The weekend has come and gone and I’m mostly recovered and ready for another week of classes. We had a late Friday night, an action-packed day of traveling on Saturday, and a very quiet and relaxing Sunday so there is quite a bit to catch up on. One of our Turkish tutors invited us for a night out at her apartment near campus on Friday.

The party was a lot of fun but ended pretty late and made our early departure on Saturday a bit rough for me. In our latest weekend trip we set off about an hour south of Izmir to Selçuk and Efes. Our first stop was a house that was reportedly the final resting place of the Virgin Mary after she was brought here by Saint John the Evangelist. It was interesting to see but I’ve always been fairly skeptical of these types of religious tourism sights (I believe there are roughly eight heads of John the Baptist in various places at last count). The house was very small but contained gifts from Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI left during their visits there in recent years. Our next stop was a bit more exciting for me and more in line with the sites that I was hoping to see on our trip. We toured the ruins of the Greek and Roman settlement of Ephesus (Efes in Turkish; incidentally, also the name of the local beer). The entire complex is only about a mile long, much smaller than Petra in Jordan, but in some areas it is still very well preserved. The highlights were the old library and the amphitheatre, pictures of which are included. I have now seen Roman amphiteatres in Italy, Turkey, and Jordan and it’s remarkable how distance really does nothing to change the design. I don’t think I realized previously how great a reach the Roman empire had at its height and how widespread their cultural influence would have been. Amanda and I will be back this way on our honeymoon and we’re looking forward to a more leisurely tour without the large group of fellow students.

After the ruins we stopped off for some lunch and then headed into the hills to tour the village of Sirince. It was an old Greek village that was largely emptied following the war of Turkish independence and has recently undergone some restoration sponsored by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. We toured a couple of the 19th century Greek Orthodox churches, sampled some of the local wine (way too sweet for my taste), and wandered through the narrow streets to see some of the local handicrafts. For Tony and I that was topped off with about an hour and a half spent at one of the cafes enjoying some tea and fresh-squeezed orange juice. As nice as the smaller shops and mountain vistas are, it just doesn’t compare to relaxing in an outdoor cafe and enjoying the afternoon in the shade. Our day was capped off with a visit to the ruins of the Temple of Artemis. There was remarkably little left of what was apparently a very impressive site. There was only one column still standing and there was a family of storks or egrets or something nesting on the top. In the background we could see a large mosque from the Seljuk era of around the 14th century and a castle from roughly the same period, but the tour guides hadn’t worked that into our agenda. I’m hoping Amanda and I will be able to see those a bit closer when we come back this way. After our whirlwind tour I was happy to have a day off to relax and catch up on some reading and homework on my own schedule. The campus is starting to fill up as the Turkish students begin their summer session, but it was very quiet today. I enjoyed the rest and I’m going to need it as we head into a very busy week. We have classes every day, cultural activities every afternoon but Friday and a two-day trip to Pamukkale next weekend before coming right back into classes on Monday. They are certainly keeping us busy!

Originally written for My Summer in Turkey