Tom and Linda's 2011 Europe Trip

Jump to Index

Scientific American Cruise: Ephesus

Tuesday, 11 October: Kuşadası, Turkey

Docked back in Turkey again, next to another, much larger HAL ship and behind a smaller one.

Kuşadası is the port that gives access to Ephesus, one of the best-preserved ancient ruins in the western world.

Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Bible's Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils. It is also the site of a large gladiators' graveyard.

In fact, we had lots of cruise ship company here.


We're in Turkey, so my Rick Steves guides to Italy and Greece don't help much, and I didn't find much online to guide us to and around Ephesus. We had decided to go it on our own again, but this time things were a bit more complicated, so we stopped at a newsstand near the port building to look for a guide book of some sort.

Post cards were 5 for a euro, 4 for a dollar - pretty close to the exchange rate, and simple for them. Guides books in a choice of a dozen languages or so. German was fairly common.

The one I bought turned out to be not so good - poorly organized and clearly written by a non-native English speaker. Maybe even computer-translated. It didn't help much and I didn't keep it after the trip.

Looking for one of the little taxi-buses that Rick recommended.

They weren't easy for us to find, but they did seem to be the right way to get out to the site, which is about 30 miles away.

Finally on the van to Efes (Ephesus). 10TL fare to a bus stop on the main highway.

The road was lined with orchards ready for harvest - looks delicious!

The bus stop was at the bottom of a fairly long road that led to the site, so we had a bit of a hike.

But the hike led us past ruins that had not yet been inlcuded in the tourist site. A little taste of things to come.

Other walkers stopped for pictures too.

Ruins have been found in Ephesus dating back to the 15th century BC, and there are many legends of its founding. It is credited to Athenian prince Androklus, who became king of Ionia in 10th c. BC. It survived many wars, was sometimes independent and sometimes under the rule of others, including Persians, Greeks and Romans. It moved several times due to silting of the river that made it a port, and was a center of art and learning.

The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD, then sacked by Arabs several times in the next century. The city's importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River, and it was a small village when it was taken by the Turks in the 11th century AC.

Up at the official parking lot where the tour buses parked, we found alot of standing water and a bit of a mess.

On the way to the entrance there was a mall. Not quite what we expected. Through this, down to a ticket booth and turnstiles, and there it was.

Almost immediately inside was the Great Theater, with multiple tiers of seats and a complex of rooms underneath. It seats some 25,000 people.

This is where the Apostle Paul adressed the Ephesians and got shouted out of town. The town drew visitors to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and they weren't much in the mood for a new religion. So Paul wrote them a letter instead.

The cranes are there for ongoing cleanup and restoration, and the foreground is apparently storage for the parts they have yet to place.

Signage at the site was actually pretty good, making up for what my guide book lacked. Explanatory signs were in Turkish, English and German.

This restoration is being undertaken by the Austrian Archeological Institute. It's quite an amazing place, and will be moreso as work progresses.

These columns were solid marble, not the facades we saw in Pompeii. Huge, beautiful blocks of pink-veined loveliness from a nearby quarry, hauled here using muscle power. Things are so much easier today, but civic design hasn't changed much.

Some of the columns were in an unfinished state, so construction was clearly ongoing when the earthquake hit.

It was sprinkling a bit and the umbrellas came out. The site was fairly crowded, but they didn't seem to care where people climbed. The road away from the Theater was lined with partially reconstructed columns.

The site is surrounded by hills that cover other parts of the ancient city. They think the population of the Ephesus was about 250,000 and the site is only 5-10% excavated! Some of it is under the nearby town of Selçuk.

OK, just to prove we were really there.

Down the road, through the arches of Hadrian's Gate, into the civic agora. There was a separate commercial agora.

The narrow two-story building on the right is the facade of the Library.

This sign stands in front of the Library, but talks about Hadrian's Gate, shown in the photo above.

Built in the 2nd c. AC, the 3-story gate includes figures of legendary founder Androklus and his dog, has separate passages for vehicles and pedestrians, and included water basins.

And here it is - the grand facade of the Library of Celsus, with a few reconstructed statues in the niches.

It's a fairly shallow building, but with hollow walls that allowed for some control over temperature and humidity inside.

A library like this certainly speaks to a reverence for art and education!

Huge solid marble columns and ornate stonework dwarf even a large modern person. They must have been meant to overwhelm.

From inside the Library, restored inscriptions and a view of the unexcavated hillside. More treasures await.

We made our way through the crowds and on up the repaved hill street, finding wonders along the way.

The wide streets are and were paved in marble with sewers running underneath.

The archeologists seem to have started the excavation with this main street, and are working their way up and out from here.

As a result, there are columns lining the street and several fronts of buildings partly rebuilt, giving the visitor an indication of public life but not much of private life.

The public toilet has marble seats for about 45, a sophisticated drainage system, and a platform in the center for the musicians. Probably built by Constantine when he rebuilt the city in 4th c. AC.

What a refined way to take care of your business. I suspect the smell was unavoidable, and I wonder if this was unisex. I hope those musicians got paid well!

The cats in the ruins were quite friendly, and I got a bit of a feline fix. Missing mine.


Another grand facade reconstructed on the street drew our attention.

The grand facade turned out to be the entrance to the Temple of Hadrian, most of which is still under the hill behind.

Of course, many finds from here are now housed in museums, notably in nearby Selçuk and in Vienna.

The carvings were in amazing condition, and I was impressed that all the pieces of this arch had been found and put in place.

That modern wall behind me on the left hides a new excavation of private houses. They had a separate admission charge for this area, but it was not very far along and we didn't go in.

But there were drawings of the houses on a sign in front, and one of them was clearly quite large and held by a man with political influence who was able to push his neighbors around.

Arches partially reconstructed, using just bases and crowns and a bit of column in between.

Other columns were more completely rebuilt. Interesting that they alternated ionic and corinthian styles here.

Visitors were allowed to clamber around pretty much anywhere we wanted in the site.

A long walk away from that main street, we found these ruins of the cathedral where, in 431, the First Council of Ephesus determined that Mary was the Mother of God.

There is much Christian history in this place, including the tomb of John the Apostle in the Basilica of Saint John. The house where Mary lived out her last years (according to the Catholic Church) was a short distance from here.

Ephesus offered many amazing sights, and I could have spent much more time there. But my feet and our time didn't allow that.

On our way out we stopped at a cafe in that mall outside the entrance and had a strange little meal served by surly people. I think they were hoping for a rest in their non-rush period and we were interrupting.

We sat at the little bus stop in the parking lot, got a bus to Selçuk, then one back to Kuşadası, walked back down to the harbor and back on board with a few minutes to spare. There were a few bikes along the way.


So we had a successful self-guided tour, even with complications. Spent a few TL along the way, although there was really no problem spending either Euros or US$. They just gave you change in TL.

Back in our cabin we found this little guy waiting for us. Nice laugh at the end of a long day. Thank you, cabin stewards.


Next stop: Piraeus, the port of Athens.


1 Getting There
6 Olympia
11 Ephesus
16 The Cinque Terre
2 Sorrento
7 Santorini (Thira)
12 Athens
17 Pisa & Sienna
3 Pompeii & Herculanium
8 Istanbul
13 Venezia
18 Tuscany
4 The Amalfi Coast
9 Varna & Odessa
14 Padua & Verona
19 Montepulciano
5 Sci-Am Cruise
10 Yalta
15 Firenze
20 Rome & Home

Email Tom:
Email Linda: