Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ephesus, Turkey

We drove up to the ancient city of Ephesus along with a herd of tour buses. Even in November the place was crawling with people. I can't imagine how awful it must be in the summer. We were disappointed to find that the tickets to get in weren't cheap, and a tour guide was even more expensive. So instead of a guide, we bought a cheap little book with photos and writing about the city. It wasn't much help because it was written in poor English and the information was uninteresting and pretty much useless.

Regardless, Ephesus is a very impressive city. It was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city.  It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Greek era. In the Roman period, it was the second largest city in the Roman Empire, behind the empire's capital of Rome. At it's prime in the 1st century BC, it had a population of 250,000, making it the second largest city in the world! The city has been extensively excavated and many of the ruins have been rebuilt. A major street runs through the ancient city, along which many recognizable buildings stand-- theaters, temples, baths, library, hillside homes, fountains, statues. The city is famous for the Temple of Artemis which no longer exists but is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I was shocked to learn that only about 15% of the city has been excavated.

We were particularly interested in the Biblical references-- Ephesus is one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the book of Revelations. Apostle Paul lived here and was involved with the congregation and missions around the city. Early Christians believed that if Ephesus could be converted to Christianity, the entire region would adopt the new faith. Paul wrote 1st Corinthians in Ephesus and was imprisoned here. Later Paul wrote the book of "Ephesians" which is a letter to the church of Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome. The gospel of John may also have been written in Ephesus. What is believed to be the last house of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is nearby, though we didn't have time to visit it. It felt marvelous to walk the same streets as important figures of the Bible. I find myself wishing again and again that I could travel back in time to see the city in its original splendor, with the people of the time walking the streets, not herds of geeky tourists.

Yuriy and I thought it was a little ironic how Turkish ruins and tourist activities are so much more expensive than most of the other places we've been, yet the ancient cities are built by Romans and Greeks, not Turks. In other words, an Italian or Greek has to pay money to a foreign nation to see their own people's cities. I wonder how they feel about that.

- Julia

Ukraine has been such an experience! We have been without internet for awhile as we travel through some disconnected places, thus the break in blogging. In the meantime, we've been working on a lot of posts... some of which include snow!