Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, long term travel, Selcuk, Travel, Turkey

Slowing Down in Selcuk

I have three days in Selcuk – probably more than I need, but I’m really looking forward to slowing down and really experiencing Turkish life and culture outside of Istanbul. And, I always welcome a couple of nights of comfort after multiple overnight bus rides.

I score a big double bed in a spotless room with my own bathroom for L30 (about $15) a night. I feel like I’ve pulled one over on someone ? Vardar Pension is family run and the grandfather greets me and walks me up four flights of stairs to show me the room. He then encourages me to take the room with a private bath for 5 lira more, “more comfortable,” he says, and nods to me.
I am delirious, dehydrated and hungry, so I oblige. I think I was in bed within one hour of arriving. Saturday morning, I venture down for my favorite Turkish meal of the day, and then after coffee and a shower, I’m ready to see Selcuk- only local sights today. Seeing as I have a few days, I’m in no rush. I visit the Ephesus Museum St. John’s Basilica, the remains of the Roman aqueduct and the Isa Bey Mosque. This just about summed up Selcuk, but Saturday is market day, so I walk through one of the most sprawling food markets I’ve ever seen, and I think everyone from town is here.
Lunch consists of a mezze plate, or appetizer plate, with hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed vine leaves, spicy couscous, and pita, all for about L10. This is followed by a 3-hour nap and a very uneventful evening. Sunday, I enjoy breakfast with my new 70-year old British acquaintance, Michael. He is the only other English-speaking traveller I’ve come across in Selcuk and pretty much, since leaving Istanbul, so we make plans to meet for dinner and I set out for Ephesus, to see one of the best preserved Classical cities.
My mind has a hard time comprehending times that go back thousands of years BC- you try to use your imagination to picture what life was like in these colossal cities but I have no idea if what I picture is anywhere close to accurate.
After about 3 hours, I am “ruin-ed” out, and I head back to town for lunch and then hop a local bus to Sirince for the afternoon. This is like stepping back in time as well, to a medieval land, where dilapidated wooden houses with smoke-billowing chimneys flank vineyards that produce some of Turkey’s most famous fruit wines.
I needn’t have sampled more than one varietal to know this was a no-go. I suppose my reaction to the mulberry wine was a dead giveaway – it was syrupy sweet. The salesman’s response, in a thick Turkish accent is, “if eet is too sveet, you just meex it with vodka.” Awesome! I decide to move on to sampling some of the olive oil instead. It has a much more pleasant aftertaste and less risk of a sugar crash later.
I head back to Selcuk and wait for Michael in the common area at Vardar. An old school wood stove is pumping out some heat. I huddle close because at this point I don’t realize that the AC unit in my room also functions as a heater. But when we return that night, grandma has been up to my room and got the heat cranking- bless her.
Michael and I don’t venture far for dinner. We head back to where I’d had lunch the day before. Sometimes as a traveller when something works you don’t mind a repeat. We talk about Michael’s upcoming book, The Prodigal Housekeeper, his years in NYC in the 60s working for Warner Brothers, and we talk about life.
Michael currently lives in Brittany, France, but winters in the warmer climates of Turkey – hops over to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries regularly and also did a long stint in Vietnam. He says to me that at a young age, a “normal” life scared him stiff. He grew up in a city outside of London where, like robots, you woke up in the morning, took the 8:30 train into the city, worked, took the 5:30 train home and hit repeat. He knew is wasn’t for him. I can relate.
In the morning, I take a bus to Pamuchak, a local beach town, dip my feet in the Aegean Sea, drink a Turkish tea and literally have the beach to myself. Tourist season in Turkey is coming to an end, and I realize how much time I’ve spent by myself since leaving Istanbul- more than most people would be comfortable with. And while I realize that there are moments that I would’ve loved the company of other backpackers, or some conversation in unbroken English, I’ve been pretty content with the time I’ve spent alone.
Late afternoon, Michael and I head out to a local cafe for a Turkish coffee and then agree to dinner at the hotel owners’ restaurant nearby. We enjoy a truly authentic and home-cooked meal and some great philosophical conversation. It’s a treat to speak to an older, wiser person about their views on the meaning of life.
When we return to the hotel, Michael takes out a pen and paper and says to me in a jovial manner, “I’ll just write up your prescription.” He jots down the name of his guru, Rudolf Steiner, along with some other things to google- you know, light reading on life. I board my overnight bus back to Istanbul feeling lighter. My three days in Selcuk, while slower, have rewarded me with an encounter with a very thought-provoking person, someone who I know will stick out in my memories, just as much as the places themselves.
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