Although we had made a pact never to take another night bus, we found ourselves booked on the 12:30pm bus from Fethiye to Aydan, where we would connect with a mini bus at 4:30am to Selcuk, which is 3k from Ephesus. Things did not go at all according to plan. We attempted to catch a wink at the hostel in Fethiye before the 12:30 bus, so we set up our sleeping bags on a bench on the hostel’s patio. Apparently that particular street is a major racing artery in town, and rap-blaring convertibles laden with hip-hop impersonators were roaring past at maximum volume.
Needless to say, we hardly slept. We got on a mini bus from the hostel to the otogar (bus station) where we boarded our large, luxurious and pleasant bus to Aydan, 4 hours away. We slept well, but 4:30am came too soon and we found ourselves wiping away sleep from our eyes at the otogar. There were no buses in sight- anywhere. The connecting bus we had been told would be there was nowhere in sight.
We waited in the lobby for a while as cockroaches scurried about their business, and by 5:30 we heard the call to prayer and found a mini bus driver who would take us to Selcuk. I fell asleep on this minibus, and woke up in Soke. Apparently we had been duped. The driver took our money for the ride and left, leaving us once again feeling miserably tired and confused. It was 7:00. We got another minibus to Selcuk, this time going in the right direction, and we arrived in town by 8:30. We were harassed from all sides in Selcuk by vendors, bus operators and hostel owners. One particular gentleman stood out as more our age, so he drove us to his hostel on the hill overlooking town. No more night buses! We put our hands into a circle and reaffirmed the pact we had made after the crisis to Olympos on the first Turkish night bus.
Now situated comfortably in Selcuk we surveyed the surrounding area. We geared up for a long day and set off to see the Temple of Artemis and St. John’s Basilica. The Temple of Artemis is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was, at one point, the largest such structure in the world with 127 columns that stretched high into the sky. Today there is only one column left with a giant stork’s nest resting on top. There is little around the ruin except a swamp full of ducks and a few peddlers selling statues of Artemis.
The nearby St. John’s Basilica is more impressive. St. John (the disciple) visited Ephesus twice, and wrote his gospel while sitting atop Ayasuluk Hill, which is in modern day Selcuk. His remains rest nearby. After Christianity was no longer persecuted by the Romans, Emperor Justinian had a church built atop St. John’s tomb. What remains today is rather confusing, since signs on the grounds say the body of the disciple was long ago removed. The church and surrounding area is little more than rubble with support columns standing haphazardly. The view, however, is astonishing, and I can see why John decided to write from that spot.
In the background at the base of the hill is an impressive mosque built in 1375 after the Seljuks lost control of the region. Behind the mosque and overlooking St. John’s Basilica is the even more impressive Byzantine citadel, which looks largely intact. It was closed due to restoration work on the interior complex, but the outside offered an amazing view of the city walls and buttresses.
After visiting these impressive historical sites we walked back to the hostel and took a nap, then had a nice dinner in the downtown area. We decided to sit at one of the many roadside tea houses after dinner and play a game of Rummikube. Five elderly men sat with us and taught us how to play, and were so friendly that we stayed quite a while enjoying their company before retiring for the night.