I trust you are looking forward to your tour of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus, near the Turkish port town of Kusadasi. Walking through the entrance gate of the excavations of Ephesus is like being transported back 2000 years, strolling on the same streets of marble blocks as did Roman emperors and the Apostle Paul and seeing many of the same building structures around us. The Celsius Library is one of the largest in the ancient world. The present ruins span three milleniums. From the port of Izmir it is about a half-hour to what was once a Roman city of a quarter million people, but left in ruins by pestilence and earthquakes. Remains of an aqueduct and the Temple of Artemis mark the way to this early center of Christianity where archaeological restoration continues. It takes little imagination while walking amid the ruins to envision yourself among its toga-donned denizens of nearly 2000 years ago. While the remains of colonnaded temples, the ornate fountains of Trajan, and a library that once held 12,000 scrolls draw your focus, it is wise to look to the ground as you move on.
The marble walkway called the Street of the Curetes leading to the main square is pocked by gouges meant to keep the ancients’ sandaled feet from slipping on wet days. You can almost see the chariot ruts. Also etched into the stone are circular carvings that reference Christianity. Saints Paul and John were among the early visitors. Along the side, intricate mosaic-tiled floors remain in what were once homes. In Domitian Square, a ground-level relief portrays a flight of the victory goddess Nike, her draped garment swooshing into the shape used in the modern sportswear brand. The public lavatories provide an eye-opening glimpse into the social life of the era. Lines of marble-seated toilets form a right angle at the sides of what was once a pool. It was here that the ancients gathered and swapped gossip while they also attended to their personal business. Watching your step, you will see what’s believed to be the world’s first advertisement, and certainly an early form of graffiti. Carved into the stone walkway are the likeness of a woman’s head, a left foot and a bird. It is said to be an ad for the local brothel. A tunnel from the remains of the venerable twostoried Library of Celsius was connected to the same house of pleasure! The stroll take you past the semicircular theater where St Paul preached, and leads to the marble-paved Arcadian Way. At one time this was a procession route for the power couple of their time: Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
Not all visitors realize that Ephesus became a center of Christian conversion from the 1st Century onward. St Paul and St John both preached and wrote gospels there. John also accompanied Mary to the safety of this area around 38AD and according to tradition it is the place she spent the remaining years of her life.
Izmir itself where you dock was once a great center of culture and learning. This Hellenistic fortress-city reached its apex of power in the 2nd century BC. You can see the Acropolis which is dominated by the partially restored Temple of Trajan and the Grand Theater, seating over 10,000 spectators. Parchment paper was invented here and the library’s volume of manuscripts rivaled that of Alexandria. Don’t know how much time you will have in Izmir, but amongst the white buildings around the dock you will find carpet and jewelry sellers. Bargaining is a way of life at the carpet emporiums so never accept the opening prices. Reputable dealers take credit cards and can ship purchases back to the US.
Should you choose to have lunch in Izmir rather than on the ship, you should know about traditional Turkish cuisine. Meals begin with an assorted tray of mezes (appetizers) which often include Hummus (pureed chick peas), pilaki (white bean tomato/onion salad in vinaigrette), garlic-flavored yogurt, dolmas (usually grape leaves or peppers filled with rice, herbs and spices), an eggplant delicacy, boreks (perhaps sigara boregi, a deep-fried pastry filled with feta cheese), plus just-baked pita breads. Next comes a homemade lentil or vegetable soup and entrees such as sis kebap(skewered lamb/chicken/beef,) a guvec (roasted stew) or fresh fish grilled in lemon-olive oil,. The courses are accompanied by rice pilav, potatoes or pastry. Desserts of honey-soaked baklava and firin sutlac (baked rice pudding) end the repast. As a precaution, it is best to avoid tap water and ice cubes, opting instead for wine, beer or bottled mineral water.