While I enjoyed all the areas of Turkey we visited, Selcuk probably takes the cake as my overall favorite.
To arrive, we flew from the Mediterranean and then hopped on a train for an hour ride to the city. As with the bus ride we took to Antalya, taking the train sounded like a better idea than it actually was. It was extremely stuffy and full of people. The windows were sweating and the air inside was thick with moisture from all the bodies. One thing I did love about the train was that vendors would walk up and down the aisles with trays of freshly baked breads on their heads to sell to the riders.
After deboarding the train, we walked to our hotel which was across town and up a very large, steep hill that overlooked the city. It was a nice walk that allowed us to get a good feel for the city's layout and character. This place definitely had more of the authentic Turkish feeling I was expecting than the cities we had seen so far. We passed lots of game rooms filled with men smoking and playing dominoes. Many of the houses we passed had kitchen windows open, allowing us to hear the women gossiping inside. Most people traversed the city on motorcycle or bike. There was, overall, a more conservative vibe here and it was apparent that the majority of people in the city were residents, not tourists.
We checked into our hotel and immediately set back out across the town to explore the fantastic castle we could see from our balcony window. On the way there, we also passed through the Basilica of St. John, built in 536. Not much remains of the structure, as much of it crumbled during the frequent earthquakes experienced in this area. It is, however, believed to be the final resting place of John the Apostle and there is a tomb inside signifying his remains.
The remains of St. John's Basilica
Craig and the Ayasuluk Castle. We didn't stay long here because they were closing right as we arrived, but thankfully, the guard let us have a quick peek inside. This castle was a part of the Christian Crusades times and was eventually overtaken by Muslims, who later built a mosque within the castle walls. Earthquakes have since destroyed the castle, but restoration efforts have re-established it to what we see today. Notice the differences in brick in the photo above.
View of Selcuk
Me enjoying another round of delicious Turkish breakfast
While in Selcuk, we also visited Ephesus, home to some of the most well-preserved Greek ruins in Turkey. Built in the 10th century BC, this city was the third largest city in the Roman Asia Minor. Being such a significant site, it saw its share of battles, ransackings, and raids. It began as a Greek colony, was united with the rest of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great, and eventually was conquered and adopted into the Roman Empire.
To say the site was impressive is an understatement.The group working on the restoration of the area is equally as remarkable. Although you can tell columns and archways have been pieced back together from the rubble that remained, it gave visitors a glimpse into what life might have looked like back then.
One downside to the site, which we expected, is that it was very touristy. It was probably the most touristy place I've ever visited. The hoards of people speaking every language you can think of constantly bumping into you was a little tiring, but it was worth the crowds to see such a site.
The Colosseum at Ephesus
Temple of Hadrian
Inside of the main semi-preserved wealthy houses at Ephesus
Workers trying to recreate the murals that hung in this great room
Paintings of birds on one of the bedroom walls
A mosaic of Leo on the floor of one of the houses for the wealthy
Cats use the ancient columns as pedestals from which to beg for kitty treats
Latrines at Ephesus. They were constructed of marble with a gutter of fresh water flowing continuously in front of the benches for rinsing off...
The famous entrance to the Library of Celsus. It was built after Ephesus was under the Roman Empire and stored 12,000 scrolls. It was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 262, rebuilt and then completely destroyed by another earthquake in 400 AD. It wasn't until the 1970s that major restoration efforts began to restore it again to what is seen today.
View from inside the amphitheater at Ephesus. This was built to hold 25,000 people and was usually the site of public announcements and theatrical plays, but there are also accounts of gladiator battles.
This was the fancy, marble, column-lined harbor street that led to the bay where ships would be docked. The sea is now much farther away due to a shift in the river mouth and tectonic uplift.
The view looking inland from the harbor road. The piles of rubble and columns are storage areas as they continue to piece the ruins back together.
Before leaving Selcuk we checked out the nightlife, which was something we didn't see evident in any of the other places we visited in Turkey. It was surprising lively with most people smoking hookah, eating mezas, and playing games rather than drinking, which was a refreshing change to American culture. On our final evening, we spent several hours smoking hookah and chatting with a few of the local Kurdish residents and one very, very drunk Frenchman.