Our trip included one stop on the Aegean Sea in the country of Turkey. The country Turkey "straddles the continents of Europe and Asia" which is the description BBC uses in its country profile of Turkey (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1022222.stm).
We stopped at the town of Kuşadası. What was once a sleepy fishing town has now become a tourist destination as well as a holiday destination for Europeans who are buying vacation places there. Our reason for being there is that nearby are the ruins of ancient Ephesus. During the Roman era, Ephesus was the largest Roman city in Asia, with nearly half a million residents.
Our local guide was most anxious to impress on us how welcoming Turkey is to visitors. She spoke directly to the impact of Ataturk on his country, dragging it into the modern era during the 1920s. Serving as Turkey's first president immediately after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Ataturk moved the country into the 20th century by establishing a modern secular nation. That reality is greatly under attack today by Muslim radical elements who are seeking to set aside the strong secularism. Our guide became quite agitated decrying these efforts.
She was also fiercely proud of the magnificent ruins of Ephesus. She referred to it as one of the best kept secrets in antiquity. She kept asking if we had any idea how extensive these ruins would be.
The short answer was NO. While I certainly knew the name of Ephesus--mostly in a New Testament construct, as it was a city where the apostle Paul conducted a significant portion of his missionary work--I did not know that there were so many beautiful remnants of a once proud civilization.
Ephesus was a sea-port, but when the river nearby kept depositing silt, eventually the seacoast became more and more distant, and Ephesus lost its importance. Earthquakes destroyed the town, and it was overrun and sacked. It reverted to village status, and was ultimately abandoned and forgotten.
Then, in the early 1900s, the British came and began excavations on behalf of the British Museum, and during the 1920s, the Austrian Archaeological Institute began work. Today, ongoing excavations are under the Austrians. While much has been uncovered, it is estimated that only 15% of the ruins have been found. Money is the primary reason why more has not been uncovered.
Enjoy your visit to Ephesus.
The Roman Celsus library
The public men's toilets--men would gather, (ahem) do their business, and catch up on the day's news!
The only mosaic floor uncovered for public view. There are other mosaics, but they are housed under roofs to protect them.
Another view of the library.
The theater, that could seat 44,000 people. The general rule was a theater was to be able to seat 1/10 of the population of an area.
Ephesus--the best kept secret in Asia Minor (in the country presently known as Turkey). Our guide in Greece kept using the immediately preceding description. She said--you are going to visit Asia Minor (the country presently known as Turkey). My husband and I were very amused at that, but it did seem to speak to the simmering tension between Greece and Turkey--after all, these countries have fought from time to time.