"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ephesus: my perfect travel day

First -- something I've been meaning to address for a while.  Due to Facebook's "efficiency", and my apparently not understanding the internet all that well, every single fucking photo that I had uploaded on here by linking to my Facebook photo album has disappeared.   Just to clarify, I started this blog in April 2011.  I discovered this in January 2013.  There have been rather a lot of photos posted on this blog between then and now.

So, I have been going back, one post and one mother-effing photo at a time, and re-uploading them.  Oh, and then also re-captioning, as the caption disappears when the photo is removed.  It is, frankly, taking forever, and I am not even the slightest bit happy about it, but there is also absolutely nothing I can do except exactly what I have been doing... removing, finding, re-uploading, and re-captioning.  Yesterday I made it all the way into January 2012!  Now only... all of 2012 to go.  FML.

But at any rate, sorry if you've felt a jones to go back and vicariously relive one of my hilarious chacha-soaked Georgian exploits, only to be foiled by a lot of blank photo placeholders.  I'll have everything back the way it should be... eventually.

Back to the present though, it has been about the quietest weekend imaginable.  I saw nothing cool, rode no public transit, committed not one single act of drunken debauchery.  But my apartment is clean, my clothes are mended/hemmed/taken in, and my body is rested.  I have re-affirmed that I really do not care for sewing, and also that I do not do it all that well.  Whatever.  My pants will no longer drag on the ground or threaten to cascade gracefully off my hips and to the floor, so I call it a win.

Tomorrow is the day I pay for that lovely four-day weekend I enjoyed only seven short sunsets ago.  And oh -- will I pay.  Three back-to-back double lessons, entirely with first graders.  That's a horrific total of two hundred and forty minutes.  With first graders.

Would I rather go back and face Ursula instead?  Ask me again tomorrow evening, if I am still capable of rational thought.

Tomorrow is going to just suck, so let's avoid thinking about it for an hour and instead reminisce on happier times.  Like last Sunday, when your intrepid backpacker visited the amazing ancient city of Ephesus.

When I first picked Ephesus as the place I wanted to see for my long weekend, originally I wanted to stay in the nearby town of Selçuk (pronounced Selchuk).  But (in the 20 minutes I spent in an internet cafe planning this thing), I couldn't figure out the Turkish rail system and didn't want to take a bus and in a moment of frustration I just said Hell With It and booked a flight to Izmir instead.  So that's how that happened.  But I still really wanted to see Ephesus, and when I inquired at Guzel Izmir Otel reception, I was told that trains leave for Selcuk about every 90 minutes.  So... I guess I could have stayed there anyway.... oh well.

The end of this ramble finds me on Sunday morning waiting in line at Izmir's Basmane train station.  In front of me was a backpacker-y looking young couple, who asked in English, with American accents, for two tickets to Selcuk.  I introduced myself and asked if they were going to Ephesus.  Guess what?  They were.

Their names were Pat and Emily, and damn if we did not end up sticking together for what ended up being a very kickass day indeed.  We chatted on the train, and then when we got off at Selcuk of course we were approached immediately by a taxi driver offering to take us to Ephesus for 5 lira each.  We accepted, and then the driver threw in that he could also take us to Mary's House on the way, for only 15 lira extra per person!  I'd read about this place; Lonely Planet said it was absolutely worth a look, and my co-worker Sarah had said she had just loved it there.  Pat and Emily were skeptical but I kind of convinced them, and we piled into the cab.

We soon discovered it costs 15 lira to get into Mary's House.  I had not thought of that when I gave my whole "C'mon, it'll be amazing and change your life!" spiel to Pat an Emily.  This now brought the Adventure To Mary's House to an impressive 30 TL per person.

Yeeeeah.  Sorry everyone, but this pit stop ended up being an expensive, gigantic letdown.  Based on what I've read, the idea that the Virgin Mary lived her last days here kind of amounts to a religious Urban Legend.  No true proof exists, but lots of stories and a vision from a nun.  Already I was making a mental comparison to my visit to "Juliet's House" back in Verona.  And the house itself is of course a reconstruction, but inside, rather than trying to re-create what Mary's house might have looked like, they turned it into a chapel.  It was very kitchy.  And also notably lacking in anything resembling an artifact.  For example, in one glass box there was a rosary blessed by the Pope.  In 2006.  Um, I was just in Rome, and happen to know that those rosaries, whilst lovely, can be yours for 10 Euro pretty much anywhere in the city.  A seven year old, 10-euro souvenir is not quite what I had in mind when I forked over my stiff admission price.

Pat and Emily were underwhelmed, and I felt bad for basically being the catalyst that led them to lose a total of 60 TL for pretty much no reason.  But we laughed it off.  Sometimes you get your money's worth, and sometimes... you don't.  If everything always worked out then traveling would not be fun at all.  So we got back in the cab and finally headed on our way to Ephesus, poorer but wiser.

Fortunately, Ephesus earned it's 25 TL admission price several times over.


You can't really see it from these photographs, but on our visit we had the misfortune to be right in the midst or about four Japanese tour buses.  It meant waiting for a photo gap took no small amount of patience.  We were very glad we hadn't paid for the cab to wait for us!

Library of Celcus in the background
Emily and I doing the "peace sign" pose that we saw every single Japanese girl doing.
 The two highlights of Ephesus unquestionably come at the end.  The first is the Library of Celcus, and then the very, very best is the theatre.

But one unexpected, quite adorable feature of Ephesus is that there are literally hundreds of cats roaming the site.  They were everywhere!  All looking very well fed and surprisingly clean.  I could start a "Cats on Ancient Things" tumblr just from the kitty photos I took on this walk!  Did not see any babies though.  I'm guessing this is because I saw a lot of cats with one docked ear tip, which in America means the cat has been spayed or neutered.

Shall we have our very own Kitty Captioning Contest? :)

I had a great time touring Ephesus with Pat and Emily.  They are fun people.  It was a different sort of experience than the one I might have had on my own, less bookish and more laughing.  A fair trade.

We took another cab back to Selcuk, and dove right into some doner kebabs for lunch/dinner because we were about starving.  Bought our tickets home, and then went and found a cheap beer because the train wasn't for another hour.  We got back to the station right as our train pulled up; got on and settled in.  A very successful day!

Except then the conductor came around to check our tickets, and it quickly became apparent that our day had not ended successfully at all because we had gotten on the wrong train, going in the complete opposite direction.  First train mistake, check!  I knew it was inevitable sooner or later.  At any rate, the guy was pretty understanding, wrote something all over our tickets so we wouldn't have to pay extra, and shepherded us off the train at the next stop, explaining to the station manager what idiots we were so he could shepherd us back on to our proper train.  Which wasn't for about another hour and a half.

Boys and girls, we were in the Middle.  Of.  Nowhere.  I mean Nowhere.  There was the one tiny train station, and this shack that turned out to be... a restaurant!  Of sorts.  They had beer!  I mean, sure.  It was lit entirely by red LED rope lights and we were the only people in there, and Pat walked in, took one look and said with a grin "We're going to get murdered here."  We sat down.  Beggars can't be choosers.  Pretty positive they overcharged us for beer, but other than that we had a lovely time.

For some reason I did not get any photos of this scary red-lit saloon in the middle of Turkish BFE.  But I did get a picture of the women's toilet!

I absolutely adored this unexpected side trip.  We had a lot of laughs; to me things exactly like this are what make travel so memorable.  I would have been content to hang out here (the bar, not the pictured toilet) for a good few hours.

But instead we got on our proper train at the appointed time and rode uneventfully back to Izmir.  Safe and sound, we kept with the theme of the evening and found one of those charming smoky hole-in-the-wall establishments that are kind of unofficially supposed to be only for men.  I'd never go into one of these places unescorted, but we had Pat our male protector along so decided to go for it.  Emily and I got some looks but  no one bothered us, and beer was only 5 lira which is way better than any price we'd find in a bar "meant" for tourists.  We had a really good conversation on any number of topics, from religion to drug culture to music.  My kind of people.

Said our farewells around midnight.  I had simply the greatest day tramping around Turkey with Pat and Emily!  Two people I definitely would not mind running into again.

And that was it, pretty much, for Izmir.  The next morning I packed up, checked out, walked, metroed, and flew.  Back in Istanbul, refreshed and ready for the monsters.

... And by about noon on Tuesday, I was ready for my next escape!

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