Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

By Vikki Gibson

We were picked up at 4:15 a.m. by Mr. Emit of Euphrates Tours for our trip to the airport. An early morning flight on Pegasus Air from Kayseri to Izmir was the start of the next phase of our exploration of Turkey’s great treasures. We were relocating to the western provinces of the country where we would visit Ephesus, Aphrodesisa and Heiropolis, Pamukkale and other sites in-between.

Pegasus Airlines advertises budget prices – we do know that they are pleasant, efficient and have the world’s best pre-flight announcement ever. All the usual repetitive, mind-numbing pre-flight information has been packaged into video format, with a unique cast of characters: all 5-8 year-old Turkish children playing the roles of flight attendants, pilot and passengers. Kudos, Pegasus Air!

Pick up at Izmir airport was seamless as  we were met by our Euphrates Tour guide, Emre, with our private van and driver. Seriously, this is the only way to travel, we are loving it! The next two days would be full of giggles and belly laughs as we shared English colloquialisms with our guide and taught him the nitty gritty meanings of Canadian phrases that he had not learned in formal English classes. Emre was very knowlegeable and well spoken, it was a pleasure to spend our next two days in his company.

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Our first stop of the day was in the remote hills, outside of Selchuk. The tour buses would arrive within the hour. So Emre took us directly to the Virgin Mary’s house, before the hoards of tourists that had arrived that morning on a cruise ship in Kayseri would be deposited at that site. We were able to enter and explore the inside of the house at our leisure. It is situated in a beautiful, lush spot in a quiet, remote area.

A tiny structure (2 rooms), an inauspicious place for the mother of Jesus Christ to spend her last years on earth. Brought here by St. John, Mary was hidden away from pagan Roman soldiers who were killing Christians – the most famous of these Christians being her son. St. John is said to have visited her 2-3 times a week, and when she ran out of food she drank only the water from her spring – now thought to have healing powers. We drank from that very same spring.

As we returned to our van, we passed dozens of tourists, now waiting in line to gain access to Mary’s House. Thanks, Emre, for your foresight. We were to enjoy this foresight many times in the next 2 days. Emre knew the patterns of the tourists and guides, and was able to manipulate us through the crowds or avoid the crowds entirely when possible.

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Ephesus: Turkey’s crown jewel and one of the most famous and beautiful of the ancient ruins of the world. A strategic location, originally built as a port on the Aegean Sea at the mouth of the Cayster River, it now lays some kilometers from the Aegean as the mouth of the river silted up over the millennia. Originally of Greek heritage, it became popular as a Roman city, visited by Cleopatra in her day. This UNESCO World Heritage Site continues to be home to some of the most famous structures of the ancient world.

The Library of Celsus, the Roman aqueduct system that supplied the city with water from the surrounding hills, a open air outdoor theater which is still in use today. The theater, an oval that can seat 25,000 was the stage for gladiatorial contests and, a few years ago, a stage for Pavarotti to entertain 20th century spectators. What an experience that would have been: to see that ancient structure, beautifully illuminated, under the Aegean moon, hearing the most beautiful voice of Pavarotti as classical notes floated through the night sky. The city is a wonder of white, carved marble. Carved in to many and varied shapes, formed into houses, and pillars and troughs and sarcophagii and structures so pleasing to the eye.

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

Discovering Ephesus in Turkey

As I stood on the marble tiled road that went through the center of the existing excavation and was the original road from the harbor into the city, I turned slowly, stopping every few degrees. Each view was amazing, white marble sparkling under the Turkish sun, blocks of stone laying about, pieces of a puzzle waiting to be fit into their proper place, dazzling white pillars, reaching up to the sun and crowned with more carved marble, everything with a hidden meaning.

The history surrounds one and begs to be heard. Emre kept up a flow of facts and figures, but it was just an amazing experience to stand there, in the middle of all this history and beauty and feel part of it, for a few minutes, at least. Put it on your “bucket list”, it will not disappoint.

We returned to the village of Selchuk and stood in front of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The temple of Artemis. There is very little remaining of this archeological wonder, but having just been to Ephesus, it was not difficult to fill in the spaces and image what it must have been like in its day. Today, the remains are surrounded by a geese-strewn swamp, and tourist clicking their expensive cameras.

And then a special treat just for me. I had visited Selchuk in 1969 with 3 friends. We paid US$1 for a room in a little old hotel, 4 beds and 4 walls, but a good deal just the same. Emre asked if I remembered where it was or what it was called. I didn’t remember either detail. My only memory of the place was that when I looked out of our hotel room window I would see old Roman pillars with large twig nests and birds, whose name I had long forgotten, in the nests.

We drove into town, after visiting Artemis, and the van stopped unexpectedly. Emre told me to get out of the car, I had two minutes only as we were not supposed to park where we had stopped. I exited the van and when I looked around, my eyes literally filled with tears. To my right and to my left stood four grand, white marble pillars, each crowned with twig nests and storks looking down at me. I loved it and I thank Emre and the van driver for their efforts to find this spot.

Charisma Hotel in Kusadasi, Turkey

Charisma Hotel in Kusadasi, Turkey

We were driven to Kusadasi to spend the night, hot and tired we were ready to fall into bed. Until we saw our “digs” The Charisma Hotel was a marvel of glass and chrome and was positioned over the rocks that formed the eastern edge of the beautiful blue Aegean Sea. Our fifth floor room balcony opened to sea breezes and overlooked the huge terrace with pool and deck chairs and bar. We changed into bathing suits and spent a couple of hours playing rich tourist on the terraces, swimming in the pool and taking in the scenery.

That evening we watched the sun set over the blue sea, and watched the moon rise. Our balcony door stayed open all night so we could listen to the waves wash up against the rock and remind us of where we were. It was an unforgettable night, just a lovely lovely way to spend our one and only night on the sea.

I will go back, I want to experience the Aegean again and the Charisma is an ideal place for that. We loved the juxtaposition of the incredibly old and contemporary modern. And we were able to package them into one amazing day. This day really was a day for storing away memories!

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Bio:

Vikki Gibson is an RN from Cranbrook, British Columia, Canada who loves cultural travel. She got the idea of blogging about her trip from her son, Matt, who runs the popular adventure travel blog: Matt Gibson’s Adventure Travel Site.

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