Ancient Ephesus - Last Entry from Turkey!
Trip Start May 26, 2011
33Trip End Jul 19, 2011
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This morning, our guide had us on the bus and on the road at 7:20 so we could be one of the first groups at Ephesus; apparently four cruise ships were docking which meant tons of people and he wanted us to enjoy it unrushed. He, as usual, knew what he was talking about as we got there at 7:45 and were the first group in line to get in when they opened at 8am.
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor. It was founded by an Athenian prince in the 10th century BC after visiting the Oracle at Delphi and was given the supposed direction to start a new great city. In the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire; ranking behind only Rome, the empire's capital. Ephesus had a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, which also made it the second largest city in the world at that time.
The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550BC), one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. During the tour we were taken to see what is left of it which is only one column standing and a few other partial structures. As with most of the ancient world, much of temple was "permanently borrowed" by the large museums of the world including the British Museum in London. What is unique about this site though is it has the largest remaining pieces of any of the ancient wonders -- most are completely gone or only have foundations of buildings left where this actually had somewhat of a structure still to be seen. The temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a Christian group trying to remove all pagan places of worship.
Ephesus slowly declined between 400 AD and 625 AD due to battles as well as damage from earthquakes and the important harbor slowly silted up so ships could no longer arrive. Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here and it's possible this is also where the Virgin Mary spent her last days after leaving the dangers of Jerusalem. The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils. It is also the site of a large Gladiator graveyard.
As part of the tour, we were able to go inside this large area that was a working archeological dig. They found these terrace houses under a hill of dirt and are slowly digging it out, restoring the damaged marble walls and cleaning and restoring the frescoes on the walls. Seeing large tables with small pieces of marble all over them showed the painstaking process of this enormous jigsaw puzzle. I love archeology but I do not have the patience for that work.
After the guided tour, we were given an hour of free time to wander on our own and take pictures and explore. It's a big place so an hour wasn't nearly enough for me, but it was also HOT and had few places with shade so an hour was probably a good thing.
After Ephesus, we were back on the bus for the 20 minute ride back to Kusadasi. It was only 1:30pm so some of us decided to get dropped off at the port in town instead of going back to the hotel as the guide promised to show us around and to some of the shops he trusted. He took us to a Turkish towel shop where I got some great stuff and they even shipped the stuff home for me so I wasn't having to figure out where and how to pack it.
Then he took the guys for a Turkish shave; he had told us a few days ago not to shave anymore so we could experience it. I kept the goatee, but had the guy shave my face, neck and whole head; he used a straight razor after putting this lemon soaked, scalding hot towel on my head and face - OUCH! The blade was really sharp as he went through it like nothing and it was all done in about 5 minutes. Clean and presentable -- well as best as can be expected for me anyway.
After the shave we split up to do our own thing. I walked around some more, but then started heading back which was a nice walk around the harbor and only took about 30 minutes to get back to the hotel. It was still early and our last night's dinner together wasn't for several hours so it was time for a dip in the pool, a hot shower and a long nap!
For dinner, Mert took us to his favorite Kebab place right on the harbor; there were way too many courses to count, but the food and wine were good and we enjoyed each other one last time before heading our separate ways Saturday morning. Some were going back to Istanbul for a few more days, several were connecting out of Istanbul to Paris and some to London for a few days before returning home. I am connecting from Kusadasi by ferry to tour some of Greece next. It will be low key and time for some R&R. I have a few excursions planned, but hoping to work on the tan, get in some beach time and just chill out after these last few busy weeks.
To fulfill my promise to our guide of spreading the word, Turkey is somewhere I can't recommend enough for anyone to come visit. From the urban, fast paced Istanbul to the peaceful villages of the central Cappadocia region to the beautiful western coast, it is somewhere you should put on your list. Many get nervous about it being an Islamic country but from my experience it's much more secular than the U.S. is today; they seem to respect all cultures and religions and I personally feel we could learn something from them in the acceptance of others to fulfill their own happiness. Turkey is definitely some place I would come back to again and again.
More pictures below!