For Kurban Bayrami, the biggest Muslim holiday of the year (kind of like Christmas for Christians), 5 friends (Hanane form Norway, Yao Sheng and Ee Lin from Singapore, Rumeysa from Holland, and Kiran from the US) and I are traveling around the Southern Aegean and Western Mediterranean region of Turkey.  We started with bus tickets to our first destination and plane tickets home from our final destination, but with no real plan for in between.  This is a lot different than my normal habits of planning everything.  We also booked a hostel for the first two nights of our trip in Selçuk.  Selçuk is located just 10 minutes away from Ephesus, one of the best ruins in Turkey.

We started our trip by taking an overnight bus to Izmir, the third largest town in Turkey. After some miscommunications with part of our group that traveled on a bus that left one hour earlier, we met at the Otogar and ate menemen for breakfast. This is becoming my favorite breakfast dish.  It is egg cooked with chopped tomatoes and peppers. Kind of like a watery omelet. You eat it with fresh bread which is always delicious.  After a relaxing breakfast, we took a dolmuş to Selçuk where we found our hostel.  This place was recommended ın our Lonely Planet guıdebook and was defınıtely worth the small price we paid. My only complaint was that breakfast wasn’t included with our rooms. My throat and allergies acted up a bit because of the dust, but I had to keep reminding myself that we only paid about $13 per night.  Other members of our group weren’t as happy with the accommodations because the room was quite chilly when we arrived, but I kept reminding them that at least we had our own bathroom and weren’t staying in the dorm style rooms that the hostel offered. 


Hanane, Kiran, Ee Lin, Yao Sheng, and Rumeysa


Our four person room.


The hostel where we stayed. There were many hotels and hostels around the area that had Australian and New Zealand names. Not sure why.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the sites in Selçuk and saw St. John’s Basilica where he is buried, a really old mosque, the remains of the Byzantine aqueduct, an old cistern, the Efes (Ephesus in English) museum. We also ate some some really great food because meals are always the highlight of our day with my friends and me. We went to lunch at a place recommended by our hostel where we met the really nice owner named Mehmet. He ended up helping us figure out the bus and train schedules so that we didn’t get ripped off at either place as well. Hanane and I shared gözleme which is called a Turkish pancake. It’s actually nothing like a pancake, but is more similar to a thin large quesadilla and is really delicious. It is filled with cheese (either white or yellow cheese) and sometimes potato and spinach. Ours was all three and it was DELICIOUS! Tavuk şış (Chicken shish kebab) is also quite popular with our group.


Our lunch group. Two girls staying at the hostel joined us for the day.


Some of the ruins at St. John’s Basilica. The guidebook said that most of the ruins here are reconstructed, but I still thought they were awesome.


For dinner we went to a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. Everyone except Yao Sheng ordered tavuk şış which was good, but the mezes that we ordered were fantastic! Mezes are like appetizers, but are much smaller than their US counterparts. Some are hot and some are cold, and they include many very traditional Turkish items. We had haydari(thick yogurt with garlic and roasted eggplant), dolma peppers (stuffed peppers), cheese filled mushrooms, sigara böreği (fried dough with cheese in the middle in a cigar shape) and normal dolma (stuffed grape leaves). I especially liked the mushrooms and garlicy yogurt. After dinner we found a Turkish delight store that was much more reasonable than places in Istanbul and bought some lokum to take back to the hostel with us.


The stuffed mushrooms Smile


Sigara böreği, haydari, and dolma beber(pepper).


Really good lokum from the store. It had nutella inside Smile

The next day we headed to Ephesus with help from Mehmet. His brother owned a big van and agreed to take all 8 (including the girls from the hostel) of us to the Virgin Mary’s House and Ephesus for 5TL per person. Considering that we would have had to take 2 taksis (taxis) for 50TL each to get to the Virgin Mary’s house, this was a superb deal. We got to see the house site, and the chapel at the Virgin Mary’s house site and then went to Ephesus.


The house site


Outside the chapel.


Candles outside the church and the prayer wall. People write prayers on tissues handkerchiefs and pieces of paper and tie them on the wall.


After seeing Mary’s house we were taken to Ephesus. I didn’t really know what to expect, except that some of my other friends from the exchange said it was pretty cool. We were dropped off at one end and were told to call our driver when we finished at the other end several hours later. This was a great option because we weren’t rushed and took a TON of pictures through the whole site. Here are some of the best pics of the day:


As you walk in it doesn’t look that impressive, but as you keep going, it is AMAZING!


Showing some Phi Rho Love in Ephesus 🙂


The columns


We experimented a lot with the pictures 🙂


The smaller of the two theaters


Kiran with Hanane, Yao Sheng and Ee Lin in the background.


I like arches and ceilings, and theaters…. and architecture in general.




Me with another arch


One of the smaller theaters that we’ve seen in Turkey.


Pretty columns


Some of the arches and columns have been reinforced so they are more impressive and safe. No problem for me. They still look amazingly cool.


Hanane didn’t wear good walking shoes and her feet hurt a lot after our long day at Ephesus. Again and again I am reminded that I am a true Oregonian when I bring my rain jacket with me even when it doesn’t look like it will rain and when I bring running shoes as my one pair for the trip. 


There were a lot of people at Ephesus, though it wasn’t even the busiest time of year. I’m glad we came when we did because there was beautiful weather and less people.


Just pretend that they are in the right order Smile


The Celcius library. SO COOL


This was the giant theater towards the end of Ephesus. My camera decided to die after just a few pictures here. Oh well, I can steal from everyone else.


Last picture and…. dead.


After Ephesus that day we went to Pamucak Beach to watch the sunset. We were practically the only ones there so we decided to do some jumping shots 🙂 Oh so cool….haha


After getting our train tickets to Izmir the next day, we walked around Selçuk. This is the aqueduct lit at night.


The next day (the first day of Kurban Bayrami) we took the train to Izmir (9TL round trip!!!!!). It takes about an hour and a half to get there each way. Many things were closed because of the holiday, but we still had a good time walking around.

Sidenote: Kurban Bayrami is a holdiay centered around sacrificing a lamb or cow to share with your family and the poor who can’t afford one themselves. Since Muslims only eat halal food, the animal prayed over and then the throat is slit to let the blood run out. Blood is considered unclean in Islam so the blood should all be removed from the animal before it is eaten.  In the morning of Kurban Bayrami, the men slaughter the animal and prepare for it to be shared among the family and poor.  As we were riding on the train through the country side, I saw many circles of men standing around animals.  Though I don’t think I could handle watching the animal die, it was cool hearing about the traditions for the holiday from the three Muslims in our traveling group. The holiday lasts three days, but the first day is the most important so most shops and restaurants are closed so people can celebrate with their families.

Pics from the day:


The view from the Kordon, the main walkway along the sea side.


There were a lot of bikes in Izmir as well. Much safer to ride one here than in Istanbul.


A very Turkish dress we saw in a shop window. Maybe for Miss Turkey???


This picture has a long story that goes with it. This man came up to our lunch table with a baby bunny. We didn’t want to pet it (who knows what a rabbit in Turkey is carrying), but thought it was quite cute. He then proceeded to have the grown rabbit “pick our fortunes” from little slips of paper.  He didn’t speak any English, so Rumeysa asked what they were for. He said they were a Bayram gift (normally gifts are free). Rumeysa translated them all for us since they were in Turkish, but the man was still standing there. We asked what he wanted and he said that we had to pay him 2.25TL per fortune! We didn’t want to pay since we didn’t ask for the fortunes in the first place. Rumeysa tried to negotiate with him, but he got rather angry. We ended up paying 1TL per person and trying to ignore him. He started cursing at us in Turkish (which doesn’t really do much good, since Rumeysa is the only one who can understand) and storming away. He then proceeded to walk by our table and point and complain about us to other people. Rumeysa talked to our waiter, and he told the man to leave the restaurant area. After asking Rumeysa what the bunny man said, she told us that they were really bad things and that he wished we wouldn’t make very much money since we didn’t pay for the fortunes (which he took back when we paid the partial amount). Oh well. It makes for a good story at least.


Turkish tea is delicious. It’s supposedly just black tea, but it tastes better than what I normally drink. It’s served in a tulip shaped glass with two or three sugar cubes and a small spoon on the side.


We’re a little bad at timing the jumping pictures.


We also did some perspective pictures Smile


Yao Sheng is good at jumping. He is also really patient with all of us girls. Props to him for putting up with us for more than a week.


A bit late…


The Kordon


One of the many Ataturk houses in Turkey.


Guess what? More dessert! This one had lots of pistachios. Yum


We found a carnival in the giant park in Izmir. So much like the county fair. Except that it was the place to be for people under 16. The girls were all dressed up in high heels and nice clothes and the boys stood around in groups really awkwardly. So funny 🙂 We were definitely the only tourists there.


The prizes for the games were packages of cigarettes. Weird.


My favorite, caramel Smile

Keep checking for the other days of our trip coming soon!


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