Izmir and Selçuk
On Friday morning in Izmir we had time for breakfast before we walked to Basmane Station for our train to Selçuk. The walk was very hot - Izmir was the hottest place yet, even hotter than the interior, something I was surprised about. We passed through a beautiful large park, though, which was nice and shady on places.
The train was very shiny and modern, with more legroom than on British trains. There were TV screens showing some brilliant silent, funny, animated clips of animals saving themselves from predators by grouping together, with a caption afterwards (in English) saying 'better to travel in groups' and then 'go by bus'. When the screens weren't showing those, they were showing clips of whales, dolphins and deep sea creatures swimming underwater - not animated, they looked like they had been shot for a nature documentary.
Our journey was only an hour, but these clips made it seem even quicker. The scenery helped, too; we passed loads of orchards and fields of lush-looking crops with mountains in the background. I couldn't quite work out what some of these crops were, though I think some of the orchards were of fig trees, and some of the fields were of vines.
I was completely charmed when we arrived in Selçuk and we walked out of the station to be greeted by the sight of what I assumed were aqueduct remains.... and topped with stork nests with storks perched in them! I'd seen storks before in Bulgaria, of course, but the only times I'd seen them in their nests I was in a car and therefore unable to take any photos.
Artemis Hotel, our destination, was only round the corner. It was very good, and the first place we'd stayed at that had air conditioning in our bedroom rather than a fan. We had showers and rested for a bit before heading out again.
We walked for about ten minutes to St John's Basilica, stopping for ice creams and cold drinks on the way. Constructed in the 6th century AD by the Emperor Justinian I, it covers the believed burial site of John the Apostle.
The ruins are quite extensive and lie on a hill with some fantastic views of the valley stretching all the way to the sea less than 10 km away. The scenery looked quite Biblical to me, or at least how I imagine the more fruitful parts of the Middle East might look today. We could see in a field a long upright pillar; all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World.
From the basilica we could go further up Ayasuluk Hill to the fortress, so we did. Partially reconstructed, it dates from Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman times; before then there were other fortresses on this site, going back to the Neolithic Age. We saw remains of water cisterns, a small mosque, dwellings and some other things.
Part of the walls were roped off, but we got even better views from what we could access than from the basilica.
After another short rest to recover from the heat at our hotel, we had a lovely dinner at a small restaurant round the corner. We shared some stuffed vine leaves, yoghurt with herbs and olive oil and a bowl of 'sea beans' (samphire- not something I expected to find here, but I suppose we are near the coast!) and some complementary bread. To add to that, I had a vegetarian Pide (Turkish pizza) and Dave had a mixed kebab.
We shared the only dessert on the menu, a gorgeous concoction of coconut, ground semolina and milk squished together into flattened balls, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.