Thursday, April 10, 2008

Diary from the Aegean

We made it to Pammukale Monday evening in time to see a very beautiful sunset, although not quite from the terraces. While scouting for a hotel, we were being scouted by a hotelier. As aggressive as a carpet seller, this guy nearly Shanghai'd us in his efforts to go to his hotel. It paid off though, as the Venus was a charming little pension, and the hosts were just terrific. It was a family owned place with the mother cooking. fabulous food, and the son, Abraham, running the show. Granted, it wasn't even close to Esbelli Evi, but not many places are.

The next morning we explored the famous white terraces surrounded by a gorgeous garden, then strolled through the archeology museum on the site. From there we explored the ruins of the ancient city of Hieropolis, and recreated in our minds what it must be like to have lived in such an amazing place. On the way out we passed by the pool of ruins. It was an amazing thing; a man-made pool fed by a natural warm water mineral spring flowing over remnants and broken columns from the former city. I wish we had our swimsuits.

From there, we drove to our next stop in Selçuk, the site of ancient Ephesus. The place we wanted to stay was full, but the owner helped us find a place for one night and booked a room for us the following night. Our first room at a pension down the street was a half step up from a hostel. We had a tiny room with a rough bed and no heat on a cold night. The blankets were nothing to speak of, but our hosts were very friendly and helpful. The owner of the other hotel was super helpful and was very accommodating, even going so far as to chauffeur us around to some sites. This place is called Hotel Bella and it's one of the best in the guidebooks for a reason. It is very quaint, and the on-site restaurant serves some amazing food.

Ephesus was spectacular as you could imagine, especially the recently excavated residences, but Hieropolis still shines as pride of place as far as ruins go. We broke down and hired a guide, and while it was quite expensive even for Turkey, it was well worth it. We got lucky in that our tour guide was a former history professor and was a fountain of information.

Later in the day we went to see the nomads, and I must mention the incredibly delicious pancakes - or crepes - the gypsy women make. I can't describe how good they are. Bananas and honey. Mmmmm.

Our last night in Selçuk was mellow, spent watching the storks build the pole-top nest from the rooftop terrace of Hotel Bella, enjoying a very nice bottle of Turkish wine, compliments of our hosts for having bought a carpet and a kilin from them (their other business). I also tried rakı (rah-kuh). Our waiter Savaş - the Turkish Robert Deniro - says rakı is for men, Ouzo (Greek version) is for women. I say that rakı with water in it - the Turkish way - is for little girls. Oh yeah, Chelsea kicked your butts, too, so here's your towel to cry on! (inside joke).

We left for Istanbul this morning on a flight from Izmir, but not before a crazy adventure trying to find the airport, and the place to return the car. That story to follow. But for now I am going to focus on our last few hours in this great country.

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