For all the crazy adventure that Bulgaria was, the overnight trip that Caitlin and I took to the town of Selçuk was probably as perfect as short trips come. We chose Selçuk because it was easy to access via a short 45-minute flight to Izmir. It was also walking distance from the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis. It has always been important to me when I visit a new place to get out of the city setting and into the smaller towns, which is where I argue the heart of a country lies. Maybe I’m just bias because I myself am from the country. Either way the warmth of the people of Selçuk and the amazing scenes we saw captured my heart for Turkey forever.
We stayed at this wonderfully rustic hotel with the best heating system we probably experienced the entire trip. The hotel was also the site of the first earthquake Caitlin and I had ever experienced in our life. It happened one morning as we were still lying in bed, convincing ourselves that we had lots of time to get ready. We heard a low rumbling and our beds slightly shook. We laughed it off as rowdy downstairs neighbors. Then as we were in the hotel lobby about to set out for the day the entire ground beneath us started to shake and the rumble was louder. The hotel owner confirmed that it was indeed an earthquake and told us we should all go outside in case a larger one followed. Barring the fact that Turkey had a large earthquake just last year, it was still an interesting experience in its own way.
Caitlin and I decided to walk the 25 minutes to Ephesus instead of catching a cab. It was a beautiful walk and along the way we saw St. John’s Basilica, which is where John wrote his Gospel and is supposedly buried, as well as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the Temple of Artemis. I love history, as most people who know me realize fast, and seeing one of the ancient wonders was something I truly appreciated. While we were there, we met a German traveler who went from Turkish town to Turkish town, selling his poetry to try and make a living. He gave us each a postcard with one of his poems in English on the back for free, as he found in us a type of kindred traveling spirit.
Ephesus was a wondrous site to behold, and was beyond anything that I had seen even in Rome itself. It was so well preserved and so big it took us quite some time to wind our way through the maze of the city. It was great to be able to climb into things as well and really feel like we were in the Ancient Roman Empire. At the end of our time there we decided to hire a taxi to take us all the way up into the mountain to the Virgin Mary House. Here is where Mary, the mother of Jesus, supposedly spent the remainder of her time on earth. It is a lovely earthen home, covered in ivy, and inside you can say a prayer and light a candle for a loved one. I lit my candle for someone special I know who is going through a rough medical time. That night, as we ate a feast at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant that has managed to win many travel awards, I thought to myself what a truly lovely day it was.
In Selçuk, Caitlin and I also became friends with two carpet salesmen—one named Enis and the other who Caitlin and I never quite captured his name, but who is a champion oil wrestler (it is just what it sounds like—men in leather shorts covered from top to bottom in oil, wrestling) and who we both developed a travel crush on because he was the best. On our last morning in the area he took time off work to take us to the small Greek mountain village of Sirinçe. All the streets were a steep walk, but it was very picturesque and we had the best wine tasting I have ever been to. The winning flavor in my opinion was black mulberry. Enis has books upon books of travelers he has met who have written a goodbye note to him, and Caitlin and I added our names to the books, promising to one day return to this wondrous town.