A Day at Ephesus

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After my late arrival in Selçuk the night before, I was excited to get up and visit Ephesus, the whole reason I headed there in the first place. I had a nice breakfast at the guesthouse, then walked across the street to the bus station and caught the dolmuş (shared taxi/shuttle) to the entrance gate — it’s about a 3km drive and costs 2.50 lira. At the ticket window, I hesitated over whether to pay the extra 15TL to see the “terrace houses”, not really knowing what they were, but I decided to go for it and I’m so glad I did. They were definitely my favorite part of the whole place.

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Ephesus is a current excavation site, and they estimate that only about 18% of it has been unearthed so far, which is really quite astonishing since there’s already so much on display. But the terrace houses are separated off in an enclosed structure, I’d imagine to protect the area from the elements as they’re currently working there. Walking inside is like a cross between exploring ruins and visiting a lab. There are lots of tables set up with works in progress: cracked marble slabs laid out like jigsaw puzzles that archaeologists are reconstructing, broken mosaics being pieced back together and fixed. In one corner, fallen columns are stacked. There are signs and photos that explain the past and current restoration efforts in detail, which are pretty informative. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an in-progress dig site before, so I thought it was really cool to see. I can only imagine what’s left to discover!

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To be honest, I didn’t explore the rest of the site as thoroughly as I could have. I’ve already seen so many ruins on this trip so I kind of glazed over midway through, and the extra-hot weather wasn’t helping either. I did enjoy seeing the Library of Celsus, which is really beautiful, as well as the men’s latrines — supposedly the very rich would pay a rental fee to reserve their own seats. The whole room is edged in stone benches against the walls with holes cut in them, and I can only imagine it must have been a very intimate social experience. Pretty glad we have indoor plumbing and private toilets in our homes now.

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The brothel also seemed very popular, but it mostly looked like a pile of rubble to me… not much to see. Also apparently now they are denying that it was a brothel. It actually really amused me, all the signs refer to the sites as “the so-called this” and “the supposed that”. In the case of the brothel, the sign said something like “this was mistakenly believed to be a house of pleasure for many years because people like to imagine salacious activities rather than everyday life” or something like that. Why all the denial? Pretty sure going to the brothel was a regular activity back then. Those Greeks and Romans, man.

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After exploring most of the city, I took a tip from a couple South Africans I had met that morning and caught the dolmuş to nearby Pamukak beach. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very impressed with it. It’s a fine beach and wasn’t very crowded, but was really nothing to write home about in terms of beauty or ambience… just average. It was nice to wade in the water for a little bit though, and once I was done I had some tea in one of the two beachside restaurants while the owner called the dolmuş to pick me up again and take me back to Selçuk.

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2 thoughts on “A Day at Ephesus

  1. As a historian and archaeologist, this post had me really intrigued. Great photos and information about your adventure! Might look like a pile of ruins to most folks that visit, but to me.. it’s pure gold!

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