Day 9: Ephesus

I’m so over cash societies. It’s not so bad when we’re traveling through countries and the hotel costs $50, and the food $3 like in Thailand, or the Philippines, but when we’re talking $130 and the place only takes cash it makes my life hard. I can only withdraw $300 at a time and have hefty fees when doing so. If it was just a matter of fees, fine, pass than on as an option like some of our hotels in the Philippines. Today was one of the more frustrating ones because I didn’t have enough cash on hand to cover the bill, short by 20 TL. I went to the ATM I was told about by the manager, got lost, found it after asking a couple of people, and then punched in my card trying to withdraw the 400TL maximum this one allowed. It gets so far as to accept the charge and then fails without spitting out the money. It’s out of cash. I then walked up to the main street/highway and found a bank of ATMs and ING which seems to only cost me $2.50 to use which helps, but it rejects the transaction as if I’m out of money. Fuck. I start to head down to the hotel to grab Jenn and her card, but then it strikes me that the problem is that the PTT ATM I tried to use before might have put a hold on the 400TL I tried to remove, but there would be 200TL left on my cap for the day, enough. Sure enough that works. I’m in business.

Back at the hotel Jenn looks at me wondering where I’ve been and I shoot her a look that I’m unhappy right now. I pay the bill but can’t not vent a bit at the manager that it’s really a problem for us as tourists. That it reflects badly on the experience of their hotel, and is a hidden cost for us and puts us at additional risk having to carry so much cash everywhere. The owner is standing next to him apparently and apologizes saying if he were not at the other hotel earlier he would have at least given me a ride to the best ATM and would have accepted USD. That does little to easy my frustration. He then gives us a ride to the mini bus station. We’ve missed our chance to get to the 9am bus in Denizli by about how long it took for me to get the required cash. He explains that it’s not just the fees, but the Turkish banks hold the money for 45 days. So? Shouldn’t you have a couple months of operational capital available? Isn’t that your responsibility? You push the inconvenience off onto the customer too.

In Denizli the Ottogar (bus station) is right across from the Gar (train station). Jenn realized as we get off the minibus that she’s forgotten her hat from Fethiye in the hotel. Another frustration, luckily the hat was pretty cheap. We get our ticket, but its only 10 now, and the train doesn’t leave until 12:50. It’s an hour quicker than the bus, but we’re still a couple hours behind where we could have been. We have time though, if we can’t do Efes this evening, we can do it tomorrow morning before leaving for Izmir airport on the train. We find a nice cool spot to start reading the last book of Harry Potter together and wait.

By about 11:45 we’re hungry, and I’m wanting to eat real Turkish food so we cross towards the bus station and find a little hole in the wall and order a pair of chicken wraps and a couple of these peanut and honey bars that are so incredibly sweet and dense, as well as another bottle of water. I think all told its 9TL. Delicious. So much better than the stuff we get in touristy sit down restaurants I swear.

Denizli is covered in symbols of Roosters, and we google to find out that there is a special breed of Denizli chicken that is quite hardy, and it’s the symbol of the city. They take a huge amount of pride in them and have standardized the breed like we’ve standardized the dog right down to how it crows.

The train pulls in nearly an hour before departure, we’re the end of the line on this route, and they clean the train. Inside there is tons of leg room and the car is cool and pleasant. We read a bit more until Jenn is fast asleep. We are in a moving vehicle after all. I didn’t want to miss our stop so I stayed awake and alert. As went along the train filled up with more and more passengers until there was standing room only. We watched farmland stream by mile after mile looking much like what we see at home in California. The temperature and land reminds me a lot of home, and if we weren’t on a train we could as well have been in the central valley. The biggest discerning thing for me is that the farms are all on smaller plots of land, maybe 2-10 acres in size, and rarely do we see anything larger, while in California they’re usually 50 acres and larger.

Selçuk comes over the horizon crowned by the giant walled cistern from the Ottoman period overlooking the ruins of Saint John’s Basilica. We grab our bags and get ready to jump off. This is apparently a very busy stop and we have to get in line, people eying our seats as soon as we start to get ready to get up.

We don’t have reservations today, just a couple of hotels we picked out from Lonely Planet to check out. One I had seen was pretty highly rated on Trip Advisor. The town isn’t as big as I expected and we’re quickly to our first hotel option. Jenn is quick to make a decision and we’re staying at Hotel Bella, a carpet maker turned hotelier. We don’t have a ton of time if we’re to see Efes tonight, but I’d love to see it in the quieter, cooler afternoon with the setting son lighting everything up with soft warm light. Tonight would be ideal. Thanks to a quick pick, and a chat with one of the proprietors we arranged to basically drop our things and leave on the trip. It won’t be a guided tour but they will drop us at the upper city gate, and pick us up at the lower city gate. We’re given a guide book that details everything in order and have 2.5hrs to wander the ruins. According to our guide book it should only take 2hrs to see everything. We move slowly usually taking our time so this seems ideal. I’ve read they’re not supposed to arrange tours at the hotels or drop us off or something, but we’re just getting a ride.

It’s still hot and we’re burning quickly.

We overhear Tagalog and I remark oh Filipinos, and he responds in English, how did I know? I tell him it’s the Tagalog and he looks surprised and asks if I speak it. I can’t but I can sure recognize it. We tell him we visited the Philippines a year and a half ago. Turns out he lives near Bakersfield and he and his friends are the captain and crew of an ocean freighter. This is their last run in Turkey before heading out to Panama and through the canal to Chile. We talk for a bit then go our own way.

The ruins are pretty spectacular. The city Ephesus, known by the Turks as Efes, has been around since before 3000 BC, and at one point was the capital of Asia Minor under Alexander the Great and then later the Romans. After around 500AD the city had lost much of its prestige and had been destroyed by the Goths at least once, and earthquakes twice. It eventually experienced a rejuvenation around the 14th Century but was nearly completely abandoned by the 16th century.

We walked in and out of column after column, through an ancient brothel with its pictograph sign outside, through an ancient gym and bath, through temples and auditoriums, houses and agoras. The city once housed 250,000 residents, mostly in wooden buildings covering the hillsides. Under the marble streets ran sewers, in some ways more modern than some towns today in parts of the world. All of this stone work standing the test of time since the Bronze Age.

We step on a paver with words in Greek carved in it thinking it needs to be better preserved, though thousands of people must have walked on that same paver every day centuries ago. It made us wonder about the fragility of all of our knowledge. We know from stone carved records that some 2000 years ago a certain Ephesian aristocrat had donated the money for a particular temple, what that temple looked like even down to its paint, and what it was used for. The civilization is lost, but not many of their records. We currently stand on centuries of accumulated knowledge, knowledge that is growing at a tremendous rate. But how much of it will stand the test of time? What if something happens, will we lose that collective knowledge? It’s what separates us from the Ephesians 5000 years ago. Our knowledge is great for sharing, not as much for preserving. The more I think about it the less I have an answer to what I’d do to preserve that knowledge. For one our understanding of the universe is changing quite fast, and the records like our text books would need to be updated periodically. I saw a blurb last week that in 1922 the known universe was 100,000 light years across, 90 years later its 93,000,000,000 light years across. We’re practically in the middle of re-writing our understanding of the physics of the very small, and how forces work right now.

The sun is setting as we find our way to the exit of the lower part of town and out the gates. We don’t wait long for our ride, and we’re back to the hotel. We have no idea what that ride cost us, but it certain saved us a ton of time and allowed us to do more stuff on our trip as we now have the morning to wonder Selçuk.

We elect to eat in town figuring out hotel like many others is serviceable but expensive and find a little restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. Our waiter is an ethnic Kurd who has moved here for work and education and is very quickly learning English. He says he’s still coming to grips with Turkish, but he’s incredibly sharp and affable. The food is good, not stunning. We ordered too much. Some Turks from across the way come with a long pole and pick a couple of grapefruit from the restaurant tree and he offers us some and quickly runs off upstairs to the top floor for a couple.

Back at the hotel we set down for the first time in our room and shower getting ready to wind down. Only the room is very hot and the AC is wimpy at best and pointed away from most of the room. We have it running for an hour and can’t really feel it helping yet. The front desk comes and has a look and says that’s just how it is, but offers to move us. We accept and move to an outer room which has the same wimpy AC, but at least it’s pointed at the bed and he recommends leaving the window open a bit as it cools down outside. After a bit the room does cool down and we can close the window and eventually put the AC at a normal power for the night.

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