Woke this morning to the 5:30AM call to prayer followed by the chattering of swallows who swoop under the eaves of the hotel where they have built a nest. No matter, I was eager to get to the ruins, hopefully ahead of the crowds. Our host at Hotel Nilya had told us that it didn’t really matter if we got to the site early. Many people have the same idea and it is crowded at all times. “Come back in January if you want solitude”, he says. Despite the discouraging words we skipped breakfast and drove to the upper gate.
Arriving just after 8:00AM when the gates open there were already two tours groups ahead of us, but wide Roman avenues makes it easy to bypass slower tour groups and within minutes we were ahead of everyone and felt like we had the place to ourselves.
I make a quick dash to la pièce de la resistance, the Library of Celsus, and for solid 15 minutes basked in the morning light against the intricately carved Corinthian façade, snapping pictures and wondering what this space must have been like with every wall so magnificently decorated.
From time to time I looked up the marble road, but it remained empty. Two hours later after touring the rest of the site, exploring various nooks and crannies, I looked up the same road, now packed with tours groups lead by guides holding up signs from various cruise lines.
Getting to the site early is definitely worth while!
The Terrace Houses, worth the extra 15TL ticket, display the remnants of sumptuous Roman residential interiors with decorative painted walls and mosaic floors that give a glimpse of the grandeur of wealthy Roman life.
Lunch at Sirniecem Restaurant and Café in Sirince, a quaint albeit tourist village 12 kilometers outside of Selcuk, has a pleasant setting on a shaded terrace with a menu of reasonable priced Turkish fare. One of the first restaurants on the right as you enter the village along the main road.
About an hour outside of Selcuk are the ruins of Priene, a tranquil setting in the hills with shaded paths through the pines. The ruins themselves are mostly rubble but two structures make the site worth the visit, the Greek-style theater with VIP claw footed stone thrones,
and the Temple of Athena perched on the hillside with impressive views of the agricultural valley below. Just 5 columns remains standing surrounded by so many felled column sections and other temple pieces it is easy to imagine the temple’s former glory.
To drive to Priene follow signs out of Soke to Didim/Bodrum which will take you to the road to Gullubahce. From there brown signs marked Priene will lead you to the site.
Dinner at Ejder Restaurant
Dinner was at the Lonely Planet recommended Ejder Restaurant located on Topel Caddesi under the Roman Aqueduct. The menu offers the typical Turkish selection of meze, kebabs and other meats. Well done with good quality ingredients at reasonable prices.
The owner was particularly proud of his chicken şiş, a generous portion of grilled skewered chicken, charred on the outside and moist on the inside. The lamb chops, while the appearance suggested they might be grizzly, were tender and tasty.
Finished the meal with a delightful plate of pistachio baklava.
At the end of the meal the owner’s son, a good looking young man who works as a local model by day and at the restaurant at night, had tea with us. Like most of the Turks we have met he has a gentle friendliness and is eager to chat.
He brought out photos of Selcuk before there was much of a town, before they had discovered St. John’s Basilica, just the remains of the Roman Aqueduct marked the area. He then showed us the memorabilia books, mentioned in Lonely Planet, with comments and small tokens left by previous guests – money from around the globe and various cards (business cards, grocery club card, metro cards, etc.) and small objects (contact lens and squeezed out tube of Korean chili paste).
April 30, 2012
For links to all the posts in this series see the Turkey page.