That morning we left Istanbul quite early, a short flight from Sabiha Gokcen Habalimani (airport) to Izmir was the starting of an incredible day visiting Ephesus!
After meeting our guide Ilker, we drove in direction to the Temple of Artemis, but before that we stopped at a little shop on the road, where we had some tea and bread, that was our simple but delicious breakfast.
The first part of the trip was a visit to the temple of Artemis, which was one of the wonders of the ancient world; did I mention I love ancient Greek architecture, history, mythology and so on? well then you can imagine I couldn’t quite keep quiet, I was too excited for that, during the drive from the tea shop I interviewed Ilker about the destination, however he kept the key information until we finally got there and saw everything with our own eyes.
Even being such fan of Greek culture, I hadn’t been to Greece yet! so when we arrived to the temple I felt I was beginning to fulfill my dream to know more of the culture. History is fascinating and even more when mixed with stories of Mythology, although there is not much to see because only the foundations and a few columns remain, it was great to let the imagination fly for a minute and see how it was before (a bit of Virtual Reality here wouldn’t be bad huh).
The next stop was Ephesus (a Greco-Roman city) were it was marvelous to walk through it and listen to all the insights from Ilker, how people lived in the city, and what every building (or what remains of them) was used for. The statues left throughout the place help a lot to imagine how it was at its best, without doubt the top of it is the library, quite honestly this was the highlight of the trip for me, and also the Odeon theatre, both very well preserved despite the hundreds of years that have passed. It is crazy to think that nowadays some festivals and concerts still take place here, how lucky!
At the Celsus Library one can see copies of the statues of the four virtues of Celsus (originals are at a museum in Vienna), my favorite this one:
Having my morning filled up with history, ancient architecture, Greek and Roman ancient buildings and a lot of information plus a ton of photos I was more than ready for food, which of course was some other variation of Kebab, I don’t think one can possibly get enough of it when in Turkey or elsewhere!
After lunch we visited Virgin Mary’s house, a little building which is believed to be the last place where she lived. Here I got unexpectedly emotional, despite not belonging to any religion I still felt an urge to thank for everything and everyone I had with me then, perhaps I should have prayed more intensely, but no one knows what the future has for us whether good or bad. We even had a short conversation with a nun who was really happy to see people from so far away, and after a blessing we left.
In between these visits we also had the chance to visit a few places to see how they craft jewelry, carpets, pottery and even leather, as you can imagine, and as I described in the previous post, the usual cup of tea comes along as soon as one enters the shops, followed by a gentle and patient explanation of processes, times, colors, kinds of qualities and materials and so on, until one can simply not leave without buying something, though I can say I did good to buy just a ring and a couple of small carpets, quite conservative compared to Diana who bought a ring, a set of 6 plates and almost (if not saved by me) a 3 meter long carpet 😀
It is admirable how they have mastered the art of selling without selling, and how the customer friction is non existent, you can buy whatever you want, no matter how small they will still smile and be nice to you, and if you don’t have space in your luggage or if it would be too much trouble to transport a big carpet back home, no worries! they can handle that without hustle! really something to be studied and replicated in other destinations. We even had a private runway show but sadly it was too late because we had already broken the credit cards in England 🙂
Our last stop was the Basilica of Saint John, another great location on top of a hill with magnificent views of Selcuk’s countryside, again there is not much left to see but still with a great story told by Ilker I was able to imagine how it was before being destroyed, there were a few walls still standing which I gladly hugged, as a sign to embrace history with all my being.
Finally, it wasn’t in the schedule but I convinced Ilker to show us the Mosque in town which happens to be Isa Bey Mosque, one of the oldest in Turkey, where he kindly explained about the building’s history and also about prayer time.
One magnificent day spent among ancient places and taking in history in my mental library, it was quite remarkable, a perfect one I would say, I returned to Istanbul with a smile from ear to ear (literal translation as we say it in Spanish) and super exited for our two day trip to Cappadocia starting next day.
Until the next post, in the meantime… Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir! Adeus!