After breakfast, we picked up our rental car, a little silver Hyundai Getz, and headed on our way. Dan drove (I am so thankful for my brave husband driving in a big, crazy city!) and I navigated (well...sort of). And together, we somehow found our way out of downtown Izmir and onto the highway. Next stop? The ancient city of Ephesus!
The drive to Ephesus was breathtaking. I accidentally directed Dan to take the wrong highway (first of many times on our trip), which ended up being just a little bit longer and a lot more scenic. It was worth it. The mountains on Turkey's west coast are incredible. There are no words to describe just how massive and grand they are. I have never seen anything like it. The fields and valleys around the mountains were lush and green. We marveled at the shades of green...some so bright and bold it almost seemed unreal. And the Aegean Sea twinkled in the warm, bright Turkish sun.
After some exploring and map checking...we found our first stop off the beaten road. Tucked away from the highway, outside of the city, we found the ruins of the Ancient Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We hiked through the field of columns and stones and imagined what this grand temple must have looked like when it was new. Some columns were still standing while others lay on the overgrown grass below. We found Greek writing and designs on some of the large stones, which helped paint a picture of the ornate beauty that this temple possessed.
After the temple of Artemis, we hopped in the car and drove down the road to the Ancient city of Ephesus. Ephesus was first a Greek city built in 1000 BC. Many of the ruins we see today are from the 4th century BC. We put little Peter in our hiking backpack and walked down an ancient road and explored this beautiful ancient city. I love Ephesus. The ruins are incredible and the natural beauty surrounding them is exhilirating.
The first stop we came upon was the very first Church dedicated to Mary. It was here that the Council of Ephesus took place in 431 AD. The Church was still beautiful, with crosses etched into its stones and archways in tact. We found two baptismal fonts for the early Christians. Imagine the early Christians celebrating Mass in this beautiful shrine.
Next we saw a theater from the Hellenistic period. Saint Paul himself preached to the Ephesians in this theater! This outdoor theater was incredibly impressive; the stone rows of seats reaching almost to the sky. We climbed almost to the top and looked down on the stage, imagining the firey, bold words of St. Paul echoing throughout the stone walls.
Next stop: the Library of Celsus. This impressive structure was built in 114 AD and still possesses much of it's original beauty. At one time, this library held 12,000 scrolls. This was one of my favorite ruins...the ornately carved pillars and statues were beautifully displayed against the backdrop of the impressive mountains in the distance.