We came to Kusadasi to see Ephesus, among the largest, best restored archeological ruin complexes in the world. Everyone comes to Kusadasi to see Ephesus, which means that even now at the end of the shoulder season, there are so many folks tromping around the grounds, the guides struggle to be heard and not to lose their herd.
Our guide Fahti impresses us more and more everyday. He revised the itinerary for the day so that we would arrive at Ephesus when most of the tourists had left. So we started in Selcuk, a little town within walking distance of the ruins of the Basilica of St. John and the Ephesus Museum. The men in our group used their free time here to the max, buying and modeling the traditional hats that men used to wear here. They felt extra smug since those hats cost twenty lira at the Grand Bazaar and only cost two lira here. Such a deal!
If it were still standing St. John’s Basilica would be the seventh tallest in the world, an amazing thought when you consider it was built here about 550AD. John fled here after the death of Christ and supposedly brought his mother Mary here to live out her life. If you’ve ever heard St. John’s letter to the Epheshians in church, it was written to the Christians here in Ephesus. Perhaps because Turkey is 98% Muslim today, I did not realize how many important early Christian events took place here. The church was eventually destroyed in the 1400’s by a Mongol invasion, but enough pieces were left laying around that archeologists were able to reconstruct some areas and provide a general idea of how the church looked.
Then we walked to the Ephesus Museum, which houses a small collection of artifacts found as the city was excavated. The Temple to Artemis was a major attraction and the museum has one of the myriad statues dedicated to her there. As the goddess of fertility she is festooned with eggs hanging off of her body. I especially enjoyed the busts dedicated to local glitterati. Their faces and expressions looked so ordinary and current, you could imagine meeting them on the street.
Then Fahti deviated from the published agenda to take us into the hills to one of his favorite towns that the Turkish tourists visit, but rarely is seen by folks like us. During World War I the Turks and Greeks who had lived among each other in peace for centuries, found themselves on opposite sides. This lead to so much bloodshed, that after the war the leaders on both sides arranged a giant swap. They drew a line on the map and thousand of Greeks had to leave their homes here and move to Greece and their empty homes were occupied by equally displaced Turks. It must have been a traumatic time and the town we saw today started out as Greek and now if 100% Turkish. Fahti arranged lunch at an open air restaurant on the hillside where we ate beneath lines of chiles drying overhead. Dish after dish was presented family style and as soon as we finished more food arrived. We have enjoyed everything we have eaten here. It’s not too spicy and prepared with a Mediterranean approach - lots of olive oil, egg plant, melons, cheese, etc.
Fully fortified we were ready for Ephesus, which was a port town located on the Aegean. A river nearby silted the port shut, so the town was moved and rebuilt. It’s third iteration was caused by one of Alexander the Great’s generals, who moved the town up to the hillside so that it would be easier to defend. The locals didn’t want to go up there since that’s where they buried their dead, so he shut down the sewage system and the disgusting back up, motivated the locals to move. At its largest Ephesus had 250,000 residents and the rich ones, had a comfortable lifestyle. After some earthquakes and more silting of the port, the city was deserted. These days a crew of archeologists from Austria have been digging up the pieces and reconstructing the city. They’ve been working for years and only have about 25% finished. The most complete and impressive building is the facade of the library. Some of the upper class homes are open for touring, which was not the case when we were here two years ago, so the progress is noticeable.
After a great touring day we returned to our hotel with a spectacular location overlooking Kusadasi harbor and the sea. Many notables have stayed here including Jimmy Carter. It would be nice to stay here another day and enjoy the views, but we will head south to board a gulet for a sail along the Turquoise Coast. We will not have access to the internet while onboard, so further updates will be delayed a bit.