Exploring Ephesian history

I thank god everyday that he gave me the ability to sleep on anything that moves (well most things anyway). I boarded my bus to Kuşadası last night, wondering how on earth I would survive the 10 hour bus ride ahead of me and fell asleep before I could come up with an answer. When I woke up, 8 hours later, we had stopped somewhere along some fields. I initially thought that the driver had gone on an urgent loo break – people do get desperate sometimes and we had been on the road for quite a long time. It is only when we made our next stop at a town called Nazilli that we were told that there was something wrong with our bus and immediate repairs had to be done.

By now, I’ve learned to stop asking the “why always me?” questions and to just suck it up and deal with it. Two hours later we were back on the road but we had barely left the town that we made yet another stop. This time it was definite, we weren’t going to make it any further. After waiting for what felt like hours, we were transferred to another bus heading to Aydin. Stranded along with a handful of passengers, we waited for our next ride which would hopefully take us further than the next town. After some heated exchange between some passengers and the bus company operators – after 10 hours on the road, we were all very hungry and cranky – we were given a minibus which would take us all to where we needed to be.

Finally in Kuşadası, I definitely felt relieved to see N. At the station bearing gifts – breakfast. She had reached here yesterday afternoon after spending a week in Bodrum and had been waiting for me so we could start on our mini last-minute adventure. Not wanting to lose any more time, we hopped on a dolmuş heading for Efes (Ephesus) instead of going to the hotel to leave my things – I’m glad I’m slowly learning to travel light even though my bad knee is complaining a bit about the stress I’ve put it through all day.

The dolmuş dropped us at the Efes turn-off by the taxi stand, about 20 minutes from the lower gate. We had initially planned to trek the whole thing but got offered to share a taxi to go to Meryemana (Mary’s House) and the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers before being dropped at the upper gate where we could walk downhill to the lower gate at a bargain price.

The Grotto of the Seven Sleepers is believed to be the cave where seven legendary Christians persecuted by Emperor Decius found refuge in and which was sealed by the same Emperor when they fell asleep. This event has been proclaimed a miracle and created a Byzantine pilgrimage cult which would go on for about a 1000 years. The seven sleepers are said to have been buried in their caves when they died.

Inside the chapel of Meryemana
Inside the chapel of Meryemana

It is said that St John brought the Virgin Mary to Efes near the end of her life and believed to be at Meryemana, where ruined house foundations have been discovered. Atop the foundations now, a chapel has been built which welcomes both pilgrims and tourists. Devouts can be seen praying and paying their respects in the chapel after which they’re encouraged to light candles in the yard outside.

Finally we were dropped at the main site of Efes outside of which are several shops selling souvenirs and necessities such as water and sunscreen – overpriced. I got myself a nice straw hat for a bargain. Most of the individual ruins have English descriptions but it was still quite hard to make out what was what at times. We found ourselves many a times eavesdropping on the tour guides to be able to understand.

The Library of Celsus
The Library of Celsus
The 5000 seats Odeon
The 5000 seats Odeon

We then headed to Selcuk, a provincial town north of Kuşadası and Efes, where St John’s Basilica and the Temple of Artemis is found. The basilica was built by a Emperor Justinian who was inspired by St John’s relics found on the site. St. John is believed to have written his gospel on those same hills were the Basilica is now found. Further up is the Ayasuluk Fortress whose settlements go back to the Neolithic age, way before the Ephesians came to the area. We skipped it because we couldn’t bear the thought of going uphill anymore. Instead we headed off to see the Temple of Artemis, stopping at Isabey Cami on the way.

The tomb of St John
The tomb of St John

All that is left of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a reconstructed pillar in the middle of an empty field. It is said to have been one if the biggest temples there was with 127 columns, attributed to the Ephesian fertility goddess, Artemis.

Reconstructed  pillar at the temple of Artemis
Reconstructed pillar at the temple of Artemis
Ottoman structures at Isabey Cami
Ottoman structures at Isabey Cami

We got picked up to go back to Kuşadası where we thought we would take advantage of the good weather to go for a swim and just relax by the beach sipping cocktails. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I even had a nap after my shower until N. woke me up at dinner time. We had some Chinese food by the marina while enjoying the sunset before heading off to the bus station again to catch our bus for Denizli.

The marina at Kuşadası
The marina at Kuşadası

And that’s where it all went downhill again. It does seem like the travel lords have got something against me. Despite our tickets stating that departure time was at half 9, apparently our bus had left an hour before. This still doesn’t make sense to us. They hooked us up with another bus company leaving half an hour later and I’m currently enjoying free chocolate ice cream as part of the service so cannot really be complaining really.

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