Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ephesus: wonders of antiquity in beautifully preserved Turkish town


Ephesus and its wondrous buildings and ruins attract a  worldwide collection of history minded tourists.
The foundations of Ephesus are beautiful against the hillside.

THERE'S SOMETHING life altering about a stroll around Ephesus on the coast of Turkey.
This ancient town, a wonder of the world, is thrilling because of its history and beauty.
I've visited five times, and it never loses its magic and sense of wonder.
From the moment you board an air-conditioned motorcoach and leave behind the colorful town of Kusadasi, you're bound for another world. Olive and citrus trees scent the air as you travel 45 minutes through the verdant countryside along a hilly drive.  The first building you see is a foundation.  Many believe it is the house of Virgin Mary, where the Blessed Virgin is reputed to have spent the last years of her life.
A tour of Ephesus for Cookie includes a leisurely walk through ruins.
Ephesus was likely settled by female warriors with artistic sensibility.

SO EPHESUS goes back much farther than the days of Christ.  It was inhabited from the end of the Bronze Age onwards, but the location was changed owing to floods and the whims of various rulers.   Located three kilometers southwest of present-day Selcuk in Izmir Province, Turkey, Greeks settled here in 10th Century BC. Many believe Ephesus was founded by a tribe of Amazons, ferocious female warriors. The double-ax of the mother goddess which adorned the palace at Knossos, Crete, is said to have originated in Ephesus.The city's early inhabitants were likely scholars and descendants of the Kingdom of Arzawa, or "city of the Mother Goddess."  We took a two-hour tour, as many millions have done, including several popes.  In fact, Ephesus was newly "discovered" after the travels of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II in November of 2006. Pope Benedictus the 16th paid an official visit to the House of the Virgin Mary in 2007 stopping outside at the Fountain of Our Lady, which provides the faithful water from the holy foundation.
WE TOOK a two-hour walking tour of this magnificent, open-air archeological museum that is Ephesus, past the Magnesia Gate, entering the administrative section of ancient Ephesus, one of the most magnificent excavations in the world.
See the Odeon, the Fountain of Trajan, the steam baths of Scholastika, the temple of Hadrian and the impressive library of Celsus. The library is adorned with columns and statues. The Grand Theater, where St. Paul preached, is one of the largest theaters in antiquity with a capacity of 24,000 seats.
Centuries of feet have trod the cobblestone and pavement.
Above, the acoustically perfect theater.
Beautifully preserved buildings
offer a glimpse into past times.
Walk through the Arcadian Way, where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra once rode in procession.The acoustics of this theater are justifiably famous. You can hear someone speaking from the stage in the last row. As cats lazed and strutted, and posed on the sculptures, our guide told us about how St. Paul preached to the Ephesians from this stage and was ultimately arrested and tried for his beliefs.
Cats are a constant presence in Ephesus. Here, one enjoys the sunshine.

 AFTER OUR  Ephesus visit, we stopped at the Ephesus park, a themed re-creation of the city of Ephesus with shopping, restaurants and interactive experiences.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, and were entertained by gladiators and their courtesans in a lively interactive show. (We could cheer on our favorite hero, in a charming, staged contest.)

Cookie and Keller stop to smell the roses, in Provence.
Remember to stop and smell the roses, as the cliche goes.  It's important to plan for a trip, to get the reservations secured, to have hotels, plays and sidetrips lined up. But there's a place for spontaneity, too.  So be prepared to take the road less traveled.  We're all about travel tips with a sense of adventure and an eye out for fun. Visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com

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