Day 30: Ephesus (Kusadasi)

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Kusadasi, Turkey
Tags: , , , , ,

Today we got up pretty early for us these days (8am) and after a quick breakfast of yogurt and cereal were on our way to Ephesus by about 9am. We’ve decided to bite the bullet and pay the $9.99 for data each day while we’re driving the car to be able to use the turn-by-turn navigation features of the iPhone’s map app… This decision was made to ensure marital harmony and familial peace as Marie doesn’t do navigation particularly well, and I don’t do “we could go left or we could go right” when we’re in the middle of a 6 lane (meant for 3) roundabout with buses and scooters and farm tractors coming from all directions… Although Apple’s map app had a lot of issues when it first rolled out, it navigated us through the maze of little streets around our guesthouse with no trouble at all… Best $9.99 I’ve ever spent!

When we arrived at the site just before 10am, the parking lot was already full of tour buses and there were people leaving… We queued up to buy our tickets but for some reason it was taking the girl behind the plexiglas forever to sell tickets to the 10 people in front of us so we took our chances with the electronic ticket kiosk across the way… worked like a charm after paying our 90 lira we made our way through the turnstiles (every museum and archaeological site we’ve visited in Turkey has used the same ticket and entry control system… someone made a killing off that contract) and into the site.

Caitlin and Marie made a quick stop at the facilities (there are none in the site proper) and we spent some time playing with the many cats that hung out at the entrance to the site…

We hung a quick right after the entrance and made our way to the Church of Mary (dedicated to the Virgin Mary who supposedly lived out the last years of her life in a house near Ephesus). There’s not much left – just a few foundation walls and bits and pieces of interior walls and the baptism pool (they practiced full immersion adult baptisms back in the day so the baptismal pool is a pretty deep hole in the ground) but it’s enough to get a sense of the size of the place and even in its ruined state it’s quite spectacular. There’s a bunch of other ruins around it and it’s clear there’s a lot of other ruins/buildings/history hidden under the underbrush around the church.

From there we made our way back to the main site and checked out the theatre (one of the most impressive we have seen – I think it’s a little bit smaller than the one at Epidavros in Greece but this one is more integrated into a complex of buildings so it seems more impressive in some way). From there we made our way past the agora and to the Library of Celsus – actually monumental funerary building constructed over a tomb… It’s the most photographed structure in Ephesus and a very visually striking building…

After the Library, we paid an additional 45 lira to enter the “terrace houses” – best $22.50 we’ve spent on an archaeological site since Pompeii… The terrace houses are 6 “townhouse” style dwellings that belonged to some of the rich and famous of Ephesus at various times – although there’s evidence of much older, more basic housing underneath the newer (if by newer you mean only 1800 years old instead of 2500 years old) construction. There’s remnants of wall paintings, furniture, mosaic floors, plumbing, the whole nine yards… And it’s all housed under a weatherproof structure so you’re out of the beating hot sun too… And as an added bonus there’s a nice terrace at the top that offers a unique panoramic view of part of the site… As a history teacher, I found the terrace houses fascinating and Marie and Caitlin really enjoyed them as well – definitely worth paying the extra money to see (an added bonus is that most of the people visiting Ephesus don’t pay to see the terrace houses so we had them almost to our self).

After the Terrace Houses we wandered around the site making our way to the upper gate (one way to the do the site is to take a shuttle to the upper gate and then walk the 2km downhill to the main entrance – in our case we walked 2km up to the gate and then walked 2km back to our entrance – but it worked out because we were able to spend more time exploring one side site each time). The site is massive and there’s a lot of monumental marble columns and other structures (not always put back together all that accurately it appears) – most of it’s pretty much just foundation walls but some of the remaining structures have enough parts remaining that you can get a pretty good idea of what it all looked like…

At the upper gate we grabbed a few cold drinks (at exorbitant inside the site prices but they were really, really cold so it was worth it) and then headed back down to the main entrance making our way past the baths, the house of pleasure (otherwise known as a brothel), the public latrine, and the lower agora. When we returned to the main entrance we took a few minutes to say hi to the many cats and Marie and Caitlin spent a few minutes in near hysterics at the arrival of two (admittedly very cute) puppies who showed up to share the love…

It normally takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to see the site (according to the guide books)… we took just over 4 and aside from it being excruciatingly hot (and pretty crowded at times with the usual tour group hordes), it was one of the best historical sites we’ve visited.

After Ephesus we headed back to the hotel and changed into our swimsuits and headed for Ladies Beach… It’s about a 2.5km walk to the beach from our hotel but it’s worth it. We’d heard that Ladies Beach is kind of a so-so beach but that must be according to the standards of people who are used to sandy beaches and warm water (instead of our beaches which are often sandy but the water is far too cold for swimming most of the year). It was super crowded but we found a spot to dump our towels and headed into the water (which was just right – warm enough you could spend hours in it without getting chilled but cool enough to still be refreshing) and spent about 45 minutes splashing around with half the population of Turkey… When we got out of the water we managed to find an open lounger and paid the 10 lira for it and a big sun umbrella and Marie headed to the promenade behind the beach to get us some drinks… Then it was time for Caitlin to painstakingly build her sand masterpiece – a sand mountain – which Marie callously destroyed – leading to a prolonged series of dunkings, sand throwing, and general water mayhem… When I went out to join them for a leisurely swim (thinking the shenanigans were over) Caitlin engaged in a series of sneak attacks which required her to be dunked repeatedly in the waves… She threw sand in response… Eventually we emerged from the water (after several dunkings and near drownings) and brushed the sand off and made the 1/2 hour walk back to the hotel…

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that Marie and Caitlin had navigated the 2+km each way to the beach with only a few barebones directions (turn right at the top of the hill then turn left style). The fact they made it back to the hotel was a minor miracle… although I think high-fiving each other and celebrating as if they’d scored a game winning touch down was a bit over the top but it was impressive nonetheless… Today they successfully navigated us to the beach and back without issue (even finding a cheap doner restaurant for us to stop at for a quick lunch on the way).

After the beach it was shower time (our apologies to the cleanup crew who will be shovelling sand out of the shower for days) and then off to find something to eat. We chose a different place for tonight (mainly because we’re starting to get a bit sick of Turkish food and wanted to try something more international – like spaghetti – although Marie did end up trying the Turkish ravioli – which she declared to be “okay” but not particularly noteworthy).

And that was the end of our second full day in Kusadasi… and it was good.

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