Chapter Fifteen - A crowded morning in Ephesus

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Oct 14, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  , İzmir,
Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday 7th.

A generous breakfast awaits us up on the roof with stunning views.

The hotel website indicates that a return (round trip) transfer to Ephesus is included in the price of the room. It seems too much to hope for, but on enquiring at the reception desk, we are assured that this is indeed the case.

"Are you ready now?" asks the hotel manager. “Then lets go!”

We are whisked in a minivan to the south entrance. He explains that all we need to do to get back is phone from a certain souvenir shop at the north entrance, and he'll come and pick us up there and take us back to the hotel. What an excellent start to the day.

But our enthusiasm evaporates when we arrive at the entrance and see hordes of people descending from buses.

“We've already admitted fourteen groups, and there are twelve more due to arrive any minute.” We are informed at the ticket booth. “Those are just the ones that are scheduled. It’s going to be a busy day at Ephesus. You should have come later in the afternoon”.

Great advice, as this had been my original plan, but we had dawdled too long at Aphrodisias the previous day, which had thrown our itinerary.

This Greco-Roman city had a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, which made it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. It is also one of the area’s major attractions, and unlike Heirapolis and Aphrodisias, it is close and accessible to the port of Kusadasi, hence is included on many Greek island cruise itineraries.

Only an estimated 15% has been excavated and the restored part of the city is laid out along two major city thoroughfares. This means all the principal sights within are simple to access, and unfortunately easily packed with visitors like ourselves.

Entering by the Magnesia Gate at the South East corner of the city, we decide to wait a little in the upper part of the city to allow the groups to forge ahead of us. Fat chance! Every time we look behind us a new group is emerging through the gate. On the other hand it’s interesting to mingle a little and overhear the interpretations of their tour guides.

Finally giving up any chance of peace and quiet, we follow Curetes Street down towards the world famous Library of Celsus. The street is laid with the original marble paving and you can see it has been well used over the centuries. To each side are points of interest, such as the Agora, Odeon, Prytaneion and Temples of Domitian and Hadrian.

Probably the most unusual site is the latrines, of prime interest for tour groups who always seem to spend their time searching for clean rest rooms. The marble toilet seats are laid out in a row around the walls of the building over a stone channel with running water.

“What a great idea. You can carry on a conversation with your neighbor while having a shit,” retorts Bryan.  “I sure hope they added perfume to the water that’s beneath the seats!”     

To the left is a covered area containing the so called “slope houses”. Closed presently, this is where most of the excavation is presently taking place. The houses at Ephesus are similsr to those found at Pompeii and Herculaneum in terms of preservation and importance. Their decor and furnishings provide a great deal of information about the lifestyle of the Ephesian upper class in the Roman and Byzantine periods.   

The highlight of Ephesus is of course the magnificent Library of Celsus. Everyone has seen photos of this iconic structure. I had always though it was discovered “as is”, but it has been artfully reconstructed. The monument was built as a mausoleum for Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, a Roman Governor, between 110 and 135 AD. It also served as a library and scrolls and codexes were stored in the niches. In total, 30 bookcases held about 12,000 scrolls. The reading room faced east in order to take advantage of the best light.

With a few centuries of its construction a fire destroyed the reading room and the library fell into disuse. The facade collapsed in an earthquake in the 10th century. It was finally raised from the rubble to its present splendid state by Franz Hueber of the Austrian Archaeological Institute between 1970 and 1978.

We now walk due north along Marble Street towards the Great Theatre. This huge structure built into the mountainside has a capacity of 25,000 and is still used for performances during the Selšuk Ephesus Festival of Culture and Art. In the 1st century AD, the Apostle Paul spent three years in Ephesus preaching the Gospel. According to tradition, it was here that he delivered sermons mentioned in Acts of the Apostles condemning pagan worship.

Branching off Harbour Street, we enter the vast parking area where myriad buses await their cargos. To one side are cafes and souvenir shops. We locate the store we have been told to phone from, and the owner indeed calls the hotel for us. I’m sure he hopes for a sale, but regrettably he’s unlucky with us. Within ten minutes the hotel van is picking us up and we are soon back at our lodgings.

“What do you think everyone? In spite of the crowds, I think it has been an inspiring visit”.
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greekcypriot on

Another excellent entry Martin. You reminded me of the trip we had there two years back. Beautiful photos as well. Keep the good work up.

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