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Gateway to Aegean Region: Ephesus & Pamukkale

Gateway to Aegean Region: Ephesus & Pamukkale

Bring your imagination on vacation:

Only 10 percent of Ephesus has been brought to light after 140 years of archeeological work and Pamukkale makes you feel as if you just entered a world of fantasy. No Aegean passenger left behind…

The Androklos, who is the son of the Ancient King Kodros, decides to discover the other coast of the Aegean Sea. Before he sets sail, he seeks the advice of a soothsayer of the Apollo temple. The soothsayer says; ” you will establish a city at the place where the fish and boar point”. After sailing the Aegean Sea Androklos reaches land at the gulf located at the entrance of the  Mendrese river. They make a fire and cook fish but a boar that comes out of the forest steal the fish. This incident reminds Androklos what the soothsayer had told him. This is how the founding of Ephesus is written on the frieze located at the entrance of the Hadrianus temple. The three thousand years of legends make this one of the most remarkable ancient cities of Anatolia. Each year, more than one and half million tourists visit this place. Therefore, I am here at Ephesus to see it from a different perspective, with an art historian friend of mine. I am more into exploring the soul of the city rather than simply gathering information. For example, I am interested in seeing the influences of the Neolithic period” or what inspired the creation of the ” Peripteral Temples” . The archaeogical excavation of Ephesus has continued for about 140 years. The part that we are so amazed at seeing is only 10% of Ephesus but still is a giant area. It is difficult to see all of this area, especially under the melting sun of the summer. Therefore, it is much better to see it during the spring when it is not as hot. The ruins of the ancient city are located in the Selcuk district of Izmir. All of these ancient ruins belong to Ephesus, which was established  in 3000 BC by General Lysimachus, one of Alexander the Great’s  generals. The actual establishment date of the city, whose golden age was during the Hellenic and Roman periods, goes all the way back to 6000 BC during the Neolithic ages. When I heard this information, my thought about the Ephesus ruins completely changed. Ones upon a time, it was the capital city of an Asia state and was situated on a port city with 200 thousand  citizens. When I heard that I could not stop wondering if the people who lived there used to complain about the crowd of the city as we complain about the ordinary people of that period of time, the people we refer today as the tom , dicks and hanks. Did they too come to visit this place?


The city has two entrances, which, in historical terms, are as important as the city itself. We are going to the Easter site entrance of the Ephesus walls that are called Magnesia. The parliament building (Odeon) that used to be used as the meeting area of the notables of the city stands right in front of us and looks like a giant theatre. We arrive at the Curettes Road by climbing up the stairs and passing through the gates . The name of this road, “Curettes” is the name of Ephesian monks and it  means semi-god monks who light every night in mythology. It is impossible not to be amazed by the advanced  technology of the sewer system built under the marble-stoned floors. At  both entrances of the road, it is possible to see the most remarkable reliefs of the ancient city, especially the Hermes that is portrayed with the winged shoes and the goddless of victory, Nike. When  the road begins to straighten you will notice the monument of Memmius on the right side and the temple Domitian on the left hand side. Ephesus made this temple for the Roman emperor  Domitian. The purpose was to have good relations with the Rome. The close The Trajan fountain is nearby and the sphere, which can be seen under the foot of the sculpture of the Emperor Trajan, is supposed to represent  the Earth. The Temple of Hadrianus is another important piece  of art that gives hints about the city and about the foundational legend of Ephesus with the reliefs of Tykhen on its walls. The Latrina (a public restroom) is also one of the most interesting places of Ephesus. In the middle of it, there is a square pool  that  served as a Roman Bath. Side by side, marble closet-style toilets are situated without any screens between them on three sides of the structure, with a clean water canal passing in front of the seating places.


Every single part of Ephesus is beautiful, but I never imagined that would fall in love with a historical structure at first sight. Celcus Library makes you say, “I wish I could live in Ephesus “. The structure was constructed as a mausoleum by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila on behalf of his father Governor General of Asia Celcus olameanus  in the year 117 AD. The four women sculptures located at the front of the building represent the intelligence, virtue, and scientific specialties of Celcus but today the originals of them are kept in a museum in Vienna .


When we got the great theatre , we realized that it was our lucky day, as an Australian opera singer suddenly started singing an aria while walking in the middle of the 25,000 seating capacity theatre. We sat in the first row and just listened to her and were hypnotized by the great acoustics of the theatre. When the aria finished we realized that there were another fifty peopled sitting next to us and listening to the singer. This theatre was built during the Hellenic period and is renowned for being one of the biggest ancient theatres . There are many routes that you can take to connect to Ephesus, but we decided to go from the City of King Ephesus to the Vacation site of the King of Pamukkale. I have no idea how it used to look 2.000 years ago, but somehow Pamukkale has the power to relax your soul as well as your body. When we arrived  at Pamukkale, the first thing we noticed was the great mixture of color seen when the yellow rays from the sun bathed the white of the Travertine. This visual miracle of Pamukkale makes everyone ask the same question: How was this formed? You almost imagine that this place used to be a cotton candy factory for the Greek Gods, but it actually has a very scientific explanation. When the therapeutic thermal mineral water comes out, the calcium carbonate in it turns into sediment. This first comes out as a soft jelly substances, but gets harder over time and creates the Travertine.


I am one of those who have not been able to find a thermal spring or sea temperature that is suitable for their body, but i finally found it in Pamukkale. The water temperature, which is close to the average body temperature, has for centuries made Pamukkale a favourite place to visit for those who are looking for  cure. In addition to its power to relax the body, the water has healing effects for bone problems because of the high calcium level. There are 17 thermal water sites in the area and each of them has ranges of temperatures between 35 c and 100 c. The Travertine area is a total of 300.000 square meters. Shoes are not allowed in the Travertine area so it is better to  were shoes that are easy to take out on and off. The first moment that you step onto Travertine, you get relation straight away and realize how much stress your poor feet have had. It makes your body feel heavy like a sand bag, and your feet feel like there is cork beneath them. You open cork and let the sand flow into the water. The worst part about going to Travertine is having to leave. You just want to keep your shoes off and sleep there.


Pamukkale is famous for its Travertine, but once upon moments in history. Telephus, who was the founder of Bergama,, ordered Hierapolis to be constructed as a gift to his wife, the Amazon queen Hiera. We can start our  journey by visiting the third magnificent ancient theatre of Anatolia. It stands on  a hill in all its magnificence and has a 15 thousand seat capacity. The Apollo relief located behind the stage is remarkable. Down the hill, you  can see the temple that was built for Apollo, who was the God of Hierapolis. It is said that this was the meeting place for the Earth Goddless Cybele and Cybele and Apollo. Another legend says that the priest of Cybele  walked  down to this cave and was affected by  the poison gas. The marble stairs and the wall that has the prophecies of Apollo located between the ruins of the temple are worth seeing. Hierapolis is also an important Christian site as well. The martyrium (mausoleum) right next to Hierapolis shows how important Pamukkale was for Christianity ever since its foundation. St. Philip, who was the one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ , was crucified  and killed here and since then this city was called the holy City. The plant pattern mosaics that cover the floors of the hallway and connected areas are worth seeing.

Do not come back before you see!

The cave of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus: If you are in to legends and mythology, you must definitely see this cave . the story about the seven sleepers those slept for 309 years is very interesting

The House of the Virgin Mary: This is a stop that you must not leave the Ephesus before you see it. This place built for Virgin Mary, during the place is a pilgrimage place for Christians.

Ephesus Archaeology Museum: The ruins and historical artifact  those discovered in this museum.

Sadet Hatun Public Bath Museum: It is inside of a 16 century building that located in Selcuk. When you come of the museum that shows everything about the Turkish baths: you really want to get that special bath treatment “Kese” that provided by Turkish baths.

How to get Pamukkale?

Use the Karahayit – Pamukkale mini busses that depart from the Denizli bus station; it is only 50 meters walk from the stop where you  get off.

What to eat?

You can find many traditional Turkish food restaurants in Pamukkale. But if you are looking for something  different, the following is highly recommended. Lumuko’s restaurant  They serve Japanese, Korean and Turkish foods that are incredibly tasty It is next to Pamukkale bus company office

Where to stay?

Melrose House Hotel: This hotel in Pamukkale has a lot of soul with warm ambience. It has charming little beds outfitted with bed nets.

Do not come back before you see!

Karahayit village : Karahayit also called as “kizil cennet” (Red paradise) takes its name from the curative water it has. The hot spring here is red in color and different from the white travertine springs of Pamukkale. The reason for that red color is the mineral oxide in the thermal water

By Meltem Inan