Monday, October 31, 2011

Turkey, Day 4: Ephesus

Cats of Ephesus

I think we saw one roaming dog as we strolled through Ephesus. We saw many cats including this calico sitting atop her pillar watching scores of people move on by. Roaming cats and dogs seem to be a natural part of the world of Turkish life as anything else.

Ephesus is about 100km north of our hotel but sadly that is as the crow flies and the roads forced us into a far longer journey. It took 2.5 hours to drive there. We did take a break at a convenience type store along the way. Stores like this, in fact many places, have a nice open design. In some ways they're best thought of as large pavilions with a few rooms under the roof.  The drive went easily enough even though it was a bit tedious. Our guide had some things to tell us as we drove along but to be honest I am not really sure what they all were now. Much had to do with giving something of an overview of all the places worth visiting in Turkey and that was done by describing, thumbnail sketch style, the history of the locations. We arrived at the site of Ephesus (sometimes spelled Efes which is the Turkey name) around 10:30 and found the place swarming with people. We had paused briefly at an aqua-duct to snap some photos just before arriving (it's just a handful of kilometers south of Ephesus and once provided her with water). Perhaps we should have started getting an idea of the scale of things after seeing that arched structure. I don't think we did. In fact at the outset Ephesus seemed kind of puny as we started our tour. But it did not take long before we started to really get a sense of the true size of the place. We gazed out upon the ruins as we walked down the somewhat slippery marble that I suppose formed the streets of Ephesus during its heyday over 2,500 years ago. You can't but be impressed by the fact that the streets are effectively cobbled and though they must have been dangerously slick when wet the fact that they would also avoid huge swaths of mud and keep dust down is a great advantage. When you then start to think about other things like the detailed plumbing this city of 225,000 people supported along with things like the large (for then) library, the amphitheaters where plays as well as less savory things such as animal fights and gladiator battles took place (and probably fights with slaves).  I can't really describe the scale of the place. Ephesus Aqua-ductThis aqua-duct is just a handful of kilometers south of Ephesus. It is hard to know just how big this water channel is but it certainly looks quite sizable to me. As I understand it this was one of four major aqua-ducts that fed the city. Ephesus First View

The streets of Ephesus are all cobblestone with big slabs of stone. Along the sides of the streets you see pillars that remain and some walls that also remain. In some cases there are even some hallways that link portions of structures such as a passageway that runs into an amphitheater.

Ephesus Ave 1Ephesus Ave 1

Two grand avenues of Ephesus. The avenue on the left is what we walked down for quite some time heading to an overlooking view that gave fine views of the library (and a suite of open-toilets that had a system for disposing waste). The second avenue was a merchant's way (I think) ran from beyond the library (perpendicular to the first avenue) to the truly grand amphitheater we would basically end our visit at.

Ephesus mosaicEphesus amphetheater

The mosaic in the stone is not uncommon here in Ephesus. We were told that the place was once a store and I expect that it must have been a store for fairly posh goods. My impression is that the more posh places were strung along this street and lesser places spread out farther afield (left). I believe that there are two amphitheaters in Ephesus. Here (right) we sit in the smaller theater that was used for minor events and, I think, political debates. The larger theater, that could hold 25,000 people, was meant for much more massive events.

We walked past old structures that show still some of the grandeur of what they must have been when complete. The library is probably the best example as you stand amongst the high arches and look upon the copies of reliefs (originals are in museums outside of Turkey and that is clearly a sore point).  But it is hard to imagine people from two or three millennia ago going about their business in these places. What was it really like in a bathhouse or a reading room of the library. What might go on in a shop along the stone covered street we had been walking down. I am not really able to imagine that all that well and I regret that because it makes it harder to appreciate an ancient site like Ephesus. 
Ephesus Library OverlookEphesus library archesEphesus street

(top left) Looking out across the spreading expanse of Ephesus. We had already walked through a fair bit of city street from wide avenues like the one above to narrow stretches (below). The photo on the right is us standing under the remaining arches of the former 12,000 volume library. This is one of the narrower passageways.

I am glad that we went to Ephesus. It is remarkable how much still stands after so long and it makes you wonder how much of any of the great cities of today will be around two or three thousand years from now. Of course, a lot will depend on what civilizations are still around a few thousand years from now as cities that are still actively inhabited will change and grow (shrink)  as people live in them. 

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Selcuk sarnic

The town of Selçuk is a hopping tourist spot. Many christians come here to visit the house of the Virgin Mary who it is believe lived there until her ascent into Heaven. Being just a couple clicks from Ephesus certainly doesn't hurt. The sarnic, a dome structure that gathers water, is quite a bit larger than I think any we had seen to that point.

I should write a bit about the town of Selçuk which is just a couple kilometers northeast of Ephesus ("sel-chook," I think). We visited briefly a mosque that looked both quite old and impressive in its austere way. We also spotted a sarnic in the distance as well as the castle, I think, that overlooks the town. I never really did see the one remaining column of a temple to Artemis. However, the highpoint was really lunch. We ate at a cafe that provided ample if not exactly piping hot food. Far and away the best lunch and perhaps dinner we have had to date. It all felt very local and I feel confident many local men take meals at a place like this. That was something we again noticed as we strolled the streets for a little bit afterwards: the vast majority (I don't actually think we saw any women) of people eating out or just enjoying a cup of tea were men.
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