. He would try to sell me something from a collection of found coins. I always refused, not really into the idea of purchasing antiquities, real or fake, cheap as one might be.
  On one of my later passes he kindly implored me to contribute 10 Lira toward the replenishment of his raki, the Turkish national fire-water drink. Well, by this time, that was something I could agree to, he'd always been so friendly despite my lack of business interest.
  Upon receipt of the 10 Lira he again arrayed the coins and gave me a choice. So, I selected one I thought might have the head of Alexander impressed upon it. (It wasn't).
  A few days later, just before departing Selcuk, I gave my laundry, including my shirt with the coin in the pocket, to the pension manager for his mother to wash. There was no coin in the pocket when the laundry was returned.

If you haven't so discovered, clicking on one of these small photos will bring up a larger version. And in most cases I have supplemented them, expanding the narrative of this text.




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