Monday, December 31, 2012

arriving in ┼×irince

The flight to Izmir is full. I'm not surprised. It is shockingly inexpensive to travel within Turkey by plane. Take this segment: from Istanbul to Izmir (about an hour flying time) on Atlas Jet, it's $25 (without additional discounts). For this, we get not only the flight itself, but a warm snack (melted cheese sandwich, cake, coffee or a soft drink) and, too, upon arrival in Izmir, free transportation by bus to towns south of us. Including to Slecuk -- another hour's worth of travel.

It's 11 at night and raining as we touchdown. I'd be a lot more concerned about the what ifs and the what nows if it wasn't for the fact that both Ed and I are in that state of fog that comes from too much travel and way too little sleep. I must admit it -- we were bumped up on the transatlantic flight to great economy plus bullhead seats (it was a packed plane) so that we could stretch and doze some, but neither one of us sleeps fitfully on these flights and so now, 27 hours into the journey, we're bleary eyed and somewhat dazed. Tell us we're in central Turkey and it has the same impact as if you'd say welcome to central Illinois. Thanks for the information; now, where is there a bed?

There are eight of us on the small bus to Selcuk (the bus actually continues south, beyond our town). Somewhere in the recesses of my foggy mind I am relieved. Someone surely will help us reach our innkeeper. The rain hits the windshield steadily. The road (like the airport, like the local train that runs this way too, although at much earlier hours) is new and good. We are jostled from our half sleep when I see the lights of a quiet town streaming into the bus. Selcuk.

In the summertime, this now sleepy place of about 36,000 is buzzing with visitors. It's old, it's (they say) lovely to walk through, it's not far from coastal beaches, all that. But mostly, it's about a mile from Ephesus.

There'll be plenty of time for me to talk of Ephesus, but just as a preamble, let me mention, in case you haven't checked your Greek and Roman history lately that Ephesus was once (in Greek and Roman times -- think 1st century B.C.) the major port of the the Mediterranean (the silting up of the harbor pushed it inland by several miles). The ruins of Ephesus are what draw tourists to Selcuk. But this month the place sleeps through the rains. (Though I hear that a  couple of weeks from now they have a very popular camel wrestling competition going on. We are in Asia Minor indeed.)

Of course, we're not staying in Selcuk. I had to plunge us even deeper into quietness by picking the nearby village of Sirince for our first stop on this winter ramble. Sirince boasts of 600 residents. It's just about 10 kilometers up a winding narrow road. If Selcuk is quiet, Sirince is super quiet (though I read in the Huffington Post that it experienced its moment of good repute just about ten days ago when people flocked here to escape the Mayan Apocalypse, thinking for some reason that this area had some positive energy going).

As we pull up to the curb and the driver announces -- Selcuk -- looking straight at us, I reach for my sheet of paper with the innkeeper's phone number right there in big print. And sure enough -- though the driver doesn't speak English, we have more than one person reach for a cell phone. Ultimately the driver makes the connection. Eventually, through a confusion of many trying to convey a simple message, we understand. Cross the street and stand by the white building. Wait. He'll be there in fifteen minutes. One passenger waved us on: do not worry, he tells me in halting English, sensing my tired confusion. He will be there.

The bus leaves. The rain comes down steadily. And in fourteen minutes, a vehicle pulls up to the white building. No hike for us tonight. We are driving in the comfort of a heated little van.

It's nearly 1 a.m. (Turkish time, which is eight hours ahead of Madison time) when we enter our lovely, wee space at the delightful eight room Markiz Konaklari.

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We throw back the shutters just to look outside. It's dark of course. A few lights twinkle in the village below (it's quite hilly here).

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I'm tired, but so extremely excited for it to be morning already.

And of course, the misinterpreted Mayan Apocalypse notwithstanding, daylight does come and I look outside and I smile at the loveliness of it all.

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