After our Turkish Night in Marmaris we took the four hour bus ride over to Izmir. We were a bit nervous because the protests against the Turkish government had basically exploded since we arrived. Everything we could see about the situation from our experience seemed somewhat different than what was on the news, however, so we decided to just keep going as planned and be cautious. On arrival in Izmir we were a bit lost. There were basically no signs in English, and no obvious public transit system to get us to our hotel. As protests were typically happening after dark, we figured we only had a short time to get to our hotel and batten down the hatches for the night (if needed), so we broke down and took a cab. The hotel was gaudily decorated with everything Florentine, Egyptian, Persian, and gilded, but it was pretty nice. A quick trip around the block found us staring at hundreds of police officers and stacks of riot gear, so we had a kebab and settled in for the night.
The next morning we woke up, had breakfast, and decided to head to Ephesus. We knew that we could take a train from the station about 200 meters up the street at 9:00am, so we showed up early, bought tickets, followed the directions to the platform, got on the train marked “IZMIR-DENIzLI” and sat down. The train departed ten minutes early and then stopped. A few minutes later, after managing to maintain my own calmness, we heard a shouting match in Turkish. A man asked us something, then switched to English and asked us where we were going. Then he started yelling at the conductor. The train was out of service, and no one bothered to tell the passengers on board. The conductor insisted we walked back to the station, the man who spoke to us yelled some more and the train made its way back. We all waited as the elder guardian angel chewed out the ticket booth, and then informed us we were all stuck until 11:25 and there was nothing we could do but drink tea. Oh well. We had some coffee and returned to the station and took the train to Selcuk as planned, had lunch, and walked the three kilometers out to Ephesus.
The first stop on our little walkout to the ancient city was the Temple of Artemis, or the Artemision. I was squeeing like a schoolgirl when we saw the sign pointing off to the right of the nice little tree-lined road. We walked about 50 meters down and found the temple, or what was left of it, under the bluest Turkish sky. It’s pretty amazing that there’s anything left of this temple, and it’s not too difficult to imagine what it would look like when it was in its heyday, with 136 columns and a raised platform dedicated to the goddess of the hunt.
After a bit more walking we found ourselves at the lower gates of Ephesus, paid our admission, and headed up the marble road that was once the main thoroughfare through the city. The first site was the massive great theater. We followed some people off-the-trail through a field of felled columns and broken marbles to its entrance and climbed up for a better view.
We sat here for a while, and it really wasn’t difficult at all to imagine what this place would have looked like filled with Greeks watching one of their tragedies or comedies.
As we sat here enjoying the view (of the marble road and the perfect little puffs of clouds over the hill tops in the distance) a couple went down to the stage and did a bit of ballroom dancing. It was pretty charming.
We headed on up to one of the most iconic sights in Ephesus, The Library of Celsus.
The Library of Celsus is sort of the signature post-card venue in Ephesus. We went inside, but couldn’t find anything to read. As usual it’s pretty hard to find fiction you’re interested in with the ancient tablet-card-catalog system. Haven’t these people heard of the Dewey Decimal system? Seriously, though, inside, the library is pretty impressive. There are ginormous grottoes for statues of various deities, the largest of which was probably Athena. From here we headed back up the marble road through an area that had a brothel and some houses.
Once we crossed through this gate we headed took the short walk to the end of the city, passing a fountain and finally ending up at the Odeion, where the city government would meet and sort out their important issues…like the scheduling at the brothel and why there aren’t enough copies of the new Dan Brown book at the library. That’s my guess.
After this little stop, we paid a visit to the kitty cats living in the Library on our way out of town, and took the short little walk back to Selcuk, making it to the train station about 10 minutes before the next train back to Izmir. Someone had been killed during the previous day of protesting (by an out of control Taxi of all things), so we decided to play it safe and got back to the hotel just before dark.
Funny story: At this point we started looking into our flight to Istanbul, and I realized I booked the flight for 11:25pm instead of 11:25am. We didn’t want to spend an extra day in Izmir, so I tried to call the airline to make the changes with no luck. The next morning I called Expedia and they made the changes no problem, for $50 or so. Hilariously, that doubled the price of the flight to Istanbul. I also realized the airport we were flying into wasn’t Istanbul Ataturk International, but Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen which is 60km away from the city. Shit. Good thing we checked early, or else I would have had a bit of a nasty surprise for our trip to Istanbul in a couple days.