Tuesday, May 22, 2012



"So much of Ephesus remains that, no one in one lifetime with the volumes of knowledge could absorb it."   S. Turkoglu - E. Atalay      

On our recent Crystal Serenity cruise, Kusadasi was the port of choice as its gateway to the ancient archaeological site of Ephesus. Kusadasi, (pronounced koo-SHAHD-ah-sea) a lovely town on the Aegean Sea, is a 25-minute drive through the Asia Minor countryside to the fabled remains of the ancient city of Ephesus.

Walking along the blazing white marble Arcadian Way, one might have difficulty relating to Anthony and Cleopatra, King Croesus, Saint Paul, Saint John the Evangelist or Mary the mother of Jesus, all of who are said to have strolled those spine-chilling streets. But movie buffs will have no difficulty picturing Charlton Heston gliding through the ancient ruins in his chariot.      

Throughout its varied and often violent history, Ephesus has always attracted greatness and grandeur.  Any attempt to condense this grandeur into one article would be folly. Therefore, the following will highlight the major points of interest in a visit to Ephesus.                 

GIRLS’ GYMNASIUM: As you first approach Ephesus on the east side of town, you'll catch sight of the gymnasium with its many excavated statues of girls.  Many historians think it is the only gymnasium built for girls in ancient times.

MAGNESIA GATE: Just across from the gym are the foundations for the Magnesia Gate.  It is the starting point of the road connecting Ephesus to the city.      

STATE AGORA: In ancient times, big cities had two agoras.  One of them was clearly the market place and thus called the "Market Agora". The other was the "State Agora" where important social or political items were discussed. The first area entered, upon arrival at Ephesus, is the State Agora.  Considering its location in the high part of the city, archeologists call it the Upper (or North) Agora.      

ODEON: To the right of the State Agora is the Odeon, used as a lecture and concert hall.  Its 23 seating rows have a seating capacity of 1400.  In front of the seats are an orchestral stage and a marble main stage.      

PRYTANEUM: Originally, the Prytaneum (Town Hall) was built by Lyimachos in the 3rd century B.C..  However, most of the remains are from the 1st century A.D..  The most important fragment left from this period is the altar containing the everlasting flame of Hestia Boulaia, the Goddess of Fire.                                    

CURETES STREET: Named after the Curetes, the young girls who tended the fires, this street stretches from the Prytaneum west via Domitian Square, where it joins Domitian Street and descends as far as the Celsus Library.  Situated in the center of town, this 4th-5th century A.D. street was unearthed in the years 1954-1968.  Entrances of important buildings, and statues of famous Ephesians, faced and flanked the magnificent marble-paved streets.      

FOUNTAIN OF TRAJAN: This partly restored fountain, located on Curetes Street, was consecrated to the Roman Emperor Trajan in the 2nd century A.D..   Trajan's foot, stepping on top of the world, symbolizes that he was the ruler of the world.     

LIBRARY OF CELSUS: Behind a large marble courtyard rises the third largest library in the ancient world. Restorations of this beautifully preserved edifice, adorned with columns and statues, began in 1970 and continued through 1978.  An inauguration ceremony was held on April 29, 1978 and the library was opened to visitors after 1716 years.      

 HOUSE OF LOVE (BROTHEL): Located across the street from the library, the brothel was connected to the library by a secret tunnel.  Men would tell their wives they were going to do some reading and then take the underground passage to the brothel.      Just south of the brothel is the first advertisement of the ancient world.  Etched into the marble road, to give directions to all visiting sailors--inland Ephesus was once a port--is a heart (symbolizing love) filled with dots (symbolizing coins), a left foot (signaling direction) and a female head (signifying the reward).      

BATHS OF SCHOLASTIKIA: Heated by steam circulating under the marble pavement and in the walls, these (along with the public toilets and the brothel) formed a popular building complex for men only.

MARKET AGORA (South):  Passing through the gate of Mazeus and Mithridates, to the right of the library, is one of the largest, and most magnificent, agoras of the entire ancient world.  In the center was a monumental horologion, a combined waterclock and sundial.  Although the foundations of the clock were disclosed in the 1903 excavation, no further information about the rest of it has yet been disclosed.                                     

GREAT THEATRE: Leaning on the west foot of Pion Mountain, the impressive auditorium had a seating capacity of 24,000.  Exemplifying the gradual historical changes in theaters, this Great Theatre has powerful acoustics. Standing on the stage, a voice will carry to the very top row.  You don't believe me?  Try it.      After repeated visits to Ephesus over the last decade, there is little wonder why Saint Paul asked the question: "Is there a greater city?"  

One can hardly leave Turkey without a little Turkish delight…by that I mean a little shopping and a little tasting.  In the nearby town of Selcuk, Ege Hali is a carpet/kilim Co-op that offers both to the visitor.  A unique experience awaits visitors who are given the opportunity to observe the craftsmanship of carpet weaving first hand.  There is also a demonstration of how silk threads are extracted from their cocoons and used in the making of handmade silk carpets.


 A typical simple Turkish lunch of mezes (a wide variety of Turkish appetizers) and Turkish beer was then served to prospective buyers at a picnic table set up under a tree.  At the end of the meal, a cup of thick Turkish coffee (with the sediment at the bottom) and some raki (lion’s milk) is a must.  Raki, like the Greek ouzo, is a clear anise-based drink that turns white when ice or water is added.  Don’t leave Turkey without trying locum, the sweet jelly-textured confection officially known as Turkish Delight.  

While in Selcuk, it’s worth a visit to Art Ceramics.  Here you can watch artisans shape the clay on their wheels, draw and then paint the design on their pieces, glaze them and then fire the ceramics in the kiln.  Truly, the art of life.

JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 38 national Travel Writer Awards and an International Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio.

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