Ancien greek city, its flabbergasting restoration will seize you upon arrival. The feeling of the town is well recreated, letting you walk down the main alley and literaly passing in front of the doctor’s house, the merchant’s house, the market, the library, etc…
Restored houses and the terraced apartments are located on both sides of the main street. Your guide (see My Advice section) will explain you who lived in which house, and describe the meaning of some peculiar stones, like the doctor’s stone or Nike’s stone, the Goddess of Victory (reminds you of something?).
The Celsus Library
Main symbol of the site, the facade has been restored to its original state. It was built on Celsus’s personal wealth, and he lies beneath it.
Next to it lies the agora, where merchants came and sold their products.
Seating up to 25,000 people, the size of the theater is stunning.
Most of the seats have been restored, some looking like the original, others like plain stones, but an area has been kept as it has been discovered.
Walk around the seating area and then down the stage to feel the grandeur of the place.
For the anecdote, Sting and Elton John have performed there in the 90’s, in the steps of Saint John, who came to preach to the Ephesians, much, much earlier than that.
Don’t miss the incredible view from furhter away by turning around when leaving the Ephesus site, as this concludes your visit.
The terrace houses
Inside the site is a secondary option, the visit of the restoration of the terraced apartments.
Discovered by students, they are the condos of the time! Divided in two parts, one is visible from the main street, and the other one is under restoration and protected by a construction (I guess so that the workers are not under the blazing sun for hours), and a guided path is available for visitors who are ready to pay a little extra.
You will go through what would have been several apartmens, with their exterior gardens, some being wealthier, some less, most with well kept mosaics. Don’t miss the one of the Medusa, from whom a man in another mosaic turns his head as not to be stoned.
You will also see, right at the beginning, what will give you an idea of the tremendous work this is: tables loaded with pieces of walls, etc… spread out like a gigantic puzzle, in order to match pieces with one another.
Your personal guide (see My Advice section) will again give you lots of explanations, and it seems like the tour groups don’t go through this section (Thankfully. Being enclosed, the noise would be unbearable).
House of the Virgin Mary.
Located a few minutes away from the Ephesus site is a tiny little church believed to be the place where the Virgin Mary left earth to go up to heaven, the Assumption. The Church hasn’t officially recognized it, but two popes have visited it. It is built over the house where Saint John would have brought Mary, and the original walls serve as a basis for the restored walls.
The place is worshiped both by Catholics and Muslims, Maryam being the only woman cited in the Kuran. You will probably see fervent catholics praying (and maybe crying) inside.
Worshippers drink water from a holy source (bring a bottle of water and leave with some!), and there is also a wall of wishes, where you can attach your paper (or handkerchief) with your wish written on it, and it should accomplish within the year.
Unless you are a fervent worshipper, the visit will go fast and seem a bit theme-park like, but it’s quick and a bit fun indeed.
Book a personal guide if yours is a small group. For $100/person, you will get a full load of information, and, the place being big, your guide will speed over the other groups.
Your guide will explain in most details the meaning of stones, mosaics, rooms, latrines, etc…
There are MANY big groups, most of them from the boat cruises, who arrive in coach loads, and the guides literaly shout over eachother’s voices in many languages. It can get quite annoying.
The guide I went with worked for this company: www.aboutephesus.com.
Very professionnal, only two of us, came and pick us up from the Izmir airport with a (big) private van (nice, after the early morning flight), gave wonderful explanations and we had a great lunch.
Take a flight to Izmir, which will cost you about 100€ return from Istanbul Atatürk, then it’s about an hour’s drive.
Or book a tour from your hotel.