HAYIRLI RAMAZANLAR: Ephesus and Turkish Hospitality

Originally posted July 12, 2013 by Svetopolis

Hayırlı Ramazanlar! Happy Ramazan (Ramadan)!

Tonight I am in the southern seaside city of Fethiye. This evening we hiked up to a hill above the city where there were ancient Lycian tombs, some were mixed among the modern-day houses. There was also a fortress from the Crusaders on the hill.

As we walked back down to our hostel just as the sun was setting a voice began speaking over a distant loud speaker announcing that the fast of Ramadan could be broken. (Last night in Kusadasi there had been a firework set off over the bay to do this same task.) It doesn’t seem that as many people as I thought would be fasting–especially with the extreme heat making fasting more difficult for the month-long Muslim holiday. Nevertheless, people were still gathered on this hill in Fethiye to celebrate. As we continued to walk down the hill, a group of young men were enjoying the view and feasting. They beaconed us over to them and handed each of us grapes to snack on during our leisurely stroll down the hill…

After a few bus rides (well, minibuses/vans called dolmus) and a day’s diversion to Akbük, we had finally arrived to Ephesus. The Greco-Roman city of Ephesus once numbered 250,000 denizens. It boasted a large harbor, a grandiose theater and the third largest library of antiquity. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis, was nearby. Paul the Apostle even spent 3 years in the city (Acts and Ephesians).

Now Ephesus is a pile of rubble and ruins with bus loads of tourists from nearby beach resorts and cruise ships docking at Kusadasi, but still it is impressive and worth an excursion from Istanbul if you have time. To get there from Kusadasi we took a 30-minute dolmus ride headed towards the town of Selçuk. We left from the area in Kusadasi called Centrum for 5 tl and the bus dropped us off along the main highway 1 km from Ephesus’ lower (exit) gate. Don’t be fooled by the taxi drivers who wait there and in the parking lot near the lower gate saying you need to start at the upper entrance. You can enter through the lower gate. (You’ll need to just trek back down hill when you reach the upper gate, unless you want to take a taxi to Selçuk and catch a bus back to Kusadasi there.) The cost of entry to the ruins was 25 tl and it took us 2 to 3 hours to walk the 6 km round trip. I think going in the morning, when it’s not as hot, would have been nicer. Plus the sun is in a better position to take pictures in the morning. Nevertheless, we went at the end of the day when the crowds of cruise ship busses had left for Kusadasi, and we still enjoyed our trip there.

turkey 1719.JPG

Before we were able to make our way to Ephesus, though, we had to first get to my Turkish friend’s house in Kusadasi that morning. We had stayed the night before with him in Akbük, the town where he works–-a beach resort town filled with Russians and British tourists an hour south of Kusadasi. Akbük made me imagine how some resort towns in Mexico might be-–with fancy, exclusive 10-story high beach resorts built exclusively for foreigners dotting the beach, and then run-down areas outside the resorts where the workers servicing the resorts live.

We weren’t too sad to leave Akbük, though Kusadasi wasn’t much better. Kusadasi was overrun by Europeans escaping to cheap Turkish beach resorts too, and the cruise ships brought in an influx of day trippers. The historic center of town was overflowing with “Irish” pubs/bars and kitschy/tacky shops, selling everything made in China… plastic toys, cheap shoes, fake leather jackets and rugs. I think if I had done it differently to visit Ephesus, I would have stayed in even closer Selçuk. (A friend of mine had stayed there before and she had nothing but positive reviews.)

Anyways, back to my story… My friend dropped us off at the bus station in Akbük on his way to work in the morning. He was going to meet us that night after work at his house on the outskirts of Kusadasi. He gave us his key, drew a map to his house and bid us farewell.
The dolmus ride went smoothly and we got off at the spot he told us to when we arrived to the outskirts of Kusadasi. From there, though, the map was anything but accurate. We walked for a half mile before coming to the spot where the map indicated his house should have been. I walked into the yard of the house that was there, even though the address didn’t match what my friend had given us. The place looked abandoned and overgrown with weeds. I tried using the key on the locks. They didn’t work. Some neighbors anxiously walked by wondering what these strange Americans were doing trying to break into their neighbor’s house. I finally gave up trying to get in…

View of Kusadasi and a boy who followed me up the hill

We stood on the dirt road with the sun beating down on us. The day was turning just like the one before, where we would be stranded with our backpacks with no place to go until my friend would get off work. Except this time we didn’t have a beach or shaded cafe to go hangout at like we had in Akbük. We didn’t know what to do or where to go.

Finally a young woman with a Picachu tattoo on her left arm walked by. As she looked at us with weird looks, we stopped her and showed her the map and address.

“Ahh, you no… Ahh, house no,” she said.

She struggled with her English, but we understood. She examined the map and address, walking back and forth to the main road and back to the spot where we stood.

“Ahh, no house…” Her simple English quickly turned into Turkish jibber jabber. Kat and I looked at each other in confusion.

“Please wait!” She ran out to the main road and flagged down the first dolmus that drove by. She hopped on the minibus and it began to role away.

“Oh no! Don’t leave us!” We exclaimed in unison.

Was she going to drive off with our map? We would really be in trouble then. Luckily, she jumped off as the minibus skidded away.

“No house,” she said worryingly, but then suddenly her face brightened up, as if struck by some great epiphany “Ahh, yes!”

She whipped out her phone and called a stranger on the other line. Turkish spat into the receiving end with a fluster of words and tongue twisters. She handed the phone to Kat. The woman on the other line spoke English and directed us to go to the Hotel Olivia a few blocks away and look for her there. What “her” looked like, we had no idea…

We enter the hotel dripping with sweat, looking disheveled and dirty. A large Turkish man sat at the front desk. The hotel was geared towards British tourists.

“Yes, what can I do for you?” the man said in a deep, accented voice.

Kat replied, “We are looking for a woman. She told us on the phone to come here and find her.”

“I do not know this woman that you speak of,” he said tersely and went about his business.

We walked outside of the hotel not knowing where to go or what to do. As we stood there looking at the map trying to decipher what my friend had drawn, the man from the hotel came outside to ask us what we needed. We explained our situation and showed him the map. He examined it in detail and looked at the address.

“Come, please!”

He motioned us to follow, so we followed. He walked us to a car and opened up the trunk.

“Put your bags in.”

With those last words we got into this stranger’s car.

He drove us another quarter mile up the road from the house where we had originally tried breaking into earlier. At a spot across the street from a hotel called Fantasia (pronounced fahn- tass-eeyah) he pulled to the side of the road to ask a man walking for directions. In Turkish the two men rambled on for a minute, pointing and motioning to each other. He finished up his conversation with the man on the road with an English “I love you” and we drove on.

“This man is my friend. He tells me the house is here.”

We continued to drive around the block, and low and behold, the house was there–far from the spot indicated on the map. A peach tree grew in front of the 3-storied house and feral cats lay in the front yard. (Feral cats abound and thrive in Turkey, posing perfectly for pictures.)  We thanked the man. He gave us a small bow and his business card, letting us know if we needed any help to not hesitate calling. Then he drove off.

By this point, we were exhausted and just hoping the keys would work to get in. They did! We entered the house. Inside was hot and it looked as if no one had lived there in years. Cobwebs strewed the few pieces of furniture there. Every window was shuttered up. Light switches and toilets didn’t work. I suppose when you’re traveling on the cheap and have a free place to stay, you can’t complain too much.

We took off for Ephesus shortly after arriving at the house, and we didn’t hear from my friend even after we had arrived back to the house at dusk. (He never showed that night at all!?!?) We sat on the porch that evening drinking Efes beer and waiting for my friend to get there–-though part of us just wanted to sit there in peace to rest and relax.

As we sat, the Ramadan call went off, permitting those fasting to break for the Iftar feast. Turkish music was playing in the distance. The neighbors were eating the Iftar dinner with their family. A cool breeze came up from the sea. Life wasn’t too bad even with all the stresses of the day…

We decided the next night we would take it easy and also splurge on a hotel (Hotel Stella) closer to the town’s center with a pool and AC!

View from Hotel Stella

Well, tomorrow we are off to catch a 3-night boat cruise on a gulet (Turkish yacht) from Fetihye to Olimpos!

Svetopolis comment July 31, 2013 at 08:59 – Hotel Stella

Hotel Stella (Kusadasi) is located nearby the cruise ship port on the hill leading up to the Ataturk monument. With great views of the bay and the city, rooms were clean. All the dorm rooms were located on the top (6th floor) And the rest of the hotel looked like a “normal” hotel. The dorm bathroom was limited (only one toilet and shower for the 4 or 5 dorm rooms), dark and damp. We were upgraded for free to a room and it had a shower and toilet, TV, refrigerator and a broken AC unit. They have free wifi, a lounge and pool too. The staff (seemed like it was a family-run operation) was friendly and helpful and understood English enough. To and from the Otogar we took a dolmus to Centrum and walked through the city center to the cruise terminal. (We also took a minibus headed to Sehiriçi and that took us closer.) You can see the hotel’s sign up on the hill as you walk southwest from the terminal. There is a back alley entrance from sea level or you can walk up a huge hill through back streets to get to the main street level entrance.

– Our 4-bed dorm room was 10 €.
– Tele: 0256-614-1632

Svetopolis July 31, 2013 at 09:00 – Hotel Olivia

I have to give a shout out to Hotel Olivia (Kusadasi). We didn’t stay there but when we were lost trying to find my friend’s house in the outskirts of town, the general manager gave us a ride to where we were staying the first night in town. The hotel looked nice inside with a big pool and a lot of British tourists.

– Tele: 0256-622-0760

Svetopolis July 31, 2013 at 09:01 – Fethiye Guesthouse Traveller’s Inn

Upon arriving at the Fethiye bus station, we were shuttled for free to our hostel by Pamukkale Bus Co. (The guesthouse was a couple of kilometers from the station, old town and the impressive Lycian tombs.) The place was decent with AC and wifi, though the room was cramped and we were put up in the staff dorm (which was a bit awkward since their stuff was there and the room was a little more “lived in”). The shower took some finagling to get hot water to come on. Breakfast was included and they had a nice patio to sit on. From here, the friendly mostly Australian staff took us to the starting point to catch our gulet cruise.

– 12 € (dorm)

– Tele: 252-612-2711


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