Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reflections on Turkey - Part 3, Ephesus

One of the side trips I did was a three-hour bus ride to the ruins of Ephesus, one of Turkey's best Greek/Roman ruins.

Not surprisingly there were a ton of buses all going from Bodrum to Ephesus. I'd been warned by friends that most of my pictures would likely consist of a sea of heads and cameras because of the thousands of tourists that would be there. That said the Turkish Government, or perhaps a Tourism Ministry, had put facilities in place for such a migration. Whatever stops we did for meals, even if it was in a small village, was set up to handle hundreds of people, including toilet facilities. The food was never great, typically a mediocre buffet, but it was efficient and it sure beat hundreds of us being crammed into some small restaurant that wouldn't be able to handle busloads of people.

So we got to Ephesus around 11ish, and stocked up on water at a nearby store. We were told that there were no restaurants or stalls in Ephesus so you needed to buy water ahead of time -- it was going to be a hot day.

The ruins were crowded but perhaps because it was summer it was not as bad as I expected. The city is easy to navigate, essentially one long area so as long as you kept moving downhill you were headed to the other end. Despite its size there is still plenty of the city to excavate, apparently during Roman times it may have had as many as 200,000 people.

It had some impressive ruins. The main shopping street was relatively intact.

The Library of Celsus, the most majestic building of the ruins.

And a colossal amphitheater.

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis, was in Ephesus but unfortunately it was destroyed over 2000 years ago so there's really nothing of it to see.

Afterward we did a quick trip to the House of the Virgin Mary, an area on a mountainside where it is believed that the Virgin Mary lived after leaving Jerusalem. It's a major Catholic pilgrimage site and Popes visit it whenever they come to Turkey (including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI).

It's pretty straightforward, you go up to the house and enter it (inside is a small shrine as well as the gifts left by the Popes during their visits). No pictures allowed inside I'm afraid but it's a fairly small space, at most two dozen people could fit in there.

After leaving there is an area for you to light a candle.

Then you go down to the nearby springs, maybe 50 feet away from the house, to drink the water (many people also brought bottles to collect water). I assume the water is considered holy.

Then you pass the Wishing Wall, where pilgrims write down wishes or prayers and attach them to the wall.

Ephesus is well worth visiting (yes, even with a three-hour bus ride each way), though you might be better off renting a car and staying overnight nearby, that way you can visit the ruins either in the morning or later in the day when all the tour buses aren't there.

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