It’s the last day of our cruise (finally, the crowd yells) and it is spent at Kusadasi. The few of you who have been paying attention will know that we were here two weeks ago with plans of visiting Ephesus, but our car and guide never showed up. The rest of you can pretend that you know what I am writing about
The tour company, you will remember, met us in Istanbul and were full of apologies. They also agreed to meet us again in Kusadasi. And this time they are waiting for us at the port gates, as arranged.. However we are not sure what to expect as we have had a less than inspiring review of Ephesus. The report came from none other than Louise Brooks who, when she heard that we hadn’t made it to Ephesus last time, consoled us by saying
“Don’t worry. It is highly overrated. It’s just a pile of rubble. I don’t understand why people get so excited by it”
Her sentences were always very short and uncomplicated, just like her opinions. But it must be remembered that this is the woman who didn’t know the difference between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. So it comes as no surprise to find that her harsh critique of Ephesus is totally undeserved.
The place sets the fabulosity meter ringing. It is awe inspiring, mainly because of the unbelievable construction involved in building this city over two thousand years ago, but also because of its setting. It is situated at the head of a valley, and runs down the valley for about a mile flanked on each side by hillsides covered in olive trees. The heart of the city, with all the government buildings and housing for the elite is situated at the head of the valley on the hill slopes, while the housing for the common people runs down the valley to the sea.
The scale of the city is incredible and it has been estimated that 250,000 men lived there. Notice the word “men”. That figure does not include slaves or women, who were second and third rate citizens (in that order!) and do not appear in any population estimates. So the population could easily have been over half a million. That was a lot of people two thousand years ago.
The infrastructure for a city of that size was amazing. The streets all run down hill to the sea and there was a system to release water at the top of the streets, which would run down through the city cleaning everything in its path. There were also drains from the toilets and baths. The drainpipes were made of twice baked clay, and the manufacturing process was so good that there are still piles of drain pipes in perfect condition stored at the edge of the City, looking like an overstocked section of Home Depot.
The pipes themselves were buried inside walls and under the streets and they too ran down the hill to the sea.
But even the best made plans can have a flaw – and in this case it was the silt washing down the nearby Meander river. I think actually it was all that sewage and street dirt! After a few centuries the bay filled in and the harbour which had been at the foot of the town bringing trade and prosperity was left high and dry. The marshy bay land attracted the mosquitoes, which in turn lead to a prolonged outbreak of malaria. Soon there was no alternative but to abandon the City and leave it to crumble.
Today there are two entrances to the Site – one at the head of the Valley and one at the bottom of the valley. Our guide like many others, drives us to the top of the valley and we walk down through the magnificent ruins to the bottom where our driver waits for us.
Our guide is in a rush. He is full of information which is fascinating, but we want to linger and explore the different areas. But every time we stop, he urges us on.
We have managed to get there before all the tour buses arrive from the five cruise ships docked at Kusadasi. But the large groups of tourists can now be seen behind us led by their assorted flag waving guides. If we keep ahead of them, we can enjoy all the highlights in relative peace, undisturbed by the waves of tourists pouring down behind us. We feel a little like the inhabitants of old trying to keep ahead of the effluent being washed down the streets.
The city is built of bricks all faced with white marble. The streets are all paved with white marble. The temperature is almost 100 degrees, but all the white marble makes it feel much hotter. The many bathhouses that are scattered through the city must have been most welcome. But once again it was all about the men (I am trying so hard not to raise a fist and shout “Yes!”). For the men used the baths first. When they were finished, the slaves could use them. And finally, after everyone else had used the water, the women were allowed in. It is hard to believe that being a slave in those days was better than being a woman.
The city is incredible and a few photographs will say more about it than I ever could:
The terraced houses, which are being painstakingly reconstructed right now,
And everywhere there are magnificent statues,
In short, it may be a pile of rubble, but it is a magnificent pile of rubble.
From here we go for a scenic drive up to the mountains to visit a beautiful old town called Sirence.
The guide leaves us to wander around and tells us he will have a cup of coffee in the local cafe, while he waits for us. But when we return we catch him hurriedly trying to hide incriminating bottles of beer.
But after a long hot day that seems like the perfect answer.