Ephesus and Istanbul
Roger Short Travel Scholarships Report – Odette Chalaby
We arrived this morning in Izmir and, after an hour and a half wait, have finally boarded a long train through the beautiful blistering Anatolian countryside. There are no seats, and the heat clings to my back and face. Yet the small window out onto white houses, olive trees, statuesque hills, and brown burning fields is pulling me into the world outside the carriage. I am perching on a step by the door, mesmerised. I am reminded a little of a similar train journey last year in Andalusia. Every new house, every new worker in the field, every new crop I see is fuelling my imagination about this land that I cannot wait to touch.
We descend from the train at Selçuk, accompanied by a simit seller, who has been enticing the carriage with that warm, sesame-bread smell all the way here. Selçuk is peaceful and friendly – a typical provincial town making the best of its proximity to one of the most famous sights in all of Turkey. Everywhere men sit outside playing backgammon and drinking endless cups of çay, even at a café that has somehow established itself on the train station platform. We stop for some meze: aubergine salad; muhammara (a walnut dip); stuffed vine leaves; and a lemony-sumacy-juicy-green salad. My memory insists that this was some of the best meze I have ever tasted – but in truth it is hard to tell whether a combination of hunger, excitement, and a first taste of real Turkish food perhaps overwhelmed my judgement.
We arrive Ephesus. How beautiful are bold, white, marble ruins in the sun! Izzy reminds me that in Greek times most of these buildings would have been painted bright red, blue,green. What a different atmosphere that colour would have created! Ephesus feels like the set of a Hollywood movie – you cannot help but imagine toga-tied men and women, slaves and children thronging down its broad avenues. I felt myself at times like one of those women, strolling slowly to the market-place, or excitedly half-running to meet a favourite friend.
You are allowed to throw yourself into the city – to clamber on the marble stairs, to wander through people’s houses, to enter the temple, and to ascend to the top of the overwhelming arena. Bar the dazy tourists, there are almost no reminders of modern life. This is part of the charm. And so too is the landscape: the trees, mountains, and blue skies that surely played as great a part in the ancient Greek city as they do today. I am continuously struck by the thought that the ancient world has never appeared nearly so vividly to me. For the first time I feel I can comprehend the idea of the Greeks, who I usually interact with only on paper, as living, breathing human beings.
You can read the whole of Odette’s Travel Report on PDF here.
Published: 21 November 2014
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