Yesterday we spent a restful day in sunny Bodrum, needed after a few days of hard travel. This morning we piled back into the car and drove an hour and a half to the site of ancient Miletus. This site ranks high on or all-time-favorites list for many reasons: it is a large site replete with incredibly preserved ruins, you are able to walk around (and on!) just about everything, and for the most part you have it to yourself. Although there is a lot of walking involved we enjoy the outdoor venue and the rolling hills.
In ancient times, Miletus was a bustling port city rich with trade and culture. They were one of the first to cross the Persians and were decimated for their effort. Eventually the port was silted in by the river Maeander (where we get the term “meander”) and the city was deserted. Now you don’t even see the running water from the site – but, depending on when you come, the site may be filled with water from the floods and rising sea level that have covered it with earth and debris over time. This time we found the site mostly dry and were able to trespass – legally – across the whole thing.
Many famous ancients called Miletus home, including the architect of the Hagia Sophia (which we saw in Istanbul) and the founders of the Milesian school of philosophy: Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes. These pre-Socratic philosophers are regarded as the beginners of western philosophy and are credited as the first scientific thinkers to talk about the world in non-mythological terms. Here we see the origins of the ideas of existence, change and continuity that have shaped western thought, as well as the first instances of math and science as we know it. The Apostle Paul also visited here to meet with the elders of the church at Ephesus (not far away and on the docket to tour tomorrow).
Archaeologists have done incredible work digging the ruins out of the silt and re-erecting the huge structures we got to see today. Much of the site has yet to be excavated which blows your mind when you see the vastness of the city. You have to have your hiking shoes on to see everything! We wandered around the theater, Ionic stoa, warehouse, market and more. Miletus was also home to Hippodamus, who is credited as the first urban planner for his work rebuilding the city in the 5th century BC, and you can see his hard work everywhere.
Leaving the site we drove to Selcuk, right beside ancient Ephesus. We checked into the Hotel Bella and were greeted with complimentary tea in the upstairs restaurant while the owner told us about all our options in the city. We stayed here last year, too, and enjoy the family atmosphere. The rooms are rather small (this is Europe, after all) but the location cannot be beat. We are right next door to the Basilica of St. John (where the Saint was buried – although as legend has it he is just sleeping and you can see the dust move from his breathing), a short drive to Ephesus (if you don’t want to use the free shuttle), and right beside downtown Selcuk.
Selcuk is a quaint little town with a great downtown area. We finished our day with a meal of grape leaf rolls, hummus, and meatballs. Now to sleep … hopefully … and be ready for the largest site on our itinerary: Ephesus!