After leaving Istanbul, we pretty much just drove all day. In the evening, we arrived in the coastal town of Ayvalik and found a campground just as the sun was starting to set. Two men walked up to us, and we asked if we could stay here. They spoke no English but a little German, the shorter rounder guy who I nicknamed “Jabba the Hut” because of his voice, helped us find a spot. The place was not all that great and there was no running water in the bathrooms, but the view of the Aeagan Sea was a nice treat. We ate dinner and went to bed after a long day.
View of Aegean Sea from our campsite
In the morning, we put on our swimsuits and took a bath in the Aegean Sea – a pretty cool way to start the day – then we packed up and headed south towards Selcuk. Along the way, Stani was excited to find a gas station with a car wash, so we filled up with fuel and the nice attendant helped wash the car. He even added new soap to the brush for us. After a good five minutes of scrubbing and washing, the car looked much better. We were happy, but the attendant motioned to Stani that he needed to scrub more. I laughed inside at the thought of someone telling Stani he needed to clean better!
The 4Runner’s second bath of the trip
Selcuk and Ephesus (June 5-6):
We arrived in the early afternoon in Selcuk, a town where the disciple John along with Mary, the mother of Jesus, settled at the end of her life. In the northwest part of the city there’s a hill called Ayasulak Hill. It was here that John wrote his Gospel (the fourth book in the New Testament of the Bible) around AD 95. His tomb is said to be just below the hill. To mark this significant place, Emperor Justinian built a magnificent church called the Basilica of St. John in the 6th century. The church is now just ruins, but it’s pretty humbling to walk among the marble knowing the significance of this place in Christianity.
View of the citadel surrounding Ayasulak Hill
The tomb of St. John
We found our campground, Garden Motel and Camping, a nice place with a large grassy lot surrounded by many plum and olive trees. From our spot we could look right up at Ayasulak Hill. As we got situated, one of the campground workers brought is a plate of fresh apricots and plums from their orchard to welcome us.
Stani with the welcome fruit at our campsite
After setting up our tent, we began the 3km walk from Selcuk to Ephesus on a nice path shaded by mulberry trees. On the way, we stopped at the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, dedicated to the ancient Anatolian fertility goddess. This temple in its day was the largest in the world (even bigger than the Parthenon in Athens) and therefore earned the status as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today however it’s a little hard to get too excited since only 1 column of the original 127 is still standing.
Temple of Artemis
Afterward we continued walking on the same path and soon arrived in Ephesus, the best preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. Roman Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor and it grew into quite an impressive city. Marble streets, pillars, statues, a library and the impressive Great Theater capable of holding 25,000 people are all still visible. The Apostle Paul lived in Ephesus for a short time and started a church here around AD 60. Christianity flourished in Ephesus, but there were many of the merchants and others in power who weren’t happy about the change in religion since a lot of money was made in the selling of idols of the Goddess Artemis. As a result, Paul was driven out of Ephesus. He (or someone using the name of Paul) later wrote a letter to the Ephesians, which is the 10th book in the New Testament of the Bible, encouraging the Christians to be unified and to accept believers who have different backgrounds. What an amazing experience to get to stand in such a historic place! Unfortunately it began to rain, and Stani was not feeling well, so we took a taxi back to our campground.
The Great Theater of Ephesus
The next two days, Stani was really sick with what we think was the flu. Not a fun thing while staying in a tent! I stayed close to the tent and left briefly to eat and visit The Basilica of St. John. While hanging out at the campground, I was so happy to meet and spend some time chatting with a retired British couple, Gilroy and Shelia who were travelling around Turkey in their RV. They were so kind making me tea and sharing their cookies while we exchanged travel stories.