Posts Tagged ‘travel to turkey’

Evocative Ephesus

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Smithsonian Study Leader Karen Britt is Professor of Byzantine Art at the University of Louisville and has excavated in Turkey, Greece, and Israel. Here, she shares her thoughts on exploring Ephesus with Smithsonian Travelers, which she did on our recent tour through Turkey.

The Library of Celsus at Ephesus. Photo: Amy Kotkin.

The Library of Celsus at Ephesus. Photo: Amy Kotkin.

Each time I visit Ephesus, I am surrounded by people: those visiting the spectacular site today and those who lived in this bustling metropolis centuries ago. Undoubtedly, a vivid imagination—something I have had since childhood—led me to archaeology. As a young girl and later, as a teen, I read a lot and almost exclusively books about people who lived in the past (think: Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Laura Ingalls Wilder and biographies for kids). Consequently, the people who lived in the past were real to me, so real that I thought of them as my friends and their enemies were mine. Although older, the past remains real to me; historical figures still seem like friends and enemies except now they sometimes switch sides! As an archaeologist, I am fortunate to be able to dwell in and on the past a good deal of the time and to have acquired the tools necessary to reconstruct past cultures.

Smithsonian Travelers enjoy Ephesus

Smithsonian Travelers at Ephesus, Turkey. Photo: Karen Britt.

As a specialist in Late Antique and Byzantine archaeology, when I walk through the streets of Ephesus today, it is not difficult to envision the past: it is a remarkably well-preserved site. As I stroll down the colonnaded Curetes Street with its mosaic-paved sidewalks, I enjoy the breezes from the harbor and imagine the cooling sounds of water splashing in fountains (nymphaea) adjacent to the street. I can picture the upper and lower markets (agoras) full of shoppers bargaining for supplies with vendors. When I close my eyes, against a backdrop of temples, mansions, the Library of Celsus and countless public statues, I see men moving along bustling streets as they make their way to the theater and women rushing to take advantage of their limited hours in the baths.

Walking toward the Double Church of the Virgin, I am transported back to the important ecumenical Church Council of 431 that occurred here.  I envision robed bishops, from near and far, heatedly debating, for months, the nature of Christ. Was he truly man and truly God simultaneously? And if so, how should the Virgin Mary’s relationship to Christ be defined? Weighty matters, indeed, were decided in this place, matters of enormous consequence for the future development of the Church.

On a glorious spring morning, as I sit on a fallen column in the atrium of the church and gaze toward the well-preserved apse of the sanctuary, I cannot imagine ever tiring of Ephesus. Each and every time I visit, the stones speak to me.

If you’re ready to see Ephesus for yourself, click for more on our Legendary Turkey and the Turquoise Coast tour. Karen Britt will be traveling with you next to Anatolia, and click here for more information on this tour.

Traveler Words from Turkey

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Below, a recent traveler talks about her experience in Turkey. To learn more about traveling to Turkey, click here.

Photo: Jessica Engler

Photo: Jessica Engler

“What a beautiful country. Such lush vegetation, so clean, and of course the wonderful turquoise waters. The ancient sights were magnificent. Each day was more beautiful than the day before. I kept thinking this is just a dream and I’m going to wake up back in Saskatchewan. I never realized Turkey had such high mountains and so many forests and so many well contained ancient sites.

Our five-day trip on the gulet was fantastic. Our cabins were very comfortable. We each had our own double bed and private bathroom. The wood throughout was very beautiful. The crew consisted of the captain and two crew members. They were amazing!! They served sumptuous meals and kept the gulet spotless.

We had an outstanding guide named Amet Memis. He was so very knowledgeable and had such a wonderful personality. We were very fortunate to have Amet as our personal link to all ancient and present history. He also had the patience of Job!! We made many friends on this wonderful holiday.”

- Smithsonian Traveler on Legendary Turkey and the Turquoise Coast

For the Best Greek and Roman Ruins, See…Turkey??

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

With a Ph.D. in Islamic history from the University of Pennsylvania, Smithsonian Study Leader Gary Leiser has taught several courses in Middle Eastern history and published nine books, most on the early history of the Turks in the Middle East. For more on Gary and traveling with him, click here.

It is sometimes said that Turkey has better Greek ruins than Greece and better Roman ruins than Italy. Certainly, the classical ruins of Turkey rank among the best in the Mediterranean world. One site that has always intrigued me is ancient Pergamon (or Pergamum) in the northwest corner of Turkey. Ephesus, to the south, may get more tourist attention today than Pergamon because of the extent of its ruins, but its setting cannot compare to that of Pergamon. The acropolis of Pergamon perches atop a cone-shaped mountain that looms perhaps a thousand feet over the modern city of Bergama. It is approached by a narrow road that reaches the base of the upper walls. After a short but steep walk, you find yourself transported back to the late Roman Empire. Pergamon was the most powerful city in the Roman province of Asia before the rise of Ephesus in the first century A.D.

A sketch of Ancient Pergamum.

A sketch of Ancient Pergamon.