The Greek islands boast enough places of cultural interest to keep an avid historian occupied for a lifetime and even for those looking to mix their sightseeing with a bit of beach time, the options are almost endless. Just to offer even more opportunities to mix the old world with the new, trips from the several Greek islands to the Turkish mainland are now becoming easier than ever.
One such destination is the Turkish town of Kusadasi. Kusadasi is only 90 minutes by ferry from the island of Samos and ferries run on a daily basis. While the town itself is a pleasant resort that has been catering to European holidaymakers for many years and is becoming a popular stop for cruise ships, it is the historical attractions within easy reach of the town that mark it out as a place worthy of special attention.
Most famous of these is the ancient city of Ephesus. It was originally a trading port in ancient Greece – later when the Romans arrived it grew to become the second most important city in the empire after Rome. Ephesus had a population of 250,000 in Roman times and was home to St Paul for several years. Those familiar with the New Testament will know the name of the city from St Paul’s letters to the Ephesians.
You can get an idea of the scale of the city from the Great Theatre within the protected site. The impressive semi-circular structure could hold 24,000 spectators and entertained people from all classes of society. While much of the modern-day site of Ephesus is ruined to the extent that some imagination (or a guide’s interpretation) is needed to understand what you’re looking at, the homes of some of the city’s wealthy residents have been well preserved and restored, and show that the Ephesian society was surprisingly advanced.
The site of Ephesus is explored by walking through the ruins along a path that runs for around two miles between the upper and lower entrance gates. If you start at the upper gate, you’ll be able to walk downhill as you make your way around; if you start at the bottom, you’ll have more work to do but at least will walk in the opposite direction of most of the large groups visiting the site.
Just outside Ephesus is a site that is considered holy by both Christians and Muslims and attracts many thousands of pilgrims. It is here that many believe the Virgin Mary came to live with the apostle John. A small chapel has been constructed in the place where the foundations of a 1st century house were discovered, and religious services are held daily on the site. Once a year on Aug 15th, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, a rare celebration takes place conducted by Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim clergy.
You can see more information about multi-centre holidays from the Greek islands on the main Sunvil Holidays site.