Turkey – Up the Coast, Ephesus and Sirince

Crossing the Aegean by ferry, mountains begin to appear out of the mist. The sky darkens and lightening flashes around our boat. I am very glad I am not one of the sailboats in the bay. The feeling as we boat past these stunning mountains is one of familiarity and I feel tears coming to the surface. It feels like an old recognition of somewhere I have been before but have long forgotten, these are the experiences that make me believe we have lived before. Z has fallen asleep on the boat and we try to wake her as Marmaris harbour approaches, she won’t wake, we shake her harder she still wont wake. The people around us are watching with amusement, It takes us 10 minutes of shaking her in order for her wake and when she does she is angry and punches us. We eventually convince her to wake as the boat docks and everyone rushes to the exit. The rain is pouring down, running off the ferry in torrents. I managed to get the pack covers on our bags and the kids in rain jackets before we docked. We race from the boat with our packs to the covered border checkpoint, where again we are stamped through with no questions asked. Exiting the building we decide to grab a cab as the rain is coming down so hard, that we would be soaked walking the 2km to our accommodations.

We arrive to find they don’t have our booking, which we have already paid for, so we pay again and decide to deal with Expedia later. We intended to explore Marmaris but the kids are bagged and just want to listen to books on tape. I convince Derek to go out in the dark to find food and bank machine. He is not thrilled about the prospect of navigating a new country after dark and alone, but he does, and it is fine. While waiting for Derek to come back I hear the “call to prayer” for the first time. It is so beautiful and moving, I open the windows to hear better and feel the beauty of the words wash over me. I since have heard it many times, and it still feels magical listening to it.

The next morning we are up at 5 am to walk to the bus station. We walk through the silent streets, passing stray cats, and bakery owners setting up shop. Roosters crow from balconies, and the scent of fresh jasmine floats through the air. We have to walk along the main road out of town, and about 100m from the bus station a car slows down beside us, all the men inside stare at us as the car keeps pace with our steps. I feel panic rising in my chest and then they step on the gas and race off into the darkness.

We have decided to bus north to Izmir to rent a car at the airport there, first of all because it is several hundred dollars cheaper than renting in the tourist town of Marmaris and second because we plan to fly out of Izmir. The bus is fabulous! The seats more comfortable than the plane and they serve tea coffee and snacks several times during the journey. As we twist and turn out of valley through the mountains, Derek gets car sick and takes a gravol and promptly falls asleep. The kids discover “Angry Birds” on their seat back screen and fixate on it for the next 4 hours. I sit and enjoy the landscape change from forested and mountainous to desert-like. T narrates her “Angry Birds” playing for the entire 4 hours, so I do not enjoy the scenery in silence. Near the end of our journey, the bus pulls over and police board the bus. The police take everyone’s ID/passport and walk off the bus with them, without saying anything. We wait silently while they look over everyone’s ID’s outside, smoking and drinking at their little table. Soon the ID’s are returned and the bus continues on.

The car pick up is a fiasco. They are supposed to meet us in the arrivals terminal, but there are two. We also cannot enter the arrivals terminal, or the airport at all without going through a full security check. The number for the car rental place doesn’t work. After 30 mins of waiting outside Derek ends up leaving his bags with us and going through security. The info desk inside has never heard of the car rental place and shakes their head at the number Expedia has provided us. We eventually call Expedia and they make a bunch of calls and then this young ponytailed guy pulls up in a beat up car with a sign with our names on it. We pile in and chat with him about how hard it is to get a visa to go to Canada, as he really wants to come. Eventually the car stuff gets sorted and we are on our way to Sirince!

Sirince is a little town in the mountains near Ephesus. We arrive at the gates and are stopped and told to park. We say we are staying, and the young boy directing parking looks at my reservation and calls the number on it, but can’t relay the information as he doesn’t have enough English and we have nowhere near enough Turkish! He waves a older hippy-looking man over from a restaurant across the way and he tells us that the woman who owns the place were we are staying will be here in 15 mins. She shows up with a friend, and they pull T out of the car and pile in the backseat with Z. They beckon T to sit on their laps, but she is having none of it and I put her on mine in the front seat. What follows is a harrowing drive through narrow “streets” lined with market stalls, heaps of people, cats, dogs and donkey’s… I close my eyes several times during the journey. Our little accommodation is on the top floor of a house overlooking Sirince. It is beautiful, but tiny, with two beds crammed into a little space and a bathroom added as an afterthought. I love it! The streets of Sirince are lined with stalls and it is like walking a gauntlet as everyone competes for your attention and business, by the end of our stay, I am finding this exhausting! The town is so beautiful though, that we enjoy many hours walking it’s streets.

The next morning we awake shortly after the call to prayer to head to Ephesus before the crowds. When we walk out of our place, there is an ass in the middle of the road. Like a donkey, ass. We walk around him and he just stares at us, not moving. We get in our car, he stays put. We drive forward, he stares us down. It is clear he will not be moving for the car. I get out and pick up his lead rope and guide him past the car, praying the whole time that he doesn’t bite me. He follows reluctantly, digging in his heels a few times, but I talk to him gently and he eventually follows.

Arriving at Ephesus, we are greeted by Sultan as we park our car. He tells us, “No one enters the bottom gate, we can take the free shuttle, or the pay shuttle, just a little catch for the free shuttle.” The catch is that the “free shuttle” takes you to a weaving “school” first and then they try and sell you carpets and jewelry before they drive you to the upper gate of Ephesus. This sales pitch also includes you having coffee and tea with them as this is custom. I am fighting with myself internally, telling myself “this is part of the experience, let it go, we don’t have to hurry, if we hit the crowds it’s ok.” I really struggled to breathe and accept that this is part of the journey and that I should just enjoy it. It was pretty cool as we got to see how they got silk from the cocoons, and learned all about weaving carpets. It can take years to make one carpet, so no wonder they are so expensive! Eventually, after making promises to come back that we had no intention of keeping, we were on our way up to Ephesus.

Ephesus is mind blowing. It was the final stop on the silk road and the ocean used to come right up to it for boats to dock and unload their goods. The cats of Ephesus are amazingly calm, as they are probably pet by thousands of people every year. T pet every cat in the monument! We paid extra to visit the Terrace houses, which are under a roof. It was an amazing chance to see how the rich lived, as a lot of the walls still have plaster and painting, and the tiling is still intact. T tested both amphitheatres for their acoustics like she saw on a BBC documentary before we left. I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this one.

We took a back road back to Sirince and ended up stopping to eat at this tiny restaurant in the middle of nowhere, where we sat in huts perched above a duck pond. We had a huge meal, for the equivalent of about $17 can! The night before we also ate out, a ton of food for around $20 can. I feel like we are ripping the people off with how cheap the food is here. We have been ordering by pointing randomly at the menu and seeing what we get, as everything is in Turkish. We are learning some Turkish and the people here seem really happy when we try it out. Thank you in Turkish is 6 syllables so it’s quite a mouthful! I am loving the people here, and loving the culture. We have had some hiccups, but I feel like we are finally getting into a rhythm and it feels good.

We are currently near Fethiye… stay tuned to hear about how we ended up in a Turkish wedding!

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Liz Reid
    April 7

    Sam, I love to read about your travel adventures. The pictures are fantastic too. !
    Where are you off to next ? How long are you gone for, 2 or 3 months?
    I’m looking forward to your next writing, from wherever you are off to next. ?

  2. sam
    April 7

    Thanks Liz!
    Derek heads home at the end of this month. The kids and I continue on until the end of June. We are in Turkey until the 14th of this month and then back to Greece. Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Czech Rep and Poland are where we are tentatively planning to go without Derek.

  3. Angela Prescott
    April 10

    So much adventure and opportunity to teach the girls about flexibility and resiliency!! Thanks for sharing!

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