IZMIR is the second largest port in Turkey after Istanbul and is considered one of Turkey's most vibrant cities because of its dynamism and progressive values, that include female empowerment . Throughout its history, it has attracted various kinds of foreign influx and has absorbed multifarious influences to create for itself a pan european character. Appropriately, its logo proclaims :"Rediscover Life". The old Greek name for Izmir Province was SMYRNA . Yes, the same place where Homer was born.
We did not visit places related to medieval history in this province, but headed straight to Ephesus of The Classical Period.
Camp: Kusadasi. It is a resort town, with buildings that look like freshly painted doll houses and smooth narrow roads running up and down in steep gradients along prettily done up pavements.(Hotel : Dabaklar. unusual location : bang in the middle of a green produce market , abutting the bus station! Interior ambience and amenities : quite OK.)
The ancient Greco Roman city of EPHESUS can take the better part of a day to explore. It is a city restored from salvaged ruins, giving us a good idea of what life in a Hellenistic Metro was like. By 1 BC, it was the second largest city of Imperial Roman Empire, where Education and Art were much valued and women held in great esteem.
Its patron deity was the Huntress, the Mother Goddess ARTEMIS ( aka Diana ), who had her biggest temple erected here. That magnificent Temple, famed as one of The Wonders Of The Ancient World, is today reduced to a single pillar, assembled from broken pieces, standing forlorn in an expanse of marshy grassland....... When we viewed it, a lonely stork sat atop the headless coloumn, brooding over its messy nest of black twigs.
Not all structures met such a pitiful end. The city walls, the mozaic paved boulevards, the Marble Sacred Road, the treasuries and the baths ( and lavatories ) have been put together in reasonably good order . The most impressive structure is the facade of The Library of Celsus, ( built in 125 AD) the third biggest library of the ancient world , that contained 12,000 scrolls from all parts of the "known world". Within its premises is located the tomb of St.John, the Apostle.
The other noteworthy remnants are the handsome arches of Temple of Hadrian and The Gate of Augustus.
The Amphitheatre, supposedly the largest of its time with a seating capacity of 44,000 , has an unfortunate recent history. Having bravely withstood some historical earthquakes, it reportedly suffered the collapse of a complete wing after an energetic Rock Music concert by STING staged within it a few years ago !
Among the sculptures still left in situ, is one of NIKE, in a flying posture, the very form which is supposed to have inspired the famous "whoosh" logo of the celebrated sportswear brand. (Nike's sister Tike adorns the gate of Hadrian).
The museum houses many of the larger sculptures found intact. The most impressive are the huge marble idol of Artemis and the 6ft. hand of an emperor, of whom only a de-nosed face remains. It must have been a respectable giant of a statue in its time.
The guide also pointed out to us what could be the world's oldest signpost. A marble slab showing an foot pointing the way, beside which can be seen the face of a woman and two coins. Needless to say , this graphic ad. showed the way to a brothel !
EPHESUS was an important city in the annals of Early Christianity. It is one of The Seven Churches eulogised in the book of "Revelation." The legend of 'The Seven Sleepers' ( Believers who escaped Roman persecution by sleeping in a cave for centuries) took place in this city. Paul the Apostle is said to have lived here.
The most revered site, though, is the House Of Virgin Mary, situated 7 kms away from the archeological site, atop a wonderfully cool and verdant hill, Mt.Koressos (called Bulbuldagi - Nightingale Hill- in Turkish.) It is believed that after The Crucifixion, St. John took the Mother to live in the stone house till her ascent to Heaven. Called Meryemana Evi in Turkish, the place was considered holy by early pagans as well, and later by Muslims too. It is a very peaceful and comforting place with a mountain brook gurgling by it, sprays of wild blossoms and varieties of birds and butterflies flitting around.
The present stone house is built over the original one with a russet line showing the demarcation between the ages. A very pagan custom of tying scraps of cloth and paper carrying wishes , on to trees and walls is still observed here.
I observed that tourists who are usually noisy elsewhere, automatically drop their voices to whispers here !
I just loved Meryemana.