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It was another lovely sunny morning when we woke up in Selçuk. We sat outside an enjoyed another Turkish breakfast with the same ingredients as yesterday. The only change today was that they didn't serve us a plate of cucumber and tomato, which was a relief; they'd obviously picked up on the fact that we hadn't eaten any of it yesterday! After breakfast we packed up our things and made our way towards the final destination of this holiday: Bodrum. It was a drive of around 2.5 hours from Selçuk to Bodrum and quite a scenic journey, driving first of all along the shore of Lake Bafa and then across the Bodrum peninsula. We weren't officially able to check into our hotel in Bodrum until 3pm, so my plan was to find some parking in the city centre and get lunch. However, driving in Bodrum turned out to be a nightmare. The city is built on steep sloping hills and there's a one-way system in operation around the town centre and marina. Parking isn't signposted in advance in Turkey in the way it is in most European countries, so even though "otopark" is one of the few words we know in Turkish, by the time we'd seen a sign for one of the handful of car parks, we'd already have driven past it. After failing to find anywhere to park either in the town or by the harbour, we decided to drive straight to the hotel instead and try our luck there. The hotel did have a reasonable-sized car park at least, so we pulled up there and went to reception. The good news was that our room was already ready and they were happy to let us check in a bit early And it turned out to be a really nice place. We've got a big living area... ...with a kitchen... ...plus a separate bedroom. But the best bit is definitely the balcony! We've got a fantastic view of this beautiful bit of the Turkish coast. The hotel is on a bit of a hill outside the centre of Bodrum, so once we'd unpacked the essentials we set off downhill towards the town centre. On the way, I caught sight of something I hadn't expected on the hillside. You'll struggle to make it out in the photo above unless you really zoom in, but here's a close-up. I thought that was pretty cool; it reminded me of our trip to Brașov in 2019! Once we got down to sea level, we got our first glimpse of Bodrum Castle on the opposite side of the harbour. We walked along the city's seaside promenade, looking for somewhere to get lunch. On the way, we passed one of the city's many mosques. We chose a restaurant where we almost had a view of the sea, although it was somewhat blocked out by some of the large boats in the harbour. After experimenting with Turkish food yesterday, we were less adventurous today and both opted for a chicken schnitzel. After lunch we continued around the sea front, trying to get a better view of the castle. We were just on time to hear the call to prayer being played from the loudspeakers on a couple of the city centre minarets. We've heard it from a distance a few times but it's really loud when you're right by the minaret! In the centre of town we found what we think was a monument commemorating Atatürk. This looked like it might be a war memorial, engraved with names and dates. There was also a huge Bodrum sign Eventually we made it around to the castle. It turned out it was actually more impressive from a distance and it was difficult to get a sense of how big it was from close up. At this point we turned around and began to retrace our steps to the apartment, with a brief stop at a supermarket to pick up some supplies for tonight. We walked back along the main coastal road, where all the trees are in beautiful patterned pots. One featured chickens... ...while another had some really cool cats Once back at the apartment I realised that from our balcony we could see Bodrum's windmills, built in the 18th century. As night began to fall we had a fantastic view of the sunset from our balcony too. The colours never seem to come out as brightly in photographs as they look in real life, but it was really beautiful. Even once the sun had disappeared behind the mountains, the colours in the sky were superb. It was a perfect end to what has been an amazing holiday
We were determined to make an early start to see the ruins at Ephesus today. Having looked up arrivals at Kuşadası, the cruise port nearest to Ephesus, the other day I'd realised that there were two ships due to be in port today: one carrying 4,200 passengers and one another 2,000. That was a lot of people to be descending on one set of ruins at the same time! I set my alarm for 7am and we're staying nearby enough that we'd made it to Ephesus and parked by around 07.50. There are two separate entrances to the Ephesus site; a north and south gate. We'd chosen to enter via the north gate, as it was closer to two of the main sites I wanted to see, and also I'd read that most coach tours were dropped off at the south gate. It was definitely quiet at the north gate before 8am, with only a couple of other cars in the car park. We queued up and bought our tickets, becoming (we think!) the 6th and 7th people to get into Ephesus this morning. Wow! One of the key sights I really wanted to see was the Great Theatre. I'd read that this was near the north entrance and sure enough, we caught sight of it almost straight away. The theatre has an estimated seating capacity of 25,000, making it one of the largest theatres in the ancient world. It certainly looked huge! We almost had it to ourselves, although not quite. In addition to a couple of other tourists, there was a pack of stray dogs living in Ephesus who decided to follow us in. They weren't aggressive though and kept their distance (well, I kept my distance from them; Tim made friends with them!) After the theatre we made our way down one of the long streets of Ephesus. This led us to a viewpoint looking out over the agora, almost devoid of people at this time of the morning. In the distance, we also got our first view of the other main sight I was excited to see at Ephesus. This is the Library of Celsus. It was commissioned by a Roman consul in memory of his father and became the third most important library in the Roman world, second only to the libraries in Alexandria and Pergamum. The library is estimated to have held 12,000 different scrolls. Unfortunately, the contents of the library were completely destroyed by a fire following an invasion of Goths in 262 AD. The marble facade survived the fire, but was then toppled by an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century. Austrian archaeologists reconstructed the facade between 1970 and 1978, resulting in what we can see today. It's a really beautiful building and it was so great to see it with hardly any other people around Once we'd finished admiring the library, we walked down through the agora. It was really quiet and peaceful here still. In the distance on the hill we could see an area covered by a protected roof. These are the so-called terraced houses, the remains of a collection of homes inhabited by wealthy Romans. There are still archaeologists at work here, piecing together bits of marble and stone. As we followed a path around the different rooms we could see the remains of all sorts of decorations and paintings. Some walls were really colourful... ...while others looked like they had had more tasteful decorations. As we climbed a series of metal staircases and ladders, more and more floors opened up beneath us. And then once we got to the top, we were able to see the mosaics. Again, there was hardly anyone else in here at this time of the morning. That was good because I think it would have been quite claustrophobic trying to climb the various staircases and being blocked by large tour parties. As it was we were able to stop and enjoy things as much as we wanted. And when we finally emerged into daylight at the top of the houses, we had a great view down across Ephesus from on high. By the time we'd climbed back down to ground level, the first of the the tour groups were starting to make their way towards us from the south gate. Tim managed to expertly negotiate a group of Chinese tourists to take a photo of the Temple of Hadrian. From this point our route led uphill, while almost everyone else was walking downhill from the south gate. At first we met fairly small groups of people... ...but it soon became bigger and bigger crowds. We still found some impressive sights on this side of Ephesus, though. The theatre-shaped building in the background of this picture was the town's odeon and seated around 1,500 people. Eventually we'd made our way more or less to the top of the site, so we turned around and began retracing our steps to the north gate where we'd started. By the time we made it back to the Library of Celsus, it was a bit busier than it had been first thing. The car park was also a lot busier! It had been almost empty when we'd arrived and now we estimated that there were at least 40 coaches. Breakfast at our hotel didn't start until 8am, so we had been exploring Ephesus on empty stomachs. We headed back to the hotel, where we got to try a more authentic Turkish breakfast than we've had for the past few days. We were slightly concerned when the above spread was placed on our table, unclear what many of the ingredients actually were! The little pots turned out to be a mixture of honey and various fruit jams. We also had feta cheese and a huge amount of tomato and cucumber which we didn't eat! Finally, we received a huge basket of bread, a pan containing two fried eggs and four little cheese pastries. It was definitely very different to a chip and bacon butty! After breakfast we sat outside on some of the hotel sun-loungers and admired the mountain views and the infinity pool. Despite the fact that it was a warm day, the water felt freezing so the closest I got to swimming was a paddle in the small pool When lunchtime came around, we drove into the town of Selçuk in search of a restaurant. We found one where I was able to try lahmacun, a Turkish pizza. When it came it was like a flatbread covered in minced meat. It was very tasty! We didn't know what any of the items on the dessert menu were, so chose two at random. The first was cold when it came, similar to a creme caramel. The second was called baked halva and it was the opposite: extremely warm! They were both very sweet and delicious After lunch we had a walk around Selçuk because there were a handful more sights which I wanted to see. The first of these was the final remaining pillar of the Temple of Artemis. It may not look too impressive now, but this column in the foreground is all that remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today the column is also notable for having an enormous nest on top of it. We didn't see any birds today, but apparently this is a stork's nest. While not much remains of the temple, it was a really interesting viewpoint because from here we could also see the Isa Bey mosque, constructed in the 14th century, and Selçuk's Byzantine fortress. We walked a little closer to the mosque but it was undergoing reconstruction work so we couldn't get a great view. Our route took us past some of the old town walls. Finally, we ended up at the Basilica of St John, a 6th century church which is believed to stand over the burial site of St John the Apostle. This was a real tourist hotspot, with enormous coaches reversing up a small street. We didn't linger long but it was nice to get a glimpse. Overall it's been a really exciting day and I'm so pleased we managed to beat the majority of the crowds at Ephesus
After I finished the blog last night, we went out for a final meal in Dalyan. As we were walking towards a restaurant, we realised that the ancient tombs on the far side of the river had been illuminated at night. They'd been impressive to see during the day, but they were really quite eerie and spooky at night! We had another lovely meal, with some delicious flatbread to start. While I was fairly unadventurous with garlic chicken, Tim decided to try a special Turkish dish. It consisted of chicken and potato in a sauce with onion, tomato and lemon, and it was served sizzling hot. I finished the meal with a Turkish coffee, while Tim decided to try Turkish tea. I'd planned to make an early start this morning, as we had a fairly long day of driving ahead of us. After yesterday's experience with searching for breakfast, however, it seemed like it probably wasn't worth setting out much before 9am. We took a little walk along the weather on our way to the same cafe as yesterday, and realised that there were some really tiny tombs carved into the rock which we hadn't noticed the other day. You'll struggle to make them out on the photos without zooming right in, but they're to the left of the photo, just above the reeds where the cliff face comes to an end. It was a really beautiful view The views down the river in the other direction were really lovely too. We admired the tombs for a final time, then went to get breakfast. I had a cheese omelette today, while Tim had a bacon butty. Once we'd had breakfast we checked out of the hotel and set off on our journey towards our ultimate destination for the evening: Selçuk. When I was planning the holiday I decided that taking a direct route to Selçuk wasn't going to be very exciting, so I'd built in a bit of a diversion. The diversion would add an extra hour of driving onto our route, but it also meant that we got to visit an archaeological site which I was hoping would be really impressive. The journey certainly got off to a good start, as we drove on small roads with some incredible views of the surrounding countryside. After around 3 hours in the car, we reached the archaeological site at Aphrodisias. Aphrodisias was an ancient Greek city and was the capital of the Roman province of Caria. Aphrodisias was famous in the Roman world for its sculptures, mostly main from local marble. In particular, the local sculptors seem to have produced a lot of marble sarcophagi and a display of those was the first thing that we saw once we'd paid our tickets and entered the site. Lots of them had faces carved on them, some scarier than others! Sarcophagi weren't the only carvings; we also walked past these. No idea what they were, but they looked in impressive condition. We also came across various stones which looked like they were inscribed with Greek lettering. We followed signs towards the first main sight: the temple of Aphrodite. When we came to the structure in the photo below, we assumed we'd found it. It turned out we were wrong. This wasn't the temple, but apparently a tetrapylon; a large monumental gateway. This would have stood at the end of the main road leading towards the temple. It was really impressive anyway and we've definitely been to places which claimed to have Roman ruins but had nothing quite as impressive as this We got distracted in our search for the temple when we saw a sign pointing towards the stadium. We followed the arrows and wow, this was huge! The stadium at Aphrodisias is one of the biggest and best preserved ancient stadiums in the world. It was built in the first century AD and would originally have been home to popular Greek sports such as races, wrestling and boxing. Later, it would also have been used for Roman gladiatorial combat. The stadium was capable of seating 30,000 spectactors! To give a sense of scale, if you look towards the right of the photo below then the small person you can see is me. It was really amazing to see and pretty incredible to have it to ourselves Once we'd finished admiring the stadium, we finally stumbled upon the Temple of Aphrodite. A temple to the Greek goddess of love is thought to have originally been built here in the 6th century BC. That was later replaced by a more impressive temple in the 1st century BC. The temple would have been the focal point of the city of Aphrodisias and people would have travelled on pilgrimages to see it. The temple was later repurposed as a Christian basilica by order of the Emperor Zeno. There are enough columns left standing to give an impression of what it must have looked like. Though some of the columns look more stable than others! We encountered a small group of Russian tourists here, but once they'd moved on we had the entire place to ourselves again. This is definitely not one of those sites where you have to arrive early to avoid the crowds Our next stop after the temple was the Bouleuterion, which would have been the council house of the town. It looked like a small Roman theatre. Again, there was no one else here! I was able to try out one of the bench seats in the top row. Next to the council house we found the public baths. After the sights we'd already seen today, they seemed less impressive; but they had a lot to compete with! We figured we must have seen everything in Aphrodisias now so began to make our way round towards the exit. On the way we found the agora area, where there would have been gardens and even a pool. The pool was here in the centre and looks like it would have been huge. From this point the path began to lead uphill. We climbed reluctantly - it was such a hot day - but when we got to the top of the slope we were glad we'd made the effort. If we hadn't, we'd have missed this enormous theatre. Wow! Now we really were almost at the exit. On the way out we walked past a wall made up of different carvings found around the site. We passed this temple, which also had some incredible carvings. Then one final wall of sculptures and we really had seen everything Aphrodisias was incredible; definitely one of the best archaeological sites we've ever been to! From there we had a drive of another two hours or so until we reached Selçuk. We're staying for a couple of nights in a hotel on the edge of the town. We found it without too much difficulty and it's in a lovely location, but once we'd arrived we couldn't find any reception or instructions about what we were supposed to do, which was a bit frustrating. A phone call later, we finally got into our room. Phew! It's been a busy day but one with some spectacular sights. Ephesus is going to have to be really good tomorrow to beat Aphrodisias!