The last port of our honeymoon cruise was along the Ionian Coast of Turkey–Izmir (formerly Smyrna). I was fascinated with Turkey and would love to return–we really only touched the surface of Istanbul, and Izmir and Ephesus were a completely different experience that really indicated the incredible vastness of what Turkey has to offer. Although we disembarked in Izmir, we took a bus to Ephesus with a stop just before to see the house where the Virgin Mary supposedly died.
Originally built in the 10th century BC, Ephesus was a coastal town that served as a major port and commercial hub along the coast. I can’t even seem to come to grips with how old that is or the incredible things the city offered so long ago.
Due to major earthquakes along the coast, the land would extend out–rising up and pushing the sea out. Because of this, Ephesus had to be torn down and rebuilt several times to keep following the coast. The excavated site we visited was several miles from the coast because of the continued geographical changes. Ephesus changed hands many times, it was home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and houses what was among the top three largest libraries of its time–the Library of Celsus, which was my favorite component of the city. It was very progressive, with a medical school, public toilets and common bath houses.
Its history is fascinating and I couldn’t believe how much of the area is referenced in the Bible and other ancient religious text. The house we visited in the nearby hills, known as Mary’s House, was supposedly the final resting place for Mary and the apostle John who helped her escape after Jesus was crucified. It’s a major pilgrimage point for those of both the Catholic and Muslims faiths, and there were lots of signs up asking for people to be quite and respectful. The line was incredibly long to get in, and you had to quickly file through–no photos, no talking and no stopping to look around. We were not as impressed as others with the stop, but it’s not verified and the house we walked through is not original–it’s built on the base of the supposed former structure. The whole thing is a little questionable.
Ephesus, on the other hand, is incredibly real. They are still excavating, and I thought it was interesting how much has been uncovered but not rebuilt. Our guide said this is due to cost–only the most crucial components are receiving enough funding to be rebuilt–the rest are uncovered and laid out but not actually built back up.
The other amazing thing about this visit was that we started at the top and then worked our way down through the city. I was initially impressive with how big the site was and what was put together, but as we kept walking, things kept getting more and more impressive. It just kept going and going–we were literally walking through an entire city, and by the time we ended with the library, port and coliseum I was just in total awe.
I know our pictures don’t do it justice, but here’s a peek at what we saw: