If you’re into history than you have probably already heard about Selcuk. It’s not just the location of Ephesus, one of the biggest ancient Roman cites in the world. The area also has a lot of Pre-Roman and Post-Roman ruins and the remains of the Temple of Artemis which is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
The town of Selcuk was a beautiful change from the wintery highlands of Cappadocia. Being a few km’s from the Mediterranean it feels more like a beach resort with streets lined with palm trees, white washed buildings and citrus trees which were completely covered in fruit. There are also a couple of tourist attractions in the middle of town; the ruins of the cathedral of St John (the one from the Bible) and an impressive old castle which is being properly restored at the moment. Our hostel was also amazing. When we arrived the bunk room was being renovated so we were upgraded to a hotel room for free and that room is probably the best one I’ve stayed in so far. The rest of the hostel was styled like an ottoman traveller’s inn and had an amazing outdoor area which we spent our free time playing cards, chatting with the owner who is a legend, smoking shisha’s and playing guitar.
When I asked people about a list of must-see places in Turkey Ephesus was recommended by everyone. Founded by the Greeks in around 1000BC and taken over by the Romans, at its peak the port city was home to anywhere up to 200 000 people and was enormous. At the moment they have been excavating the city for 85 years and they estimate that only around 10% has been uncovered. So if you’re an archaeologist and want job security, thank me later.
We decided that to get the best experience that we should go with a tour group and have a guide show us around. Somehow our amazing luck held out and when our guide arrived it turned out that he was a university professor and had brought two of his students along for the day. The guy was an absolute fountain of information and we found ourselves in a moving classroom as he showed us around the sights. There are too many famous monuments in Ephesus to list but needless to say we basically needed new jaws after the day because the other ones had been dragging on the ground the whole time.
Some other fun facts that are worth mentioning that I learned that day;
- The biggest handmade Turkish rugs take 4 people around 5 years to make and cost more than $200,000 Euro
- In Ephesus the brothels were bigger than the temples
- Before taking us to an ancient Mosque the guide gave us a 10 minute speech explaining that ISIS weren’t normal Muslims and that regular Muslims are peaceful. Of course it wasn’t needed but you know the world is pretty fucked up when a guy feels the need to do that.
Finally, while here I had my first Turkish bath. Not speaking any Turkish and not knowing what is actually supposed to happen there were some pretty awkward moments. My experience went something like this.
- We walked into the place and were given a towel to change into and directed to a changing room. Aaron and I have the “are we supposed to get naked for this?” moment. We like living on the edge so we decided to wear the towel Scotsman style and see how it went.
- On entering the main bath room we had no idea what to do. There is a big raised platform in the middle of the room that people are lying on so we decide to go with the crowd and do that as well.
- It turns out the raised platform is heated and hot as fuck! Kate walks in and lets us know that we are supposed to wet ourselves down (keeping the towel on) and then lay down. She also tells us that we get really hot we are supposed to walk to the edge of the room and have a cold shower, then repeat. Thanks Kate.
- I get up the first time to have a cold shower but before I can do this a really big Turkish guy walks up to me. He looks like Mario’s father. He tells me to go have a cold shower and go and lie on a bench at the side of the room with him. Huh?
- I lay down on the bench and then this big Turkish guy puts on a pair of furry mittens. Almost burst out laughing at the sight but then this guy just starts vigorously rubbing me down with the mittens. Ahhh right this is the cleaning part of the bath?
- Around halfway through he stops, looks at me in the eyes and says “you are very dirty.” He then grabs my hand and runs it along my back so I can feel how dirty I am.
- This continues for a while until he’s decided I’m clean. He then directs me to big Turkish guy with a moustache number 2. This guy repeats the whole process with an enormous loofa.
- I have another cold shower and leave the room, to be met by a third guy who mummifies my in 3 towels and offers me apple tea.
I walk out of the room feeling the cleanest I have in years and wondering if any of those guys actually work there or if they just really like giving guys a rub down.