Turkish Delights…Sun, Surf, Sand…and History

I cannot tell a lie.

I broke a promise.

I promised that this holiday would be just that – a holiday. No ruins, no museums, no cultural sites or sights. But, a visit Turkey? How could I possibly resist their siren call?

2003 was a busy year living and working in England, as well as absorbing the abundant history and culture of Europe. What we really needed was a ‘fly and flop’ holiday, and a package tour to the resort town of Marmaris on the Turkish coast was just what the doctor ordered, and the kids demanded.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect before we arrived, which I guess, is the best way to approach a new destination. What really knocked our socks off was the ‘Englification’ of a Turkish town. Wherever we walked we were assailed by touts promising us ‘real’ Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding dinners in a GENUINE English pub, or LIVE English Premier League soccer. These cultural meccas were frequently populated with a vast assortment of baked and sunburnt, over-weight Englishmen, swigging from pints (or cans) of English bitter.

Marmaris Beach, Turkey
4 000 000 lira per lounge chair! Marmaris Beach, Turkey

At first glance, this made our previous holidays full of ruins and museums look pretty damn attractive! But, undeterred, we were determined to enjoy ourselves and try to discover a little of the real Turkey.

Catching a dolmus (minibus) from our hotel to the beach to join the beautiful people, the kids were more than ready to frolic in the Mediterranean. Imagine our surprise as we spread our towels on the sand, to be pounced on by an officious attendant and duly informed that, we must move because the beach was reserved for chairs! Yes, we could stay if we were prepared to pay 4 000 000 lira for each chair. Disgusted, we gathered up our towels, all the while muttering under our breath how this would never happen in Australia, what was the world coming to, etc., etc.

As the sun-kissed week wore on, I became increasingly guilty that I wasn’t doing enough or making the most of my time in Turkey. The kids couldn’t have cared less as they returned water-logged and prune-like after yet another full-day in the hotel pool and on the neighbouring water slide.

When too much ancient history is never enough! Ephesus, Turkey
When too much ancient history is never enough! Ephesus, Turkey

I tried to resist, but I was continually tempted by the touts as we strolled the promenade. Not by their generous offers of roast beef and soccer of course, but by the lure of cruising around the local bays and islands, and day tours to Ephesus. I ‘kicked tyres’ and compared prices, but was staying strong until we came across Outback Travel and Tours! Yes, the Outback in Turkey! This mystery was too enticing not to explore, and we soon met the proprietor, a long-term resident of Parramatta (a suburb of Sydney)! He embraced us as long lost family and did all manner of deals and discounts to ensure our stay was a memorable one. Yes, I admit I was probably suckered in, but importantly, he gave us the best recommendations of where we could enjoy authentic local Turkish food. At last, we felt like we were experiencing a new culture.

Our day cruising the islands was postcard perfect. Crystal clear water, warm and emerald green. We could not get enough of the water and loved throwing ourselves overboard as soon as the boat weighed anchor. What we didn’t love was the deafening ‘doof doof’ music that assaulted our ears as soon as the boat left the pier. We also felt a bit awkward not drinking our body weight in beer like all the other tourists, but each to his or her own.

Welcome to Ephesus.
Welcome to Ephesus.

Unsurprisingly, I succumbed to the honey-tongue of our new best friend, the Turk-Oz travel agent, and we were soon on a bus heading to Ephesus. As mentioned in previous blog posts, I am an ancient history fan and a day out amongst Roman ruins is my idea of heaven. As I walked down the main street of Ephesus, over rounded, foot-worn cobblestones and past teetering columns, I had to pinch myself.

Ephesus was established in the 10th century BC and has been destroyed, by both war and earthquake, and re-built a number of times since then. Serious and sustained archaeological excavation of the town started in 1895, after a few false starts in the 1860s did not lead to substantial discoveries. As with most things, archaeological techniques have changed over time, and now the approach seems to be more about preserving history rather than reconstructing it. Many of the major Ephesus structures have been partially rebuilt, adding to the sense of place.

The Celsus Library, Ephesus, Turkey.
The Celsus Library, Ephesus, Turkey.

The façade of the Celsus Library has been carefully reconstructed from its original pieces. It was built around 125AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an Ancient Greek who served as governor of Roman Asia (105–107AD). Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth and is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it. The library once held nearly 12 000 scrolls and faces due east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Grand Theatre, Ephesus, Turkey.
The Grand Theatre, Ephesus, Turkey.

The Grand Theatre, with an estimated 25 000 seating capacity, is believed to have been the largest in the ancient world. It was used initially for drama performances, but during Roman times, gladiatorial combats were held on its stage. It is also believed to be one of the key sites that the Apostle Paul used, to spread the gospel.

As is often the way with kids, and the young at heart, it is the quirky and slightly gross that appeals the most. The star attraction of the day was the ancient public toilet with a seating capacity for 48 men in need! It was a ‘males only’ facility (and that doesn’t bear thinking about), and their ablutions were accompanied by musicians and running water! Were women left to go behind the bushes?

Public toilet, Ephesus Turkey
Taking a seat in the public toilet! No musicians today.

The older members of the tour group were equally fascinated by the World’s earliest advertisement for a brothel – a simple footprint carved in a paving stone. If the man’s foot did not fill the footprint, then he was too young to sample the wares of the business! You’ve got to love marketing.

While they possibly wouldn’t admit it, I think the rest of the family enjoyed Ephesus as much as I did. And soon afterwards, a long hot day of history was drowned in the hotel pool.

Yes, I broke my promise, but it was for their own good, and I only had their education and enrichment in mind.

Does that sound believable?

August 2003

The Basics

Ephesus, Turkey
Walking in the foot steps of the ancients. Ephesus, Turkey

What: We stayed in a self-contained unit at the Antik Palace in Marmaris. It now gets very crappy reviews on TripAdvisor, so beware!

Where: Marmaris and Icmeler Beach, on the coast of south-western Turkey.

When: We visited in the late Summer of 2003. It was a lovely reminder of the hot, dry Summers of Australia and the perfect preparation for a grim, grey English Winter ahead of us.

Why: On the pretext of a beach/resort holiday, we managed to sneak in some fascinating ancient history.

How: We flew from Gatwick on the budget airline Excel Air. A true budget experience but it did the job. I am not sure that they fly to Turkey anymore.

Who: Myself, The Brave Man* and two juniors more interested in sun, surf and sand than history.

Related Posts: For more history rambles in the Mediterranean, have a look at my post about dodging crazy drivers in Crete.

Related Blogs: For very passionate and comprehensive information about all aspects of Turkey, have a look at: http://turkishtravelblog.com/category/aegean-coast/

*The Brave Man refers to my husband. He is indeed a brave man for marrying a crazy woman like me!

7 thoughts on “Turkish Delights…Sun, Surf, Sand…and History

  1. What an amazing country. I spend 5 weeks there. Good to read your blog post!


    1. I dream of spending a big block of time in Turkey to really explore. Also keen to walk the Lycian Way – I think it is called. It is such a rich blend of cultures. Thanks for reading. Mel

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi from Thailand! Also a great country to explore with plenty adventures and wildlife.


        1. Yes, Thailand is definitely on my radar. I have been to Bangkok for a couple of days but I know there is so much more to that country. I am thinking a train trip through Thailand may be fun. What do you think?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes. I’ve been told the same.


  2. What an excellent reportage! Turkey is a very interesting country, I would like to explore it more as well. I just hope it will become safe again.


    1. Yes, it is such a shame. No doubt there are parts of the country that experience no unrest whatsoever but the media portrays it as a country in turmoil. One day things will settle and visitors, like us, will flood back. Thanks for reading. Mel


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