Before I went to Turkey, I was obsessed with the idea of seeing the ancient city of Ephesus. I’d read about it, seen photos, and heard other people’s stories, and even with all of that advance billing, the grandeur of its well-preserved (and well-restored) buildings and roads and columns and statues thrilled me. But I was surprised by how much there is to see in Selçuk — the modern city adjacent to Ephesus — as well.
Just off the road between Selçuk and Ephesus lie the remains of the Artemision, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, built in 550 B.C.; in the photograph above, you can see its lone standing column. Behind it is the Isabey Mosque, which dates from 1374, and the breathtakingly grand St. John’s Basilica, built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century (if it were restored, it would be the seventh-largest church in the world). Selçuk also contains the remains of a Roman aqueduct and an impressive museum filled with statues and friezes from Ephesus, among other attractions.
It also boasts some wonderful restaurants. Having been inadvertently glutened by the staff at my hotel on my first night in Selçuk, I was anxious about dining at local restaurants. When I went to Edjer Restaurant, I immediately showed my Turkish celiac card to the husband-and-wife team who run the restaurant and do all of the cooking themselves. They didn’t speak much English, but they were incredibly helpful. They showed me the batch of rice that they had just made, which already had orzo pasta added into it. “Cannot have,” they pointed out to me. The husband then left the restaurant while his wife started cooking. When he came back, he was holding a plate with a napkin over it — plain, safe rice, borrowed from another restaurant down the block.
The meal was simple — tender chicken kebabs served with a salad of spicy greens and onions, and of course, rice — but it was delicious. The restaurant is so small that I could watch everything being made, though there is plenty of outdoor seating, so if you visit in warmer weather, you can stake out a perch on one of Selçuk’s prime pedestrian thoroughfares. Edjer Restaurant reminded me that, while show-stopper attractions may bring you to a particular destination, some of the most memorable moments come from your own small discoveries.
Edjer Restaurant [address] Cengiz Topel Cad. 9, Selçuk, Turkey [tel] +90 232 892 32 96