Selcuk

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Selcuk is tire most convenient base from which to explore nearby Ephesus, and offers several notable archaeological sites of its own, as well as a glut of carpet shops serving or preying on the large number of tourists who pass through the town every’ year. Selcuk’s Byzantine Castle dominates the skyline, though it is closed indefinitely for restorations. The İsa Bey Camii, the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, and the Basilica of Saint John, where the apostle is buried, lie just below. The House of the Virgin Mary (Meryemana), where Mary supposedly lived out her last years, can also be reached from Selcuk. The town is home to the famous Camel Wrestling Festival, held annually during the third weekend of January near’ Pamucak Beach, a short dolmuş ride away (contact the tourist office for info).

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TRANSPORTATION

Buses: The otogar is at the intersection of Şahabettin Dede Cad. and Atatürk Cad. To: Ankara (9hr.; 6:30, 11am, 11pm; $10); Bodrum (3hr., every hr. 8:15am-l:15am, $4.50); Fethiye (6hr., every 2hr. 8:15am-1am, $7); İstanbul (10hr., 5 per day 9:45am-12:30pm, $10); İzmir (lhr,, every 30min. 6:20am-8:30pm, $1.25); Marmaris (4hr.; every hr. 8;45am-7:45pm, midnight, 1:30am; $5). Minibuses run to Kusadasi (20min.; every 15min. May-Sept. 6:30am-l 1:30pm, Oct.-Apr. 6:30am- 8:30pm; $.80). From May-Sept, you can take a bus directly to Pamukkale (3hr.; 8:45, 9:15, 9:45am, 4, 5pm; $5). In the off-season, you must go first to Denizli (3hr.; 10:30am, 1, 4, 5:30pm; $3.75) and then catch a dolmuş to Pamukkale (20min.).
Trains: To: Afyon (10hr., 9:39am, $1.40); Denizli (4hr.; 10:37am, 5:04, 8:12pm; $2); İzmir (1hr., 7 per day 6:42am-7:06pm, $.80).

ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION

The İzmir-Aydın road, Atatürk Cad, is one of Selcuk’s main drags. Dr. Sabri Yayla Bul., also called Kusadasi Cad., meets Atatürk Cad. from the west, and Şahabettin Dede Cad. meets Atatürk Cad. from the east to form the town’s main crossroads.

  • Banks: Türkiye İş Bankası, 17 Namık Kemal Cad., İsabey Mah. (-s-892 61 09 or 892 65 14), underthe aqueduct. Exit the PTT, turn left, and walk 1 block. Currency and trav-eler’s check exchange and a Clrrus/MC/Plus/V ATM. Open M-F 8:30am-5:30pm.
  • Hamam: Selcuk Hamamı, 2002 Sok., No. 3 (892 61 98). Bath and massage $8; special cream massage $4. Open F noon-5pm for women only; daily 7am-midnight for men and tourists of both sexes.
  • Police: (892 60 16). Office beside Türkiye İş Bankası, and a booth at the corner of the otogar on Atatürk Cad.
  • Hospital: (892 70 36), across Kuşadası Cad. from the tourist office.
  • Internet Access: Net House Cafe, 7/A Siegburg Cad. (892 23 70). To the right, off Atatürk Cad. when walking away from the otogar.
  • PTT: 1006 Sok., No. 9 ( 892 90 65 or 892 64 25), 1 block west of All Blacks Pension (away from train tracks) on Cengiz Topel Cad. Full service M-F 8:30am-12:30pm and l:30-5pm. Currency, traveler’s check exchange, and phone open daily 8am-11pm.

Postal Code: 35920.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Selcuk is notorious for having some of the wiliest bus station hawkers in Turkey. Claiming to represent the better pensions, they tell visitors that all pensions in town except for theirs are closed. Pension prices are set by the municipality and posted on a board on Atatürk Cad., on the right side in the direction of Izmir. Avoid anyone offering you a spot at their “slightly more expensive” pension. Many of the pensions listed below will pick you up from the bus station if you call, rather than have you face the gauntlet of touts working for their competitors.
Artemis Guest House (“Jimmy’s Place”), Atatürk Mah., 1012 Sok., No. 2 (892 61 91). Guests are greeted with a refreshing drink, shown to a carpeted room complete with bath, towels, and fans, and invited to dinner
in the garden (nightly, $2.50) or to watch one of owner Jimmy’s 100 movies. Staff goes out of its way to please guests and is always working to improve the place. Excellent organized travel information. One of the few gay-friendly establishments in Turkey. Arranges group excursions to the hamam for women. Free transportation to Ephesus, and to Pamucak and Tusan Beaches in the morning and from Kusadasi harbor. Internet $.80 per hr. Laundry $2.50. Breakfast $1.60. $5 per person. 2 hotel-style rooms with A/C $30 per night.
All Blacks Hotel and Pension, Atatürk Mah., 1011 Sok., No. 1 (»892 36 57). Named after the famous Kiwi rugby squad. Some of the nicest rooms in the budget circuit, with ultra-clean tile floors and bathrooms. Rooftop terrace with views of the fortress. The ideal place to congregate, relax on cushions, or watch the storks perched on the nearby Roman aqueducts in summer. Wonderful staff. Free transportation to and from Ephesus, Pamucak Beach, and Kuşadası harbor. Ring the bell to enter. Guest kitchen. Laundry $3.75 per load. Internet $1.50 per hr. Breakfast $1.75. Singles $6; doubles $9.
Australian New Zealand Guest House, 7 Prof. Miltner Sok. (892 60 50),behind the museum. A backpacker’s haven. Terrace on roof with nightly BBQs and Turkish dinners (vegetarian options available). Very social. Free service to Ephesus, Kuşadası harbor, and the beach. Trips to Şirince for groups of 3 or more. Boat tickets to Samos (Apr.-Nov., $30) and winter trekking packages. 20% discounts for trekking groups larger than 7. Laundry $3.75 per load. Internet $1.50 per hr. Breakfast and dinner included. Dorms $7; double with bath $15. Diana Pension, Zafer Mah., 3004 Sok., No. 30 (»892 12 65), beyond the railroad tracks. After crossing the bridge, walk 50m with the track on your left, turn right onto 3008 Sok., walk 3 blocks, and turn left onto 3004 Sok., or just follow the signs. Immaculate rooms and bathrooms in a more distant and peaceful location. Cozy garden and terrace with views of the castle. Free transport to Ephesus and Şirince. Guest kitchen. 24hr. hot water. Laundry $3.75. Breakfast $1.50. $3.75 per person with bath. Double with A/C $19.
Barım Pansiyon (892 69 23), Müze Arkası Sok. Behind the museum. Great decor with bamboo roofing. Hanging plant canopies over the entranceway and garden. Little English spoken. 24hr. hot water. Breakfast $1.75. $4 per person with bath.

FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT

On Saturdays, locals and tourists flock to huge open-air markets, which feature fresh fruit, cheeses, and spices.

  1. Karameşe Restaurant (892 04 66), Tarihi Isabey Camii Önü, beside Isa Bey Camii. The decorating scheme makes this restaurant a sight in itself. A maze of stone paths wind through miniature waterfalls, fountains, and grass-covered gazebos. Bench seating or low tables surrounded by cushions. In the rear, a miniature zoo is home to swans, ostriches, and monkeys. All ayran and yogurt made with the milk from on-site cows. Gözleme $1.75; kebap $1.50; ayran $.40. Open daily 9am-3am,
  2. Özdamar Restaurant, 33 Cengiz Topel Cad., Atatürk Mah. (»892 00 97). Outdoor seat-ing with a view of the castle. Dine on just about any Turkish dish imaginable. Choose from pizza (Italian or Turkish), fish kebaps ($2.75), döner kebap ($1.50), cold dishes ($.75-1.25), or mixed grill ($2.25). Open daily 8am-midnight.
  3. Eski Ev {Old House) Restaurant and Cafe, Atatürk Mah., 1005 Sok., No. 1/A (»892 93 57), around the block from the PTT. Quiet dining in the garden of a century-old home. Lamb şiş kebap $1.75; meze $1.25; bottle of Pamukkale wine $5.25. Open daily 8:30am-1am.
  4. Selcuk Köftecisi (892 66 92), across Şahabettin Dede Cad. from the otogar. Patronized by more locals than tourists. Serves köfte ($1.25), şiş ($1.30), and a deliciously light keşkül (pudding, $.60). Open daily 7am-11pm.
  5. Mine Restaurant, 15 Şahabettin Dede Cad., Atatürk Mah. (892 31 07). Standard look-and-choose restaurant a pleasant distance from the incessant haggling of carpet vendors. Taş kebap (meat stew) $1.25; mixed grill $2.25; Turkish breakfast with boiled egg or omelette $1.40. Open daily 8am-midnight. 10% Let’s Go discount.

SIGHTS

Selcuk’s archaeological sights have always been overshadowed by the towering majesty of neighboring Ephesus, but as insights into Muslim, Ancient Greek, and early Christian religious life, they should not be missed.

BASILICA OF ST. JOHN

The colossal and unadvertised Basilica of St. John lies on the site of the apostle’s grave. The Byzantine church’s entrance is inaccurately called the Gate of Persecution, referring to a frieze once believed to depict a Christian being thrown to a lion it. in fact shows Achilles slaying a lion. The 6th-cen- tury church, built by Emperor Justinian, would be the seventh largest cathedral in the world if it were reconstructed today. (Open daily 8am-7pm. $1.50, students $. 75.)

ISA BEY CAMII

This stunning Selcuk mosque lies at the foot of the hill on which the Basilica of St. John and the Ayasoluk Castle stand. Built in 1375 on the order of Aydınoğlu İsa Bey, it features columns taken from Ephesus, which the Ephesians had pilfered from Aswan, Egypt. Restored in 1975, the mosque has regained much of the simple elegance that was eroded by 600 years of wear and tear. Inside the courtyard is an enormous collection of well-preserved Ottoman and Selcuk tombstones and inscriptions. The mosque’s facade features Persian-influenced geometric black and white stone inlay. (Open 10min. before and 10min. after times of prayer.)

EPHESUS MUSEUM

Back in town, directly across from the town’s tourist office, Selcuk’s Efes Müzesi (Ephesus Museum) houses a world-class collection of recent Hellenistic and Roman finds from Ephesus. Most of the earlier finds are in Vienna. The collection includes the infamous statue of Beş (Priapus) that graces postcards throughout Turkey, rather tastelessly displayed in a darkened glass box, where you have to push a button for a 10-second peep. While this particular piece was found in the vicinity of the Ephesian brothels, the image of the generously endowed, erect demi-god was not a smutty novelty, but rather a common piece of iconographic currency in the ancient world. The museum also houses an excellent collection of statuary, including a multi-breasted statue of Artemis, exquisite busts of Eros, Athena, Socrates, and emperors Tiberius, Marcus Aurelius, and Hadrian. (Open daily 8:30am-noon and l-7pm; in winter 8:30am-noon and l-5:30pm. $3.)

TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS

A few hundred meters down Dr. Sabri Yayla Bul. are the sad remains of the Temple of Artemis. Once the largest temple in existence and among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it now consists of a lone reconstructed column twisting upward from a bog that approximates the area of the temple’s foundation. (Open daily 8:30am-5:30pm. Free.)

House of the Virgin Mary in Selcuk

House of the Virgin Mary in Selcuk

HOUSE OF THE VIRGIN MARY

Nearer to Selcuk than to any other town, but still a $15 round-trip cab ride away, the tranquil House of the Virgin Mary lies 100m off the road from Ephesus to Bülbüldağı (Nightingale Mountain). About live years after the death of Christ, St. John is said to have accompanied the Virgin Maiy to Ephesus, where they lived in a small house on the slopes of Bülbüldağı. It is a popular pilgrimage destination for both Christians and Muslims, who leave wishes and prayers in the fonu of tissues tied to chain-link screens. (Daily services in the evenings at the house, as well as a 10:30am Sunday mass.)

 

ÇAMLIK STEAM LOCOMOTIVE MUSEUM

Built over the old train station in Çamlik, a short dolmuş ride from Selcuk, this open-air museum exhibits some 30 steam engines once used on the Turkish railways. The oldest, which entered service in 1887, ran on wood rather than coal. Little text is available about the trains, but placards give vital statistics, like manufacturer and maximum speed. (Catch an Aydin bound dolmuş and tell the driver you want Çamlik (every 30min., $.60). From the gas station, turn back along the highway toward Selcuk and make the 1st right.

MARY IN EPHESUS

Sixteen kilometers from Selcuk, on the tranquil, leafy slopes of Bülbülda (Nightingale Mountain), stands what local tradition, fragmentary archaeological and literary evidence, and now the Vatican say is the House of the Blessed Virgin. It is believed that Mary came here with the Apostle John about five years after the death of Jesus to live out the rest of her life. St. John’s connection to Ephesus is well established his tomb lies in the ruined Basilica of St. John in Selcuk. According to the New Testament, while on the cross, Jesus commended his mother to John’s care, telling Mary-, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to John, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, the disciple took her into his home (John 19:25-27). Given the quantity and strength of evidence, it seems probable that Mary did come to Ephesus and finish her life there. Locating where she lived is a bit harder. Long forgotten to all but local Orthodox Christians who made yearly pilgrimages, the site was discovered toward the end of the 19th century by Lazarist Fathers following the visions of a bedridden German nun named Catherine Emmerich (1775-1824). She had never left Germany but could describe the hills surrounding Ephesus with perfect accuracy, leading the Lazarists to the ruins of a 6th- or 7th-century church built over the house. Subsequent archaeological examination has concluded that, in fact, the foundations of the church date from the first century AD. Catherine Emmerich also provided directions and a description of the Virgin’s tomb, but as yet archaeologists have found nothing. The enshrined church and nearby spring remain in the care of the Lazarists, and have produced a number of miraculous cures.

DAYTRIP FROM SELCUK: ŞİRİNCE

To get to Şirince, take the Şirince bound dolmuş that runs from the Selcuk bus station (every 30min. 7;30am-8pm; in winter every hr. 8am-5pm; $.60). From Kuşadası, take the Seiçuk- Kuşadası dolmuş ($.90) and switch minibuses at the Selcuk station. To reach St. John the Baptist Church from the dolmuş stop, walk into town with the mosque on your left and take your 1st right. Pass Erdem Pansiyon on your right and turn left at the Ocakbaşı sign. To reach St. Demetrios, turn right at the Ocakbaşı sign and walk to the end of the path.
Şirince is a rustic enclave cradled in hills of olive and cherry trees a perfect weekend getaway for those traveling east from Selcuk (7km) or from Kuşadası (25km). Historic churches and a tradition of fine lace handicrafts reflect a local blend of Turkish and Greek influences. Şirince, meaning “charming” in Turkish, captivates visitors with cobbled lanes and lush, green hills.
The village also displays the remains of two 19th-century Greek churches. St. John the Baptist Church is marked by numerous Byzantine cupolas and a well-preserved Greek inscription dating from 1832. St. Demetrios Church was converted from a 19th-century Greek church to a 20th-century mosque after the 1923 Population Exchange (see The Treaty of Lausanne, p. 18). Today it is in disrepair, but the frescoes are still visible. The steps that the muezzin used are to the right as you stand between the church and the cliff.
Embroidered and crocheted handicrafts are on display in Şirince’s streets and in the bazaar. Some enterprising locals proffer these fineries in their homes a sales technique usually initiated by a kindly offer of tea. Unfortunately, as more tourists come to enjoy this charming respite from the commercialism of coastal towns, the distinction between Şirince and the westernized coast becomes less pronounced.
Accommodations in Şirince tend to be comfortable, but since the streets are unnamed, they can be a bit difficult to find. In July and August, call ahead to reserve a room. Signs for Halil Pansiyon are up the small hill across from the Artemis Winehouse at the entrance of town. Three cool and relaxing rooms share a bathroom. (898 31 28. Laundry $1.60 per load. Breakfast included. $6.50 per person.)
The Huzur Pension is at the other end of town. After getting off the dolmuş, walk straight up the hill, passing the mosque and the entrance to the covered bazaar on your left. Old wooden cupboards line the bedroom walls of this 150-year-old home. The largest room accommodates up to five people. A triple and a double with bath are also available. (898 30 60. Guest kitchen available. Breakfast $2. $4.50 per person.) No English is spoken at. either establishment.
Şirince is best known for its strong local wine, available in a variety of fruit flavors at many of the village’s restaurants, or at the Artemis Winehouse , which also houses the Şarap Evi Restaurant. It is by far the largest and most elegant, but also the most commercial, restaurant for many miles around. From the dolmuş stop, Artemis is on your right as you walk away from town. With an unbeatable picturesque setting in a 150-year-old Ottoman schoolhouse, Artemis offers gourmet versions of traditional Turkish fare at standard prices and petite portions. (898 32 40. Salads $.80; stuffed mushrooms $1.60; beef $3.25. Wine $3-5 per bottle. Open daily 9am-midnight.) Ocakbaşı Restaurant, on a hill overlooking town, cooks delicious traditional Turkish gözleme ($.80) on the hearth in the center of the dining area. Stuffed grape leaves ($1.20) are made with leaves grown in their own garden. (898 30 94. Open daily 8am-midnight.)

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