Day 6 – Ephesus, Sirince, Turkish Carpet Makers and Selcuk

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Ephesus was the main attraction today. It is a word synonymous with ancient Turkey and is visited by many hundreds of thousands of people every year. As an ancient port, there is still a modern harbour only a few kilometres away and huge cruise ships dock daily to allow their passengers the opportunity to see what is surely one of the most complete ancient cities in the Mediterranean area. The original port no longer exists sadly as the silt from the neighbouring hills has long since clogged it up leaving a huge flatland valley between a the horseshoe shaped hills on either side (Andie: I am sure you can tell me what the correct technical term for this is!?). As we walk down the main street from the upper agora, an open space which might have been used as a market or meeting place and make your way down first the Curetes Street there are crowds everywhere. With the exception of the Grand Bazaar and Spice markets in Istanbul, this is the most crowded place we've visited. Indeed some of the other places such as Troy and Pergamon have been halve deserted.

20130804-113610.jpg The heat is intense but slightly less so than other places we've been mainly because we're here fairly early as the hotel is literally 5 mins away. Still the stone is hot and it reflects the sun all around so it is important to move where possible from shady spot to shady spot (which is not always easy). The streets have retained their business like feel and would have had shops on either side as well as fountains and small temples/monuments. We pay a visit to the wonderfully preserved terraced houses (interestingly in the UK I would associate terraced housing with slightly cheaper properties, although many of these older properties now have significant character they were generally built for workers), in an ancient city like Ephesus they are a sign of wealth. Visiting these costs a little extra (15 TL). The house we visited was covered with a new fixed roof to protect it from the elements and was enormous considering that it was intended for a single family and their entourage. There are modern glass walkways to protect the ornate floor mosaics and the walls almost every room have beautiful wall paintings decorating them. We pop into the

20130804-115005.jpg At the end of the Curetes Street there is the lower angora which is where the wonderfully restored library still stands. The library would have held many across but was slightly smaller than both Pergamon and Alexandria. Across the road is a building that is called something like the 'love building', I think you get the point, and there was a handy underground tunnel from the library for the convenience of the local scholars!

20130804-115951.jpg Finally there is the truly enormous Theatre equipped with a 3 tier stage and a wall to allow animal fights to take place. This is only the parts I can remember fully. There are many interesting remains at Ephesus but I think the most important thing about it is that it is so complete that you can really get a sense of what it would have been like to live here. We make our way up into the hills for lunch at a pretty village called Sirince and we stop in the wonderfully pretty town market at Unal Pidi, a pidi restaurant (basically a Turkish pizza - it's long and cut into strips rather than its Italian counterpart). Inside the pidi are cooked Jan traditional stone oven. They also have interestingly different toppings - scrabbled egg, minced lamb, and Turkish sausage.

20130804-134629.jpg Then we cross the narrow cobbled street to a small wine shop that sells locally produced fruit wines. There are way to many to remember but the ones I do are - blackcurrant, strawberry, quince, peach, blueberry. I was a little concerned at the size of the tasters we had and Tom said he needed to sit down (oh dear, first head spinning moment at 11) but he recovered quickly.

20130804-152552.jpg Then after a little shopping (Callum couldn't resist a rather rude looking fertility statue for one of his friends - he tried to get me to buy it but in the end I think he made Tom do it!) we had back into Selcuk for two final stops. The first is at the Basilica of St John when John the Apostle was said to be buried and then onto a carpet maker (and shop). When we first started going abroad this was always a difficult moment. The best shops are not pushy but have to have a certain amount of 'insistence' to make sure they can sell their products. It can be an awkward moment if you don't want anything but feel guilty about all the trouble they've been to. But now I've done it a few times it is not that bad. Just like any purchase you have to be clear what you want and what you will pay. The carpet maker and shop that Tim took us to was unusual in that rather than being a company or having a single owner, this was a cooperate called Lonica. A very friendly man who was quite a bit taller the me, broad shoulders and a shiny head welcomed us and gave us a tour of the factory. He should us how the silk is extracted from the butterfly cocoon and how it is woven into a carpet. The lady that was there demonstrating was exceptionally quick but to me the real skill is actually knowing where you are in the pattern. I couldn't do it in a million years. He also explained how the cooperative works - the weavers work from home, they get the thread (wool or silk) and they are paid for the carpets they make plus they have a share in the company profits. After the demonstration we were should a large number of carpets (I would call them rugs but he distinguished them from normal carpets but calling the ones we have at home 'wall to wall carpets'. Each one was unrolled and put on the floor with an explanation of what it was made of and how it was made (Turkish carpets are double knotted which apparently makes them more durable but clearly take more time and so costs more). Some of the more complex silk carpets take up to 7 years to finish!

The silks also have the wonderful quality of changing hue when viewed at a different angle. We were provided tea and drinks and then there was the moment when the demo was finished and silence fell. In this case I was actually interested in a very simple design - pale cream colour like my own carpets but with a colourful but simple pattern. I asked for some general prices and they seemed pretty reasonable. One that to me looked like the one I wanted was around 190 (we didn't get this far but I don't like it when it is quoted in UK pounds as you never know what exchange rather they've applied is. However a good way around this little trick is to then offer to pay in sterling so you get what has been quoted!). However the one I was interested in was actually more than 400.

Initially our friend said they don't 'bargain' as they have a mechanism to price based on what they pay the weavers and what the cost of the materials are but after I explained politely that I couldn't pay this amount he did manage to shave his margin and offer it for 320 but as I was not prepared to pay more than the 190 we agreed we couldn't find a deal. I offered to pay for the drinks which he politely refused and I agreed to rate him on trip advisor which I will do because his carpets were excellent, they seemed well priced even though I couldn't find the one I wanted at the price I wanted, I like the cooperative idea and be wasn't pushy - he was very nice when we decided we wouldn't buy anything.

To round off our last busy day for a while we took a short trip in he evening into the main centre of Selcuk with Bayram our driver for the last few days. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Tim. He has been a fantastic guide but this is the end of this section of our holiday and he's heading back to Canakkale via Izmir. If you're reading this Tim, good luck with the house move! In Selcuk town we had a very enjoyable meal at the restaurant that Tim had booked for us. The owner was very friendly although we were slightly embarrassed that we could not answer all of his quiz on Turkey! (Although we didn't do that badly!).

After dinner we explored a little of the town and did some shopping. In the central park there was a music concert in progress in front of a large set of pillars that looked to be part of some ancient monument. There was a large crowd surrounding two singers on a low make-shift stage and a large crowd was standing around. We stayed an listened for a couple of songs. Kate finally made a decision in the Turkish lamp she has been mulling over for a while. After asking the poor seller to try multiple different combinations of colours and holders she eventually settled on one for 65 TL but with a little persuasion we managed to get it down to 50 TL.

Meanwhile Tom and Callum who were sitting in the town square had an unusual encounter with a colourful local. They are used to having some attention - lots of men ruffle Toms blond locks as they go by but in this case a man came over and introduced himself as Marvo. Rather than wanting anything from them, he simply insisted that they take a picture of him! They obliged and have spent the rest of the holiday so far imitating him!