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Ephesus and Its Surroundings (More Reports from My Summer Adventures)

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It’s hard to believe I’m still blogging about a trip that I took this summer.  As the days go by I feel more and more behind.  Today’s post is about our trip to Turkey’s western coast to check out one of the biggest Roman city’s ruins – Ephesus, or Efes, in Turkish.

We stayed in Kuşadasi (Bird Island) which is a beach town full of British tourists and cheap hotels.  I can’t really recommend it, except as a base to explore the historical sites.  While I tried to nap off a sinus headache, Mom walked to the beach to check out the restuarant situation.  She found only disappointing beans and bangers and mash places, so we looked online for better options and found what became my favorite place in the whole region – Degirmen Restaurant.  It’s a national park and farm that grows all of its own food and even makes its wine – if you make it there and they have any 2005 bottles left, drink up!  The food is as amazing as the wine.  I don’t think you can go wrong on the menu, but I recommend any of the olive oil dishes (meze) and dipping as much bread into the dishes of olive oil as you can – it’s incredible.  We actually went back to the farm’s village store on our way out of town to get more wine, but they didn’t have any more of the old stuff for sale.  Of course, since it was still technically breakfast time, Mom and I went all in and ate one of the best Turkish breakfasts I’ve had so far – nothing terribly different, but the quality and taste of each dish was superb.

For our day of sightseeing, we started at St. Mary’s Church, which is believed to be where Mary, mother of Jesus, lived out her final years after John scooted her off to Asia Minor.  For more on it, check out my previous post:  https://libertinelog.com/2012/09/18/ephesus/.  We visited on a Sunday morning, so we were treated to an English mass by a Polish priest from the Order of Mary.  The mass was outside, right in the sun, and every time Mom or I pulled out the sunscreen, we got requests from our pewmates for a squirt or two.  The priest stopped mass a few times to yell at the other tourists queuing up to see the house for them to show some respect and simmer down; even with microphones and speakers, sometimes the buzz of hundreds of conversations overpowered the voices involved of the service.  After mass, many people asked the priest to bless icons or other items they had bought at the site or brought along – you don’t see much of that in American Catholicism.

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Mom adds a prayer to the wall at St. Mary’s

After the church, we headed to the old city of Ephesus.  I wrote about when I first visited in OCT 2012.  The difference this year was that it was much hotter in July than October, and Mom and I visited the Terrace houses, an archaeological site still in the discovery/exploration phase.  Here’s a quick photo gallery of the entrance and impressive main street of Ephesus:

The Terrace Houses are at the end of the main avenue, just before the library.  If you have the time, I strongly recommend paying the extra lira and checking them out.  You can see how the super-wealthy lived during the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries. Think opulence: mosaics on every ground surface, and marble lining the walls like wallpaper.  Later this summer I read about the decorating trends of some of these wealthy Romans.  They frequently honored the head of the house by using his features in a mosaic or fresco of a classic god, something like “Uncle Bob as Dionysus!”

Even though it was scorching, Mom and I kept going, past the library and old agora (market)  to the other end of the city to visit the ruins of the church dedicated to St. Mary.  I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see, but Pope John Paul II did stop by there back in the 80s, I think.  The walk there, partly lined with huge pine trees, is pretty pleasant if you can stand the heat in the middle of the summer.

If you have any energy left after walking Ephesus, the next logical stop is the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, which also holds his tomb.  Since it was my second visit, I gave mom as much as I could remember of the historical lowdown from my last tour and spent the time there watching the storks and other birds in residence.

If you’re interested in checking out Degirmen: http://www.degirmenltd.com/

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