Ephesus and Izmir: Ancient Greek city, beautiful girls and palm trees

Ephesus and Izmir: Ancient Greek city, beautiful girls and palm trees
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We left the alien landscape of Cappadocia to continue our otherworldly travels with a trip back in time to the Ancient Greek city of Ephesus (Efes). After the 12 hour bus to Izmir, we traveled another 40 km to Ephesus. Surprisingly, almost immediately after leaving the city bus station, we were alone in the mountains again until we reached a small town close to the ruins. We bounded off the bus, energized by the fresh mountain air and eager to stretch our legs, we set off to the sound of jingling bells as herds moved through the hills.

Ephesus, Izmir, Turkey

Ephesus, Izmir, Turkey

Ancient City of Ephesus

Thankfully Orhan knew where we were going because for a site of international renown, the ancient city was surprisingly hidden.
The city was mind-blowingly ancient, built back in 10th century BC, once containing the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple was destroyed in a Gothic raid but remained an important religious site under Roman rule. Ephesus contains one of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation and the Book of John might have been written here. I’ve got an aversion to any place with giant tour buses (they couldn’t fit down Cappadocia’s tight corners) but I guess that’s to be expected. Camera-laden Asians snaked around ancient columns to follow their flag-waving guide. Another group of elderly explorers sat peacefully on a hill, apparently deciding a birds eye view was the best way to experience the site. Cats climbed out of climbed in the ruins, scratched their backs against steps of the theater and peered down at silly tourists from their perches atop broken columns. Supposedly, cats and lions have roamed the city since ancient times and still have free reign of the place.

Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Izmir, Turkey

Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Izmir, Turkey

Orhan and I power walked through parts, flashed peace signs for photoshoots in others and explored any dark tunnel we could find. Like Cappadocia, we could take any route we wanted and we were free to peek in mysterious cervices or hop across ancient pools.

Downtown Izmir 
After a few hours, we returned downtown to explore one of Turkey’s largest and most unique cities. Izmir has a reputation for being atypical, known for beautiful women and less conservative lifestyles. I saw a couple girls rocking punk-ish hairstyles but the population didn’t seem too different to me. As a major port, Izmir is a beautiful city along the sea, streets lined with palm trees and with buildings crawling up the surrounding mountains. Downtown felt a little like New York city, with people striding purposefully its streets, with food carts selling Turkish bagels to grab and go. However, every other store seemed to sell ridiculous ball gowns, shimmering with an excessive amount of sequins, unrealistically long trains and cupcake-poof skirts. I can’t imagine why Turkish people need such ridiculously lavish dresses but it makes for elaborate window decor.

Izmir, Turkey viewed from the Asansor lift

Izmir, Turkey viewed from the Asansor lift

We walked along the waterfront, feasted on some $1 pide (Turkish pizza), got surrounded by a cloud of pigeons near famous clock tower and mosque in the main city square. We wandered the ancient Ottoman bazaar (my favorite so far!), with hookah pipes, Turkish carpets, evil eye charms and tea sets exploding out of the small shops. We headed to Tugba, a famous confectionery shop to sample different Turkish delights, exaggerating the sugar high with electrifying shots of Turkish coffee. All energized, we marched around town, past rainbow hippie stairs and a city garden waterfall to this adorable cobblestone street honoring the musician Dario Moreno. It felt very European with romantic music played as boarded an ancient elevator. Built by a Jewish philanthropist, Asansor lift was designed to help elderly people get back to their houses on the hills but now, it appears to be mostly a tourist attraction with beautiful views of the city and the sea. And a great excuse for Orhan to finally use the tripod we had been lugging around!
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With that, we wrapped up our day in Izmir, waiting in an incredibly inefficient line to board taxis to the bus station, piling seven grown people in the small car when it came. And with a 13 bus ride, we were back in Adana in time (kind of) for Orhan’s important Masters degree meeting and exam.

Song of the Moment:  Drop to Hold You by Matt Nathanson

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