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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Ephesus & Izmir

After packing up the morning in Denizli we took the almost 3 hour drive to Ephesus. We stopped for a car wash, a new Turkish experience, and continued on to Ephesus. However, Connor fell asleep with only 40 minutes left of our drive, so we decided to go to House of Mary first because it would extend our drive a bit to give him a little extra time to sleep. When we drove up to both places there was a Jandarma checkpoint (military unit dealing with people),and at the top of the hill, near the site there were also some officers stationed, including one who was armed. We aren't sure exactly why they are stationed here, but likely it is because it is a popular tourist attraction, so it acts as a deterrent to terrorists.

House of Mary

The house of Mary was believed to be the last place that Mother Mary lived, as the Apostle John was known to be in Ephesus and was buried here. (His tomb was part of St. John Basilica). Because Christians were being persecuted at the time when John would have come to Ephesus, it is likely he kept Mary in this house in the hills a ways away from the town. The actual house was last renovated in the 1950’s - so it didn’t have a really ‘old’ feel to it. Once you went in the house it had a simple altar inside. There were signs saying you needed to be dressed appropriately because it was a place of worship - but I was still allowed to enter with my shorts and sleeveless shirt. Outside the house there was a ‘shrine’ where people put their requests to Mary (I’m assuming, but I’m not Catholic) and some photos of those who had passed away.

Ancient Ruins of Ephesus

We proceeded to drive down the hill to the Ephesus and researched this time which gate was the preferred entrance (unlike in Hierapolis). We found the Magnesian gate allowed us to walk down hill as you started to enter into the ruins. Although, it just meant we had to walk uphill at the end :-) One of the things I wish we would have done in hindsight was grab one of the book guides (20 TL) from the vendors outside the gates, as there was no map or information included with entry. Ephesus was originally founded in 11th century BC and underwent many rulings by different groups, such as the Greek and Romans. My personal particular interest in Ephesus was the in the first century AD when St. Paul and St. John were in Ephesus. The book of Ephesians in the Bible is Paul’s letter to them. Ephesus is also mentioned in other parts of the Bible, including Acts, as it was one of the 4 major cities of the Roman Empire.

Odeion Theatre

The first site we saw was the Odeion theatre, which was used as a house of government during the time of the city.

We then proceeded down the street that would have been the main thoroughfare at the time, and down to the hillside houses.

Ephesus Hillside Houses

The hillside houses were an extra 20 TL charge, but I found it well worth it and it was interesting to see them working on excavating the old houses. These spaces were shared by several families, but the most amazing part to me was seeing some of the original art and mosaics that would have been part of those families’ houses at that time.

Library of Celsus

At the end of the street was the Library of Celsus, which was amazing to look at. It held all the important scrolls at the time and some of the statues on the outside have been found and placed next to the amazing columns.

Lower Agora

As you proceeded to the right of the library we came to the Lower Agora - this was the main marketplace of Ephesus and where items from the harbour would be brought and sold. I also read while the Apostle Paul lived in Ephesus for a 2.5 year period he would have sold tents in this commercial district to make a living. The kids also used it as a playground of sorts. ;-)

Ephesus Stadium

One of the last stops we made was the Stadium. It was used for concerts and plays, as well as religious and political discussions. There was also a riot against the Apostle Paul right in this stadium that is recorded in Acts 19:23-41. There was a local silversmith Demetrius who was making silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, because Paul had been turning many people to Christianity, he felt his business being threatened. He gathered many local people and they held an assembly to speak out against Paul.

We definitely could have used some more time at Ephesus. I would have been interested in seeing the St. John Basilica where the Apostle John’s tomb is located. As well as the Church of the Virgin Mary, where supposedly there were some major meetings held here regarding the early church. There is also the prison where the Apostle Paul spent some time, but that isn’t accessible to the public. However, the kids were losing interest and getting crabby because it was time to eat. So unfortunately we had to miss out on the last few places.

We ended up eating at a cool little kebab restaurant; it was like eating in the garden and you could see the train go past, which entertained Connor quite a bit.

On the Road to Izmir

We arrived in Izmir that evening around dusk and there was quite a bit of traffic. Along our drive we even discovered a new design of stoplights where the entire pole lights up in the appropriate color.

However, we ran into some navigation trouble. What could have taken us about 45 minutes, ended up taking about an hour and half as the streets were a little difficult to navigate. They had two - 2 lanes of traffic headed one way, but there was a median in the middle of the 4 lanes. So if you had to make a turn off the road you had to be on the correct side of the median, which made it a bit more tricky. However, we got to the Piano Hotel eventually and got settled in for the night. It was a hotel room with a bunk bed and single bed, so in all honestly it was a little tight, but it was just 1 night.

Kemeralti - Historical District of Izmir

We first visited Kemeralti, the historical market district of Izmir. The toughest part was just navigating the one-way single lane streets around the market to try to find a parking spot. But eventually we found one and headed into the market. It was a Saturday morning and the market was abuzz. It was quite lively with locals doing their shopping and we saw every kind of good for sell there. We had some lunch and even got some Turkish candy made for 5 TL from the Turkish candy man while we were exploring.

Ancient City of Smyrna - Agora

As we explored the market it was all within the same area of some of the other main sights of Izmir. We went to visit the Agora, part of an ancient city of Smyrna. The coolest part about that sight was that you could go to the basement level and see their still water system, which still functions today.

Izmir Clock Tower & Square + Harbour

We also head to the Izmir clock tower - where the kids had a blast feeding and chasing the pigeons. For 1 TL per cup of bird food, it was basically free entertainment.

Across the street was the harbour, so we also headed there for some fresh ocean air. Even though we were in Izmir for only a 5 hours that day I felt like we got a good feel of things there!

The rest of the afternoon was spent going to the airport to catch our flight to Cappadocia, which was luckily pretty uneventful. However, we did come across our first Starbucks in the Izmir Airport. Stay tuned for some exciting stuff in Cappadocia!


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