Shuffling my feet along a street made from marble slabs, I am following in the footsteps of the Virgin Mary, who, our guide tells us, lived near this ancient city, now part of Turkey, in the final years of her life.
The Marble Road cuts through the heart of what was the second largest city in the Roman Empire. Our guide points to grooves carved from the frequent traffic of chariots and carts, and to beautiful mosaic sidewalks alongside the road. Mark Antony and Cleopatra rode in procession here. St. John lived nearby.
Temples and businesses lined the Marble Road. Now only ruins remain. The two-story façade of the Celsus Library boasted 12,000 papyrus scrolls when it was built in the 2nd century. Across from it, a brothel, now roofless, has traces of frescoes and mosaics on walls still intact.
Ephesus, a crossroads at a critical time in the early development of both the Roman empire and the Christian religion, is one of those travel destinations that manages to live up to all the hype.
In the early years of the Roman empire, Ephesus was second in importance only to Rome, and at the same time, the city hosted Paul and other early Christians who contributed books to the Holy Bible.
As a result, the once-splendid Ephesus, which had a population approaching 500,000 in the year 100, contains probably the largest collection of Roman ruins at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, which is why the archeological site is a favorite shore excursion.
Cruise passengers disembark in Kusadasi to get to Ephesus, fewer than 30 minutes by bus from the historic site, and once they’ve had their fill of ruins, Kusadasi offers several entertaining possibilities.
A small fishing village up to the recent growth of Ephesus tourism, the town has numerous cafes where travelers can enjoy the sea view and sip either coffee and wine. The shopping opportunities for rugs, leather products and jewelry, especially in the shops in the old town, where you will find busy markets and traditional Turkish baths – and a few vendors trying to sell rugs.
Evening tours to Ephesus are also offered by some cruise lines.
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