Ephesus:Kusadasi:Turkey – Ready to time travel?
Imagine yourself strolling down the columned streets of a city that pre-dates Christianity. You can actually walk through a city that was ancient during the life of Christ. From the lush Greek Isle of Samos you can ferry across the starling blue Aegean Sea to the port of Kusadasi in Turkey, taking a journey that spans two millennia. The port of Kusadasi is swarming with aggressive merchants, the warm air is laden with spicy smells, and taxi drivers crowd the ferry exit eager to take you to Ephesus, only twenty minutes and a thousand years away.
Ephesus was ancient when St. Paul preached in the still functioning theater. The original bridge between Europe and Asia, Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire and reputedly, where the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John spent their last days.
Samos is a lush island of archeological remains, sweet local wines, and frequent ferries that crowns the northeast Aegean Sea. Aesop of fable fame and Pythagoras were native sons of this palm and pine forested island. Olympic Airlines serves the island with four daily flights to Athens. With even the tropical flower clad swank hotels inexpensive by Western European standards, Samos Town is a superlative destination to decompress after a few weeks of frantic traveling. The port is suitably picturesque and lined with cafes well suited to while away the hours. The clusters of tourist shops offer the ubiquitous worry beads and Greek key design jewelry.
The best value on the island is the Restaurant Christos located on Saint Nicholas Square, telephone 24792. Enormous servings of Greek specialties worthy of the gods are priced at three or four dollars (depending on the current exchange rate.) The restaurant alone is worth a stay on Samos. From the center of the square you’ll spot the restaurant in the corner, outdoor seating beneath a vine covered trellis is available for those comfortable dining in the company of the ever-present Greek cats. Indoor seating is also available. If the English-speaking staff are not sufficient to insure your comfort with Greek cuisine, the cook will be delighted to show you the dishes and allow you to choose what you’d like. The house wine is inexpensive and pleasantly dry for an island famous for sweet vintages.
Full of triropita and moussaka, after an inexpensive night’s sleep, you’re ready to catch the ferry for Ephesus. At the end of the ferry dock you can check with Samos Tours, telephone 27715, or International Student Travel Agency telephone 23 605 for day trips to Ephesus. Most ticket agencies open from 8:30 to 2:30 and close for a few hours re-opening from 5 PM until late in the evening. Ferries leave every morning for the short trip across the smooth Aegean Sea to Turkey. The crossing is seductive—the vivid sea is as smooth as glass; tiny islands rise above the cobalt sea. Upon disembarking at the port of Kusadasi, you will attract a horde of street vendors offering perfume, scarves, and various pseudo duty free items.
Resolutely ignore them and make your way to the currency exchange booth. Change only a small amount of money—many restaurants and shopkeepers prefer American, British, or German currency. It is quite difficult to change excess Turkish lire once you leave Turkey.
The historic port city of Ephesus is now ten miles inland. The road twists and turns around hills offering staggering views of the sea. Your journey will continue through flat, infertile land where only scrub and weeds grow. The land is so heavy with salt that anecdotal reports indicate it will be centuries before it can be farmed.
The parking lot at the archeological site is peopled with juice vendors and souvenir salesmen. The Turkish practice of aggressive salesmanship mandates that you keep your eyes firmly forward unless you are interested in the wares. Don’t be surprised if a vendor offers to shake your hand and doesn’t easily relinquish it. The last available toilet is close to the entrance.
Ferry tickets to Kudasi cost around fifteen dollars round trip. Ferry tickets combined with transportation to Ephesus, admission, and guide services cost about forty-five dollars per person. British citizens and US must pay a separate port tax of twenty dollars. If you plan to stay over night in Kudasi, you will have to pay the twenty dollar port fee upon arrival and the again the day you depart.
Tour travelers will be shepherded off their boat into coaches that will take them to Ephesus. Alternatively, you can arrange to take a taxi from the port to the archeological site, a rather expensive option or weave your way through the aggressive shopkeepers of Kusadasi to the bus station. From the Kusadais bus station to Ephesus, you’ll take the bus to Selcuk. From the Selcuk rain station take the bus—called a dolmus towards Kusadasi, tell the driver you want off at the first Tusan Motel, there are two of them. From there, a taxi to Ephesus will cost seven dollars. With the considerable inconvenience of this route it is really only recommended for obsessed archeological buffs who wish to visit the museum in Seluck as well as the site at Ephesus.
Between site admission at around five dollars, two taxi fares, and four bus fares, the savings over taking a group tour are somewhat negligible. In addition to access to the Ephesus museum and the House of the Virgin Mary in Seluck independent travelers do have the advantage of spending as much time as they like at the huge site that is open from 8:30 until 6.
Upon entering the archeological site, the past rises from the stones in greeting. Little imagination is required to see exactly how the residents of Ephesus lived centuries ago, the streets, stores, residences, and entertainment facilities are remarkably intact. The crowds of tourists add to the ambiance—Ephesus is still a busy city.
Legend has it that the Delphic oracle dictated the design of Ephesus. Entering at the main gate is a direct route to the city center of Arcadian Street a marble colonnaded avenue that is the precursor of the main tourist drag in Kusadasi—it was to Arcadian Street that the citizens of Ephesus gravitated to shop, make business deals and exchange gossip. At the far end of the street is a magnificent view of the Grand Theater. Still in use today for classical music concerts the Grand Theater seats 25,000. Up until the mid 80s the theater hosted popular music concerts—a Sting concert apparently caused some damage to the structure and only soft music is booked into the facility now. It is here that Paul preached. Check out the marvelous acoustics as you walk around the theater.
In front of theater is the Street of Curetes. Look down one of the small holes in the road to view the ancient sewer system. Nearby you will find the Commercial Agora, in the center of the square stood a large sundial and water clock. Adjacent to the Agora is one of the world’s oldest surviving public toilets. The toilet was used not merely to answer nature’s call but as a gathering place for the poorer men of the city. If you are part of a guided tour, your guide will explain how ancient dress provided a bit of modesty to people using the enormous public toilet. In the toilet you can see part of the elaborate under floor heating system.
The incredible wealth of this ancient city is illustrated by the elaborately carved marble faade of the Library of Celsus. This mammoth building stands as a testament to the level of civilization enjoyed by the citizens of Ephesus over two thousand years ago. The vast two-story front gives an indication of the size of the library and the central place it held in the daily life of the city. From the library, a secret passage leads to the brothel. The stature of Priapus displayed in the Ephesus museum in Selcuk was found near the brothel site. In the pavement outside the library is the world’s first known commercial advertisement; a pictograph of a beautiful woman, a foot demonstrating the proper direction to the brothel and a heart survive showing the oldest advertisement still in existence for the oldest profession.
Near the library, recent evacuations have unearthed a multifamily apartment dwelling showing the spacious rooms and amenities enjoyed by the citizens. The large rooms and plumbing seem similar to residences in modern cities.
Uphill from the Library are the ruins of the Temple of Hadrian. Examine the frieze on the marble archway, which depicts the creation of the city of Ephesus. As you exit the site, you will pass the town hall, the House of Councils, and the upper baths. Upon reentry into the modern world, vendors will swarm around you offering scarves, cold drinks, and a variety of souvenirs. From the shops of the ancient Roman Empire to the soda salesmen of today the journey is a few steps and two thousand years.
Whether you return across the blue water of the Aegean to Samos, stay overnight in Selcuk to visit the House of the Virgin Mary, or indulge yourself in the busy bazaars of Kusadasi, you’ve time-traveled to Ephesus.