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Most people think the greatest ruins of the ancient Roman Empire lay in Italy, but Ephesus aims to dispute that belief. Located in Turkey, Ephesus was one of the largest ancient cities in the Mediterranean with a population of over 250,000 people. The city was also very prominent during Greek rule and dates back to the 10th century BC.
Our visit to Ephesus and the surrounding area came via a cruise ship docked in Izmir. Ephesus is located near the town of Selcuk which is located between the port cities of Izmir and Kusadasi. Depending on the cruise company, the chances are you will dock in one of these two cities to visit the ruins. During the planning for this visit, I struggled with finding a way to reach the ruins via public transport. This proved to be impossible given the time constraints so we opted to join a group from Cruise Critic who pooled money together to rent a private bus with guide. The cost including tip was only 15 Euro per person which was quite good. (This price did not include admissions.)
In the vicinity of Selcuk there are a few places to see. The first place we stopped at was the Basilica of St. John. With an entrance fee of 10 TL I simply would not recommend a visit here. The roof and most walls are gone and the history wasn’t significant. To be honest, the best part of the visit was seeing the only remaining column of the Temple of Artemis which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. (Although this could have been seen from the parking lot.)
From the Basilica we were taken to a handicraft pottery shop before moving on the Ephesus. Later in the day we were also dropped for an hour at a carpet weaving factory for a “demonstration”. Apparently it is impossible to get a tour in this area without these stops. I thought these stops were mostly a waste of time, but we used them as an educational opportunity. In the end the carpet shop gave us free drinks and they didn’t put too much pressure on anyone to buy.
Ephesus on the other hand is spectacular. I highly recommend visiting with a guide and reading up on the ruins beforehand. We started the tour from the high entrance and worked our way down to a secondary one below. This enabled us to walk along the ancient main road where we viewed Roman baths, facades of numerous buildings and even spent some time in the enormous theater.
We also opted to see a separate admission area called the Terrace Houses. These ancient villas that belonged to the wealthy have been dug out of a hillside. Many parts of the houses have been preserved and are in wonderful shape. We were in awe of how vibrant the frescoes are and the scope and variety of mosaics was impressive as well. If you visit, I highly
recommend visiting the Terrace Houses despite the additional entry fee.
The final place many people visit in the area is the House of the Virgin Mary. Like everything else near Selcuk, it has a pretty hefty admission fee. (20 TL) Out of the twenty-seven people on our tour, only three opted to visit it. Apparently it consists of a single building with not much else to see. While it is historically significant being the place that the Virgin Mary lived out her final days, we didn’t feel compelled to visit.
Ephesus is home to the most complete Roman ruins outside of Pompeii. This means that with the right perspective, children can easily use their imagination to see the history. At sites like Olympia, they must visualize everything, but this is not the case in Ephesus. Shawn Reece really enjoyed walking down the ancient road while seeing most of the ancient buildings. Even though it was another uncomfortable rainy day, Ephesus was spectacular.
- Use the handicraft and carpet stops as an educational experience for children. After all it most likely is not something that they see at home.
Encourage your children to use their imagination when walking down the main road. Help them envision market carts and the sounds of the ancient Roman city.
- Make sure to visit with a guide who is knowledgeable. We found that our tour guide was able to help Shawn Reece find interest in what he was seeing.
- Encourage your children to stick with the guide. Some time in large groups it can be difficult to stay right next to the guide. We simply tell Shawn Reece to stick right next to him so that he can see and hear better.
- Let your children climb up and sit in the theater. It is one of the largest in existence and can allow them a moment of play among all of the history.
In the end we had a great time in Ephesus. There was a nice mixture of history and culture and it held our attention from beginning to end. The little time we had in Turkey was a great introduction the country and left us excited for our upcoming visits to Istanbul and Alanyah.
For much more information on Ephesus and what you can see there please visit: http://www.ephesus.us/
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