Got up around 6:00 and had the buffet breakfast. Normal fare, a bit less than most. An interesting feature was a complete honey comb hung for people to take a piece of if they wanted it. No butter or milk however.
At about 7:00 we (about ½ the bus – the Syrians stayed in town) we headed out to Ephesus for a full day tour. We drove by the Aegean Sea for part of the trip and as we approached the town we saw a 2000 year old out-fortress on top of a hill – part of an early warning system for the area.
Into Ephesus and it looked like most of the other Turkish towns we had seen – except a medieval fortress dominating the landscape. There was also a nest of storks on top of a a ruined aqueduct with some baby (but not small) storks as well as one parent. The hill with the castle was the originally settled part of the area, having been dated back to the old stone age. The main city moved to be closer to the Aegean but the silting in of the harbors and threats from invaders forced the people to move back and it would eventually become the main area again
When we finally reached Selcuk we passed through a ruined area then entered the site proper. We were to do a one-way trip – the bus dropping us off at the top and picking us up at the bottom of the hill. Outside of the area were the traditional tourist traps – one that caught our attention offered genuine fake watches.
On entering the site it was clear that this was a big one. The guide said the second best preserved Roman ruin other than Pompeii. There were columns and arches everywhere. A quite impressive pile of terra-cotta water pipes that dated to 300 AD were stacked there – bringing water from 25 miles away to provide fountains, baths, and in some cases running water in the houses. We also got to see the area where two pieces of columns were joined together. There was a small grove cut that allowed molten lead to be poured into the column to glue one piece to the other.
We first walked down the main avenue where decorum was enforced (sets of stone tablets prescribed behavior in this upper class/rich section. The ancient stone road was still there as well as a small amphitheater (for government assemblies), many columns, some statues, and a large number of cats. It seems that people bring cat food and feed the animals on a regular basis. They’re quite friendly and seem well fed. Also found out that one reason for the “stray dogs” in the city is that most folks can’t afford to keep a dog so they “adopt” strays and fee4d them when they can.
Traveling down into Ephesus there were more statues and several well preserved mosaics as well as a wall that looked almost exactly like the walls of the Inca in Peru with slightly bulging centers. Then we visited the latrines – communal toilets which were used by women in the day and men in the evenings. They were pay toilets so mostly for the well to do. Some folks would even send their slaves to sit on a spot to warm it up for them in the cooler months. There were baths nearby as well as a restoration team working on reconstructing an arch.
We then moved down the hill to what was once the Library of Celsus, central to the city (population 250,00 at its height). An impressive façade with statues of the gods of wisdom an literature. Also statues of folks who had contributed to the construction of the library itself as well as those who financed its reconstruction after the frequent earthquakes. We eventually moved past the library into the commercial district – many small enclosures set into the hillside with columns out front and a large open area in the center. Off to one side was a very large amphitheater – the hippodrome – with many rows of seats – space for thousands. The commercial area was near where the harbor once was, but the silting in of the river delta eventually created a situation where ships could no longer reach the harbor, and the city was abandoned.
The end of the tour was the usual gauntlet of shops with really aggressive sellers. I tried to get some stuff from the museum shop but their credit card machine was broken.
Back on the bus and off Selcuk and the Basilica of St. john. After the death of Jesus St. John and the Virgin Mary moved to Ephesus (on which more later). After some time spreading Christianity John died and was buried here. A modest church was constructed and later under Emperor Justinian an elaborate cathedral was built over the grave. After being damaged by earthquakes it was finally destroyed by the Mongol invasions around 1400. The body itself was removed for safe keeping and has become lost. At the site there are some nice mosaics and clear evidence that the abandoned city of Ephesus was used as a quarry.
At the site there were still carvings from early Christianity, fragments of mosaics, foundations, some preserved murals, and many bits and pieces of things. There was also an excellent view of the castle that dominates the town.
From the site you can look down on the site of the Temple of Artemis – one of the original seven wonders of the world. All that remains now is a single column. The site was found by a British expeditionary team and most of the relics taken to England. There was also a 14th century mosque nearby.
We drove up the mountains and had a nice lunch of eggplant. Minna had the “Ripped Belly” and I had the “Pope’s delight.” Bothe were stuffed eggplant – Minna’s was stuffed with meat, mine with vegetables. A relaxing lunch in the shade after being in the sunshine for about four hours straight – with temperatures in the 90s the whole time.
Then off to our last stop on this tour – Meryemana – the House of the Virgin Mary. Local tradition (and some evidence) indicated that this is where St. John took the Virgin Mary to live out her life. It was “rediscovered” by a German invalid who never left her home – but described the site perfectly. Once it was found it has been verified as authentic by two Popes (Paul VI and John Paul II) who both visited the site.
The place was packed with people and the normal souvenir shops. A wide paved path led up the hill pass a cistern (or baptism pool) and an outdoor Orthodox Church to the house itself (now a shrine). You can still see the original foundation. No pictures were allowed inside but there were pictures and gifts left by the visiting Popes There were a couple spots where people could pray, and one was occupied by a member of our group. You could also take a candle (for a donation) and light it with a prayer. There were several enclosed troughs with sand where you could put the candle. You could also write a “wish” and post it on the “Wish Wall” below the church. The wall was covered with wished written on tissue paper. It was covered…
We finally made it back to the bus and back to Izmir. We returned at 5:00 but still had time to wander around a bit. It seemed that every other store was for wedding or formal dresses – plus a couple for more traditional Turkish clothing. Then back to the hotel for a scheduled dinner – sea bass and a nice appetizer tray. We chatted away for an hour after the official start, then the “Other” group finally showed up. Being exhausted we got to bed early. A 5:15 wake up call in the morning!