I visited the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus near Kusadasi, Turkey during my Eastern Mediterranean cruise in October of 2014. Back then I was more excited about our stop in Athens that I didn’t even bother to research in advance about this historical site. I just booked the excursion through the cruise company then waited for the day of my tour. My absence of knowledge about Ephesus somehow made my visit more exciting and memorable. Seeing for the first time the impressive architecture and learning about its rich history while walking around the ruins was such a mind blowing experience. The tour guide was also very generous with her trivias pointing out the city’s port where Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s boat docked when they honeymooned in this ancient city and then took us to the theater, the largest in the ancient world with a seating capacity of 44,000. For me, the most impressive of the archeological remains is the Library of Celsus (main photo), which once housed more than 12,000 scrolls. The facade of the building is still almost intact and stands majestically right in the heart of the city ruins. After Rome, Ephesus was the second largest city in the Roman Empire. Below are some of the photos I took during my visit to this archeological wonder.
The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey remains at the top of my list for the best places I have ever visited in my entire life. I have always been fascinated by ancient cultures and what I saw in this archeological heaven blew me away. Built in 10th century BC, the city featured an advanced acqueduct system, mosaic-tiled sidewalks, a hospital, temples, schools, public baths, library, theaters and an amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 25,000. My hometown was founded less than 100 years ago and we don’t even have an amphitheatre. The photograph above shows the Library of Celsus, which was built in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who was a former governor of Roman Asia. He was buried in a sarcophagus beneath this library, which used to house almost 12,000 scrolls. Ephesus may not be familiar to a lot of people, but if you remember the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World…this city used to be home to one of them…the Temple of Artemis.
The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish), which means Holy Wisdom, is a grand piece of architecture that beautifully defines the Istanbul skyline. According to our tour guide, it was originally an Orthodox church which was turned into a mosque and eventually converted into a museum. It was truly a humbling experience to stand before this ancient wonder and be able to walk along its endless halls and explore its grand chambers. Inside was generally empty except for a few relics and lighting fixtures, however, the walls and ceilings are covered with a spectacular array of religious artwork. It was fascinating to see Christian and Muslim symbols beautifully complementing each other. I think the world can learn from the walls of Ayasofya on how to coexist harmoniously despite our differences. Sadly though, recent developments in Turkish politics may eventually lead to reviving this museum back into a mosque. I just hope the people of Istanbul decide to retain this as a symbol of secularism where people from all faiths can enjoy the beauty and wonder of this great human achievement both in construction and architecture.
The great city of Istanbul has recently been a victim of unnecessary violence resulting to a wasteful loss of innocent lives. However, I do not wish to dwell on this negative incident but instead focus on what is positive about this mesmerizing city. I visited this mystical metropolis two years ago on a cruise and had the best trip of my life. The colorful culture, ancient architecture, rich heritage and friendly people makes Istanbul an amazing destination for those who want to see a perfect blend of east and west as well as that of the past and present. This photo was taken at the top deck of the cruise ship while docked at the Istanbul Cruise Port, which is located right at the heart of the historic section of the city. The tower on the left is the Galata Tower, which is a medieval stone tower built to spot fires and now home to a restaurant, cafe and a night club. Istanbul may have hit a road bump a few days ago but it will bounce back just as it did for centuries. Stay strong Istanbul…I will see you again, soon!