EphesusWe spent all morning walking around Ephesus, one of the largest, and most visited, sites in Turkey. Known in antiquity for its now destroyed Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), Ephesus in its prime was the third largest city in Roman Asia Minor with around 50,000 people residing within it. Like Miletus, Ephesus was a port city that was eventually silted in by the river. It continued to be populated afterwards, but with the silt came malaria which decimated the population. The survivors moved to nearby Selcuk, where we are staying.

Rick Steves provides an excellent (and free!) audio guide for this site. His combination of knowledge and dry humor make the tour informative and fun and we always enjoy using his guides for our trips.

DSC_0231

Since Ephesus is so popular, you do have to deal with large groups of tourists coming in from cruise ships and nearby hotels. Today I was reminded of why we keep our groups small: we saw many groups of 30-40 gathering around one tour guide and clogging up the walkway. Fortunately, if you want to have an area to yourself all you have to do is wait five minutes for the crowd to move along.

DSC_0246The most photogenic part of the tour is the Library of Celsus. The massive facade was built using the optical illusions we will see in use at the Parthenon in Athens: the columns on the outside are shorter than the interior ones, making them look farther away than they are. This leads to an overall impression of a huge but graceful building. Inside would have been around 12,000 scrolls of papyrus and parchments which unfortunately burned up in 262. Celsus himself is buried underneath the library.

DSC_0270We wandered down the sacred way, past the library to the massive theater which could have seated around 24,000 people. The acoustics in the theater are still strong as ever, and many famous musicians have played here in the past: Elton John, Ray Charles, Jethro Tull, Pavarotti and more. There are no concerts currently, as the theater is being reinforced in order to handle the vibrations from the crowds. Apparently the attendees of a Sting concert in 1993 left quite the impression.

IMG_0475Ephesus was a huge center of trade in its day, but wealth was not evenly distributed. You can see how the 1 percenters lived in the Terrace Houses, so called because the roof of one house forms the terrace of the house above. There were only seven residences in this area; everyone else had to live on the outskirts of town.

DSC_0295

These houses were richly frescoed and mosaic-ed with mythological images and you can see the archaeologists hard at work putting together impossible jigsaw puzzles from small shards of marble and tile. These houses had private bathrooms (almost unheard of at the time), kitchens, a private church, and interior courtyards. Quite the opulence!

DSC_0331Back to the hotel for a short rest and then we went on to eat lunch and search for hotels for our group in October. Tim and I are staying at the Hotel Bella, which is right next door to the Basilica of St. John (where he is presumed to be buried) and a short walking distance to downtown Selcuk. If you can handle rooms that are tiny even by European standards and don’t mind sitting through sales pitches, then this hotel is a great deal. They offer free shuttles to Ephesus and have a lovely upstairs sitting area where you can use the internet, read, or eat from their menu. We will not be bringing our group here, but we found a couple nearby possibilities.

Tonight we are working hard on planning and other projects and will have a late dinner before retiring for the night. Tomorrow we will drive to Bergama.