Beyond Turkish delights

Beyond Turkish delights
Remarkable ruins: The Library of Celsus and the adjacent ruins in Ephesus, Turkey.

You know the song, I Left My Heart In San Francisco? Well, allow me to change the words a little: I lost my wallet in Ephesus. But it's not all bad as that story has a happy ending.

Hold that thought, though, and let me tell you more about Ephesus.

Never mind if you're not a history buff ... or a Christian (Ephesus is one of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible). Even if you don't dig ruins (pardon the pun), I wager Ephesus will still have you floored.

Located south-west of Izmir province in Turkey, the city was built in the 10th century BCE and flourished under Roman rule. At one stage, it was the third largest city in Roman Asia Minor and was the home of the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World. The temple has since been destroyed, as well as the city, and what remains is the largest collection of excavated ruins in the world.

It's hard not to be awed by the amazing structures and marbled roads leading to the Library of Celsus, or what's left of it. It seems a secret route led to the opposite structure, and for the longest time, historians wondered what treasure trove of knowledge the building withheld. They now believe that it was a high society brothel ... guess men even then needed to satisfy their carnal appetites.

A single column marks a reminder of the grandeur that was once the Temple of Artemis, and as you wander towards the Odeon theatre, you can almost imagine the applause of the spectators as they watched concerts and plays there. Ephesus is also where the facade of the Temple of Hadrian as well as a relief of the Greek mythological Medusa can be seen.

Just before the entrance to the Roman ruins lies the Basilica of St John, constructed by Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century CE, touted to be the site of the apostle's tomb.

I'm thinking, how is it possible for a city to be the seat of ancient civilisation, a thriving arena for commerce and culture, where scholars and gladiators went hand-in-hand with pagan beliefs and New Testament Christians, all at once? Yet Ephesus stands as testimony to its attested heritage.

We were given about an hour to explore on our own, but given half the chance, I could have easily spent a whole day here, slowly absorbing the rich splendour of the archaeological site.

Lest you're thinking I set up camp at Ephesus, I had more comfortable lodgings at the Grand Efes Swissotel in Izmir, courtesy of the Trafalgar Insider Global Media Tour. Flown in for a taste of Turkish delights together with 31 other international journalists, I came out richer, not only because of the destination, but also the people who made travelling together such fun.

We travelled in a luxury coach equipped with WiFi and our own "personal butler" who ensured we never went thirsty or hungry! Travel director Yesim Guris, with more than 20 years of guiding experience, regaled us with bits of history and "charming gossip" that gave the various places of interest a lot more heart and personality, ensuring that our memories of Turkey would be firmly locked in.

Just before the ruins, we dropped in at the House of the Virgin Mary, located in a park between Ephesus and Selcuk. It seems a vision appeared to a nun who described the house in detail and, years later, a French clergyman found the place that matched the description of what was believed to be the residence of the mother of Jesus. Sacred to both Christians and Muslims, the House is a popular Catholic pilgrimage site, and I lit a candle as a mark of respect.

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