Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Selçuk, Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis

Selçuk is a town in eastern Turkey whose proximity to lots of fascinating ancient ruins has enabled it to develop quite a thriving tourist industry.

The main attraction is Ephesus, a very well-preserved Roman city that is on everyone's tourist itinerary. No matter when you go, you can be assured you'll get to share Ephesus with hundreds of fellow ancient ruin buffs. Lonely Planet looks on the bright side, pointing out that having so many people around makes it easier to imagine as a living city.

I'm not convinced - at no point did I ever feel I was anywhere but Ruin Park - but at least there's ample space for all the tourists, and we never felt embarrassed to pull out and check our guidebook in front of everybody.

Ephesus is about 3km from downtown Selçuk. We didn't have much desire to walk there, opting for a taxicab instead, but we walked back to town, stopping on our way for a surprisingly acceptable meal at a buffet restaurant clearly meant to feed large tour groups.

And on the way back, the Temple of Artemis.

Reference books that list the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World usually tell us that the Pyramids are the only original Wonder that still survives mostly intact. This is true.

The second best-preserved Wonder is probably the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which judging from its Wikipedia entry, is now a great big pile of rubble near Bodrum, Turkey. We did not go to Bodrum on our trip.

But the third best-preserved Wonder is the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which you pass on the walk back to Selçuk. Bear in mind that when I say it's the third best-preserved Wonder, what I mean is that we know where it is and someone's taken the liberty of stacking up a bunch of fragments of various columns to make one new column.

The Temple of Artemis today. As I told Jenna, 'This must have been really cool back when it existed.' In the far background you can see the Kale (castle), still really old but of far more recent construction, currently closed for renovations.

Selçuk itself is a pleasant touristy town. The ruins of the Basilica of St John are fascinating to wander through and are right in the town proper.

And be sure to visit one of the many cafes and restaurants in town with outdoor seating, so that as you enjoy your meal you may be beset upon by pleasantly rotund street cats, who will come waddling up to you hoping that you will take pity on them and share your dinner. Turkey in general is known for its street cats who appear suspiciously well-fed, but one street kitty in Selçuk is about the same size as two strays in a town where cats are less fortunate.

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