Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 38: Ephesus

The original trip itinerary described most of the day as an opportunity to "discover Ephesus."  I didn't really understand how this could take all day until we arrived at the ancient city in the morning.  The city in its entirety is very large and in 95 degree heat can be a rather challenging area to tour and explore.  We walked through the Agora and town hall before seeing the ancient Roman baths (hmm, seems like I've seen something like that before...).  There were also some interesting fountains and a huge restored portion of the Celcus Library.  We saw the Grand Theatre and Gymnasium before eventually making it all the say to the Stadium (still in use for concerts today) at the end of the city.

It probably sounds like just another ancient archeological site but understanding some of the related history is what made the experience a real highlight.  If the book of "Ephesians" sounds familiar it was because St. Paul was a visitor to the town and synagogue/church.  St. John also spent a significant portion of his life around Ephesus.  He did quite a bit of preaching and likely composed his Gospel  in the area.  One of the cooler things to physically see was the actual hospital ruins where St. Luke, also an Ephesus resident for a short time, treated patients.  There was a lot of staff on this trip (including one of the nurses, the psychologist, and a psychiatrist) so I was in line right behind them for the geeky photo-op at Luke's clinic.  The roads we walked on around Ephesus are original; it's pretty awesome to think that I've possibly walked on the same routes as some of the more influential names in history.

After spending quite a bit of time around Ephesus we made the drive up into the mountains (beautiful scenery once again) to visit the officially recognized House of the Virgin Mary.  There are quite a few alleged Mary residences around but this is only recognized by the Catholic Church.  It was a pretty big tourist area and a small little house (mostly reconstructed) with a nice little chapel nearby.  When finished here we traveled to the Basilica of St. John.  John spent the majority of his later years (before the exile) in and around the region.  The remains of the really large
church we visited also contain John's original tomb (no remains anymore).  There were some more awesome views around the area which included a few stork sightings.

We made a late lunch stop at a restaurant near the previous night's hotel.  The lamb kabobs and rice were a pretty good first actual Turkish meal.  After lunch we visited the Ephesus Museum that houses a lot of the original sculptures from the ancient town.  Once again I have to thank HumTut and this darn liberal arts education for the ability to recognize a lot of the names and faces.  In the museum I had fun talking with some other folks who appeared to be American and learned that they were also on a study abroad program based in Athens where they visit a lot of early religious sites.   After the museum we stopped by the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  The only thing part of the enormous and elaborate temple left is a single pillar.  It was kind of anti-climatic but still interesting and good to see.  After a stupid tourist visit to a leather fashion show and store (funny how our guide just "coincidentally" led us so we'd be close by "if" there was extra time) we made the way to the airport for our flight back to Istanbul.  After arriving on the ship I joined most of the other members of the tour by running upstairs to grab a much needed salad and fruit smoothie.

Overall the trip was really great.  The only other student I knew well was Lacey and it is always good meeting others on these sort of things.  Besides the food issues (and Lacey leaving her cell phone at the hotel...) there were no real kinks, all moved very efficiently.   There was a decent group of students but also a lot of faculty and staff.  It turned out that my Abnormal Psych teacher was the trip leader and my Infectious Disease prof was also tagging along.  It was fun getting to know them a bit better and talk with some of the others.  We had a good time and I can't wait to explore some more of Turkey.  That's all for now, we're off the the Grand Bazaar tomorrow (any souvenir requests email soon!).

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