When people come to Turkey, many have two destinations in mind – the Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus and the white travertine cliffs of Pamukkale. We did both in one day.
From Kusadasi, we headed to Ephesus, which has been high on our list for years! Originally a Greek city, it later became a Roman outpost boasting nearly 300,000 inhabitants. Ephesus was one of the original 12 cities in the Ionian League during the Classical Greek period and was home to one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis (since destroyed). Ephesus also has an important role in the Bible because Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians was written to the inhabitants of the city and was delivered in the amphitheater that still stands.
We arrived at Ephesus slightly later than expected (about 10:00 am) and the temperature was already climbing. We picked up our tickets (Lira 25 for the tickets and Lira 5 for parking) and then headed into the archaeological site. We opted to use the upper entrance, and it made for an easier entrance but a long, hot walk out. We used our battery-powered fans left over from our Egypt trip (brought for just this occasion) and were the envy of the other tourists.
The first stop in Ephesus from the upper entrance is the Odeon and gymnasium, which looks like a small amphitheater. From there we walked down the Curetes Street seeing the smaller sites.
The highlight of Ephesus is the Roman Library of Celsus, an iconic, multi-story edifice that is strikingly beautiful. The library was built to honor the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and house the library of 12,000 scrolls. It is perhaps the finest library outside of Rome.
The Great Theater was under construction and was being renovated, so we couldn’t move down beyond the upper terraced level. It was a sight to behold – seating for over 24,000 and the largest amphitheater in the ancient world. It was a long walk from the Celsus library out to the theatre and anyone visiting in the summer months should be prepared for the heat.
On the way out, one hillside is all enclosed, and the houses (complete with many ancient frescos) are being renovated inside. The area is called The Terrace Houses or Hillside Houses and there is a supplemental admission of Lira 15 to enter. It was interesting to see how people lived at that time and we felt the Terrace Houses were worth it, although it was extremely hot in the buildings under the summer heat.
As the sun climbed high in the sky, temperatures soared and it was time to leave (or pass out from dehydration!). After leaving Ephesus, we hit the highway and made the long drive to Pamukkale. The highway was nice, but then it turned into a local road with tons and tons of stoplights. We grabbed a quick lunch at Marla Restaurant just outside of Nazilli. Interestingly, the large restaurant is inside a BP gas station and seems to be a stopover for tour buses making the same long drive we were. They had an extensive buffet lunch and numerous kinds of Turkish delight to sample (and buy to take with you, of course). We grabbed a quick panini, used the sparkling clean restroom and were on our way.
On arriving in Pamukkale, we were chased down by a guy on a moped, but we didn’t fall for the scam, which we thankfully had read about in our guidebook. He wanted us to stop so he could try to sell us something.
We got checked into our hotel, the Richmond Pamukkale, which sits on the high plain beyond Pamukkale. The guidebook said this hotel is the best there is in the area. That may be the case, but it left us wanting a lot more. The beds were rock hard and the whole building had a college dorm-like ambiance. The breakfast was served in a large cafeteria and had an institutional feel.
We drove to the travertine pools and hiked up the “cotton castle” from the town at dusk. We had to remove our shoes for the hike, so the water ran cool (but not cold) on our feet. Some people brought swimsuits and lounged in the pools. Others smeared mud on their faces. But we just hiked up and took pictures. As we walked down, bats took to the skies by the thousands.
After lots of Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine, we were craving something with some spice. So, we had dinner at Lamuka’s Lokanta – a little Japanese and Korean restaurant on a side street in town. For Lira 40, I had the chicken with vegetables and an Efes beer, while Laura had the teriyaki chicken. Both were very tasty and a nice change from the grilled meats of Turkey.
After dinner, we took a dip in the hotel’s pool. The indoor pool is like a nicer spa, but they ask you to wear shower caps. I get the requirement of bathing before the pool, but shower cap was weird. We were able to soak in the warm water completely alone for about 20 minutes before it got too warm. The indoor pool closed at 10:30, so we moved it outside to the two mineral pools, which were very nice. We were treated to some entertainment at the nearby bar – a belly dancer, who was ok and a singer who was a little off-key. It was a quirky but relaxing way to end the evening.
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