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Ephesus, Turkey

Emerald Princess docked at Kusadasi, Turkey at 7am on June 14th. We’d only have a half-day here, as we needed to be back aboard by 1:00pm to sail for Istanbul. We headed out of the terminal and met up with our private tour guide, Ali, and driver, Mahmud, from Ekol Travel. The currency exchange rate with Turkey is so favorable that we could arrange for a private tour here for less than the big 50-person bus tours in most of the other countries. During the drive to Ephesus, Ali told us about the history of Kusadasi port, which got its name from a nearby island, meaning Island of Birds. As Turkey tourism increases, Kusadasi port becomes more busy every year. Last year, 400 cruise ships docked at Kusadasi, this year they expect over 900 ships!

House of the Virgin Mary

Our first stop was at the House of the Virgin Mary. This is recognized as the last residence of the Virgin Mary, and also the residence of John the Evangelist. The place feels holy, and the entire area is very serene and peaceful. There are three springs outside the house to drink from that provide good health, wealth, and love. You can also bring an empty bottle to fill with the water to take back with you.

The Odeon at Ephesus

Next we drove to the ancient city of Ephesus, where we spent most of our morning. Ephesus was first settled as early as 1,000 B.C., as a commerce port at the edge of the sea. The city was moved several times as the sea level dropped and the natural harbors dried or silted up. We saw the third city of Ephesus, built about 200 B.C., which is undergoing active excavation and reconstruction. As we walked down the marble-paved main street through the ancient city, we saw Roman baths, the Odeon — a 1,400 person theater used for performances and city council meetings, Hadrian’s Temple, a public toilet building with running sewers and running water for washing hands, and one of the most advanced aqueduct systems of the ancient world. Underground terra cotta pipes provided the entire city with running water and sanitation.

Ancient public toilets with running water

Moving down the hill we came to the Terrace Houses. These are the very recently excavated homes of the important and wealthy people of ancient Ephesus. After the first section was uncovered, it was opened to the public for viewing, but was essentially destroyed by people taking “souvenirs”, walking on the fragile mosaics, and also from the exposure to the elements. When work was started on the second section, it was decided to charge admission and use the money to better protect the entire site under a roof, with glass floors on top of the original tile mosaics, etc. It was impressive how much of the houses remained intact, and how advanced they were. These large homes had open courtyards, beautiful mosaic floors, painted wall frescoes, were heated by hot air distributed through the house via terra cotta pipes, and full plumbing systems with multiple baths and toilets, and hot and cold running water!

Walking through “Dwelling Unit 2” of the Terrace Houses

The Library of Celsus was the third largest library of the ancient world, holding 12,000 scrolls, and had a double-wall system with a space in between in order to help protect the scrolls from humidity. Completed in AD 135, the two-story front facade is a remarkable example of Roman architecture.

The Library of Celsus

Around the corner we came to the theater, which seated 25,000 spectators. The theater is still in use today for concerts, but the Turks are very careful to keep the audiences small and the music at a dull roar. Previous modern concerts caused some damage to the theater due to the volume of the music and the number of audience members.

The theater in Ephesus seated 25,000 spectators, giving a good clue as to the size and importance of this ancient city.

A short drive took us to the site of the Temple of Artemis. It was several times larger than the Parthenon, and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was destroyed by an arsonist on July 21, 356 B.C. and now all that remains is one lonely column. A short distance away is the Basilica of St. John, now largely in ruins due to an earthquake in the 14th century, and the 700-year old Isa Bey Mosque. It’s interesting to see these different religious buildings in one area, reflecting the region’s change from worshiping pagan Greek gods, to Christianity, to Muslim faith.

We returned to the ship at around 1pm, grabbed some of the ship’s excellent pizza, and watched Kusadasi fade as we headed north to Istanbul.

Heading north through the Aegean Sea

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