Updated August 12, 2020.
If you follow my blog or social media at all, you know I am a sucker for history. And there’s nothing more historical than ruins! This Faraway Friday, we’re heading to Ephesus and its beautiful neighbor, Izmir, Turkey!
10. The Ephesus Museum
Ephesus should certainly be an all-day stop on your list, but this museum in Izmir is the perfect complement to your Ephesian excursion. They have more information and artifacts that you won’t see at Ephesus itself because of their value or the way they’ve been naturally preserved (and now artificially, but beneficially, preserved). We were glad we went because we understood our trip to Ephesus better than if we’d skipped it!
Izmir is a coastal town next to ancient Ephesus. This was the best place we stayed on our trip because the people were so much friendlier and easy-going than elsewhere in Turkey. They were willing to chat with you, give you directions, and give you advice about where to go and what to do that may not be in your guide book. Not that other Turkish people were rude (well, in Istanbul some people were rude), but they were not actively warm and welcoming in quite the same way as the people in Izmir. The city also boasts an historic aqueduct and great markets!
8. Turkish Rugs
We met a woman who makes rugs there in Izmir. She talked to us about it and even showed us how it’s done!
More here: How to Embrace Cultural Differences
7. The Street Markets
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul was too much for me. The shopping elsewhere in Turkey was lackluster. But the markets in Izmir were fun! They were bright and colorful, the people were kind, and I didn’t feel cheated. Perhaps it’s the coastal influence that made everyone seem more laid-back!
I’ll be honest with you, I was not a fan of the Turkish food. I think the sheer volume of the olive oil is what upset my stomach, but lovely, coastal Ephesus and Izmir provided much more agreeable fare. I absolutely fell in love with the baba ganouj and stuffed grape leaves here. There was something to it that I’ve never tasted anywhere else.
More here: What to Eat in Turkey
5. The Ruins
I find ruins absolutely fascinating. Much of Ephesus has been restored and is now protected, but there is so much of it that has lasted all these 2000+ years. And you can just walk around amongst them!
4. The Library of Celsus
One of the most impressive sites (though still ruined) in the old city of Ephesus is undoubtedly the library. Before it burned as a result of an earthquake in 262 A.D. (or burned during an Gothic invasion around the same timeframe–it’s debated), it was a grand an valuable library. The facade you see is a reconstruction from the 1970s, but it is beautifully accurate.
More here: Ruined: Beauty in the Broken Places
3. Walking in Historic Footsteps
It was remarkable to me that we tourists could just walk along the same roads as the great minds of the days when Ephesus was a world-renown cultural and intellectual epicenter. But they let us! Check out the still-visible details on the pathways.
2. The Aegean Sea
Near the ruins, you’ll find the beautiful Aegean Sea, the very one mentioned in the Bible! This is possibly the same place where Paul baptized a dozen Ephesians in the name of Jesus. Just to put my feet into the same sea that Biblical characters sailed on, fished in, and depended upon for travel was meaningful for me.
1. The Great Theatre
This goes down as one of the most meaningful and faith-shaping sites I’ve ever visited. My friend Andrea and I sat in the amphitheater and read both Acts 19 and the book of Ephesians. In Acts 19, the Ephesians rioted, shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” in that very theatre. Paul himself was held inside the rooms under the amphitheater to protect him from the rioters.
Is Ephesus on your list of places to visit? I recommend it! Find all my recommendations on my Turkey Page!
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