John and I departed Bucharest late yesterday to make our way to Izmir, Turkey. Getting through customs at the Istanbul airport was quite the gauntlet… you can read John’s blog (D and J on the Road) for the dirty details.
Today, we were on a mission — Ephesus or bust. Ephesus, or Efes in Turkish, was the second largest city in the Roman Empire, Rome being numero uno, of course. Having seen what remains of ancient Rome in November, I was looking forward to seeing the remains at Ephesus and walking where both the apostles, Paul and John, walked.
Our hotel is in the center of Izmir which is a bustling, thriving city — no small town this. We boarded a bus this morning right outside our hotel, escaping the city center just as the International Labor Day “celebration” was getting underway. Police were everywhere and I was reminded of the strife in Turkey last year when Labor Day protests turned violent.
The bus took us to a large bus terminal where we boarded another bus to Efes. My husband made the acquaintance of a young Colombian man who now lives in Liverpool while we rode about an hour. The bus then deposited us about 5k from the entrance to the ruins.
The tour guides and taxi drivers converged on us just as soon as we stepped off the bus. We and the young Colombian maneuvered our way through, determined to walk the 5k. We were joined by a husband (Libyan) and wife (Hungarian) and their 14-year-old daughter. So off we went on foot — two Protestants, a Catholic, and three Muslims — headed to the ancient remains of Ephesus.
I started out walking with the guys who had immediately launched into a discussion about the religious, historical significance of the area. Interesting, but I soon dropped back to stroll with the mother-daughter duo down a tree lined lane.
before moving on to the ruins. Our Muslim companions explained that the Sleeping People ruins is a monument to seven people described in the Quran. The seven were fleeing religious persecution when they entered a cave believed to have been in the vicinity of the monument. They went in the cave to rest, but when they awoke and left, they discovered 200 years had passed.
We continued our journey and everyone got quieter as we had been walking on a road for quite some time. I felt sure we had come at least 5k and nothing resembling an entrance to ancient ruins was in sight. I suggested we hail a cab because it appeared as if all the tour buses were heading up a mountain — the top of which looked to be about another 6k.
We got lucky and an empty “taksi” stopped and picked us up. We were given two choices: the Virgin Mary’s House (some believe John brought Mary to Ephesus when he came) or the Upper Gate to Ephesus. We chose the later and promptly drove about 200 yards and stopped.
We exited the cab laughing uproariously. The young cabbie graciously declined payment and our little troop entered ancient Ephesus and went our separate ways.
It has not one, but two amphitheaters. A small one where the city legislators met to hash out issues…
and a large one for entertainment.
The city had a massive main street and we marveled at the thought of Paul, a tent maker by trade, strolling its length during the three years he lived here.
Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians while he lived in Ephesus. That letter contains some of my favorite verses…Love is patient. Love is kind… Words that have impacted millions of lives.
Walking around ancient Ephesus, I recalled a conversation earlier in the day. Our little troop was discussing our differing religions and the mother said “I think it’s really all about peace and simply respecting one another.” I nodded and said “Yes. We are to love one another.”
Just as Paul described two millennia ago while living in a thriving Roman city known as Ephesus.