18. Ephesus

Ephesus is truly amazing. But just a little of last night.

We had a magic tour of the Hotel Argos last evening before we left. We saw ancient Christian dwellings deep inside the hill, and walked through a tunnel big enough to stand in, which goes for four and a half kilometres. It was used as a means of escape.

We walked about 50 metres through it before exiting to arrive at the minaret below. The small twin hills on the right of the horizon are where it is known to end. (If the photo is not too dark - I have trouble judging it in the hotel room light with the laptop on my knees!)/

Our flight last night at 10pm left from Cappadocia. Our airline tickets were all in Turkish so firstly we were in the wrong line for an earlier flight than ours. After check in, Cally tried to get me to take from the counter the check-in girl's iphone which looked like mine. The girl behind the counter thought that was hilarious.

I lined up for the second security check while Cally went to buy something. No gate on my boarding pass. I sneaked a look over the shoulder of the young man ahead of me, and saw that he also was on our flight.

I asked him politely in the language we have developed - a very slow, clearly enunciated version of English with as few extra words as possible. 'I am same flight as you. Do you know what gate please?'

He turned to me and smiled, but showed not the slightest sign of understanding what I had said. 'Gight?' I made a mental note to improve my vowels.

'No,' I said, 'G.A.T.E'. He still didn't understand, but when he finally understood we were on the same flight, he kindly said, "You follow me ok?'. I was very relieved to say yes.

Somehow we were separated from him during the security check, but once through, to our relief we saw there were only two gates a couple of metres apart anyway, with a queue at one. So we lined up.

The next thing, a voice laughingly called out from behind us 'Why you no follow me?' It turned out that this was the wrong queue, for the earlier flight. He was like a mother hen all the way to the plane. The joys of travelling without the language. And the kindness of our fellow travellers.

We didn't arrive at our hotel in Kusadasi until after 1am and were breakfasted and ready to be picked up at 9 for our tour of Ephesus.

Ephesus was originally a Greek city and then flourished under Roman rule - it moved 4 times during its history. We entered from the top gate and followed the marble streets down the hill past the Roman baths, shops, gymnasium, senatorial amphitheatre, market, the communal latrine, Hadrian's temple, the terrace house of a wealthy Roman on the hillside, the amazing Celsus library, and the amphitheatre.

Archaeological digging began in the 1860's and continues today.

The city visited by tourists now is its third position - it moved once again from here after an earthquake partially destroyed it, and its harbour silted up. The site tourists visit is now 5 kilometres from the sea, but originally it was right on the port.

The Celsus Library was built in honour of a Roman Senator by his son in 110AD, and was large enough to store 12,00 scrolls. Its interior and all the books were destroyed by fire in an earthquake in 262. The facade itself was totally destroyed in a later earthquake in the late Byzantine period. The facade today has been rebuilt during the 1960's and 70s. So impressive.

Hadrian's temple is just as amazing. Built in 118AD, it was partly destroyed in the 4th century. Can you see Medusa in the photo below?

The amphitheatre was constructed in the 1st century and was made bigger and bigger over the centuries. It has a capacity of 24,000 people. Legend has it that St Paul the Apostle preached the gospel here and denounced pagan rituals. Concerts, plays, philosophical discussions and gladiatorial contests were held here. It's still used today.

The communal toilets were a surprise to me - I had read about them, but nothing quite prepares you for a facility where people sit side by side on cold marble, flowing water in a channel in front of them to wash, and a much stronger current flowing beneath them. (Slaves were made to sit on the marble in winter to warm it up before the master sat down). I'm sure my grandchildren would think it very funny. I can't quite bring myself to post the photo, despite the historical significance.

I went into the terrace houses which are still a work in progress under a huge protective roofed building. Different dwelling units with separate entrances were constructed on three terraces. There were shops in front on the street below. They were built during the early Roman imperial period and had water and drainage. Public rooms were highly decorated while kitchens and toilets were simple in style. There was an internal peristyle courtyard, and a luxurious basilica used as a reception area. It is thought that an earthquake stopped habitation here as utensils have been found in situ.

Look at the room below. Amazing isn't it? Wonderful fresco work and amazing mosaic 'rugs'. I wonder if the fresco colours have been brightened up as they seem a bit too bright. Wonder who the original decorator was?

I was as much impressed by the work that has been done to recreate parts of a city which lay beneath metres of soil and the solution of a giant jigsaw puzzle of ruins, as I was by the sophistication of its architecture and its layout.

We also went to Mt Nightingale today to see the place where the Virgin Mary was supposed to have lived in her later years. As with much of history, it seems unclear what is myth and what is truth. In some accounts she didn't ever come here. In others, this was her home. The house itself was declared to be hers because of the vision of an Austrian nun in the 19th century who described carefully where it was. A book was written with the description of the place, and then 'discovered' from these directions and descriptiion.

There is now a small church on the site which has a lovely feeling with olives and fig trees casting deep shade. What I liked most was the faith of the people I saw there. Lighting candles, tying messages to Mary on the wishing wall. Each one a fervent prayer that sons might be married, or marriages be happy, or children made well.

This red rose was flowering in the garden surrounding the little church. To thank you for forgiving spelling mistakes etc. I get a little cross-eyed by bedtime. It's been another lovely day. Thank you for sharing it.