No journey through Asia Minor is complete without a tumbling tour of the ancient wonder that is Ephesus: world heritage site nominee and arguably one of the most impressive open air museums anywhere. Ephesus (or ‘Efes’ to give the place its Turkish name which also happens to be the name of Turkey’s favourite ale), was one of the most sophisticated cities of antiquity, adorned with grand civic buildings, marble-clad pavements and street lighting.
Tag: Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
Let’s face it, not many people can claim to live on the same street as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. No trip to Bodrum is complete without a look around the meagre ruins of the once magnificent Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (Bodrum that was) which are located a few hundred metres from our house. The vast tomb was constructed to inter the remains of King Mausolus in 350 BC (hence the origin of the word mausoleum). Remarkably, the monument survived virtually intact for seventeen centuries before it was felled by an earthquake in the middle ages. What remained was plundered by the Knights of St John to build the imposing crusader castle that now dominates the town. The fortress rises above the same strategic promontory where Mausolus’ palace once stood.
Admittedly, visitors need a vivid imagination to visualise how the monument once looked. All that really remains is a large hole in the ground with multiple fragments of pillars and dressed stones scattered about randomly. There is a bijou and rather tired museum which attempts to fill in some of the detail. It features a naff video on a loop: more of a tourist board advert for Bodrum. Typically, there’s more to be seen in the British Museum in London.
Still, there’s something about the place. A pretty overgrown precinct provides a welcome tranquil respite from the heat, hassle and bustle of the modern town. We visited on a sunny spring day. The shrubbery was verdant and winter waters still trickled through the foundations covering the stones with algae and creating a pool in Mausolus’ burial chamber. It was teeming with tadpoles and other pond life. After an hour or so tumbling over the ruins, we popped home for a welcome cuppa.
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Bodrum is sprinkled with tumbledown old stone houses, often open to the elements and slowly crumbling like a Turkish version of Pompeii. It’s a shame. Some of these gorgeous derelict dwellings may not be suitable for modern family living but what about a little tourist income? With a little imagination and investment many could be sensitively recycled into lucrative holiday lets attracting top dollar from the more discerning visitor. Not many addresses can claim to share the same street as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Tomorrow’s post – Old Bodrum Renewed.
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Selçuk is a handsome town, host to a fine museum and spitting distance from the wonder that is Ephesus: world heritage site nominee and arguably one of the most impressive open air museums anywhere. And, since we were in the vicinity anyway, it would have been rude not have a look around the imposing ruins. Ephesus (or Efes to give the place its Turkish name which is also happens to be the name of Turkey’s favourite ale), was one of the most sophisticated cities of antiquity, adorned with grand civic buildings, marble-clad pavements, street lighting and home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Sadly, just one lonely, forlorn re-assembled pillar remains of Artemis’ once vast shrine rising up precariously from a mosquito-infested bog. What a lunatic hadn’t destroyed by torching the place, the Christians had finished off. The rest of the city is a magnificent affair and in impressively good shape after decades of excavation and partial reconstruction. We had decided to drop in at just the right time of the year. As Turkey’s second most visited attraction (after Sultanahmet – the old city – in Istanbul), Ephesus is best avoided at the height of summer when the unforgiving sun and the rag-tag of camera-toting tourists conspire to make the place Hell on Earth.
The city was of immense significance to the early Christian Church. St Paul wrote his Epistles to the Ephesians (to damn them for their debauched ways I suppose, having never read them) and the Virgin Mary is reputed to have lived out her dotage nearby. It can be reasonably argued that Christianity, as an organised religion, was born in Ephesus. Not a lot of people know that.
We hired a guide but soon wished we hadn’t. A serious academic type, he droned on about the fine and upstanding Ephesians: civilised, cultured, always kind to their slaves. We fancied the alternative history, the salacious version, where the same fine and upstanding Ephesians visited the hungry whores via the secret tunnel connecting the great library to the brothel. After the sombre tour, we paid off the guide and re-roamed the ruins unescorted. Something not to be missed is the public latrine. The Romans were particularly fond of communal crapping, artfully combining conversation with evacuation.
Having had our fill, we returned to the car and journeyed back south but were unable to resist another detour, this time to Priene. Built on a natural escarpment high above the Meander River flood plain, Priene is the most complete Hellenistic site in Turkey. Whereas Ephesus overawes with its monumental scale, Priene seduces with its intimacy and superb aspect. We loitered a while as the sun began to set over the Ege bathing the ruins in a soft warm light.
It was time to top up the tank, so we pulled into a service station. Such establishments in Turkey are a joy, belonging to a gentler age, with staff on hand to fill your tank and sponge down your dusty windows. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when a friendly chap with a cheesy smile and handlebar moustache would fill your car as a lit fag dangled from his gob.