I’ve always loved history and been fascinated to discover and read about ancient civilisations and their people. Coming from Australia which is still a very young country it is often hard to comprehend ancient cities and sites that are thousands of years old and without a doubt the best way to try and understand is to visit these incredible places in person. Ephesus is a place that has fascinated me since I first saw a picture of its iconic library and read about the people who lived here. We only had a few must-visit destinations for our Turkey itinerary and Ephesus was one of them and it was even more impressive than I had imagined! Neyzen arranged for a fantastic local guide to show us around Ephesus and truly allow us to fully experience and understand this amazing ancient city where incredibly 90% which is still yet to be discovered!
We had a big day of sightseeing ahead of us and so were grateful for the fantastic breakfast at our hotel, Nisanyan Houses Hotel. Breakfast was served on their garden terrace overlooking the beautiful, charming village of Sirince and was a very relaxed, delicious affair and a perfect start to our day!
THE HOUSE OF THE VIRGIN MARY
Our first stop of the day was The House of the Virgin Mary which is a small church that was built around the 13th century on the remains of an ancient building which is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. This peaceful site is sacred to both Orthodox Christians and Muslims, and is visited by many tourists and pilgrims each year. According to predominant Christian tradition, Mary was brought to Ephesus by the Apostle John after the Resurrection of Christ and lived out her days there. This is based mainly on the traditional belief that John came to Ephesus, combined with the biblical statement that Jesus consigned her to John’s care.
Archaeologists who have examined the earlier building identified as the House of the Virgin, believe most of it dates from the 6th or 7th century, although its foundations are much older and may well date from the 1st century, the time of Mary. The modern history of the Virgin Mary’s House is unusual. In 1812 by a German nun, Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, who had never travelled from her home as she was bedridden, saw the house in its location at Ephesus in one of her visions she experienced that were revealed to her by the Virgin Mary which led to it being discovered!
As with all religious sites make sure you dress and act respectfully when visiting.
The metropolis of Ephesus evolved as the center of classical sea trade, the birthplace of the Hellenistic Greek renaissance, the Roman capital of Asia Minor, and the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In its day it rivalled Rome in its magnificence. The site of Ephesus is simply massive, and it was mind blowing to discover that only 10% of the city’s remains have been excavated and the site is already unrivalled as the world’s largest intact ancient Roman city.
There is so much to see at Ephesus that you can best appreciate and understand the site with a guide. We were lucky that Neyzen arranged for us to visit with Cetin, one of the very best guides at Ephesus. Cetin took us on an extensive tour of the site where we strolled the ancient streets, visited the Agora, the countless fascinating temples that have been uncovered, the Odeon theatre, baths, ancient aquaducts and water pipes as well as the iconic library! One of the largest and most impressive buildings at Ephesus is the extraordinarily well-preserved theatre. It is incredible that occasionally performances are held today in the theatre which truly bring the space back to life!
The Byzantine Terrace Houses are located behind the shops on the Curetes Street in Ephesus and are exquisite private Byzantine homes. These homes are known as the Terrace Houses due to their location on the tiered slopes of Mt. Koressus. Cetin recommended we visit the Terace Houses which cost an addition 20TL entrance and from the moment we stepped inside we knew was worth every extra cent! The houses were occupied from the 1st – 7th century and are even more spectacular than the 1st century villas at Pompeii! After the 7th century, the houses were abandoned due to Arab raids and the continued silting up of the harbor by the meander River which led to the Terrace Houses gradually falling into decay. A number of them were filled with soil from landslides and earthquakes which preserved them and their contents remarkably!
Their decor and furnishings provide a wonderful insight into the lifestyle of the Ephesian upper class in the Roman and Byzantine periods. At present 6 of the villas are open each consisting of around 10 rooms set around a central court, and feature utterly breathtaking frescoes and mosaics that remain immaculately preserved. It is unknown who their exact owners were but they would have certainly been rich Ephesians of the Roman Imperial period.
Çetin was an incredible guide, he was friendly, extremely knowledgeable and we learnt so much about ancient Ephesus from him. His recommendation to visit the Terrace Houses was without a doubt worth the extra entrance cost as they were truly incredible and an amazing insight into the lifestyle of the ancient Ephesians! Ephesus was every bit as good as we’d hoped and we’re very appreciative of Cetin for teaching us all about this must visit site!
We then had lunch at a fantastic restaurant that served a buffet of traditional Turkish food before returning to Nisanyan House for a relaxing afternoon by the beautiful marble pool and to get ready for another big day of sightseeing tomorrow at Aphrodisias, Hierapolis and Pamukkale!
We’ve loved every moment of our time in Turkey so far, the people are warm, friendly and welcoming, the food is incredible, the history is awe inspiring and the country is beautiful (and hot)! If you’re considering booking a trip to Turkey then we urge you to do it, you will be welcomed with open arms and we guarantee you that you’ll love your time here. We’ll admit we were a little apprehensive about safety before we came but are so grateful to Neyzen Travel & Yachting who we’ve booked our Turkey tour through. They’ve organised the finest of details for us, taken us to the most incredible places and gone above and beyond to ensure our time in Turkey was unforgettable. If you’re looking for an amazing tour company to help you plan your trip in Turkey then head over to Neyzen’s website to find out more and to contact their incredibly helpful staff!
Ephesus is one of the most impressive ancient cities we’ve ever visited!
Have you ever been or would you love to visit one day? x
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