A trip to Turkey in January

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Ataturk, Turkish flags and a minaret in the far background, typical images of Turkey.  If you have been following my blog, you may have noticed a week of inactivity, I had a week’s break in Turkey. I love Turkey, I have now been there 7 times and there is still plenty that I haven’t seen.

Now living in Georgia, it is easy to visit Turkey, as we are neighbours. I have made seven trips out of Georgia with my Georgian wife, three times to UK, once to France and now three times to Turkey.

This time we visited Selçuk, Ephesus and Kuşadası on the Aegean Coast. The journey for us was long, 24 hours each way. On a tight budget, we had opted to take a bus overland from Tbilisi to Trabzon and then a domestic flight from Trabzon to Izmir and finally a train journey to Selçuk.

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Here I am just getting off the Pegasus Boeing 737 at Trabzon Airport. An international flight from Tbilisi to Izmir via Istanbul would have been possible but would have cost maybe three times as much as the bus and a domestic flight.

We chose Ephesus for:

  1. its history -some of the most amazing ruins from Greek and Roman times
  2. the weather – in January it is not hot but at around 15 C in the day , ten degrees warmer than Tbilisi
  3. Turkish hospitality, the Turks we have met have been very friendly and hospitable
  4. religious pilgrimage: the House of Mary (mother of Jesus) and the tomb of the gospel writer St John are at Ephesus

We chose to stay in  Selçuk because it was very close to Ephesus and we found a very reasonably priced hotel/hostel: Artemis Hotel. The staff were friendly and the accommodation fine. Many of the other guests were from the far east: Japan, Korea and Singapore.

Ephesus is one of the greatest ruined cities in the western world.

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The Library of Celsus (behind us), built in the second century by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila and damaged by a combination of the Goths and then an earthquake is the highlight of a trip to Ephesus, the architecture is similar to Petra (but bigger stresses our guide, Turgut).

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The House of Mary. According to the Bible, the crucified Jesus asked St John the Evangelist to look after his mother (John 19:26). It is thought that John brought Mary with him to Ephesus in AD 37 and she spent the last years of her life in this modest stone house. The Roman Catholic Church has never pronounced on the authenticity of the house, for lack of scientifically acceptable evidence. The church has however been declared a holy place and has been visited by a few popes, most recently by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Mary is also revered by Muslims with several passages in the Holy Qu’ran related to her.

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The Amphitheatre at Ephesus was carved out during the Hellenistic period and later renovated by the Romans. It had a capacity of 25 000.

My wife Khato took to the stage for a much smaller audience (around 30 Korean tourists) and sang a traditional Georgian song, to demonstrate the great acousitcs of the arena. She was rewarded with a round of applause from said tourists.

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Kuşadası. The resort of  Kuşadası is a short 5 TL  Dolmus (Turkish minibus) ride from  Selçuk. In January we weren’t prepared to venture into the sea, although we noticed a couple of brave souls swimming. It was nice to walk along the beach and watch the waves lapping on the shore.

Unfortunately all holidays must end and we were all too soon returning.

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The Turkish-Georgian border at around 1am.

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