Bus stations in Turkey generally have a way of diluting individuality for travelers. Where you are coming from as well as your next destination are always obvious to every local you meet and even more so for the ticket vendors shepherding customers into their establishments. Understandable. With major attractions spread across the country, visitors typically leap frog them in a very predictable sequence—they simply choose between clockwise and counterclockwise, then connect the dots. Needless to say, upon arriving/departing from any given station, tourists are greeted with endless harassment under the guise of altruism. Arriving in Selcuk was no different. Cleverly, ducking out of site from the crowds of ticket salesmen and baggage aids (thank goodness for only having single packs highly conducive to a stealthy disembarkment!), we stopped into a mom-and-pop food shop for a juice box and some guidance towards our hotel. Even as we hurried out of the lot, the clamoring for departure ticket offers were still ever presently relentless.
Not more than fifteen minutes later, we turned off the main road, and are distracted by a very old site. The row of souvenir shops across the street verified that something of importance was in the immediate vicinity and we later realized that we had arrived at Byzantine Aqueduct and St. John’s Basilica. The latter was built by Roman Emperor Constantine to honor St. John who fled to Ephesus from Jerusalem with the Virgin Mary around 44 A.D. The entrance was mildly infested with some guy trying to sell some “ancient” coins. Without hesitation, we ignored him (thanks for the practice, NYC) deciding it was best to save our backs and check into our hotel before anything.
With the hotel only about thirty yards away, we were really looking forward to settling in and seeing what our home for the next few days will look like. We followed a few signs pointing us over a hill and around the corner but the hotel was no where to be found. Semi-panicked, we split up temporarily to try and comb the side streets for clues. All we could find were partially abandoned homes, and a few old ladies sweeping the dirt (why? it’s all dirt!) off the rural roads.
Eventually we came across this two-story wall with an ornate gate and very beautiful flowers and vines spilling up and over the top. Hidden behind one of the vines was the address we’ve been searching for for at least the past half hour and relief rapidly retreated as relaxation resurged.
The floral decorations within the walls were definitely very calculated but not gaudy. Rather it was very tasteful and comforting. Open tables were placed in the garden, where another couple was waiting to check in, as well.
In an effort to save time, Erdal, the hotel owner, gave all of us a quick lay of the land, and helped us to plan the next few days of our stay, which made everything very easy…too easy! He even warned us not to spend more than $1USD on those fake coins often sold outside of the ancient ruins.
With our itinerary fleshed out, we spent the rest of the day exploring the many sites within walking distance, including: Isa-y Mosque, the remains of an ancient Hamam and, of course, St. John’s Basilica.
As expected, each stop had at least one monster tour bus parked while the groups (often elders) were rushed through tours. At each location, we took a moment to share some high-fives for not wasting money in exchange for mindless travel. Slowly, our disdain towards pushy ticket hustlers transformed into respectful thanks for helping us along our journey.
Take that over-priced Turkey tours!