In my ignorance, I never knew how much history, specifically Greek, Roman and Christian history, was entombed in the Turkish coast. We spent the last 10 days traveling slowly along the Aegean sea in small towns and villages. Each day uncovered more ruins, ancient sites and colorful history than I ever expected in this part of the world.
In the seaside town of Bodrum, we walked along the promenade in the spring breeze counting sailboats and eating lamb pita wraps (doner kebaps to the locals) . We visited the enormous castle that houses a world-renowned underwater archaeology museum. More than 16 shipwrecks off the Turkish coast unearthed treasures now on display here. Much to our surprise, we saw another of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World in Bodrum which is now a pile of ruins but once was the tomb of King Mausolus. This place is what created the word “mausoleum”. And a Roman amphitheater overlooking the sea was just across the road. Not like a typical American beach town!
Further up the coast, we spent a week in the sleepy town of Selcuk, about 2 miles from the ancient metropolis of Ephesus. Besides all of the must-see sites, we rode bikes and played board games (backgammon is very popular in Turkey), additional pleasures and past times of traveling slow.
Literally next door to our precious hotel were the ruins of St. Johns Basilica. He lived in this area after Jesus’ death (some say he brought Mary with him after Jesus asked him to take care of her). John wrote his eponymous book of the Bible on the very hill where we are staying and is buried where the church ruins stand. I had no idea of any of this when we booked our trip here. Amazed.
We came here to see Ephesus, which was second only to Rome during the first century with 250,000 residents, including the apostle Paul for two years. He wrote 1 Corinthians while living here and wrote a letter back to his fellow Ephesians after departing. It was surreal to walk these ancient roads and know that Paul had been encouraging the new Christians who lived here, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17-18)
The Roman architecture blows me away every time I see it. Their modern engineering, libraries and baths are sights to behold. Visiting Ephesus was the highlight of our stay in Turkey for me.
I hope when Turkey becomes a more stable country to visit that more Americans will come here. It has such a rich culture and history. I know many friends and family will breathe a sigh of relief when we depart in a few days, but I feel we’ve been protected and count ourselves blessed to have experienced this place.