Truth be told, I had barley heard of Ephesus before booking our cruise. I had no idea this ancient Greek city (and later a Roman city) was home to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. I was clueless as to the fact that Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the book of Revelations by the Apostle John. Or that the Gospel of John might have been written here. This city and its ruins sit upon hallowed ground. Ground to which thousands of years of history occurred and subsequently left Turkey with one of the most spectacular outdoor museums in the Northern hemisphere.
As I mentioned before, we ported into Kusadasi with some unseasonable weather. Fog, torrential downpours, and chilly winds greeted us as we made our way off the ship to find our tour guide for the day. Per the suggestion of my good friend, Jessica, D and I booked a tour with Ephesus Deluxe, and they did not disappoint. Granted, the weather made our day in Ephesus a little more complicated (and a lot more muddy), but our tour guide knew exactly where to go and what to see to maximize our short time there. Our first stop was the House of the Virgin Mary just 20 miles northeast of the port in Kusadasi. This house is said to be the home where Jesus' mother, Mary, spent the last days of her life. Although this has never been authenticated as fact, the Roman Catholic Church has recognized it as a shrine to the Virgin Mother. In present day, the house (although not the original structure) is now a sacred site for both Christian an Muslim believers. Inside the small, stone structure are 2 rooms...a kitchen and a bedroom. The interior is kept quiet and simple, fitted only with an altar, candles, and images of Mary. There is also a spring that runs underneath the house that is said to have healing properties. Many believers make pilgrimages to the house and spring each year hoping to be blessed with a healing miracle. After you exit the house, down the stairs to the left are fountains where the spring water can be touched. You can also leave a prayer to the Virgin Mary on the wall beside the spring. Had it not been pouring down rain, we probably would have left one.
After our quick stop at the House of the Virgin Mary, we hopped back in the van and made our way down to the ruins of ancient Ephesus. Ephesus was once one of the biggest cities of the Roman Empire in the times of Christ. Previously a thriving seaport and trade center for the ancient world, Ephesus now lies about 5 miles inland from the Aegean coastline. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), a temple dedicated to the goddess of the hunt, but now only one single column and its foundation remain. The extensive ruins of Ephesus include a gymnasium, large theatre (Odeum Theatre), the Terrace Houses (which I will show you later), and one of my favorite sites, the Library of Celsius (pictured in the next to last photo). As of today, only about 15% of the metropolis has been excavated. As we walked the stone streets, taking in the words of our tour guide, we imagined what life was like back in the 1st century BC. It was fascinating to see remnants of old bathing quarters, Greek messages written in marble, and pieces of ionic columns laying in puddles, seemingly forgotten with the passing of time. At the end of our visit to ancient Ephesus, our tour guide gave us a list of bible verses that mentioned various temples and places we'd just visited. In case any of you are interested in reading more about Ephesus from the words of Paul (such as his first letter to the Corinthians) or Apostle John, the book of Acts (and 1 Corinthians) heavily mentions it. Even though I didn't know much before visiting Ephesus and its ruins, I left with a wealth of knowledge and newfound love of this ancient city. Even the crowds and the rain couldn't damper that.
More from ancient Ephesus coming soon!