Ephesus and the Mystery woman
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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This is particularly true since I've now teamed up with the Mystery woman again, who some of you will remember from travels in Egypt, which promises to make the trail through southern Turkey to Cappadocia a pleasant and pleasurable experience indeed. It should also entail some very interesting sights so I hope you stick around for these upcoming entries.
Anyway, I had to head back to Izmir quick smart to meet Mystery at the airport. This is a bizarre place - a major port and the third largest city in Turkey but somehow still retaining a smallish waterfront town feel. The traffic, touts and expensive, poor-value accommodation destroy that illusion somewhat but it is interesting to see urban life in Turkey and the minor details that entails like its modern prefab architecture, a drunken (barfing) minority and handguns for sale on the street. In the end it's not a pretty place so I suggest moving on quickly if you wind up here.
Which is exactly what we did. Selcuk is an easy hour south of Izmir and is famous for its population of storks as well as the ruins of the ancient Ephesus lying three kilometres down the road. It is also the resting place of St John the Baptist/Apostle/Evangelist (I don't know if they are all one and the same) and the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the (ancient) World - the grand Temple of Artemis - but as you will see later that is pretty hard to imagine.
In between breaks in the weather we headed down to Ephesus, which was a large Hellenistic city and the capital of the province of Asia Minor in Roman times; third only to Athens and Rome in size and importance as a trading centre of their Empire. So it's one of those sites you just have to visit if you are in the neighbourhood and we weren't to be disappointed.
The main sights are the towering facade of the Celsus Library and the massive 24,000 seat Great Theatre. A variety of highly ornate gates enhance the scenery and the marble-paved streets are unusually expansive and well preserved. We particularly liked the chariot wheel carvings on Harbour Street, figuring they were probably the equivalent of a No Standing sign today, as well as the Latrines just as you pass into the hilly Curetes Way.
With the weather in our favour and the site reasonably free of large tour groups (probably due to the rain a little earlier) we could get around quite easily and enjoy most areas with little difficulty. In season however it can get pretty crowded here so if you can withstand the heat, visit over lunch as that's down-time for the coaches. Also note there is little of interest in the extremities, even if it looks like it on the map - all of the big ticket attractions are in the centre of town.
As we were determined it only took a couple of hours to savour the magic atmosphere before we could head back to town.
Once you've done the ruins a trip to the Efes museum is natural progression, where many of the artefacts of both Greek and Roman periods have come to rest. It contains a large variety of statues, frescos, carved tablets, busts and jewellery which is quite distinctive in its design compared to those I've seen in Italy, Greece or further south in the Middle East - proving that then, like now, Turkey is a region and entity unto itself which cannot be easily lumped into either European or Middle Eastern categories. More on that later no doubt.
The evolution and importance of particular gods is also evident in these displays. Cybele the fertility god evolved into Artemis of the Greeks who in turn became Diana of the Romans; all over a period of maybe 1,500 years. They have plenty of busty statues to prove it. Eros, our latter day Cupid, was also an important figure here and is represented by more than a dozen exhibits.
In the same neighbourhood you can find the one and a half columns of the once great Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It's unfortunate that this is all that is left but its proximity to the old town means that most of it probably ended up as building materials of later generations. Since there is so little left it is free to take a peek and from the setting you can appreciate that it must have been a nice temple in its heyday. So that's four or five of the seven down for me now...
Our final stop was the Basilica of St John, further up the hill towards an imposing (but now closed) castle. Again, quite well ruined but the dedicated Baptism room as well as the big guy's supposed tomb, a variety of interesting (and sometimes very pagan-looking) carvings, and the spring roses that abound somewhat justify the royal cover charge. Unfortunately a lot of it has been reconstructed so its hard to determine what is real or not, but I should probably give them credit for trying.
That's about it of the ruins for a while, we're heading back to nature on the south coast.
Next entry -> Turtles (one in a million chance) at Dalyan
Old Rossian Proverb
A stork on a rock beats two on your head.