We booked a room for two nights in advance of our visit to Ephesus. Selçuk, population about 30,000, is only a couple of kilometres east of the ruins and has also a castle with interesting Christian roots. Nice town with an agricultural character — tractors parked outside homes in our neighbourhood. We found the Hotel Nazar in TripAdvisor — top rated of 28 hotels in Selçuk. Family run — Mother was on the desk in a chic dress and also served meals. Spoke French fluently; was a schoolteacher in France. Father played with the computer and the dog and smiled a lot — What, me worry? Hotel was in the $100 a night range with breakfast included, served on the roof. It has a pool.
The castle from our window:
View west from the castle towards Ephesus and the coast:
Our approach to Ephesus, alongside an ancient pillared walkway from Selçuk, was sublime. Then you have to navigate a huge complex. There are two parking lots with long bazaars — barrages of people trying to get your attention — and it is intended visitors go from bottom to top or vice versa and have a vehicle waiting at the end. Our hotel keeper, the son, offered to drive us out and pick us up. We broke with protocol, parked in the lower lot, walked through the ruins and then walked back.
The long avenue was in places packed, even after 3 pm when, we were told, the crowds thin out. Dozens of cruise-ship groups along the avenue.
The library façade, surely one of the most familiar of all ruins, took my breath away:
Every nook and cranny filled with information …
Unprepared for the scale of Ephesus … loooong avenue with whole subdivisions on either side:
This second long avenue, pointing toward the water, was closed:
This plaque must refer to 375 CE, the only year the three named emperors were all alive:
What was the “recent destruction”? The city’s sack by Gothic invaders was 268 CE — not recent. The beginning of the end for the metropolis of Asia Minor.
Turns out the castle on Ayasuluk Hill in Selçuk is the site of the original Ephesus:
Inside the castle is the Basilica of St John, built in the 6th century CE with funding from Byzantine emperor Justinian and empress Theodora. That’s it in the background:
St John, author of the fourth Gospel and according to local lore also the Apostle John AND also John the Divine, author of The Revelation. He brought the mother of Jesus to Ephesus in 37 CE.
The House of the Blessed Virgin, where she is said to have lived out her days, is a few kilometres distant.
Mary has long been to Catholics and high Anglicans Queen of Heaven; according to Wikipedia: “the title [Queen of Heaven] is a consequence of the First Council of Ephesus in 431 CE, in which the Virgin Mary was proclaimed ‘theotokos,’ a title rendered in Latin as Mater Dei, in English as ‘Mother of God.‘” The “Queen” part came into usage in the succeeding century.
The first church, in which St John was by legend buried, was already a bit of a ruin when the patronage of Byzantium’s power couple Justinian and Theodora came to bear.
Interesting that it became an important destination of pilgrims in the Middle Ages, until the Ottomans captured the whole region in the early 14th century. Later in the same century the church was ruined by an earthquake. About the excavations undertaken since the 1920s, there is this:
The citadel and outer walls of the castle Ayasuluk also date from the 6th century but much diminished over the centuries. Recent restoration has re-created some of the dramatic lines the castle presents:
Just because it looks old doesn’t mean it is old.
Had dinner at Wallabies, an outdoor restaurant with fountains and an aqueduct on which storks were nesting …
It was a lively place, with kids running around and a demonstration near the aqueduct. The proprietor told us it was a rally for the miners. The previous day more than 200 Turkish miners died in a mine explosion. There were speeches and some chanting. My guess they were appeals for more and better safety regulations in mines.
The food was outstanding and reasonably priced.
We were fascinated to watch the storks in nests on top of the aqueduct. A relief spouse would come flapping in, and the two would do this weird, weird thing with their necks close together, heads thrown back, vibrating, like, while they made sort of gobbling noises. (Some kind of ritual greeting? A conversation? “Where the hell have you been?””Oh jeez, you wouldn’t believe the headwinds.””Bullshit. You’ve been in the marsh again.”) Then the one who had been (im)patiently waiting would fly off.
We drove up to the village of Sirince, in the hills 5 kilometres east of Selçuk. The village supports a modest tourist business.
There was a grassy yard — about the only flat space in the village — near the interesting local museum, a former schoolhouse of beautifully preserved character.