A pleasant ride through the countryside shows us a different aspect of Turkey. The bustle and hustle of Istanbul gives way to rural settings: fields with hay being mowed for feed; lush groves of citrus fruits, including peaches and apricots; farmers on tractors; field hands picking crops; low mountains with groves of trees and scattered natural plants reminiscent of the pine that once covered much of the landscape. Valued for its rich volcanic soils, one can easily imagine the reasons for so many battles to control the region by ancient peoples.
We enter the ruins from a gate that is not frequented by the large crowds of tourists usually found at this location. With no large cruise ships and tour groups adding to the crowds today, and with local schools not yet finished for the semester, we have a light crowd competing for space. Our guide offers engaging tales of the history of this region; how it was settled early by peoples seeking refuge from conquering tribes from the East. Although the nearest river waters are now about five miles away, Ephesus was once a port city with thirty five thousand inhabitants, and a total surrounding population, at the heights of its glory, of over two hundred thousand persons.
We enter at the end of a long street framed by columns of stone and paved with slabs of marble still bearing the “trademarks” of the cutters and masons who toiled in this region. The last of the brightly colored poppies in reds, blue flowering plants and small white flowers greet us with a splash of color and a welcoming appearance.
Ephesus was once the location of a “modern” medical complex. Engraved on stone are remedies and treatments for various ailments, and it was a place where many were treated for wounds of battle, including orthopedic injuries. Our guide notes that gladiators fought at a nearby amphitheater thus giving a good supply of patients for the physicians. We sit in ancient seats carved of marble where the leaders and thinkers of the time gathered to the issues of the day. Merchants would gather nearby to ply their trades, eventually giving rise to a long row of shops lining both sides of the street. Magnificent residences were located here, and even thousands of years later one can see their remains. Down a long street paved in marble is located the remains of tall columns of stone, the Roman bath houses, and a magnificent amphitheater that at one time could seat many thousands of people. It is in use even today, with entertainers including Sting performing in concert with permission of the government.
Many believe that Paul of Christian history was here seeking to spread his beliefs after the death of Jesus. We see the tower of the Harbor Master where it is said that Paul was taken to protect him from angry mobs. Actually walking, sitting and talking where important figures of history once walked and talked among themselves is an unforgettable experience.
We leave the ruins and head to the local town, a pleasant area where we enjoy a late lunch at a local restaurant. We visit a leather goods manufacturing shop, with many beautiful articles and a good crowd shopping for coats, jackets, wallets, bags, belts and clothing. The local shops offer a good selection of souvenirs to temp the wallet.
Pleasantly tired, we board our bus for the trip to the airport, and return on an early evening flight to our hotel in Istanbul. The serene comfort of the countryside gives way once again to the dense urban setting of a city of fifteen million people. Tired but excited with the experiences of the day, we find various restaurants and places in the side streets of Istanbul, in small groups, each enjoying discussions about the contrasts of the city and the countryside, the contrasts of the old and the new, and many memories taken from the day.