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Pole to Pole

Day 46: Selcuk to Ephesus and Marmaris

Ephesus, Turkey 
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Ancient civilizations - Ephesus: twentieth-century road-sweeper, second-century library.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe latest invasion of Ephesus is well underway by mid-morning as the crowds flock to the largest classical ruin in existence after Pompeii, reducing it to yet another sight, robbing it of magic and atmosphere. The sun, reflected off the stones, burns from above and below and I'm glad when our filming's over and we can move on down to Marmaris and the sea.

This is the first unequivocally hot day of our journey. The bus passes through dry and buzzing hillsides covered with scattered bushes, low pine trees, and the occasional cypress-ringed graveyard. A heat haze rises from roadsides where peppers are laid out to dry in the blistering sun.

My thermometer registers 94 degrees at Cine, where we eat an excellent lunch at an otherwise empty roadhouse. Above our heads a dim TV picture shows army vehicles and flashing lights in Moscow. The waiter looks up and shakes his head. It's serious. People have been crushed to death by tanks. But this heat wraps everything in a blanket beneath which time and the outside world cease to exist.

Then, sixty miles further on, an extraordinary moment. We have stopped in the pine forest above Marmaris to film my bus descending into town. A car with a couple of drowsy picnickers is parked, doors wide open, in the shade of a tree. A Turkish voice chunters on from its radio. Sevim stops suddenly and listens, with a frown of concentration which gradually relaxes into a look of disbelief. She talks to us as she listens:

'The news from Moscow is that the coup is over . . . some generals are dead . . . ' She listens again. 'Gorbachev is coming back to Moscow.'

On this languid, lazy afternoon in southern Turkey, it seems unbelievable. History shouldn't happen as fast as this.

A few minutes later we have reached the shores of the Aegean, though the town of Marmaris is almost separated from the open sea by two tall headlands curving like crab claws to enclose a handsome blue-green bay. They call this the Turquoise Coast. The view from the harbour is wonderful, but the harbour itself is fringed by restaurants with tourist menus and expensive yachts, the fattest of which sports the red ensign and is rumoured to have Princess Margaret aboard.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 46
  • Country/sea: Turkey
  • Place: Marmaris
  • Book page no: 102

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