Although Istanbul was cancelled on our cruise we still got to visit Kuşadası. This is a beach resort town on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. A jumping-off point for visiting the classical ruins at nearby Ephesus, it’s a major cruise ship stop. Its seafront promenade, marina and harbor are lined with hotels and restaurants. Just offshore on Pigeon Island is a walled Byzantine castle that once guarded the town, connected to the mainland via causeway. The area has been a centre of art and culture since some of the earliest recorded history, and has been settled by many civilizations since being founded by the Leleges people in 3000 BC. Later settlers include the Aeolians in the 11th century BC and Ionians in the 9th. Originally, seamen and traders built a number of settlements along the coastline, including Neopolis.
Our main focus today was to see the ruins at Ephesus. Once, the trade centre of the ancient world, a religious centre of the early Christianity, today Ephesus is an important tourism centre in Turkey. This ancient city is located in Selcuk, a small town 30km away from Kusadasi.
The site of a succession of great ancient civilizations, Ephesus, on the south-west coast of modern Turkey, embodied a peculiarly fertile synthesis of architecture and culture. In 356BC the Greeks built the Artemesium (a colossal Ionic temple dedicated to Artemis the fertility goddess) which was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. During the 2nd century BC, Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the eastern Roman Empire, famous for its Artemesium, the Library of Celsus and its medical school.
Ephesus was a centre of travel and commerce with one of the greatest seaports in the ancient world. The great port created a big city with over 250,000 inhabitants in Ephesus during the Roman time. Important items of trade around the Mediterranean were olive oil, animals, glass, stone such as marble, tiles etc, wine, grain, pottery vessels, metals such as iron, copper, lead, gold, tin etc and slaves.
The port of Ephesus has silted up over the years and Ephesus is now about 6 miles inland from the coast. The area around Ephesus and harbor turned into a swamp. Mosquitoes increased more and more. A series of malaria epidemics decimated the population and the Ephesians abandoned the city in about one hundred years.
Earthquakes destroyed some parts but the unhealthful conditions actually preserved the structures since nobody even wanted to come in and haul off the stones to build other cities. Instead of settling in Ephesus again, they found a new port city for themselves and they called it “scala nuova” which means new port.
Life is still going on in Scala Nuova and it is one of the most popular Mediterranean ports in modern day and it is now called Kusadasi. Every day in summer cruise ships dock to Kusadasi port and many cruise guests love to visit the old port city of Ephesus and it's ruins.
Once we spent time visiting Ephesus we headed to home of the Virgin Mary. The resolutions of the council of 431 held that the Virgin Mary came to Ephesus. According to them, she came here together with Saint John, four to six years after the death of Christ. After the proclamation of Pope Paul VI in 1967, Pope John Paul II came to Ephesus and declared the House of Mary to be a place of pilgrimage for Christians. The house was discovered in the 19th century by following the descriptions in the reported visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824), a Roman Catholic nun and visionary, which were published as a book by Clemens Brentano after her death. The Catholic Church has never pronounced in favour or against the authenticity of the house, but nevertheless maintains a steady flow of pilgrimage since its discovery. Anne Catherine Emmerich was Beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 2004.
Catholic pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to this stone house by Saint John and lived there until her Assumption, according to Catholic doctrine. The shrine has merited several papal Apostolic Blessings and several papal visits, the most recent in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI. Pope John XXIII declared it a pilgrimage site in 1961.
Our final stop was to the small hilltop town of Sirince. This pretty old Orthodox village, 12 km away from Ephesus and 30 km from Kusadasi, was once Cirkince ("ugly"). Indeed its habitants gave this name on purpose as they did not want to be bothered by foreigners nor to share the beauty of their village.
Still after years, visitors understood that the village was not ugly at all and called it Sirince ("pretty"). As the village is located on the top of a mountain, anyone will enjoy the impressive wine yards' and peach trees' views on his way.
Today the village is a perfect synthesis of Turk-Greek culture as of the 1920's: after the Independence War, people exchange between Greek and Turks has occurred and all those typical Greek houses, though they kept their original outside characteristics, have received the local layout inside. The most beautiful specimens are open to visitors. And even in the courtyard of one of them, one will discover a nicely restored Orthodox church.
All the narrow streets of the village belong to the women, selling handcrafts of all kinds, and olive oil products. Another attraction of Sirince is its wine which is made from their own local fruit trees.
Though Sirince Village is developing its tourism very quickly, it has been able to preserve its authenticity and the meaning of its name.