We drove through Kusadasi, and the city had the look of a pleasant seaside town. Our tour guide talked of the resort properties that people would own here, and some of views were quite spectacular. Outside of Kusadasi were areas that looked run down and were obviously hurting economically. House prices had reportedly dropped as much as 60% recently. Our first stop was the ancient city of Ephesus, one of the seven churches is Asia Minor that is identified in the Book of Revelation and where the Apostle Paul lived from 52 to 54 AD. Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians while in Ephesus, but probably at a later time - more like 57 AD. What seems to be agreed by scholars is that it was written between 53 to 57 AD. It is also possible that the Gospel of John was written in Ephesus.
Our group entered Ephesus by the east entrance, known as either the Magnesia Gate or Upper Gate. When we got off the bus we could feel how much warmer the day had become since we left the port. Without much shade in sight, this was going to be a day spent in the hot sun.
Approximately 30% of the archaeological site at Ephesus has been excavated. That fact amazed us, because based on what we saw, Ephesus had been a huge and affluent city in its day. Ephesus is an amazing place to visit. From the Magnesia Gate we walked past the excavations of a large gymnasium/baths complex, then past a partial excavation of Varius Baths; a traditional Roman baths built into the foot of Mount Panayir. Also built into the foot of Mount Panayir was the neighbouring Odeion - a “small” theatre built in 150 AD that was also used for council meetings. Small, in this case, meant a seating capacity of about 1500. We made our way to the Temple of Domitian, and along the way we saw the evidence of the local ancient hospital and pharmacy. It was near this location that we passed the Heracles Gate at the entrance to the Street of Curates. It was at this point we truly got a sense of the crowd of tourists at Ephesus. This 2nd century BC street slopes downward towards the Library of Celsus and you can get a sense of the view from the photo above. Either side of the 11 metre wide street are the remains of houses, offices, shops, inns and workshops.
The most striking sight in Ephesus is the Library of Celsus - a beautifully reconstructed Roman mausoleum and library originally built in the early 2nd century AD. From this reconstruction one can get a sense of how Ephesus had been in its day. In the same area of the library are the remains of the brothel, the latrines (public toilets) and a large area of terrace houses thought to be where the more affluent residents lived. Running north from the library is Marble Street towards the impressive Great Theatre. It is estimated that this theatre had a capacity of about 25,000. From the seating area of the theatre it was possible to look down along Harbour Street that, not too surprisingly, was the ancient route to the harbour. The tour company put on a small presentation along part of this street to show some of the pomp and ceremony of life in ancient Ephesus under Roman rule. The actors involved had to dodge the occasional clueless tourists wanting to be in photos while the action was going on. We continued north at this point towards the exit of the archaeological site - or more accurately, the main entrance. Our bus was waiting at this location.
We boarded our bus in Ephesus and took about a 20 km trip to our next destination of Magnesia ad Meandrum (Magnesia on the Maeander). Being on the bus brought with it some air conditioned comfort after being out in the hot sun of Ephesus. That was very nice. Settlement at Magnesia dates as far back as the 11th century BC, with the city as found configured today dating back to the 4th century BC. The site as seen today clearly shows that it has been ravaged over time since then. Most of the interesting finds from Magnesia are now on display in some of Europe’s museums and the site itself is in need of a lot of archaeological work to get a real sense of its former glory.
From about the 4th century BC Magnesia was ruled by the Persian until joining Alexander the Great in 334 BC, putting it under his control. What is visible of the remains today is that of the Hellenistic and Roman periods where the city grew significantly in size and stature. As you might imagine, this area is one of the sources of those mysterious stones that can attract or repel each other - and, as you can tell by the name, how we come to know those stones as magnets. The most dominant feature of the site is the remains of the Temple of Artemis Leukophryene, built in the 3 to 2 century BC. One pediment has been reconstructed on the ground, some of its central columns are still standing and the temple outline can bee seen. We could see many column pieces strewn around the site, and under closer inspection, what appeared to be rocks in the ground turned out to be the slightly exposed tip of a column piece or some other such artifact. It is unfortunate that the funding doesn’t readily exist to fully excavate and restore sites such as this one.
Our next stop was Miletus, located near the mouth of the Maeander River. Miletus was first settled in 1400 BC and became the most important of the cities in Ionia until it was destroyed in 499 BC and thus replaced by Ephesus as the most important city in the region. According to Acts 20:17, the Apostle Paul spent time in Miletus on his third missionary journey. This is figured to have happened in 57 AD. He had made at least one other visit here because 2 Timothy 4:20 records that he left his sick companion Trophimus in Miletus. Approaching Miletus, the site is dominated by a large and impressive theatre. This theatre was originally built in the 4th century BC and then was later expended to a seating capacity of 25,000 under the time of Roman Emperor Trajan. Also part of this renovation was the addition of a seating area for emperors, with the space designated by four columns on the corners. Behind the theatre sits the remains of a Byzantine castle. On some of the seats, names were carved into the marble - reserved seating, ancient style. Also visible were angled holes to hold the post of an umbrella to shade the favoured guests from the sun. One other thing we found interesting were the lion paw legs on the edges of the rows. Not far from the theatre sits the extensive remains of The Baths of Faustina. If you read our write up from Rome, you might recall the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina located in the Forum Romanum. Faustina often traveled with her husband emperor Antoninus Pius throughout the Roman Empire, and here in Miletus during his reign in 150 AD she had these baths built. These baths are in good shape, and the combination of the theatre and baths makes this an excellent place to visit.
Following our visit at Miletus we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. The main course was either fish or chicken - which was served, but the remainder of the meal was a buffet. There was a lot of choice, although we couldn’t really recognize a number of the dishes. Even though we couldn’t tell what it all was, we enjoyed the food and the variety. Didyma was our after lunch destination. This turned out to be so impressive.
At Didyma sits the remains of a temple to Apollo. As we first viewed the site from an elevated location it was easy to miss the shear size of the temple. It wasn’t until we walked up the large steps to the temple that the size began to be evident. The temple that remains now dates back to 313 BC, built after Alexander the Great had conquered Miletus in 334 BC and Didyma was re-sanctified and the cult worship of Apollo returned to importance in what was then Hellenistic Greece territory. This version of the temple was built on the same site as a version built before Greek colonization - with some sources dating that original temple as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. The three intact columns stand an impressive 28 metres (60 ft) tall and have a diameter at the base of 1.8 metres (6 ft). To give an idea of scale, these columns stand more than twice the height of the columns of the famous Parthenon in Athens that was built 150 years prior. The Temple of Apollo at Didyma was the largest Greek temple ever conceived. Something very cool about this temple was that it provided archeologists with the answer to how the ancient Greek stone masons consistently created the entasis curves on the columns - the optical refinement of a slight convex curve to make the columns appear straight when viewed from ground level. The radius of curvature for these columns would be something like 1.5 km. So, how’d they do it? The answer comes from a German archeologist who happened to notice faint etchings on a wall of the temple. He had to wait until the sun hit the wall directly, for then it revealed a column template etched into the wall. The height of the column template was scaled down by a factor of 16, but the vertical dimensions of the column were full size. With this template, the radius was manageable and the stone masons could use a scribing tool to measure and then repeatedly reproduce the diameter at any point of the column. This discovery was made because the temple construction at Didyma was never completed. If it had been finished, the walls would have been polished and the entasis column template would have disappeared just like it had on any other classical Greek temple. The site was the target of a massive earthquake in the 15th century which damaged much of the temple. Many of the stones still sit where the earthquake left them. Our guide pointed out the symbols that the Christians merchants would have made on the marble floor to identify themselves. We saw evidence of that sign in a number of places. We could go on about the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, but suffice to say that this site is amazing and we had a wonderful time walking around the ruins. Well worth the visit.
The formal part of our tour concluded with another carpet demonstration back in the city of Kusadasi. Frankly, we could have done without this one - but the style of the carpets were slightly different than the ones we had seen in Istanbul. The high pressure sales tactics at the end of the demonstration was just the same and we made the mistake of commenting with each other on one particularly attractive carpet as we were walking out. It took us a few minutes then to extricate ourselves from the swarm of salesmen. We weren't in the market for a carpet and we weren’t interested, but it was easy to see how someone could get talked into such a purchase. The carpet shop was located in Kusadasi’s downtown shopping district flanked by its Main Bazaar. We parted with the tour guide and group at this point and we enjoyed walking down the broad shopping street. It was here that we found a wonderful shop to purchase some excellent Turkish Delight. We had seen it on sale in many places previously in Istanbul and our all of the places we had been earlier this day, but we weren’t confident of the quality. In a shop that just sold confectionery, we found our spot here in Kusadasi. We tasted some while in the shop, then bought some to have during the remainder of our vacation and some to take home with us. Wonderful stuff. We wandered around the shopping area and then made our way back to the ship at about 7:30pm.
We went to the Grand Epernay Dining Room for dinner at our regular dinner time of 8:45pm. We both selected a rather nice lamb shank for our main course this evening. After dinner our plan was to purchase a pair of earrings from on board jewelry designer John Kennedy. Gary had spoken to John about his jewelry and in particular one pair of earrings after our day in Istanbul, and we decided to head to the shop this night to get them. We were a bit taken aback as we entered the shop because the display had been rearranged and the earring we were about to buy were gone. It turned out that they hadn’t been sold, but rather they were committed for use in a fashion show scheduled for the following day - which was the second day at sea. John went on to tell us that he had forgotten that these were the ones selected, and the script for the show was written, so sorry, yadda yadda yadda. The promise was they’d be waiting, duly cleaned after the fashion show. This was June 21st, the Summer Solstice - on Celebrity Solstice: a good excuse for a party. The party in question was the “Summer Solstice Sizzle Party” on the Pool Deck. It was good festive atmosphere and the Mojitos were flowing. We returned to our room at about midnight to watch the ship’s departure from Kusadasi from our balcony.
We really enjoyed this port of call - from Ephesus to Magnesia to Miletus to Didyma and then finally the port city of Kusadasi itself. The day had been full and at the end of it we were now tired - and looking forward to the next day as a relaxing day at sea.
WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.