Summertime in Istanbul is marked with airports flooded by arriving tourists and departing locals. For those who can afford the escape, the Turks head south to the coastal regions along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. They say good-bye to the hazy humidity in Istanbul and hello to the sunny and breezy kisses of the coast.
Being based in Bodrum for a couple of weeks, I was able to take the opportunity to do a two-day tour to Ephesus and Pamukkale. Normally I am not a fan of the tour bus deal. The hours in the bus do not bother me as much as the fact that people always seem to have twenty extra pounds of rocks in their pockets as we make our way through the mazes of crowds at sight-seeing hotspots. Not to mention all the overpriced shopping where we get ‘special discounts’. And let’s not neglect the poor misrepresentation of local cuisine. However, Botur Tours had a pretty good deal going. Their overnight tour to Ephesus and Pamukkale departed Bodrum early in the morning and got me to where I needed to go for a reasonable cost.
Since I have been traveling in a different way than most, where I have been staying in Bodrum is not exactly tourist-ridden. Yalıkavak is about a twenty minute drive from Bodrum itself, and I had to be dropped off at a random supermarket at 6 in the morning. A small tour bus was waiting for me, and when I entered I found myself in the sole company of the non-English speaking driver. Instinctually, no warning flag was raised, so I put my faith in the goodness of humanity and trusted that I would not become another solo female travel horror story.
Sure enough, we made it to a corral of larger tour buses where other confused foreigners were being herded into their respected vehicles like a bunch of cattle. Unsure if I was in the right place, I decided to sit and make myself comfortable in the front row. I figured this would make an unplanned escape easily accessible. The tour guide introduced himself as Ahmet and started his shpiel about some mud baths and a boat cruise, none of which having anything to do with the historical significance of any ancient cities. A pair of Americans next to me panicked and interrupted Ahmet. He laughed in their faces.
Apparently the false itinerary is an early morning joke he likes to play on his guests to wake them up and make sure they are attentive. Three hours later, we arrived at Ephesus. This is the world’s largest open-air museum which displays the ruins of the largest ancient city in the world. Amazingly, 70% of the city is still underground. Originally a Greek harbor city, the Romans took over and left their mark on the structures.
Some aspects of the city were incredibly advanced. For example, remnants of their water system can still be seen today. They made pipes to help transport the collected rainwater throughout the city.
Along the topic of water systems, the inhabitants of Ephesus planned the waste system quite carefully as well. Their latrines served as a social gathering place. Men would sit and discuss politics and the weather while they did their business. Why do we not do this today? Going to the bathroom could become a new social event! Another interesting note about the toilets is that noblemen were known to make their slaves sit upon the porcelain (or marble or stone in those days) throne to keep it warm during the winter months. No one wants the shock of sitting bare-assed on a freezing toilet seat.
Although we have come a long way regarding toilets since those times, it seems as though human nature hasn’t changed a bit. Directly across from the stunning structure of the Celsus Library, a place where many highly respected noblemen went to read and study, was the Pleasure House. In avoidance of tarnishing their noble reputations, these men would use the underground tunnel system to skip the books and head to the whores. Some things never change.