All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. Martin Buber
Turkey! Just hearing the name of this far-off country has your mind’s eye conjuring up an exotic land of mystery. The unknown…the legendary…the very foreign nature of this country beckons the adventurous traveler within. Whether you’re exploring epic historical locations or living it up in modern towns humming with energy, a visit to Turkey is like taking a magic carpet ride – so come along with us on visits to two special Turkish destinations!
Put plainly, the archeological site of Ephesus is nothing short of spectacular. Your first view of the ruins of this ancient city will thrill and humble you at the same time. The site is sweeping and impressive – this city of antiquity unfolds before you as far as your eye can see. It’s hard to imagine that 85% of the city is still unearthed, beguiling the mind with the mystery of treasures which might still lie beneath the ground.
The history of Ephesus is extraordinary – over the centuries, three civilizations have existed here. In its heyday as a thriving Greek metropolis in 350-250 BC, Ephesus was most famous as the home of the Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today while much of the gigantic marble Temple has been destroyed, you can still see its altar and marvel that anything survives of this seminal structure.
After a turbulent period of conquest, Ephesus became a Roman city and reached its peak in the 1st and 2nd century AD, becoming the largest and most influential city in the empire after Rome. It was the happening place to be – and Greeks, Romans and Jews made the bustling port of Ephesus their home, as did many of the founders of the early Christian Church, and according to tradition, Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Imagine what it would be like to see the ruins of New York City 2,000 years from now. That’s what it’s like to visit the great metropolis of Ephesus. Today, Ephesus remains one of the most beautifully preserved archeological sites in the world. It’s easy to picture the city as it was – wander through its streets and the city comes to life before your very eyes.
Fall under the spell of Ephesus as you literally walk through history. Down one street, you’ll notice a stone bearing the Greek image of a caduceus, the classic symbol of medicine. With its serpent entwined rod with wings, its presence indicates this to be the location of a healer or medical facility. In the same vicinity, you can also see the first known street advertisement in history – drawings showing the direction to the brothel.
The lifestyles of the rich and famous people of Ephesus are on glorious display in the exquisite terrace houses. Here, intricate floor mosaics, marbled art, preserved frescoed walls, indoor plumbing and under-floor heating are evidence that the wealthy residents of this venerable city liked the good things in life, and had plenty of them!
Unquestionably, the Library of Celsus is the capstone of these stately ruins. Imposing and beautiful in its symmetry, it presides majestically over the rest of the ruins of the city. Built in 123 AD, it was the third largest library in the ancient world, after Alexandria and Pergamum. The Library is the perfect spot for pictures – standing under the mammoth pillars and towering archways of this edifice will make you feel very young and very small.
Stroll down the avenue which was once a stylish shopping promenade – there are not too many places in the world where you can you walk on the original marble streets that existed centuries ago – but this is one of them. Head past massive fountains to The Temple of Hadrian and its famous archway bearing the unmistakable image of the snake-headed Medusa. Nearby, the public stone bench toilets are lined up side by side in the open air, with no ceilings and no partitions between them, providing a lot of levity as today’s visitors get a mental picture of the Ephesians doing their business for all to see.
Last but not least, don’t miss the knockout sight of the Great Theater of Ephesus. Dramatic in its grandeur, this amphitheater was the largest of its time, holding up to 25,000 people. The site of concerts and plays, the amphitheater was also the venue for gladiator and animal fights, religious and political gatherings as well as philosophical discussions. The theater is world renowned as the place where St. Paul addressed the crowds, famously causing a riot big and bad enough to go down in the annals of history.
Travelers consistently vote Ephesus to be one of the most splendid destinations in the world. Whether you spend a few hours here or indulge in a full day, you’ll come away with an appreciation of this great and noble civilization, and the archaeologists who have preserved it for us to enjoy.
A short drive from Ephesus and nestled against the turquoise blue Aegean coast of Turkey is the modern resort town of Kusadasi. A mecca for shoppers, Kusadasi may put you on sight and sound overload – but what a wonderful overload it is!
In Kusadasi, stroll the charming tree lined pedestrian boulevards brimming with shops and cafes. No visit to this thriving port town is complete without a stop to savor a kebab – roasted lamb on a stick – or maybe a Turkish coffee. Once fortified, you’ll be ready to dive into Kusadasi’s many shops!
One of the most interesting things to do in Kusadasi is to visit a Turkish silk rug store. Choose a store where you can be part of an absolutely fascinating demonstration where artisans literally obtain and spin silk from the silk cocoons as you watch. Nearby, you can observe as a woman weaves that thread into a carpet. Next, local hospitality is on display as you’re served apple tea and invited to feast your eyes (and feet) on a seemingly endless variety of magnificent Turkish carpets. Vibrant colors and patterns dazzle and the luxurious softness is a treat to the senses. Purchasing a Turkish carpet is a wonderful way to bring something exotic from a foreign land into your own home, and of course, eager salesmen are always willing to give you a “very special price!”
In addition to rugs, this area is famous for its gorgeous Zultanite jewelry. Zultanite, a precious gemstone mined exclusively in Turkey, takes on this magical land’s attributes, as its color wondrously changes from green to amber to cocoa, depending upon the light. Still other shops are chock-full of handsome jackets made from “butter leather”, guaranteed to be the softest, most sensuous leather you’ll ever wear.
Whatever you take home with you from Turkey – whether it be a photograph of a breathtaking archeological site or a luxurious silk rug, you’re sure to have memories of a visit to one of the most mesmerizing places on earth.