We visited Ephesus last year and were accompanied by a good guide so I had to think whether it would be worthwhile to make another visit so soon. My decision to go again turned out very well. Ephesus is so marvelous that one cold probably make 50 visits before a significant fraction was seen and understood. Our guide, Erejon (“Jon”), was an experienced Greco-Roman historian and he clearly wanted to tell us as much as he could in a short time.
We docked at Kuşadasi alongside 5 other cruise ships. Each of them was several times the size of the Odyssey. For the first time we ran into real crowding on the docks and in the port area. But Kuşadasi, which has grown from a place with 7,000 people less than 30 years ago to more than 40,000 now, move people pretty well.
Despite the large number of people around our trip to Ephesus started on time. It is about a half-hour away from the Nuova Scala (new port “new” since the 4th century, that is). When we visited Ephesus last year we knew that it was once a port but there was no sign of water anywhere around. This time, we drove in from a different direction and it was easy to see where the old port had been before it silted up.
Despite the crowds at the site, Jon did an excellent job of directing us and making himself heard. Even standing exactly where I stood last year and looking at exactly the same material, Jon made everything fresh because of his knowledge. He told us how to recognize the different styles of decorations on the various parts of the buildings and how to identify what period a statue was from. He told us about the 4 distinct periods of city growth and occupation.
After we left the archeological site, we went to a museum in Selçuk that held many items recovered from the site. Seeing some of those things helped visualize a little better that real people had lived there. Part of the collection comes from the section of Ephesus called the Terrace Houses. They are a relatively new restoration project. Many mosaics, statues, and everyday items from those well-to-do households are on display.
From there we drove to the Church of St. John. Supposedly, St John and Mary came to Ephesus after leaving Jerusalem. John lived at a small place where the church is now situated. After he returned from exile in Patmos and died, he was buried there. In the 6th century the church was built by the same emperor—Justinian—and architect who built the Hagia Sophia You can’t tell today, but it was on the scale of the Hagia. It was built in part with recycled material from a temple of Artemis just down the hill. The Church of St John was turned into a mosque in the 14th century and destroyed in 1402. Some of the material from the destroyed building was used to build a mosque. There is restoration work going on at that site now.
Finally, we visited what is reputed to be the house where Mary lived until her death (Assumption or Dormition depending on your belief system). Of course it isn’t the original house, and no one is really sure that the location, which is on the top of what would have been a difficult-to-climb mountain is correct, but they have a story and are sticking to it. [Actually, it’s a pretty good story if you are interested in how people can convince themselves of something.]
Our very late lunch was at a restaurant that overlooks the port.
While I was doing that trip, Patricia was visiting Selçuk and a small fishing village called Sirinçe. For lunch, she went to the fish market where she picked out her own fish (I think its name was Albert) and told the cook how to prepare it. While they were waiting, she was able to see examples of the local produce and learned about the local economy. [Did you know that they grow cotton here? That there are all sorts of fruit and nut trees? That Turkey is the second largest producer of silk and that there are many mulberry trees here? We knew some of that.]
In the evening we drove back out to Ephesus where Seabourn had arranged a concert for all passengers. Given the number of busses, I think most of us went. We were able to get a table directly in front of the musicians where we were served wine and snacks. They played a number of classical pieces from Bach to Hayden to Mozart and Brahms. It wasn’t a great performance but sitting under a sky full of stars, with the Ephesus theater lit up for us was a very pleasant experience.
I have posted quite a few pictures in the picture gallery. Captions may have to wait a bit.