The Glory Of Ephesus, The Grace Of Maryemana

Selcuk Travel Blog

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The coliseum

I managed to drag myself out of bed and to the bus station with G├╝ne┼č and his friends, and although I missed the first bus due to the need for breakfast, I caught another bus quickly and was in the town of Sel├žuk in less than an hour. From there I immediately hopped on a minibus for Efes (Ephesus in Turkish), but it stopped along the main highway so I walked about 1 kilometer to the entrance. From there I could tell it was going to be a touristy place but I knew from pictures it was worth seeing. There were two entrances and where I entered, the first thing that caught my eye was the large amphitheater. It wasn't as large as Bergama's but still impressive. There were some chambers adjacent to it, supposedly where gladiators entered, so I guess that makes it a coliseum.

The Library
The highlight of the whole place though was the well-preserved library. Even though it was swarming with rather annoying tourists, it was a sight to behold and appreciate for awhile.

I don't have a good historical background about Ephesus but from visiting the site I learned that it was originally founded as a Hittite settlement about 6000 years ago nearer the city of Sel├žuk. It was clearly a Hellenic and Roman city, witnessed by the architecture and inscriptions in Greek and Latin. At its peak, the city had a population of 200,000 and was the Roman capital of the Asian province. After taking in the glory of the Library area, I followed a colonnaded walkway slightly uphill past several gates, temples and broken statues including a headless Alexander the Great.

Beautifully preserved arch
There was also a smaller amphitheater and an arcade beyond this, along with ruins of a market, churches and other buildings. I walked back towards the entrance and passed by the harem, where a legendary footprint in the marble indicated permission to enter. If someone placed their foot in the mold and it was smaller, they were denied entry, assuming that if their feet were too small they would be under age.

Across from the coliseum was a long Roman market street that was closed to the public but easily viewable. Next to it was a display of findings from an adjacent necropolis with ornate sarcophagi scattered on the lawn. In the distance were the ruins of the Church of Mary, an enormous church judging from the remaining foundation. I wandered around this area but only discovered another pile of unidentified rubble that resembled another church.

Mary's house
From the distance a nice view of the end of the Roman market and the coliseum made for a fine ending to the tour of Ephesus. I took a long walk all the way back to Sel├žuk town and then hitched a ride up a winding road to Maryemana, the site of the house where the Virgin Mary lived. The ride up was beautiful, offering wide views of Sel├žuk town, Ephesus ruins and the surrounding countryside all the way to the sea.

The site of Maryemana was quiet and modest, as was to be expected. The tiny house had been turned into a chapel and there were a few devotees praying. I lit a candle and said a few prayers before exiting down the walkway to a wall where three spigots offered spring water. I filled up my water bottle and took some swigs, hoping that the water was blessed and could possibly cure what felt like a cold coming on.

Forest and sun from Maryemana
There wasn't much else at the site but a gift store and restaurant, but it was among pine trees and a valleys. Still it was a comforting pilgrimage to add to my repertoire and especially meaningful as we approached the end of 2008.

Hitching another ride back down the hill, I spent the fading daylight exploring the town of Sel├žuk. My first stop was the Church of Saint John, which was closed but impressive to see from the exterior. Just a block away was the ─░sa Bey mosque, which consisted of both ruins of the original 17th century structure and a modern addition that is still used. Behind the church was the large citadel that was inaccessible. Throughout the cute little town were remnants of an ancient aqueduct that ran through the area. I walked in loops around the few main streets, past some quaint stores, bars and restaurants.

─░sa Bey mosque
I settled on a tiny home-style cafe that served up a mean moussaka and a spinach dish. I tried to soothe my scratchy throat with an herbal orange-lemon tea as I sat within roasting distance of the Franklin stove. It was a good way to relax, unwind and enjoy the coziness of this little town before heading back to the late-night chaos of ─░zmir.

When I did get back, G├╝ne┼č picked me up and also had in tow two new Couchsurfers, Yago and his girlfriend from Austria (sorry I can't remember the name). We walked around Alsancak before hanging out at a nargile cafe for several hours, smoking some strawberry and peach flavored nargile and sipping on a variety of beverages. A few other CSers stopped by as well and it was another late night, but another memorable and fun one and even though I was getting sick I couldn't help feeling like I'd had one of the best days in awhile.

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The coliseum
The coliseum
The Library
The Library
Beautifully preserved arch
Beautifully preserved arch
Marys house
Mary's house
Forest and sun from Maryemana
Forest and sun from Maryemana
─░sa Bey mosque
─░sa Bey mosque
View from Maryemana hill
View from Maryemana hill
More temples
More temples
Ruins ruins everywhere
Ruins ruins everywhere
Sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
Church of Saint John
Church of Saint John
Selcuk
photo by: peterbc2