Turkey 24: Ephesus


Inevitably, when you travel, you’ll come to a destination that is pretty freaking awesome, historically important and visually incredible.  It’s also unbelievably crowded.

That is Ephesus. 

With history spanning back to the 7th century BC, a massive cult surrounding Artemis that resulted in one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a turn as the capital of Asia Minor and the place where the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist spent time in their lives, Ephesus has a history that matches its scale.  The place is huge, with an estimated population of 250000 at its peak.  Only 18% of it has been uncovered but what is there is pretty visually amazing.

Turkey and its tourism agencies know that, too.

So, very unlike Patara and Olympos (which, to be fair, don’t match up visually), Ephesus is CRAWLING with tourists.  The usual route is start at the top entrance, make your way down, catch your tour bus or a minibus back to Selcuk or Kusadasi, the port where the cruise ships come in.  Knowing that in advance, and that the buses would start rolling in pretty early, I made the choice to do double duty on the walking and come in from the south entrance.

Overall, good choice. 

We started at the Great Theatre, which would have held 25000 people (one tenth of the city population, which is the standard Roman formula), and I immediately bumped into a Texas accent.  The cruise ships had arrived, so we’d have to act fast!

Okay, maybe it wasn’t like that, but if one group was there, others would be converging on the Library of Celsus in short order and, considering that is the most photographed site of Ephesus, we didn’t want to wait too long.  So, after some theatre shots, we made our way over the library.

Tourists were just starting to make their way in and, if you looked up Curetes Way (main street), you could see a throng of umbrellas and tour lollipops making their way down.  Fortunately, we managed to get some good shots of the library without too much traffic in front of it.  At one time, it was the third largest in the world (after Alexandria and Pergamum) and the façade is quite beautiful.  We got the shots we could, then went into the Terraced Houses to see how the citizens of Ephesus lived.

When we got out, the place done did explode with peoples.

As Daina put it, we were salmon swimming against the stream as we made our way up main street while the flocks of cruise tours made their way down.  I can’t remember the last time I was in a place with that many tourists at one time.  Obviously, Ephesus deserves it, but it does take a bit of the magic away.  One of the amazing things about Patara was that you felt you had the place to yourself and, often times, you did.  One wonders if that would be the case if it was as impressive as Ephesus, or if it had a cruise ship capable port nearby.

We made our way through the rest of the ruins, which included public latrines, a brothel, various temples and a church to the Virgin Mary – we didn’t go to her house, as it was a bit pricey for something that may not have actually been her house – before doubling back, finding a “secret” spot where you could actually take a picture of yourself and the library without too many people getting in the shot, and then we made our way back to Selcuk.

So, Ephesus was crazy packed but rightfully so and, as with most places that are crowded, if you avoid it strictly for that reason, you’re going to miss out on some cool stuff.  Not a personal highlight, but impressive nonetheless.

Now, the original thought was that, after Ephesus, we’d head to the beach or to Aqua Fantasy, Turkey’s best waterpark!  After lunch and a brief discussion, I fell asleep and that plan was pretty much squashed.  I woke up a bit later, craving sweets, at which point we went to a local baklava shop, bought some antep baklava on the recommendation of the people who ran our hotel, and then wandered to a local tea garden, where we sipped Turkish tea and watched old people play cards.

Nice and chill.

Some shopping later, an encounter with the cutest tiny cat in a store, and then dinner at a traditional house restaurant, and now we’re back, chilling in the hotel.  There was supposed to be a family dinner at the hotel which all the guests were invited to, but that’s happening tomorrow due to some Ramadan stuff. 

More ruins tomorrow, though less touristed ones, as we hit the “PMD Tour”. 

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