Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH
I knew that Izmir (the ancient city of Smyrna) was close to the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, which I had toured before while on a cruise. I thought it was fantastic and wanted my friends to be able to experience it. Through a travel agent friend I was put in touch with the folks at Sea Song, who are top travel specialists in Turkey and Virtuoso agents. While we probably could have put together some of these details on our own, we were able to concentrate on flights and hotels in Istanbul and we put our ground transportation and tours in their hands.
Our guide and our bus driver, yes we had a small bus even though there were only three of us, picked us up at our hotel and we were on our way. The ruins of Ephesus are about an hour away from Izmir via a modern highway, so it was an easy ride. The ruins are on a hillside and the driver drove us to the entrance at the top of the hill and we wound our way through the town down the hillside.
The book of Ephesians in the Bible is actually a letter written from the Apostle Paul to the city’s inhabitants. He spent a fair amount of time there, preaching and making tents. Shortly before the birth of Christ, Ephesus became both the seat of the regional governor and a major center of commerce – in short, a very prosperous city. Much of the remains we see now are from that time period.
It’s best remembered for its temple to the goddess Artemis, the library of Celsus and its amphitheater, which could seat 25,000.
We also got to tour the Terrace Houses, where excavation is on-going. Here we saw where the wealthier citizens lived. The floors all had mosaics and the walls were intricately painted too. These homes were up a side hill from Curetes Street, the main street of the city. The street itself is made of marble, which made it quite slick with all the dust from the area. The sidewalks, which were roped off, were elaborate mosaics that have held up amazingly well over the centuries – or perhaps just beautifully restored.
After finishing the tour our bus took us to a small restaurant in Selcuk, the town closest to Efes, where we had lunch and enjoyed some time in the shade. Aside from our time at the Terrace Houses, an area that’s covered, the rest of the time in Ephesus is out in the open and there’s very little shade to be found. So it was nice to be able to cool down for a bit.
Our next stop was the House of the Virgin Mary. While it’s not known for sure whether the mother of Jesus spent her final years here, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. There is a whole list of reasons why this might have been her house, but no one knows for sure. Additionally, the structure now on the site was “reconstructed” based on the finding of about a 2-3 foot section of wall. No photos are allowed inside. It’s very small and even though there was a line, it moved reasonably quickly. It was nice to see but if you don’t see this site, you haven’t really missed much.
The final stop was at the Basilica of St. John. It’s believed that the man charged to take care of Mary upon the death of Jesus lived out his final years and was buried in this area. Some 300 years later a small chapel was constructed over his grave and that was expanded into a basilica in the 6th century AD. The building became a mosque in the 14th century when the Turks invaded the area but later that century an earthquake left it unusable.
We enjoyed our tour and our guide, Tilda, was fantastic. She was our point of contact within Izmir, escorting us to and from the airport as well as on this tour. I’d highly recommend her as a guide!
After traveling for three days in a row and then being gone all day on this tour we were definitely ready for some recovery time and looking forward to our day of relaxation.