We couldn’t miss exploring Ephesus in Turkey.
Where breezes carry the imagined laughter and chatter of Romans bartering with shopkeepers among centuries-old marble stalls.
Where the façade of the famous Celsus Library – which once housed up to 15,000 scrolls – is more magnificent and grander in scale than surmised from pictures.
Where blood-red poppies bloom among the ancient ruins.
And so we make plans for an Ephesus tour.
Our Ephesus tour
We take a daytrip from Bodrum to tour the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today.
Why, you might ask, do we drive from Bodrum to visit Ephesus? Convenience.
On this trip to Turkey, we want to limit our bases to three – Istanbul (and its mosques and palaces), Cappadocia (and its underground cave cities and rock-cut churches) and the seaside resort of Bodrum.
But Ephesus is a must-see as well.
And it turns out that it’s quite easy to visit on a daytrip from Bodrum.
It helps that we’re on a private tour booked with Vanguard Travel Services, one of Turkey’s top travel agencies.
Throughout our trip, they seamlessly arrange our airport/hotel transfers and tours.
The two-hour scenic drive to Ephesus winds past mountains and rolling hills, blanketed with forests of pine and wild olive trees.
Upon arriving, we meander down the all-marble Curetes Street.
We detour off at the terrace houses, where wealthy Roman families once lived.
And they lived well!
The two-storey houses had interior courtyards, mosaic tile floors and beautifully painted wall frescoes.
Clay pipes beneath the floors carried hot air for heating.
We pause to watch archaeologists piece together the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world – recreating the rooms from marble pieces of floors and walls.
Other Ephesus ruins:
Moving on, our guide Suzanne points out the prostitute’s footprint embedded in a street slab, which pointed the way to her house.
She also shows us the public marble toilets.
Library of Celsus:
But the most striking structure in Ephesus is the ornate Celsus Library façade.
The library was built between 110 and 135 AD in memory of a book-loving Roman senator.
Today, tourists clamber up the steps to have their photos taken beneath copies of the original four statues representing wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and virtue.
Where to eat in Ephesus
Hot and hungry after exploring Ephesus, Suzanne suggests we eat lunch at Bizim Ev Hanimeli.
From its humble start in 1992 as a simple tea garden, this wonderful restaurant has grown in scale as “Mama’s” reputation in the kitchen has spread, earning rave reviews as one of the best restaurants in Selcuk (a nearby town).
Cansu Tucker, the daughter of the owner, has since created a cookbook for guests to recreate Turkish dishes back home.
We help ourselves to a buffet spread of some 30 different dishes – from yogurt-and-cucumber spreads, to stuffed zucchini blossoms, dolmades and meatballs, to Mama’s famous creamy grated carrot dish.
All dishes were made fresh, earlier in the day, under Mama’s supervision.
Seated outside in the tree-shaded garden by a tinkling fountain, we eat in companionable silence – and reflect on the marvel that is Ephesus.
Where to stay in Ephesus?
In Selcuck, very close to the Ephesus ruins, the top-rated boutique Akanthus Hotel Ephesus boasts a welcome pool and garden.
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Photo credits: © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except 11 and 12, courtesy Bizim Ev Hanimeli).
We toured Ephesus as guests of Vanguard Travel Services – but all views and words here our own.