I had always figured that the countries of Greece or Egypt were the places to go to get your fix of ancient ruins and temples, but after my trip to Turkey I think my conception might have overshadowed some of Turkey’s historical gems.
Take my trip to Ephesus, for example, it was an ancient Greek city, later Roman, located in the Izmir province of Turkey, near the town of SelÃ§uk, that displays so much ancient history and even has a beautiful landscape for the perfect backdrop. Ephesus even used to be the largest city in Asia Minor and was also famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” which was unfortunately destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom.
Emperor Constantine I rebuilt most of the city and erected public baths, but the city was again partially destroyed, this time by an earthquake in 614 AD. Despite the unfortunate events that partially destroyed the city, the archeological site is a wonderful display of the preservation of history and really offered me a chance to walk through an ancient city.
Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean, and one of the popular stops in the site was the Roman Library of Celsus. The library was reconstructed from all the original pieces, but was originally built around 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an Ancient Greek who served as a governor of Roman Asia (105-107 AD). Celsus himself is buried in a sarcophagus beneath the structure.
At one point in history the library held nearly 12,000 scrolls.Â Though our excursion to Ephesus was in the earlier hours of the day, there were still many groups of people congregated around the library. Fortunately, we were able to sneak in a group picture and have our tour guide take some single pictures too. There were other photographers taking our pictures too, but they were vendors hoping that we would buy their pictures at the end of our trip.
We then proceeded to take a walk to the Odeon, a small roofed theater constructed around 150 AD that could seat around 1,500 people. My dad urged my brother to bust out some Wushu moves on the stage, but my brother managed to excuse himself by claiming he had to take pictures of the area.
Our group took the remaining set of time to walk back to the bus, where we saw a strategically placed market near the tour bus parking. The market had “real fake watches”, camel rides, and the photographers who were now trying to sell us the pictures they took before.Â It was a great experience to actually be able to walk through an ancient city. Unlike stuffy museums, the Ephesus archeological site gave us an interesting look into the daily life of the Roman civilization complimented with the amazing mountain views as the perfect backdrop.
Our next stop would be the House of the Virgin Mary. To get there we drove up to Mt. Koressos and stopped near the house. In Turkey the house is called Panaya Kapulu, or the “Doorway to the Virgin.”
The discovery of the house was made by the French priest, the AbbÃ© Julien Gouyet of Paris, who recognized the small stone house as the Virgin Mary’s final resting place on Earth, described in the visions of the German nun Anne Catherine Emmerich. Gouyet’s discovery was not taken seriously however. Ten years later Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey urged two Lazarist missionaries to rediscover the building.
The Vatican has also recognized the house as the final resting place of the Virgin Mary. Today people take pilgrimages to the house, one of whom was Pope Benedict XVI who celebrated Mass at the house in 2006. Though photography was prohibited inside the house, we were still able to take pictures in the surrounding area.
Besides the house, there is something called the Wishing Wall. The Wishing Wall is a place where people attach their written wishes onto the wall in hopes of it becoming true. If the wish does come true, that person must then take off their written note from the wall. While I was unsuccessfully trying to write my wish with a dried out pen, I was able to glance at my brother’s wish which stated, “I wish to become a billionaire.” While laughing he then placed his wish amongst the others on the wall. I just laughed and proceeded to walk back to the bus after I placed my own wish.After we finally got everyone back on the bus, we took a picture in front of the Virgin Mary statue, located lower down on the mountain by the road.
Turkey is famed for some great leather, and we were able to check some out on our trip to a leather outlet. Since the Turkish diet consists mostly of lamb and mutton, a lot of soft skin is available in the country for the manufacturing of leather apparel. The outlet displayed some of their goods with a fashion show, complete with catwalks and bright lights. Our group was amused by the show, but the laughter started to fill the room when the models pulled several people from our group to join them on the runway. Nathan, Nathan’s mom, and Bryant were the participating models outfitted with some of the store’s leather jackets. Cheers and applause from the crowd encouraged the models to walk bravely onto the catwalk. With a final bow to the audience the models took off their leather apparel and returned to their seats in the audience. After a final look through the store, we went back to the bus to stop at another one of Turkey’s famous items.
Turkish delight, you may have heard it before, but what exactly is it? Well, Turkish delight is actually a confectionary based on a gel of starch and sugar. Dates and various nuts could also be inside the gel to compliment the gel flavoring, which is usually rosewater, mastic, or lemon. We were offered free samples, and the consistency was a bit like mocha but with a little more substance.
Though most of our group crowded around the platter of free samples, some people went to look at the various teas that are popular in Turkey. Turkish tea is a form of black tea and usually more popular in the younger generation of Turkey. In fact, in 2004 Turkey had the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, at 2.5 kg per person. The tea is usually served hot in small glasses and varies from apple tea to pomegranate tea. Tea is an important part of Turkish culture, and an offer of tea or coffee is considered to be a sign of friendship and hospitality.
After a pretty tiring day at all of our other stops, we were headed towards one last destination where we would hopefully be able to rest our feet at. Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” is a site with natural hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water.Â We enjoyed the natural hot springs by taking off our shoes and socks and resting our feet in the warm water. The rocky surfaces were a bit slippery but we managed to get across to the rush of water. It was relaxing to rest our feet in the warm water with the sun setting behind us. Pamukkale is truly a “cotton castle”. The massive size and white color of the rock make it suitable for the name, but the pools of water on the terraces made the site even more beautiful.
All in all we ended the day with a nice foot soak, and a very interesting group picture at the site. GÃ¶rÃ¼ÅŸÃ¼cez or for those who don’t know Turkish, see you next time.