Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ephesus, Ancient City, Port of Kusadasi

Kusadasi Turkey, is a resort town on Turkey's Aegan coast, on the Asian continent. The nearest major airport is Izmir and the main industry is tourism. Indeed, Kusadasi is a summer tourist town. During winter, the population is under 100,000, with many empty apartments and shops that are closed. Come summer, the population swells to more than 300,000 (some say more than 500,000).

We were the only ship in port that morning. The port is conveniently located right in the main city.   Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The port gates are a short walk from the ship. Even before you exit the gates, there are many shops, though not all were opened during winter. In the picture, you can see a number of yellow cabs waiting for passengers. You could hire cabs off the street if you wished, especially in winter, when there were few tourists.

We pre-booked a private tour and the guide was waiting for us just we got off the ship, holding a placard with our names. It was a very easy process to meet her. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The highlight of this port would be the ancient city of Ephesus. See this map for Paul's missionary journeys. Paul lived in Ephesus from AD 52 to 54.
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However, our first stop of the day wasn't Ephesus, but the House of Virgin Mary. It is not clearly recorded where the Virgin Mary spent her last days. However, it is reasonable to believe that Mary's last days were spent in Ephesus, under the care of apostle John.

The apostle John was believed to have died in Ephesus, around 100AD. John, the beloved discipline, was the only Apostle that did not die a matyr's death. While nailed to the cross, Jesus entrusted his earthly mother to John.

John 19:26-27 "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

"Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."

The house that we were visiting has a history. Please refer to this website for the description -

In this video, we meet our guide for the day, and proceeded to the House of the Virgin Mary as our first stop on this tour. Today, we had a driver and a licensed tour guide. Therefore, there was plenty of commentary for us.

At the House of the Virgin Mary, it was not crowded at all. We were told, during summer, the lines would be really long. The actual house is not very big. This was the entrance. No photos and videos were allowed inside but you can find some photos of the interior from the Internet. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Roman Catholic Church has never pronounced on the authenticity of the house of Virgin Mary, presumably because of the lack of scientific evidence. However, several Popes have visited the site, including Pope Paul VI (1967), Pope John Paul II (1979) and Pope Benedict XVI (2006).

This would be the place where they conduct the services or prayer services. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We spent about 45 minutes at the Virgin Mary House and surrounding areas. Our next stop would be the highlight of the trip, the ancient city of Ephesus.

Here is the video (first of 3 videos of Ephesus). In this video, we enter the ancient ruins via the Magnesia gate. We were blessed with good weather (the day before it was pouring). Bear in mind this place is completely unsheltered, other than the Roman Terrace Houses that we will visit in Part 2 of the video. Therefore, it would be wise to bring an umbrella.

Ephesus Part 1

The Magnesia Gates entrance into Ephesus. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The site was beautifully kept. Sense of wonderment as I stepped in. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Look at this sign. We learnt a lot about this sign during our visit. Our guide took pains to explain to us what it meant - "Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This video explains it well. Remember, the early church was persecuted. Paul, in Ephesus, faced a very hostile city whose inhabitants mostly worshipped pagan Gods, especially the Artemis (or Diana). This sign was used by Christians to identify with one another.


However, I was subsequently informed that what our guide told us above was likely not to be correct. This symbol, which is commonly found in the Roman Empire, was likely to be just a common Roman game called tabula lusoria.  It is a simple game but it is one that soldiers enjoyed. This link provides some information -

More pictures of the ancient site. Here, they let you wander around freely and touch all the marble columns, if you so wished. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Check out this marble column and the piece of rebar in the middle. This was how the Romans strengthened their columns, using lead rebars. Check out the video where the guide gives a good description. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A tour group passing by. This was winter and at times, there was some congestion. Again, be careful when there are large crowds, especially against petty theft like pickpockets.
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This was nice. The Goddess of Nike. Nike was a goddess that personified victory. She is seen with wings. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

With a walkway like this, you can really have a good idea of how grand this place must have been, 2000 years ago. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Next, we would enter the Roman Terrace Houses. This was where the richest people lived. Getting in to view the terrace houses required a separate ticket, but it was well worth it. Here is the video.

This place was cool. There was a huge shelter protecting the Terrace houses. It looked like excavation work was still going on. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Take note that this site is definitely not disabled friendly. Plenty of steep steps to climb. The metal steps are all very new and sturdy. Take it slow and easy. Admire the Terrace houses along the way. Awesome. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

They even found some grafitti on the walls. The drawings mainly show gladiators, caricatures and animals. The grafitti included names of persons, poems and even declarations of love. Especially interesting is a list goods and necessities of everyday life, including their prices. E.g. Barley 12 denarii, 1/2 ass; Onions 3 asses, entrance to the thermal bath 12 asses. In the Roman currency system, a denarious was a small silver coin, with the value of 10 asses (1 ass is a bronze, later copper coin) Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Just look at how well preserved the walls and flooring of these Terrace houses were. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Once we exited the Terrace Houses, there were good views of the Ephesus site. Take note that we now had to climb down a long flight of stairs which could be slippery when wet, before we got back to the Ephesus ancient city.

Video of the Library of Celsus and the Theatre

Our next stop would be the library of Celsus. From wiki, I learnt that this library was built in honour of Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, hence the name Library of Celsus. Celsus had been consul in 92AD, governor of Asia in 115D, and a wealthy and popular local ciizen. He was Greek, but honoured as both a Greek and Roman in the library itself. Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth. The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus, who was buried beneath the library. It was unusual to be buried within a library or even within city limits, so this was a special honour for Celsus. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This pictures gives you a good sense of how magnificent the library would have been, 2,000 years ago. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

After the library, we went to the famous theater. This photograph (off a signboard) shows how the theatre looked like around 1900, just as the site was being excavated. Hard to imagine at that time that the theatre would have the capacity of 25,000 seats. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Theatre of Ephesus is mentioned in the Bible (Acts 19:23-41), the theatre was the site of the riot of silversmiths who made figures of pagan idols like Artemis (Diana). A silversmith by the name of Demetrius was named to have rallied fellow silversmiths to his cause. They stirred up the people of Ephesus, who were confused, and all rushed to the theatre. Acts 19:34 records the people in the theatre as chanting "Great is the Artemis (Diana) of Ephesus!"

This is the theatre today.
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The Austrians have been heavily involved in the excavation of Ephesus. This is the second of such signs I saw that day. Earlier, the guide told us that the Austrians built the roof over the Terrace Houses too. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Took this picture of a happy cat resting on a broken Roman column. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Overall, it was a very impressive visit to the ancient city of Ephesus. There was a lot to see. We were grateful that the skies held up, though it got cloudy as the morning wore on. We exited Ephesus via the Harbour Gate (recall we entered from the Magnesia Gate) and our next stop would be lunch at a Turkish Restaurant.

Lunch was included in our tour. For lunch, the guide brought us to a restaurant called Agora Restaurant. According to tripadvisor, this restaurant was fairly well reviewed. We didn't have any choices for the lunch. We were served with some starters that included pita bread, side dishes, salads. This was followed by the main which consisted of two types of grilled meats, rice. I noticed many other tourists in the restaurants. Other tour groups (including cab drivers) also brought their passengers here. It looks like the restaurant has tied up with the various tour operators. Overall, I found the food just ok, nothing special.

The place we went to was called Bartok Authentic Looms. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This is a video I took of the experience at the carpet factory. They were literally throwing carpets at us.

To cut the long story short, after the elaborate sales pitch which literally included the sales staff throwing carpets at us. We ended up buying 2 small carpets at US$50 each.

By the time we were done with the carpet store, it was really raining. We went to the ruins of the Temple of Artemis (one of the seven ancient wonders of the world), but due to the rain, the family did not get off the bus. I got down to take a quick look and made a short video before getting back to the mini-bus.

We arrived back in port in good time. We walked around the port area as well as the beachfront. While it was drizzling slightly, it was still fun to explore the place. There were shops selling "Genuine Fake Watches". Oxymoron.

Yes, genuine fakes! I didn't buy any. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Thanks for reading!

Postlude - Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's Founding Prime Minister, passed away on March 23, 2015, age 91.  Singaporeans grieve and mourn the loss of their founding Prime Minister.  May Mr Lee Kuan Yew rest in peace.  Meanwhile, here is photo I saw on the local newspapers, where Mr Lee visited Ephesus in 1991.

Back to our Norwegian Jade Cruise (Greece and Turkey) Landing Page.

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