I have just returned from a wonderful week’s holiday in Turkey. I had never been to Turkey before and ended up booking this holiday because it was cheap! The holiday was in the south western harbour town of Marmaris on the Mediterranean coast where daily temperatures are 30 degrees plus.
We booked through Thomas Cook, who I have always found to be very helpful and friendly. The flight was from London Gatwick to Dalaman airport in Turkey, arriving in the early hours of Sunday morning. It was a 90 minute coach journey from Dalaman to Marmaris and we stopped off at a very nice truck stop on the way where we got some tasty Turkish chicken wraps. The journey took us up into the mountains above Marmaris on some roads with very steep drops down one side. It was noticeable that Turkey seems to be investing a lot of money into widening and improving its major roads. Almost the entire journey was on roads that were in the process of being widened from single to dual carriageway, or had recently been resurfaced. The quality of road surfaces was much better than in neighbouring Bulgaria, with the exception of the surface over bridges, which for some reason remain poor and very bumpy.
We arrived at the Club Atrium Apartments in the centre of Marmaris and got our heads down pretty much straight away. It was warm and breezy even at night and we left the door to the balcony open to get the fresh air. Within an hour or so that was proven to be a mistake when the local mosque broadcast a very loud call to prayer at about 4.30am! Somehow I didn’t imagine that in secular Turkey this would be a regular feature.
The following night we joined a tour of the local bars led by Thomas Cook holiday reps. The first one was on a boat which set off into the harbour with several hundred drunken teenagers on board. Once the boat returned to harbour we slipped away from the group and went for a more peaceful walk around the harbour bars and restaurants which almost hide the old town of Marmaris comprising many tiny narrow streets around the old castle. The annoying feature of the area is that every bar and restaurant has people at the front inviting customers into their premises. Every possible ruse is used to get the attention of passers-by, making it almost impossible to inspect a menu a prices without being pressured hard to enter. After a while we got used to it and developed a more easy ability to say “no thank you”.
On Wednesday we took a bus to Ephesus as part of a pre-booked excursion. The trip was three hours each way and involved heading up into the mountains and along the coast. We were accompanied by a genial Turkish tour guide who styled himself as “Moses” and proceeded to lecture us on the benefits of democracy over Communism and Fascism, as well as the history of Asia Minor from prehistory through the Romans and Byzantines to the modern Turkish Republic. He also touched on the perils of separatism, citing Sctland, Ireland and Wales as examples! We moved north away from the hot Mediterranean climate and into a more temperate zone where “Moses” explained that in winter there was snow and where citrus trees would not grow.
We arrived in Ephesus (“Efes” in Turkish) to park with hundreds of coaches in a huge car park. “Moses” led us through the entrance gates and down a tree-lined avenue towards the ancient city. We arrived at a collonaded street which used to lead to the harbour of Ephesus, wher “Moses” explained that the original city of Ephesus was sited on a river mouth which silted up and became marshy necessitating the re-siting ofthe city further inland. Behind us was a colossal amphitheatre which has been calculated to seat at least 25,000 people. “Moses” explained that in Roman cities amphitheatres were designed to be able to seat 10% of the adult population.
The group was swiftly led up another marble paved street, though a triumphal arch, to the splendid facade of the Library of Celsus. This was the third largest library in the ancient world behind only Alexandria and Pergammon. The facade is the most commonly known image of Ephesus, standing two stories high and with many of its original carvings and statues still in place. We were then taken up another street and into a set of public latrines which would have sat around 30 men around a pool containing baby dolphins. They were next door to public baths and a series of temples to various deities. The ruins are spectacular but I was struck by the sheer quantity of beautifully carved stone and marble lying around, and the volume of broken pottery littering the ground. In some cases the archaeologists have reconstructed buildings from the plentiful remains and more are in the process of being reassembled.
The most striking remains for me were the terraced houses cut into the hillside off one of the main streets. A team of Austrian archaeologists have been excavating one large section of them for over 100 years and have discovered large houses, with marble and plaster lined walls and remains up to two stories high. I was stunned to see brightly painted rooms, marble and mosaic floors, and pillars all still in place. The whole area is covered over with a roofed structure and glass walkways have been contructed to allow visitors to see what is below as well as around the walkways. The terraced houses are subject to an additional 15 Turkish Lira which was well worth the entry cost. Most of our group did not bother with them but I am delighted that we did. The houses are of a standard which I imagine is only replicated in towns like Pompeii or Herculaneum in Italy.
I was so enjoying seeing the terraced houses that we lost track of time and had to almost run back to the coach where everyone was waiting for us in order to head back to Marmaris. There was no time to explore the amphitheatre or the rest of the site. I could have happily spent the rest of the day there!
I will post a further instalment on my holiday experiences shortly.