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Monday, 12 December 2011

Turkey Part 3: New Year's Eve in Selcuk; Ephesus and The Temple of Artemis

I daresay that the whole town of Selcuk had emerged as a result of the tourism that Ephesus brought.  Marjane pulled up at a hostel called “ANZ Guesthouse” – an awesome spot with a welcoming, family-run vibe that had obviously found its niche tourist market in the Antipodean criminal descendants. It was a great place and after settling into our rooms (I shared with Son and Ish) we had one final thing to do before we could go off exploring…it was time to wash and clean out our tents and bid them an emotional farewell.

Some of us had lived in these green domes of canvas for nearly ten months. They’d been slashed by thieves; kept us shielded from rainstorms, sandstorms, scorpions, spiders, camel spiders, centipedes, elephants, snakes, hippos and more. They’d kept us warm(ish) on cold nights and, with the waterproof outer off, provided a prime sleeping position under the stars of the desert night sky. Now it was time to roll them up one last time and pack them up into the truck so they could be opened up by their new tenants two months later when the March 2011 Trans began. Sad times.

After the tent-cleaning, the night drew in quickly and rather then setting off to the ruins, we got tarted up (well, I combed my hair …well, at least thought about it) before making our way down to a nearby restaurant en masse. Here Marjane treated the whole lot of us to a slap-up New Year’s Eve meal – Turkish style. Needless to say, the food was scoffed down in copious amounts and, as the restaurant had a BYOB policy, we made sure the grub was well and truly washed down by wine. Me ‘n’ Berbs even took the opportunity to bring out the wine we’d bought previously (on a lunch-stop on our way into Goreme) and had intended to make mulled wine with….

Most of the gang were more than happy to “see off” a large measure of cheap wine or two, and no sooner had the booze started to take effect, than we realised the death knoll of 2010 was upon us. In some kind of unspoken, communal instinct - known only by those who spend too much time with each other and then get very drunk - we all spontaneously took to the street and began cheering, whooping, hugging each other and hugging strangers that were unlucky enough to pass by.

In another anarchic moment of group spontaneity, the opening minutes of 2011 saw us ‘hedge surfing’. This involved throwing ourselves and others into a low hedge in a public garden that was mere metres from the restaurant we’d just eaten at.  I honestly can’t remember whose idea this was, but I’d venture it was Homeless or me.  I do have vivid recollections of going for the all-time greatest ‘Fosbury-Flop’ style jump onto said hedge, but missing the thing entirely and landing on my coccyx (careful how you say that) on the other side – bush completely unscathed.

The night started to get a bit blurry by this point, but the rest of the festivities involved strolling back up the hill to the guesthouse and combining toasts and speeches with shots of good Scotch on the ANZ Guesthouse terrace. Before everybody could get their speech and dram of the good stuff in, we got booted out for being too noisy. A few chose this moment to slope off quietly and hit the sack, whilst others continued the pursuit of cheap thrills and cheaper booze.

This is where things got really hazy, but at various points involved: Allison being dead-weight and carried around from bar to bar like a rag doll, making the occasional incomprehensible and unintelligible noises. The inner-footy hooligan in Gab coming out and picking verbal fights with every Turk that past us, accusing them of being a supporter of ‘Galatasaray’ (a Turkish club infamous for its hooliganism). When Berbs, Homeless and I started breaking into freestyle raps and beatboxing, I knew it was time to hit the hay.

Where the fuck am I?” were the first things I heard the next day. It turns out Ish and Son had helped Allison home (after Spence had washed his hands of his spousal duties in disgust!) and she crashed out on the spare bed in our room.

That was about the most active thing that happened that day  - Ish, Son and I saw off our hangovers with a movie marathon, watching ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Boy A’ and probably some others that I fail to remember as I fell in and out of consciousness.

The following day  - January 2nd 2011 - was a little bit more productive. It was finally time to go and see what Ephesus was all about. By now you know how I was beginning to feel about ancient ruins – but please try and put this in context. We were all road-weary and World Heritage site as it was, it was just another attraction that we were ‘supposed’ to see and enjoy. Most of us that bothered going actually went out of necessity, obligation and guilt rather than compulsion.

We paid 20 Turkish Lira (just over 11USD) to get into the main site at Ephesus and Son, Ish, Ronald, Tanj, Pat and I wandered around the place, mmm-ing and ahh-ing when we thought we were supposed to.  It was in fact all genuinely impressive, but I just hadn’t done my homework: I didn’t know what I was looking at most of the time. However, no prior research was needed to appreciate the beauty of the ‘Library of Celsus’ or the intimidating scale of ‘The Great Theater’. It was only when we reached the latter that it hit home just how important this ancient city had been: Originally an ancient Greek settlement, the city soon came under Roman rule and by the 1st century BC it had a population of 250,000 – making it one of the largest and most important cities of the ancient Mediterranean world.

The ruins of The Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World – lay at another site nearby, but we ran out of time (and, moreover, motivation) to see this place. In hindsight, it’s a shame to have missed out on it. Realistically, ancient Wonder as it once was, a flood, a fame-seeking pyromaniac (or should that be ’flame-seeking’?) by the name of ‘Herostratus’, and Gothic raids all took their toll. In each instance, the temple was completely rebuilt thereafter. Once the Germanic Goths had wreaked their havoc on it, the temple never really recovered and today only one of 121 columns still stand in Ephesus. The rest were used for making churches, roads, and forts. (Rumour has it that some of the columns were used in the construction of Hagia Sophia, which we would later see in Istanbul.)

That evening was a poignant one for me: Back at the ANZ Guesthouse, as I made my way from our room across the courtyard to the living room (where everybody congregated and hung out) I bumped into Kay who looked very much like she did the day I first saw her all those months ago in Gatwick airport. Bumping into everything with her over-sized back-pack filled to the brim with whatever souvenirs she hadn’t managed to post home, Kay  - with her tiny stature – resembled that character in the David Bowie movie – “The Labyrinth”. You know? The one who carries all of her worldly possessions on her back?

In short, Kay explained how she’d “had enough”, she’d seen Istanbul before and just wanted to end her trip here in Selcuk. After a hug goodbye, Kay tottered off into the distance like I’d seen her do many times before when she’d gone on a Mick Dundee style “walkabout” around the various African towns we’d passed through. This time, as the drizzle came down on this miserable cold and dark night, there was an uncharacteristic air of sadness about Mama Kay.

Kay was one of the original seven passengers who had signed up to do the whole 43 week Trans starting back in March 2010 in Marrakesh. Lara had gone home early (back in Sudan in November) due to family bereavements and now Kay was leaving just four days before the ‘official’ trip end. This left Homeless (Kyle), Berbs (Mark K), The Seven-Bellied Samurai (Yoichi), Son (Sonya) and me to keep the torch burning as the five remaining original “43 weekers” ‘til the bitter end.

That night we also said goodbye to Pat and Tanj who were leaving for Istanbul early and would have moved on to elsewhere on Europe before we caught them up.


  1. Hi,

    I am trying to find out if the ruins at Ephesus are open on New Year's Eve, I'm not quite clear from your post. Sounds like a great time either way!

  2. Hi,

    I am trying to find out if the ruins at Ephesus are open on New Year's Eve, I'm not quite clear from your post. Sounds like a great time either way!