Turkey: first impressions

After 24 hours of airplanes, airports, and buses, we arrived to Yeni Hitit Hotel in Selçuk Thursday evening. Everything is lovely and cold.

The lovely: Our guide Gülin (pronounced Goo-leen). Our warm Mercedes bus. Our slightly gentrified (I mean that in the best way–think of all the life experiences I can learn from!) group of 33 interesting people. Our two professors from back home. The people here. The food. The countryside. The sunset last night. The naps. The sites.

The cold: Sleeping in socks, pants, long sleeve shirt. Two wool blankets. Heat on full force (but windows and walls as breezy as the seminary). Turning the hair dryer on while using the bathroom. Standing in the cold rain, walking in the cold rain, grateful for respites on the warm bus.

Supper last night consisted of a soup with some kick to it, beets, couscous, yogurt with some dark red paste, broccoli, lettuce & tomato, potatoes, small tasty meatballs, cooked spinach, rice, chicken, and chocolate pudding. Then I asked for the sage tea, which was a simple sprig of sage with some lemon slices and hot water. Beautiful!

Breakfast this morning included homemade goat cheese, yogurt with fig compote, hard and soft boiled eggs, rolls, hot chocolate and tea. There were other items, but that was my selection!

Both breakfast and supper are served buffet style at our hotel.

We loaded up our bus at 8:30am and made our way to Miletus. It is crazy to think that the roads we are driving on used to be covered by the sea. The ruins we saw at Miletus were once on a peninsula surrounded by water. We walked around a Greco-Roman theater (4C BC), read Greek inscriptions, saw Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman structures from a single vantage point. We used our imaginations a lot.

Next we headed to Didyma (or Priene) for a visit and lunch. The ruins of the Temple to Apollos are unique architecturally, but typical in other ways. You could tell that the temple was unfinished (even though it was used) because of certain non-fluted columns, inscriptions in some of the stones indicating which quarry they had been brought from (these would have been smoothed out), and knobs on some of the stones that would have been used to pull them from the quarry. It was not unusual to leave a temple unfinished, as funds would sometimes run out–not unlike today! We did not get any word from the oracle.

We had lunch in a cafe facing the ruins: roasted zucchini squash and tomato, salad, and whole fish. My fish was twice the size of my plate!

I slept on the bus as we made our way back to Ephesus (Selçuk, where we are staying, is right next to Ephesus). We’ll spend more time in Ephesus tomorrow, but today we just stopped by the Basilica of St. Jean (St. John) 4C BC. Legend has it that John, the Beloved disciple, brought the Blessed Virgin to Ephesus after the resurrection of Jesus. John’s remains are believed to be at the basilica–so supposedly I saw those today. Many people have made pilgrimages here for that reason! My favorite part was the baptistry–which I’ll have to sketch out at some point. Father Malloy would have approved.

Tomorrow we are in Ephesus all day. I’m hoping it will be warmer and dryer, but it’s not looking likely.

Other random things of note: solar water heaters on every roof, orange trees, olive trees, wind turbines, paying for restrooms, minarets and calls to prayer, lots of happy dogs and a guy with a trunk-full of sardines.

That’s a wrap for our first day of touring about.

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