Just like my previous week of bicycle touring, this final week of my three-week Fethiye to İzmir trip was hopping from one set of Roman ruins to another. In addition to Roman sites I also managed to find a few old churches. For me the most notable difference of this week was that the rain stopped. I entered a stretch of brilliant weather — dry and cool, at times cold — and tried to take advantage of the sunshine.
My first stop was Priene, just down the road from Miletus. Priene was built on small hills above the sea. The “acropolis” of the city is actually way up on top of the mountain in this photo, but I didn’t bother walking up there.
After years of sedimentation, now Priene overlooks agriculture land in the flat Büyük Menderes floodplain. Only later did I learn that Priene is famous for its square bouleuterion. I noticed it on the map while I was there and looked around for it a bit. I thought I was right on top of it and decided it hadn’t been excavated or wasn’t around anymore or something, but there are heaps of photos of Priene’s bouleuterion on the internet. How’d I miss it??!!
Well, at least I managed to find the theater and the few remaining columns of the Sanctuary of Athena.
In the nearby village of Güllübahçe is the neglected 19th-century Greek church of Gelebeç, unusual (for me) in that there’s an ossuary attached.
My next stop was another church, but it took a couple short passes to get there. I rode through (ugly) Söke — for some reason I thought Söke was supposed to be nice, but it’s not… Then I headed onto small roads through Yamaç and forest roads over the pass between Yamaç and Gökçealan. It was mostly good riding, muddy and icy at times, but the road network is confusing. Even with the gps and osmand, I made a couple wrong turns.
The next little pass connected Çamlık and Meryem Ana Kilisesi (sometimes called “House of the Virgin Mary” in English) above Selçuk. I can say the same about this section — mostly good riding, muddy and icy at times, with a confusing network of dirt roads. The big surprise here was getting to the famous church and finding myself on the wrong side of a high fence with a locked gate. The nearby jandarma unlocked it for me, only after clearly pointing out that it was prohibited to use those roads. It worked out fine for me, but you should realize that if you climb up to the church from the Selçuk side, they might not give you permission to take the forest roads down to Çamlık (even though these are known, marked-with-signs routes for cyclists and walkers!).
The draw to the Meryem Ana site is that it’s thought that Jesus’ mother may have lived here. Evidence is sketchy at best, and the building we see today isn’t that old. Had I not had such enjoyable riding to get here I would have been disappointed.
It was a fast, smooth descent to Ephesus. I had put on my down jacket for one of the descents the day before, but it wasn’t quite so cold on this descent.
Ephesus (Efes) is an impressive site. However, it’s way more crowded than any other site I visited on this three-week tour — usually I was the only person walking around the ruins. Also, the cost is much higher than any other site. The entrance fees for just the sites around Selçuk — Efes, Yamaç Evleri, Ephesus Museum, the Basilica of St. John — definitely exceed the total entrance fee of all the other sites combined that I visited during this tour. Selçuk is a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s a pleasant town with a lot to see in a small area. The argument could be made for skipping Selçuk entirely if you have lots of time and little money.
I had visited Ephesus once before, but this was the first time that I entered the special Terrace Houses (Yamaç Evleri) area. The paintings and mosaics are impressive. This is where the rich people in Ephesus lived.
Even though I arrived at the Meryem Ana Kilisesi in the morning, I ran out of time to visit all Selçuk’s attractions in one day (the castle was closed by the time I got there). Like Bodrum, Selçuk is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, in this case the Temple of Artemis. Already in ruins 1600 years ago, there’s even less to see there than at the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Bodrum, but the Ephesus Museum has a couple Artemis statues.
Selçuk is also home to a large Ottoman-era mosque:
the remains of the huge Basilica of St. John:
and a castle on the hill:
I know from other visits that there’s a fun network of pedestrian streets with restaurants and shops just behind (to the east of) the bus station. Wow, there’s a lot to see in Selçuk.
I pushed on that evening to a nice campsite near Zeytinköy and planned to visit the Notion and Klaros Roman sites in Ahmetbeyli the following morning. This section involves pedaling a curvy road along a beautiful section of shoreline. I had been in the sun but entered thick fog as I approached Ahmetbeyli. There’s a reservoir up that valley, and I’m guessing the cold winter mornings combined with the reservoir water make the fog that shrouds Ahmetbeyli every morning at this time of year.
I wasn’t sure just how to visit Notion — it’s spread out on a couple promontories over the Aegean — and then I ran into three researchers from the University of Michigan who are working on the Notion Survey! They pointed me in the right direction (I guess), suggesting I could get my bicycle all the way through the site from east to west. Well, I did it, but I recommend walking the site. In the fog there wasn’t a lot to see.
Anyone visiting Notion will want to visit nearby Klaros as well, an important oracle site 2000 years ago.
I’ve been through Selçuk, Ahmetbeyli, and Özdere (a bit further down the road) a number of times, usually on the bus, because Ferda’s family has a summer house in Özdere. It was fun to see this area from the bicycle and to see it in the winter when it’s not so crowded.
The highlight of this week of Roman ruins was the ancient city of Teos, near the modern village of Sığacık in Seferhisar. There’s not much left of the Sanctuary of Dionysus:
and the stones from the theater have mostly been pilfered for other construction:
but check out the sunrise at the bouleuterion:
Once again except for a shepherd and his flock, I was the only one visiting the site. The guard at the entrance was friendly and talkative. He gave me some tea and explained that evidence of the world’s first rent contract is from Teos. He also had a story about the children of the founder of Teos being taken to Iran on a winged horse and then later such a horse was found during the excavation at Teos. Believe what you like.
From Seferhisar I found a great quiet road over the mountains via Gödence and Efemçukuru that dumped me right into Balçova (İzmir) near Seda’s house, the end of my only 2018 bicycle tour in Turkey, on the day before Christmas.
Here’s the route in red. The blue route is from February 2012.
Well, Bryan, I am agog. This is incredible, not only what you are seeing, but the way you write about it all, describing it clearly and sucinctly. With my (now long ago) Scripps Humanities background, and all the studying we did covering the “ancient world”, this gives me goose bumps, and is a thrill to kind of “recognize” and relate to what you’re seeing–“up close and personal”, as I think was said at some point during the 1984 Olympics. These are awesome visual and verbal account of your travels. By bicycle, no less. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And just keep writing!!!
Did you recognize the arbutus in one of the photos, just the like the one in front of your house? The fruit was really tasty. I ate as much as I wanted. 🙂