Selcuk and Ephesus in Turkey

My night bus from Istanbul to Selcuk was anything but a breeze. I chronicled the “splash and crash” experience in a story entitled, A Lesson in Traveling Hard and Living Better.

Needless to say I arrived in the small town of Selcuk feeling like a zombie. As soon as I arrived I blissfully slipped into bed at Hotel Akay where I napped until the early afternoon. The hotel is situated on a perfectly quiet street at the bottom of the hill which leads to St. John’s and offers a refreshing turquoise swimming pool and breezy rooftop patio.

One has to admire petite Selcuk. No more than a quiet farming town a generation ago, it has been thrown into the limelight of premier-league tourism by its proximity to the ruins of Ephesus, the second most visited site in the whole of Turkey. Despite this, Selcuk remains a relaxed, easy-going-place. The town is an excellent travel base, with affordable accommodation run by local families and swath of great local restaurants.

I was only in Selcuk for 24 hours and easily saw the towns most celebrated attractions in an afternoon:

Basilica of St. John

the obvious first spot to head for, Ayasoluk Hill, has been the focal point of settlement in every era. It’s famed as the burial place of St John the Evangelist, who came to Ephesus in the middle of the first century and died around 100 AD. The sixth century-Byzantine emperor Justinian decided to replace two earlier churches sheltering John’s tomb with a basilica worthy of the saint’s reputation. Until its destruction by Tamerlane’s Mongol’s in 1402, it was among the largest and most ornate of all Byzantine churches. The purported tomb of the evangelist is marked by a slab on the former site of the alter.

The Ruins of Ephesus

Of Turkey’s superb array of ancient cities, Ephesus is by far the best preserved. It stands alongside Pompeii as the world’s finest surviving example of a Greco-Roman classical city. The ruins here are not merely rocks and rubble, but nearly-full fledged incarnations of what life was like in ancient times. It’s easy to book yourself a knowledgeable guide but I always get too antsy with a penchant for independence to tolerate a long and drawn out history lesson. I spent just under two hours wandering through the ruins plugged in to my iPod listening to beats that inspired me to twirl along ancient marble floors. Throngs of Korean tourists offered delightful entertainment as they paraded throughout the grounds with umbrellas, visors and paparazzi smiles. Every so often I’d unplug and stand beside a tour group to take in a few fun facts about the ruins. After eavesdropping I’d continue my solo adventure by letting the warm wind whisk me through The Temple of Hadrian, Scholastica Baths and Library of Celsus.

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  1. We stayed overnight in Selcuk, but arrived too late in the afternoon to tour the Basilica of St. John, so we had to make do with a quick tour of the neighbouring Mosque, so thanks for sharing your St. John photos.

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