Turkey Wrap


It is probably clear from my posts thus far that I have enjoyed Turkey.  The parts that I saw, Istanbul and Anatolia’s Aegean coast, offered such a diverse range of sights and experiences.  Here are some brief concluding notes.

The people in Turkey were friendly and welcoming.  Everywhere I went, people were kind to travelers.  

Though there were the shoe shine men in Istanbul that would attempt rip you off, scams weren’t everywhere.

There are so many Turkish flags everywhere.  This is especially true in Istanbul.

I got lucky with the weather.  It was perfect the entire time I was in Turkey.  Maybe a little on the hot side, but that is the feeling of an Oregonian, so take it with a grain of salt.

The first half of time in Turkey it was during Ramazan (Ramadan).  It’s hard for me say how big of an effect this had on things.  Perhaps it muted the daily activities of many people, but just about everywhere still had a lot going on.  Though it was noticeable how busy things got around sundown.  A sudden spike in people outside.  Even though Turkey is a Muslim country and Ramadan is a month of fasting, I never felt that I had to significantly adjust my activities for it.  I could still eat and drink without any major issues.  I tried my best to be considerate of those that were fasting, but it is not as if restaurants and shops are closed all day in observance of the fast.

Istanbul is big.  There are lots of options for getting around.  I preferred walking because it’s a great city for that.  However, if I didn’t feel like exhausting my legs any more I had other options to get from where I was at to where I wanted to be.

The bus system in Turkey is excellent.  Traveling long distances between cities is a breeze.  That certainly alleviates some of the stress of traveling.

The food is great and you can eat well for cheap.

Turkey, thanks for a great time.  I’ll be back.

Bodrum: Crusaders, A Castle, and Shipwrecks


The final stop in my travels through Turkey was Bodrum.  This seaside town is a popular holiday destination and has a reputation for catering to the wealthy.  The yachts at the waterfront attest to this.


The architecture of the city and surrounding area is noticeably uniform.  Boxy white buildings facing seaward befit this warm coastal area.

Like seemingly everywhere I’ve been in Turkey, Bodrum has historical significance.  Previously known as Halicarnassus, the city housed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Mausolus was a ruler in fourth century western Anatolia.  After his death, his wife (who was also his sister) commissioned a great tomb for him in Halicarnassus.  Mausolus would probably be largely forgotten if not for this monument.  Standing nearly 150 feet high and made of marble, the finest craftsman of the day were hired to work on the tomb.  The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus no longer stands as a result of earthquakes and Crusaders.  A small portion remains and can be visited.  Several statues from the site now reside in the British Museum.

Herodotus, the so-called “Father of History” was born in Halicarnassus.  He is known to have completed one work, The Histories, which in all likelihood you haven’t read.  I just remember him being brought up in Mr. Curry's class junior year.

Statue of Herodotus in Bodrum

One of the main attractions in the city is Bodrum Castle.  The Knights Hospitaller were a military and religious order that was organized during the First Crusade in 1099.  After Muslim forces took back the Holy Land the Knights moved their base of operations to Rhodes.  They constructed a network of castles in the Dodecanese Islands and Anatolia.  The castle in Bodrum, called the Castle of St Peter by the Knights, is considered one of the largest and most impressive of these.  Construction started in 1402 and continued for over a century.  The Knights even took marble from the nearby Mausoleum to add to their castle.

A view inside the castle

While based in Rhodes the Knights came to anger the nearby Ottomans.  Suleiman the Magnificent led a siege against the Knights at Rhodes and in 1422 the Knights capitulated.  As part of the surrender they turned over their fortresses, including the Castle of St Peter, to the Ottomans.  The Knights eventually settled in Malta several years after this.  Today, operating from Rome, their successor is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Crests relating to the Knights

As you might expect, the knights included a chapel in their castle.  Once the Ottomans took control of the castle it was predictably converted into a mosque and a minaret was added.  During World War I this minaret was toppled by French naval shelling.  It was rebuilt in 1999.  

The castle chapel

You can also visit the dungeon where the Knights held their prisoners. A not very convincing dummy prisoner is housed down their now.

This guy is not having a good time

The castle currently houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.  Exhibits include shipwrecks, amphoras, and coins.  Much of the artifacts are related to commerce and trade over the ocean.

A display from the Underwater Archaeology Museum

I stayed on the western end of the peninsula on an orange farm about 45 minutes away from the main city.  This was a quiet place to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and do some hiking.  The trek to the top of a nearby hill offered great views of the peninsula and the Aegean.  Without having to squint you can even see Greek islands.

Hilltop view

Selçuk: Ruins, Wonders, and Apostles



After a few days in Çannakale I headed to Selçuk.  The trip to Selçuk takes about five hours by bus.  The town of Selçuk is quite small, but it is a top destination for visitors to Turkey because of the nearby ruins of Ephesus.  My Aussie traveling partners were most excited that the hostel we stayed at offered that most Australian of spreads, Vegemite, for breakfast.  If you have not yet tried Vegemite my advice would be to keep it that way.

Those familiar with the Bible may recognize the name Ephesus.  It was an early hotbed of Christianity.  As Christ’s followers set out to spread the gospel following his crucifixion, the apostle Saint John, along with the Virgin Mary, settled in Ephesus.    It was here that he may have written both the Gospel of Saint John and the Book of Revelations.  The house where Mary allegedly lived is open to visitors.  Multiple popes have visited the house and it remains a popular site.  However, I did not see it myself.  The historicity of some or all of these connections between Ephesus and Biblical figures is subject to debate.  It's not even clear that the John who wrote the Gospel of Saint John, the John who wrote Revelations, and John the Apostle are the same person.  In any case, Ephesus was an important site in early Christianity and fascinating in that regard.

The city lends its name to the New Testament book Ephesians, though the book itself does not mention Ephesus or its people at all.

In its heyday, Ephesus was an important city for many other reasons.  The city’s peak population is estimated to have been greater than 200,000.  The Romans used it as the capital of Asia Minor and it was a commercial hub.

Crowds at Ephesus

Ephesus is considered the best preserved set of Roman ruins in the region.  Not being an expert archaeologist or historian, I will take that claim at face value.  Less than 20 percent of the city has been excavated, yet what is visible to the public is impressive.  


Two buildings in particular stand out in Ephesus.  The large theater is towers above anything else in the city.  It sat approximately 25,000 people and staged dramatics works as well as gladiatorial combat.  During my particular trip to Ephesus, the theater served as an escape from the crowds.  From the seats I could rest my feet and ponder just how many other people had sat in my place over the centuries and what they stared out at.

The Grand Theater of Ephesus

View of the theater from the inside

The other standout building is the Library of Celsus.  My first connection upon viewing it was to the Treasury at Petra (as featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).  As the name implies, the library was built in honor of Celsus, a Roman senator.  In addition to a large collection of books, the library held Celsus' tomb in the main chamber.

The building's façade gives the appearance that the library is much larger than it actually is.  The interior is fairly small and nondescript compared to the stunning exterior.

Façade of the Library of Celsus

Statue of Sophia (Wisdom) at Library of Celsus

To round out a visit to Ephesus, the Museum of Ephesus in Selçuk deserves a visit.  The museum traces the history of Ephesus over several distinct time periods and houses some real treasures.  It provides a good deal of context to the ruins and helps give a better sense of the lives and objects that once occupied the city and surrounding areas.

Displays at the Ephesus Museum

Ephesus Sarcophagus

Statue of Artemis from the Temple of Artemis

Statue of Priapus found in the Ephesus "House of Love"

Selçuk is also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, though you would not realize were it not for signs.  The Temple of Artemis was once an impressive monument to the Greek Goddess of the Hunt, who was particularly venerated in Ephesus.  Where once 127 columns held up a striking temple stands only one column complete with nesting birds on top and a few other rocks.  The surrounding area is essentially a swamp and there is little to hint at something so renowned that it is still popularly known of today.


As mentioned above, St. John settled in Ephesus.  The Basilica of St. John, located on a hill overlooking Selçuk, is good set of ruins to explore.  John was unique among the apostle in that he did not die a martyr.  Instead he died at an old age in Ephesus.  His tomb on a hill in modern Selçuk became a site of pilgrimage.  The Roman Emperor Justinian had a basilica constructed around the the tomb in the 6th century.

Facing the tomb of St. John

Ruins of the Basilica of St. John


Colocated with the basilica is Ayasaluk Castle, which was built by the Ottomans.  The fortress offers great views.  From it you can catch a glimpse of Ephesus and, further out, the Aegean Sea.


Despite its small size, Selçuk and its surroundings have more history than most places I have ever visited.  That history is easily accessible and can be appreciated by anyone.   


Goodbye Turkey, Hello Greece



Yesterday I took the ferry from Bodrum in Turkey to Kos in Greece.  It took about an hour to cross the 3 miles between the two.  Kos is pretty popular vacation spot in part because of it’s proximity to Bodrum.  I took another ferry from Kos to Kalymnos, a smaller nearby island.  I’ll be spending a few days relaxing here.

View from my room in Kalymnos

View from my room in Kalymnos

Kalymnos is supposed to be a low key affair.  It’s well known for rock climbing.  I don’t plan on doing any climbing myself.  I’ll probably spend my time at the beach or driving around on a motor scooter.

I enjoyed Turkey quite a bit.  It didn’t take me long to realize just how big of a country it is and how little of it I actually saw.  It’s on my list of places to return to.  The sights, people, and food all contributed to my sentiments about the country.  I’d recommend it without hesitation.

My Australian traveling mates for the last week and a half also deserve a shout-out, like “What up, mates?”  Ryan and Paul were a lot of fun and a lot of help.  Best of luck to them as they continue on their travels through Turkey.

With Ryan and Paul at Ephesus