Ephesus

by Johnny

After over a month traveling throughout the amazing country of Italy, it was time for the Sherwood World Tour to move on. Next stop…Turkey! Our jolly B&B owner Osman picked us up at the Izmir airport in the freezing cold and drove us to the town of Selçuk, our base for exploring the ruins of Ephesus and surrounding sites. On the way to his comfy, family-run B&B, Nazar Hotel, Osman mentioned that his friend ran daily tours of Ephesus if we were interested. We haven’t been on many “tours,” but with only one full day to see the region (and because we didn’t want to get lost in the freezing cold), we figured it would be the best way to see everything. We’re definitely glad we did the tour as it provided us with a ton of insight not found in our guidebooks.

The view from breakfast at Nazar Hotel
View from our room We ate a delicious dinner in the freezing cold at Hotel Nazar
My new Turkish friends Osman and his nephew

Our first stop was Meryemana (Mary’s House), where, as the story goes, the Virgin Mary lived her final years after she came to Ephesus with Saint John in the year 37 AD. Over 1,800 years later, a German nun named Catherine Emmerich had visions of Mary’s face in a grilled cheese sandwich she was eating. No, not really. But she did claim to have visions of Mary living in Ephesus, even though she had never visited the place or even left Germany. Using the descriptions of her visions as a guide, clergy from nearby Izmir discovered the foundations of an old house on a hillside near Ephesus. Whoa! Though the ruins have been dated to the 6th century AD, they are said to “contain some earlier elements, possibly from the 1st century.” Well, that was good enough for Pope Paul VI to unofficially claim its authenticity on a visit in 1967, making it a place of pilgrimage. Whether you believe the Virgin Mary lived there or not, it’s definitely an interesting place to check out.

Virgin Mary’s pad…allegedly
People lighting candles at Mary’s house Prayers written on tissues at Mary’s house

The next stop on our tour was Ephesus, said to be the best-preserved ruins in the Mediterranean, if not all of Europe. According to the legend, Androclus from Ionia, under constant attack from invaders, sought the advice of the oracle of Delphi for a new place to settle his people. The oracle told him to look for three things: the fish, the fire and the boar. When Androclus and his people arrived on the shores of present-day Turkey from Greece in the 10th century BC, they cooked some freshly caught fish, which started a large fire and scared a wild boar out of the bushes. Androclus hunted down the boar and founded Ephesus in the exact place he killed it.

In the centuries that followed, Ephesus grew to become Rome’s capital in Asia Minor with a population near 250,000. Today, only 18% of the former city has been excavated, but it’s still enough to get your imagination running wild about how impressive a city it must have been back in the day. The city even had full running water (hot and cold) and sewage systems, and some statues clearly depict a round earth indicating that the Romans knew the world was round before that belief was lost during the Dark Ages. It was at Ephesus that we were definitely glad we had a guide. She told us the history of and meaning behind each set of ruins, which would have otherwise looked like a bunch of old stones to Anna and me. Some highlights were the Varius Baths (where visitors were required to clean themselves upon entry) the Trajan Fountain, the Temple of Hadrian, the men’s latrines (where many wealthy men had membership), the Curetus Way (the Fifth Avenue of Ephesus), and the Great Theater. Of course, the head honcho of all the Ephesus ruins is the Library of Celsus. In its day, it held 12,000 scrolls, making it the third largest library in the ancient world.

Curetes Way…the Fifth Avenue of Ephesus
Ancient pharmacy snake symbol at Ephesus Lots of happy cats at Ephesus
Corinthian and Ionic columns Pomegranates in bloom next to the ruins
The men’s latrines were the place to be
Trajan Fountain Temple of Hadrian
Mosaic floors of the terraced houses Where the old shops lined Curetes Way
Library of Celsus
Library of Celsus
Library of Celsus Library of Celsus
Library of Celsus
Johnny and Anna…oh, and Library of Celsus
Harbour Street The Great Theatre
Shredding leg guitar solo at the Great Theatre

After our tour of Ephesus it was time for some grub. We sampled some Turkish delights, çay (tea), dried fruits and nuts from the region before heading to an all-you-can-eat restaurant featuring local fare. After filling our bellies we visited the Ephesus Museum, which contains some artifacts (coins, jewelry, scales) uncovered during excavation. Then we made our way to the Temple of Artemis, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. When settling at Ephesus, Androclus and his people peacefully integrated with the Leleggian tribes already there, even incorporating some of the Leleggian beliefs into their own (take notes, Christopher Columbus). At the center of these beliefs and religious practices were goddesses of fertility, which evolved into the Artemis of Ephesus. Her devotees built her the largest temple in the world…larger than the Parthenon in Athens. Sadly, only one of the original 127 columns from the temple is still standing, and it’s topped by a silly looking stork’s nest, but we still got a good idea of what it could have looked like in its heyday.

A plethora of Turkish goodies
All that’s left of the Temple of Artemis…one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

We wrapped up our tour with a visit to a local hand-made Turkish carpet shop, where we learned all about the carpet making process.  It’s intense!  We saw how they extract silk from silkworm cocoons using traditional methods.  Then we learned about the various knots that are used to weave carpets, and how the Turkish double knot makes Turkish carpets unique.  Watching the girls weave intricate patterns into these carpets one knot at a time was something to see.  The girls can only work for two hours a day because the process is so physically exhausting, and sometimes it takes up to two years for them to complete a single rug.

Removing the silk cocoons from the hot water Silk cocoons
Carpet weaving This girl was recreating the Last Supper in a carpet
I still don’t know how they make patterns this cool
Carpets to the ceiling Genuine fake watches!

Although we’ve only been in Turkey for a couple of days, one thing’s for sure…we’re not in Western Europe anymore. The food, the language, the people, the landscape, the buildings, the music…it’s so different from anything we’ve seen on this trip so far. While I’ve absolutely loved every place we’ve been, this is the first time on our trip it feels like we are in a faraway, exotic land. It’s almost like our vacation has ended and our adventure has begun, and we can’t wait to see what else Turkey (and soon South Africa and Southeast Asia!) has to offer.

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5 Comments to “Ephesus”

  1. Hi Johnny+Anna,

    Great post on Turkey! In those famous words of Forrest Gump, it’s certainly “a whole other country”…fascinating with incredible history. We’re having big time Anna+Johnny withdraws after our amazing time with you both in Italy but, through your travel blog, we feel like we are still traveling with you! Thanks and keep the great pics and narrative coming. Love you, miss you!

  2. WOW I can’t believe how much you did in a short time! so interesting! xo

  3. Wow! That was really educational and very interesting! Love it! Keep up the good work-such a great job! Go with Love, ML

  4. Have you guys eaten Sultanas yet? I imagine that was part of the “plethora of Turkish treats” you consumed. One time I had to go to a Turkish grocery in the extreme ghettos of Chicago to chase down Sultanas which are a component of the “nose” in a Scotch tasting. ANYWAY, I risked my life to procure Sultanas in Chicago but I am imagine they are WAY better in the actual land of Turkey. Eat some for me!

    Miss you both madly!

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