Turkey, Excursion to Ephesus

Ephesus Turkey

I am not a great one for ruins.  Generally it requires an enormous outlay of imagination and patience for scant reward but the site at Ephesus is so rich that I can walk on 2000 year old flagstones with recognisable buildings on either side…” – Michael Palin – ‘Pole to Pole’

Historically inspired by the visit to the Temple of Apollo at Didyma we were looking forward now to our bus trip to Ephesus and to Heirapolis (Pamukkale) to visit more ancient Hellenistic and Roman sites.

The bus was to collect us at eight o’clock so we woke early and after a small breakfast made our way down to the appointed rendezvous point outside the apartment and then being the first to be collected began the tedious job of picking up our fellow travellers.

The problem with bus trips is that you cannot choose your travelling companions – it is a game of chance!  I imagined that we would be accompanied on this trip by middle aged historians in crumpled linen suits and battered panama hats, archaeologists carrying trowels and leather bound notebooks and the entire cast of a Merchant Ivory film but at the first pick up we were joined by a Geordie and noisy Lithuanian family and then horror of horrors by a noisy bunch of women who looked as though they should really be going to a market rather than one of the World’s finest archaeological sites.  You can call me a snob if you like but I couldn’t for the life of me understand why they were going on this trip.

It got worse.  It turned out that they were a darts team from Dagenham.  We were on a bus with an octet of middle aged women with inappropriate tattoos and piercings who were loud and embarrassing and behaved like escapees from a medical research centre.   I was horrified – we were going to spend two days with these people and as the journey started I looked out of the window and tried to block it from my mind.  I would rather have been travelling with a bus load of people suffering from an incurable tropical disease!

It took around about an hour to reach Ephesus and we passed through interesting countryside of agriculture, forests, villages, medieval castles and ancient temples but mostly through acres and acres of cotton fields which started at the side of the road and disappeared towards the horizon on all sides.  There was an awful lot of cotton out there and it turns out that Turkey is actually one of top world producers even though the product is of inferior quality to that of Egypt for example.

Eventually we arrived at Ephesus and ran the wallet robbing gauntlet of the hawkers and the unofficial guide book sellers and after a short break made our way inside the excavation site. It was busy of course but I expected that because this is one of the most visited tourist attraction sites in all of Turkey and we competed with bus tours and cruise ship day trippers from Kusadasi as we elbowed our way through the entrance and into the beginning of the tour.

Temple of Diana at Ephesus

We started at the top of the excavations and over the next two hours made our way down the ancient streets to the lowest point of the city which in ancient times was the harbour which was difficult to imagine today because Ephesus is now a considerable distance from the shore of the Mediterranean.

We passed through hundreds of years of history, Greek theatres, Roman baths, ancient houses and even the public latrines and made slow progress towards the finest building on the whole site, the library of Celsus, which archaeologists have discovered doubled up bizarrely as a brothel!

Ephesus was once one of the most important cities in Asia Minor, a natural trading crossroads between east and west and for a while enjoyed a status second only to Rome.  There is a lot of reconstruction of course but I am not averse to a bit of sympathetic reconstruction because without it it is difficult to imagine what it might have looked like.

After considering the issue I think I agree with Henry Miller who (writing about Knossos on the island of Crete) wrote in the ‘Colossus of Rhodes“There has been much controversy about the aesthetics of Sir Arthur Evans’s work of restoration.  I find myself unable to come to any conclusion about it; I accepted it as a fact.  However Knossos may have looked in the past, however it may look in the future, this one which Evans has created is the only one I shall ever know.  I am grateful to him for what he did…”

The guided tour through Ephesus was concluded by a visit to the Greek Theatre, which was later used as a Roman gladiator fighting venue and then we were out of the southern gate and heading back to the bus.  I could have spent longer at the site but our itinerary was determined by the restrictions of the tour bus timetable and it whisked us off now for an instantly forgettable lunch, which would have been alright in an emergency but not out of choice, at a tourist dining treadmill.  Personally I would have preferred a packet of potato crisps!

Lunch over we now drove to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although you would have to have a very good imagination to be able to understand how wonderful it was but could do no better than rely on the description by Antipater of Sidon, a Greek poet of the 2nd century BC:

“I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Babylon and on the Zeus by the banks of the Alpheus, I have seen the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Helios, the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the others were placed in the shade, for the sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus”

So it must have looked quite magnificent I imagine but except for one solitary column there is nothing there today and it turns out that if you want to see more, guess where you have to go, yes, the British Museum.  This was a staggering disappointment, it really needed some Arthur Miller approved reconstruction and interpretation and I for one was glad when it was all over and we were back on the bus and we could continue the drive to Pamukkale about three hours away to the east.

Ephesus Turkey


Related Posts:

Spartacus the Gladiator


The Roman City of Pompeii

The Roman City of Herculaneum

The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

The Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman Buildings at Mérida

The Roman Ruins at Segóbriga

Diocletian’s Palace at Split

The Roman Buildings at Arles


The Greek and Roman Ruins at Empuria, Catalonia

The Palace of Knossos in Crete

Athens and Ancient Greece

The Acropolis Museum in Athens


31 responses to “Turkey, Excursion to Ephesus

  1. I am sighing with delight at a return trip to Ephesus. From your last photo it looks like we visited in off season. That’s a lot of tourists!


  2. Efes is great I agree, but I personally prefer Afrodisias for it’s more authentic feel (more archaeological than touristic). Best still for sheer scale is Heiropolis, providing you can spare 4-5 hours to really wander around the enormous site.


    • I wanted to go to Afrodisias and we did get to the next day Heiropolis. I thought it was better than Efes. I’ll hire a car next time I go. I went for the tours because they were so reasonably priced but this turned out to be a mistake. Live and learn!


  3. Your account of Turkey is quite a bit different from our experience about two years back. Clean wherever we went, none of us in our group (could’ve made a cricket mini World Cup representation) bothered by hawkers, touts and the like, excellent food all round. Looks like things have changed.


  4. Nice post! Is it allowed to visit the site on your own, or do you have to take part in a guided tour?


  5. Crowds. I don’t like them but there’s no escaping top tourist attractions.
    This visit gives me goosebumps. What a place even though so much is gone.


  6. Pingback: Turkey, Pamukkale and Cleopatra’s Pool | Have Bag, Will Travel

  7. Pingback: It’s Nice To Feel Useful (7) | Have Bag, Will Travel

  8. Pingback: Journey to the North – Edinburgh, First Impressions | Have Bag, Will Travel

  9. Pingback: On This Day – Excursion to Ephesus | Have Bag, Will Travel

  10. I howled so much with laughter when reading the “darts team from Dagenham” that I had to tell Jackie the story, Andrew. You couldn’t have invented that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hard to avoid tourists anywhere these days. Even out of season they seem to head for the ‘tick-boxes’ tourist sites. We were lucky to visit Ephesus in May with very few tourists and although we were driving, we still had less time there than I would have liked. A second visit still leaves me wanting more!


  12. I’ve only once in my life done a coach-visit, and funnily enough, also to Ephesus. Getting there late so we could first visit a carpet showroom, then a jewellery showroom was beyond tooth-grindingly disappointing. Never again. But the time we did spend there was astonishing, wonderful. What a place!


  13. The problem with bus trips is often the other passengers. Hubby has little patience with them. My favourite line, “I would rather have been travelling with a busload of people suffering from an incurable tropical disease!” Ephesus would be something to see though.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. All those people! I traveled in March, which was often uncomfortably chilly, and at one point our bus had to stop and put on chains in order to cross a snowy mountain pass. However! There were much fewer people. Ephesus was still the most crowded destination of the trip, but not like the image you posted. I could have spent multiple days there – the place is huge! I loved the baths and the toilets. Most of all I loved the idea of how modern this city was, and so long ago.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.