Joaquim Rocha
Published on

A Couple of Weeks in Turkey, Part 2: Selçuk/Ephesus

  • avatar
    Joaquim Rocha
  • Principal Software Engineering Manager at Microsoft

This article is part of the “A Couple of Weeks in Turkey” series and follows A Couple of Weeks in Turkey, Part 1: Istanbul.

Having decided that our destination after Istanbul would be Selçuk, we bought a flight 2 nights before leaving. The closest airport was Izmir and we used the Turkish low-cost airline Pegasus to buy cheap flights. It cost around 120 € already with the expensive eDreams taxes… Pegasus is a very well chosen name for a flight company but it is funny that their website is flypgs, which I always read as “fly pigs” 🙂 But I’m saying this because it’s funny, I don’t mean to disrespect, in fact, everything was great! The seats are reserved and the departure was at a reasonable time in the morning (unlike other low-cost companies) and I totally recommend it.

After we arrived at Izmir, we had to take a train to Selçuk. We had read in the guide book that although you buy a ticket, it doesn’t mean there will be a seat reserved for you… Indeed, the train had only two cars and when we entered it we saw there was already people sitting on their luggage or standing because all seats were taken. The trip took a bit more than one hour and we stood in the aisle the whole time. Even though it was not a comfortable way of traveling, at least we got to see landscapes very different from Istanbul’s that kind of resembled Portugal many years ago; I’m talking about large plantations, tiny villages and kids riding old motorcycles without using helmets.

Lua de Mel na Turquia (in the end of the trip we were not so smiley)

Finally we arrived to Selçuk, all tired of standing in the train and as soon we left it a guy came asking if we had a place to stay. Yes we had, we were physically tired and also sick of having people approaching us all the time (to sell stuff). Turns out that when we got to the hostel, the owner wasn’t around so we waited a bit for him and when he arrived, he was the guy that had just approached us in the train station. He just wanted to guide us to the hostel. We obviously felt really bad. The hostel was Tuncay pension and although it was not in the center it was not too far, had a pleasant courtyard, the breakfast was tasty and there was a nice family feeling to it: the owner, his brother and their families had dinner at the courtyard every night and were happy to help us with planning the next step of the trip. The only negative thing was that the tub was obstructed (though they fixed it within a few hours) and the owner, although nice, was being a bit too insistent with trying to sell us stuff (guided tours to Ephesus, bus tickets and tours in Cappadocia).

Courtyard in our pension in Selçuk (the courtyard of Tuncay pension)

As soon as we left our stuff in the pension, we went to explore the center of the town. We had lunch at a place where the main waiter (he was probably the owner) could say “thank you” in probably every language of the world. He said “obrigado” to us and, apart from other mainstream languages, we heard him even saying it in Norwegian! This waiter was one of the people that confused us for Turkish people. We weren’t aware of it but apparently both Helena and I have Turkish looks because more than 5 times people thought we were Turkish. In this restaurant I tasted a Turkish drink called rakı, it was really strong, both in alcohol and in the anise flavor (I didn’t like it). After lunch we walked around a bit and found a street market with many kinds of vegetables like it’s hard to find in most European cities these days. On the way back to the hostel we found a couple and their son cooking some sweet fried dough. We were so amazed at the way and the speed the guy shaped the dough that we recorded a video (that’s why I don’t have photos) and while we hadn’t decided yet if we were gonna buy a bag, the couple gave us a bag of it for free and it tasted like heaven! What can I say, people are nice in Turkey. Doing a later research, it seems that what we ate there was called “lokma”, although the shape was different from the Wikipedia article.

Lua de Mel na Turquia (the Selçuk market)

After this walking trip, we went to the Pammucak beach. This was the first time we took the dolmuş. What a ride! A dolmuş is a minibus or better, a van, used as a shared taxi. People hop on and ask for the driver to drop them where they want. So there we were on our way to the beach, all seats taken when we saw some people on the side of the rode waving at the dolmuş. Too bad I thought, it is full. Nope, the driver stopped, they came in and the driver signed them where a folding stool was lying. Further on our way, more people came in and stood, so we were like 15 people on a van driving at around 100 Km/h. Still, we arrived in one piece to the beach and the beach was awesome. The water wasn’t crystal clear or anything like that but it was warm, the weather was hot but not burning hot, really nice! A picture might describe it better:

Pammucak's beach

After the beach, we explored a bit of the town again, had a pleasant dinner where I tasted an Efes beer for the first time and went back to the pension and finish our day learning online how to play backgammon. Backgammon is very popular in Turkey and we wanted to learn how to play it as learning new things is part of travelling.

Lua de Mel na Turquia (men playing backgammon)

The next day, we had planned to spend the morning visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. The park is huge and is totally worth visiting — a ticket was 20 TL (~10 €) if I’m not mistaken. It is a good idea to arrive early in order to avoid the burning sun and the crowds and although there are walking tours, we just went on our own again. A friend had advised me to check the house where Mary, the mother of Jesus, had lived but we skipped it as it was not in Ephesus itself and we were both tired and not really interested anyway. When passing by Ephesus’s Theater we were surprised by a group of Korean tourists who started singing in choir to us who were seating in the stairs. Who else can say they went to Ephesus and there was a little show waiting for them 🙂

Ephesus (seating in front of the ancient library)

After walking a lot among the ruins we took the dolmuş and went again to the beach where we had a nice kebab and, since it was so hot, 4 ayrans. Ayran is a cold drink made by mixing yogurt, water and salt and though it is popular in many countries, it was supposedly created by Turkish people. I had tried ayran for the first time in Belgium and I love it so after drinking it every day during our stay in Turkey I sometimes make it at home because it is pretty much impossible to find here in Galicia (I’ll leave the recipe for another post).

Back to Selçuk, we tried to visit its fortress but it was already closed. I had read on our guide that sometimes ancient coins are still found in that fortress and that there are people who try to sell those to tourists which is illegal. Turns out that a guy started talking to us, asking us where we were from, asking if we had seen the main attractions, etc. while we were walking a bit with him until we were in a more hidden place and he pulled a cigarette pack but instead of cigarettes it was holding, guess what, ancient coins. I kindly declined his offer and he insisted and lowered the price until I told him that although it was very tempting, I would eventually have problems at customs and we got the hell outta there as fast as we could…

The next day we were leaving for Pamukkale and it would become yet another funny story but that’s for another post…

to be continued…