We had two nights at the popular seaside resort of Kusadasi. Unfortunately, Kate spent one day in the hotel nursing a migraine so Jim and I took the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary.
Now this is a prime example of one of those blogs that I mentioned originally, where I just knew that no words could describe what we experienced. I will give it a go but you really need to visit yourself and walk the streets and touch the carved stones that cross your path.
Whilst Turkey has a wealth of historical sites, the ruins of Ephesus are by far the most visited. As well as the coach loads of tourists from all over the world like us, often cruise ships from the nearby port of Kusadasi visit, so the site can be very crowded. Because of this, we set off early, which was a good thing as it was another hot day, (I will never look at a weather forecast again – the ones for this holiday all predicted rain and thunderstorms.)
We were fortunate that our Tour Director, Aykut, was very knowledgeable and he could also spin a good yarn. I think Ephesus is more impressive when you learn the history and life of the people who used to live there. So, if you are travelling alone I would suggest a guided tour as so many small details could be missed as you walk through this wonderful city.
Ephesus is probably best known for being the site of the Temple of Artemis, the well preserved amphitheatre, the Celsus Library and its connection to St John and the Virgin Mary. At its prime, it was the second largest Roman city in the world. Rome being the first.
We spent over 3 hours starting at the top entrance and walking down hill, which was the best way to do it, enabled us to miss most of the push and crush.
Along the long cobbled main street, The Arcadian Way are temples and public buildings, houses where people lived and the local shops. This is said to be the first street to have lights and holes in the paving were pointed out where the streetlights were placed on an evening. It was obvious that this was the rich part of town as it held the senate and many of the buildings were made from marble. Where the street meets the Marble Way at the Hercules Arch there are steps to prevent the traffic from the lower city entering the upper city – keeping the riff raff out.
From the archway, the Marble Way ran down to the Celsus Library, probably one of the most photographed places in the world. It was built as a tomb for Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, a governor of the Roman Province of Asia and became the third largest library in the ancient world (the Library of Alexandria being the largest). Across the road from the library is the brothel and a tunnel was found when the site was excavated in 1970, linking the two. Rumour has it that when a man told his wife he was going to the library, that was true, but the bit he didn´t add was he was also going to take a short detour through the tunnel! For the new guy in town there were even signs leading the way to the brothel, like the footprint, heart and outline of a coin showing where if the price was right you would be welcomed at ‘the house of pleasure’. Near the brothel is the baths and the public toilets, with rows of toilet seats cut into the marble benches where men used to gather and chat
We finally arrived at the amazing amphitheatre that used to seat 25,000 people. It is easy to imagine this alive and the voices of the crowd cheering on their warriors, as it was we raised our voices in what turned out to be a pretty acceptable rendition of Waltzing Matilda!
I found it interesting that several symbols have withstood the test of time, I already had a vague recollection of previously hearing about the Nike ‘Swoosh’ from Nike the Goddess of Victory and the modern day medical sign from Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicinal arts in mythology. What I had never heard of though was how each letter of IXEYZ (Fish) and the ‘Jesus Fish’ can be traced in the circle and this was a sign or early code language, used by Christians to let others know their beliefs.
We finally left Ephesus and my only comment would be if you want to take drinks with you (and you really should) buy them before the entrance as once you go through the turnstiles they are more than double the price.
After boarding the coach, we headed a short distance along the road for what is believed by many to be the final resting place of the Virgin Mary, which was our next stop.