Wow, our summer travel has been taking over and writing has taken a backseat. Let’s wrap up some of these Europe posts.
Our final stops in Europe gave us quite a look into history. Our boat stopped in Kusadasi, Turkey where we met our tour guide for our day in Ephesus. We went with the same tour guide my parents had been with on their previous trip and it was a fabulous experience. We requested Emri from Ephesus Shuttle and received a private tour and transportation just for our group of 5 people including a delicious lunch.
We got started as soon as the boat arrived in port and so we were able to beat some of the crowds to our first stop of the day, the House of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that Paul brought Mary with him after Christ died. This is the home they believed she spent the rest of her life until her death.
It was so nice to get there before the crowds. The home is very small with little to see inside, but relics from past visits by the Pope. However, the grounds are peaceful and beautiful. If you bring a bottle with you, then you can bring home some holy water from the fountain there as well.
Next, we entered the archaeological site in Ephesus. During the 1st and 2nd century AD, Ephesus was a major Roman city, second only to Rome! But with time, the harbor collected with silt, the waters receded and moved the seaport nearly 6 miles away, and malaria plagued the city. After the city was sacked by the Germanic Goths in 263 AD, the city declined until it became obsolete and was nearly abandoned.
But the city was rediscovered and to this day only 15% of this magnificent superpower of a city has been excavated. What they have found is incredible. The Library of Celsus stands out as one of the major landmarks at the archaeological site. The facade towers high above, reconstructed from the original pieces that were excavated. It was the third largest library in the world in its day only superseded by the libraries at Alexandria and Pergamum.
Additionally, Ephesus houses a semi-circle shaped theater capable of holding 25,000 spectators. The apostle Paul stood in the center preaching to the Epehsians, asking them to give up Paganism. It’s amazing to think that you are standing in the same place where people from the Bible stood. It seems so long ago and so foreign and it becomes more real when you visit these places.
Today, you can stand in the theater and sing a song or recite a favorite speech while friends enjoy the great acoustics from the seats.
We also toured the terrace houses. These are incredible! They were homes of the wealthy in ancient Ephesus. Archaeologists began excavating these houses in 1960 and while the excavation and preservation work continues, the houses have been opened for public tours. The frescoes on many of the walls are still intact, the mosaics on the floors are dazzling, and we can guess at the daily lives of these people based on the floorplan of the homes.
We spent some time admiring the basic structure of the city and it’s seemingly modern utilities. They sent heated water to their homes under the streets with the added bonus of warming the cold marble that they often walked on barefoot. It’s amazing to imagine this city in it’s prime, bustling full of people with hospitals, shops, churches, and homes.
After spending so much time on our feet in the sun, we were ready for a break. We travelled on for lunch. Emri took us to a fabulous family-owned restaurant in the countryside. The chef cooks up skillet size portions of traditional Turkish food and sets it out buffet style. As the dish runs out, she’ll whip up something new to take it’s place.
The flavors were incredible and the Turkish use of vegetables was inspiring to me since I basically just know how to roast and steam vegetables with little flavor added. They even sell a cookbook! Phillip also tried a traditional Turkish drink, which tasted like very salty yogurt. I didn’t like it, but in small doses he enjoyed it.
After lunch we continued our tour to the site where the Temple of Artemis once stood. Now, you can only see a single pillar standing that is a mishmash of various pieces found at the site, but it was once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
We ended our day shopping at the bazaar in Ephesus before boarding our ship. We were exhausted after such a busy day. I was amazed how much history and ruins we had seen, and yet there is so much more left to be discovered. I’m convinced that I’ll have to visit Ephesus again with my grown children one day, if only because there will be that much more to see as the excavations continue.