Above: Roman aqueduct, Selçuk, Turkey. (Photo by F. Ney.)
Note: This past summer, Francine Ney wrote the following note to me regarding Ephesus near Selçuk, Turkey, the setting for my novel The Logos of Soul:
“When visiting my sister in November 2015, her partner Jock gave me The Logos of Soul off his bookshelf explaining that the story takes place exactly in the area that I had been visiting and that maybe it was my destiny to have the book.
The books’ easy storytelling caught my interest right away, but it was not until I was on vacation in Selçuk, Turkey, in May that I had the chance to read it in full. It was fun to be reading about Ephesus and the Artemis temple and then on my daily walks pass the actual places described in the book.
The descriptions of space and time correlated with the real physical location, so I felt like I was reading a true story and part of the secret. Instead of visiting with my friends I kept sneaking away to lose myself in the adventure.
The day before I left I purposely finished the book so that I could leave it. Giving it a kiss, I put it on the airbnb bookshelf and grinned thinking about the next person to stumble onto the book and think, ‘Hey, this place is right here. What a coincidence.’”
In the course of my email exchanges with Francine, I began to see how energized by the Selçuk region she was, and I became intrigued by the possibility of traveling there myself. She allowed me to imagine how easy going there would be, and so I invited her to write the following guest article:
My Journeys to Selçuk-Ephesus
In 2014, Turkey ranked as the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world, with residents from Germany, Russia, and Great Britain being the top three nations providing the most tourists. Americans were tenth on the list and made up only four percent of the total tourists.
I made my first visit, traveling solo, in September of 2014 and spent one week on the Mediterranean Coast and one week in Istanbul. On the coast I stayed at small pensions/hotels ranging from $20-$30 a night, which included dinner. The towns I chose were Antalya, Patara Beach, Kabak (Olive Garden), and Dalyan (mud baths), moving every two days by mini bus. In Istanbul I stayed in a “#bunk” hostel, which was $70 a night for a private room.
Everyone was very helpful at the bus stations, and I quickly maneuvered like a pro. At first I had my guard up, but soon it was obvious that people genuinely wanted to help me. I would write the town I wanted to go to on a 4×2 index card and show it to the bus operators, who would assist in getting me on the correct bus. Riding the bus was a great way to view the scenery and was very safe and clean.
Before flying to Istanbul from Izmir, I took a commercial bus to Selçuk for a three-night stay. Selçuk is the home of the ancient Greek city Ephesus, one of Turkey’s major tourist attractions. Little is left of the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that historically drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Ephesus also attracted Christian settlers (Greeks and Jews), including St. Paul who lived in Ephesus for three years. There is a tradition that St. John settled here with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also wrote his gospel here. One can visit the Virgin Mary’s house, which is located on the mountain above Ephesus.
I liked Selçuk immediately. I discovered La Tulip Art Gallery and purchased many locally made items such as handmade leather shoes, Turkish ceramics, and jewelry. Since rent is less in the small towns, it is best to get the shopping finished before going to Istanbul.
For me in Selçuk, there is such a feeling of being at the same crossroads as many seekers before me. Selçuk-Ephesus, the island of Samos (birth place of Pythagoras), and the city of Konya (resting place of Rumi) are lined up close to each other on the 37th parallel north.
I have returned to Selçuk four times since that first visit, and I am now on my way to relocating near there this fall. I am going in on the 90-day visitor visa and hoping for the best. Since 2014 I have learned a lot about the current politics, and tourism has drastically changed due to conflicts within Turkey, but that does not really change the history that has already happened in this location and my attraction to it. Also I plan to stay part of the time in Samos, Greece, at the end of my 90 days, to see if between the two locations I will feel the contentment of being in the right place at the right time.
My current flight ($600 round trip) is from Washington DC to Athens, Greece, and from there I will fly to Izmir. The recent conflicts have been in Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara. Since I have an extended-stay visa (easily obtained online for twenty dollars), I do not want to miss my return flight due to any future political unrest in Istanbul.
I feel safe in Selçuk, however. Most of the travel advisories are for the southern part of Turkey near the Syrian border, and that is far away. Turkey is about the size of Utah, Colorado, and Kansas combined. Figuratively, Selçuk would be on the western edge of Utah and the travel-warning areas would be at the southeastern bottom of Kansas.
The food is fresh, local, and seasonal. When I am there I start with the Saturday market to get fresh vegetables and fruit at about thirty cents a pound. There is a wide variety of local cheese and organic meat. The majority of people make their own olive oil and brine-cure olives, and there is always way too much for their family alone. Often they give jugs full of oil and olives to their neighbors–sort of like zucchini is in the States. If you’ve made acquaintances there, you could be one of these lucky recipients. For some reason even the nuts are fresher and saltier than I can find in the States. My daily meal is a huge salad with lots of olive oil and crumbled cheese and peanuts on top. For cooked food, I would rather go out for a three-dollar pizza or delicious chicken kebabs for five dollars.
Ninety-nine percent of the Turkish population is Muslim, which I have experienced as a culture that is very kind, patient, and welcoming to guests. There are plenty of tourists along the coast and in Istanbul, so western clothes do not stand out, and there is no need to cover shoulders unless in a mosque. As a person travels more inland, I am told that the clothes become more conservative. For Muslims the consumption of any intoxicates is forbidden in the Quran, so at night the men sit around drinking black tea and playing a tile game named Okey. Of course there are bars but alcohol, being expensive and frowned upon, makes a cultural difference.
I am happy that I was one of the four percent of Americans that traveled to Turkey in 2014 and look forward to making it my part-time home.