The 3-hour bus ride from Bodrum to Selcuk with Pamukkale Tours was much better than I thought it would be. It was a 26-seater minibus which seemed crowded at first and I thought, “well, this is going to be a long ride.” But once we pulled out of the station I was able to change from my assigned seat to the back row of the bus and spread out to get a little writing done along the way.
Oddly, the bus was quite the full-service experience. Fifteen minutes into our drive, a “flight attendant” type person suddenly appeared in the aisle handing out bottles of water. I hadn’t even noticed him on the bus before we left! He then proceeded to do another round passing out packaged snacks like pretzels and chips before making another round with coffee, tea and soda.
I didn’t know what was coming next, I half expected him to whip up a casserole or something in an Easy-Bake oven. I’ve never seen this kind of service on a bus before but it was a nice surprise, totally worth the extremely reasonable $18 fare.
We arrived at the bus station in Selcuk right on time at 1:30pm and I figured while I was there I should try to find the train station to get my train ticket booked to Pammukale for the next day. I’d found a train schedule online but wasn’t sure how crowded the trains usually were so I thought it might be best to book a day ahead just to be safe.
Where to Stay in Selcuk
However, after getting my bearings with a map, I realized my hotel was closer than the train station so I headed there first. When I checked into the Hotel Bella, they assured me there was no need to book train tickets ahead of time so I scratched that from the plan and put my focus squarely on getting the most out of my afternoon at Ephesus.
The hotel had a terrific rooftop restaurant and after settling into my small but charming room, I was invited to head up there for tea, an overview of the town and some information about Ephesus.
As I was enjoying the terrific views over the town from the restaurant I was shocked to see several giant bird nests sitting at the top of seemingly every telephone pole.
I was just about to ask what they were when I noticed a detailed explanation in the hotel’s information book sitting on the table in front of me.
The birds were White Storks from Africa and they migrate 4,000 miles to Selcuk every year in late April or May to lay their eggs and hatch their chicks. They mate for life and rear their chicks together, returning to the same nest year after year.
The storks are roughly 4′ tall with a wingspan of up to 6′. They build their nests out of sticks high up on rooftops, telephone poles (as I could clearly see) and even archaeological ruins. Legend has it that if you see a stork on your first visit to Turkey you will live in peace and happiness for the rest of your life. Since I’ve technically visited Turkey once before (on RTW #3), I wonder if a first visit to Selcuk still counts?
After watching the storks for a bit, I sat down with a cup of tea while the owner, Urdal, gave me the rundown on Selcuk and Ephesus. He provided me with a free guide book that I could take with me to Ephesus to do a self-guided tour (my favorite way to see sights like this one). He was taking some other guests over to the entrance at 2:30pm, about 45 minutes from now, and asked if I would like to ride over with them.
That sounded just perfect to me and a short time later there were five of us in the hotel’s van for the short ride over to the entrance to the ruins. After he dropped us off, he showed us on the map where he would pick us up at the exit on the other side of the ruins at 5:30pm.
Honestly, this couldn’t have been any easier.
A little history on Ephesus…
Built in the 10th century BC, the ancient Greek city of Ephesus was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. But most of its fame is owed to its role in Christian history. Ephesus is one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the Book of Revelation and it is believed that the Gospel of John may have been written here.
Based on the Apostle John’s presence in the city, it is also speculated that the Virgin Mary spent her final days in Ephesus since Jesus instructed John to take care of Mary after his death. The House of the Virgin Mary sits just outside the ruins of Ephesus and is a popular place for Catholic pilgrimages.
I didn’t know much about Ephesus before this trip but in researching Turkey and trying to plan out a workable itinerary it seemed like it was too significant a site to overlook. Plus it was conveniently located between two places I definitely wanted to go – Bodrum and Pamukkale.
During its heyday, Ephesus was most famous for the Temple of Artemis, one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” which was completely destroyed in 268AD leaving just one inconspicuous column remaining. The two most impressive (and most photographed) sites within Ephesus today are the Library of Celsus and the Grand Theatre.
The Library of Celsus was built in 125AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an ancient Greek who was governor of Roman Asia during the Roman Empire. Celsus paid for the entire construction from his own wealth and he is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it.
The library’s façade has been carefully reconstructed from all the original pieces and it reminded me a lot of the incredible Treasury building at Petra. And like the Treasury building, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it.
From the library, I continued my walk down the large marble walkway past several napping felines to the impressive Grand Theatre, believed to be the largest outdoor theater in the ancient world. The theater could seat 25,000 people and hosted a variety of events including concerts, plays, political and religious discussions and even gladiator fights.
After spending a little time enjoying the theater, it was time to head toward the exit gate.
I had worried that I’d need the whole day to see Ephesus since it’s such a huge site. But as it turned out, the three hours allowed between drop-off and pick-up times by the hotel was just perfect for me. I felt like I had plenty of time to see everything that I wanted to see, though I’m sure those with an intense interest in archaeology could spend days exploring this site.
That night I had dinner at the Hotel Bella’s rooftop restaurant both to enjoy the view and to spy on the storks a bit more, they were so fun to watch! And the next morning I made the short walk to the train station and easily booked my ticket to Denizli for the 9am train.
Next stop, Pamukkale!