Our third day in Turkey was devoted to exploring the beautiful city of Ephesus. Hearing it only during Sunday service, I never thought that one day, I’d be stepping on this holy and historic place. And with all the photos of Ephesus that I’ve seen on books and over the net, I couldn’t deny my excitement to see it!
We were told to be in the hotel’s lobby by 8:30 but the shuttle came around 9 in the morning. Oh well. Our first agenda for the day is Meryemana or Virgin Mary’s House. It is just a few minutes away from Selcuk. We passed by the city’s famed archaeological site and drove further to the top. There were a lot of tourist buses and a loooong queue of visitors.
Meryemana was never discovered until a German nun had visions about the Virgin and the house. There were a few archaeological studies that sort of confirms the date the house was constructed. It was then visited by popes and later became a place of pilgrimage. And of course, since it’s a holy place (the house was converted to a chapel), appropriate clothing is advised.
It’s a small stone house. The restored and original structure of the house can be easily identified through a line painted in red.
Walking past the house was a flight of steps that led us to a spring which was believed to be holy. We saw some guys drinking and washing their faces with the water from the fountain. Further is a wall where prayer requests, wishes and letters to the Virgin hang. People would write to a piece of white cloth (by the way, I have no idea where everyone takes these cloths from) and tie it with the other cloths hanging on the wall.
After an hour in Mama Mary’s House we proceeded to the Archaeological Site of Ephesus. Without a doubt, this place is the best part of the trip. We entered through the Magnesian Gate and first saw the Odeum, a small amphitheater used for performances, and the colonnaded street.
This carving of Nike on a stone is quite famous for the guys because of her breast’s alleged “powers” or miracle, whatever they call it. Saw some guys posing for a photo with it touching one of the goddess’ breasts. One guy even asked me to take a photo of him, his hand on the goddess Nike. What is awkward.
Then we walked to the marbled Sacred Way or Curetes Street. We entered through the Hercules Gate. On both sides of the street were a lot of interesting details such as fountains, monuments, statues and shops.
On the left was some sort of Fifth Avenue where “designer brands” could be bought. It’s obvious with the treatment of the pavement that expensive stuff were once sold here.
The Temple of Hadrian is on the right. The half-bodied Medusa adorned the block above the door. On the frieze is a depiction of the foundation of Ephesus. Try spotting Apollo, Athena, Hercules among others.
At the end of the passage, I got really mesmerized by the beautiful and well-preserved facade of the Library of Celsus! It’s just so breathtakingly gorgeous! Beside it, on the right is the Gate of Augustus.
Further is the ruins of the colonnaded and three-gated Commercial Agora.
We then walked to our last stop, the Theater, which is said to be the biggest in the world. Our tour guide mentioned that the rooms below were meant for the animals used during gladiator battles.
And speaking of gladiators, we saw some performers doing a re-enactment of the battle. They first did a procession from the left side of the “stage”. Egyptian-costumed ladies dance in front of the audience, the king and the lady that looks like Cleopatra.
After the tour of the beautiful ruins of the ancient city, we proceeded to a shop of sweets (Turkish delights, Pismaniye, et al) for some “tasting”. I think it was made to be a part of the tour to market the local products. Then we had an Aegean-cuisine-lunch on a big buffet restaurant (where we saw a lot of familiar faces! Yes, I think everyone visiting Ephesus that time had lunch on that restaurant too!) After that 45-minute break, we visited a leather factory (this side of Turkey has a really good leather business) that gave us complimentary cold teas and made us watch a fashion show. But sad to say, despite the warm hospitality and all that, no one seems to be so interested in buying leather.
We proceeded to our last stop, the Ephesus Archaeological Museum which is in Selcuk, a few steps away from our hotel! Some of the temples’ ruins, sculptures and other art forms from the ancient sites can be found here. Diana or Artemis, the multi-breasted goddess of fertility has a sculpture here, as well as another fertility god named Priape or Priapus. There was a small sculpture of the latter encased in a box. Since some find it offensive, one has to press the button on the bottom of the box to have it lit.
The museum tour ended after an hour and a few minutes. We were then brought back to our hotels. On our way, we passed by the ruins of the Temple of Artemis–one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There was nothing in there but a lonely column which is, by the way, a replica of the original. Other fragments discovered during excavation were exhibited in the British Museum.
4 in the afternoon was so early to call it a day. So right after going down from the bus, we crossed the street and walked towards the Basilica of St. John, where St. John the Apostle was believed to be buried. The basilica stands on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill and offers a magnificent view of its neighborhood.
Looking at its ruins (brick, marble columns, stones), one can tell that the basilica was really huge and magnificent.
Alongside the basilica is the Isa Bey Mosque that features Seljuk architecture.
I highly recommend the small shops in front of the mosque and the basilica as they have a vast selection of souvenir items for a very cheap price, plus they are really friendly! We ended the day with some more shopping across the main road, where a lot of shops and restaurants line up the streets. The Byzantine Aqueduct also run along this side of Selcuk. These tall structures lend character to the area.