Things to Do in Aegean Coast
The ancient Greek city of Ephesus, also know as Efeze. Famed for its Temple of Artemis, it is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ephesus’s most spectacular site has to be the façade of the Library of Celsus. Constructed between 110 and 135AD, the library originally had three floors, but an earthquake destroyed the building in the 10th century.
Other sites include the Theater, Basilica of St. John, the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, Church of Mary, House of the Virgin, the Isabey Mosque, the Prytaneion, the synagogue and the Temple of Hadrian. All the sites are in varying states of disrepair. Unfortunately, all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, rumoured to have been four times as large as the Parthenon, is one column standing in a marshy basin.
Before there was Izmir, there was Smyrna, an ancient Roman city on the Aegean coast of Anatolia (now Turkey). Evidence of this fact in modern-day Izmir is most apparent upon visiting ancient Agora, which was the name for a “public gathering place or market” in ancient Greek city-states.
The Agora of Smyrna is one of the best preserved ancient agoras in the world today, in large part due to its excellent open-air museum on site. Built by Alexander the Great and later rebuilt following an earthquake, the still-standing columns, archways and structures offer a glimpse into what a Roman bazaar must have looked like. But there’s more than just the remains of an ancient city here; on the edge of this ancient landmark lies the remains of a Muslim cemetery, with many gravestones dotting the perimeter. Walk through Colonnades of Corinthian columns and among statues of ancient Greek gods and goddesses to ponder the past.
This ancient medical center, honoring the Greek god of healing Asklepios, has existed since the 4th century BC. Built around a spring with waters that were believed to be sacred, the columns and walls still standing today once surrounded rooms for psychotherapy, massage, herbal remedies, baths, mud treatments and dream interpretation.
The Roman period brought the center its most notable patients, including emperors Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian. The influential physician Galen, who wrote about 500 works on medicine, practiced here in 2 AD. Enter the structure as health seekers once did through the Sacred Way, a path that connects to the Akropol. In the first courtyard there is an altar featuring a serpent, the emblem of modern medicine, and other structures include a small theater, a library and the circular domed Temple of Asklepios.
Pergamon is an ancient city dating as far back as the 5th century BC. Credited with the invention of parchment, this once great seat of learning and culture had a library with over 20,000 volumes and a medical center - the remains of which can still be seen today.
Listed in the Bible as one of the Seven Churches of Asia, Pergamon flourished until the 14th century when, under Ottoman rule, it was abandoned and left to decay. Today, much of the remains of this once magnificent city lie underneath the modern-day city of Bergama but, thanks to Pergamon’s hilltop position, the remains of its most important buildings are still visible. The Acropolis of Pergamon is clearly visible from anywhere in Bergama and closer inspection will reveal two partially reconstructed temples (Temple of Trajan and the Temple of Athena), ancient aqueducts and the incredible hillside theater, which is said to contain the steepest theater seating in the world.
The story surrounding the Cave of the Seven Sleepers recalls the story of a several young men who sought refuge in a cave out outside Ephesus to escape persecution under Decius, roughly around year 250. Indeed, this courageous group refused to obey the greedy king, which had forced his entire kingdom to worship idols he himself selected, and chose to flee their homeland and pursue their faith in God instead. They woke up some odd 200 years later, only to find out the world had completely changed and Ephesus had become a place of freedom for all Christians. They all died a natural death many years later and were all buried in the cave in which they had slept for so long. The grotto was quick to become a major pilgrimage site, and several people asked to be buried there along with the Sleepers over the following centuries.
Pre-Roman ancient ruins are just a day trip from Kusadasi in the ruined city of Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia from the 7th to 6th centuries BC.
For a time Sardis was renowned throughout classical antiquity as the richest city on the planet, known for its legendary supply of gold washed down from the Tumulus Mountains. The term ‘rich as Croesus’ refers to that gold and the last Lydian ruler, King Croesus, who is thought to have invented gold coins. In fact, settlement here dates back to Paleolithic times, but most of that history lies underground, destroyed by millennia of earthquake activity. Nowadays, the site is famous for its impressive Roman ruins, built hundreds of years after the city’s initial burst of fame, in around the 2nd century AD.
Saat Kulesi is a historic clock tower in Konak Square in the center of Izmir, Turkey. The Levantine French architect Raymond Charles Père designed the Izmir Clock Tower. It was built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II's accession to the throne. The sultan actually celebrated his 25th anniversary by having more than 100 clock towers built in public squares throughout the Ottoman Empire. The clock on the Izmir Clock Tower was a gift from German Emperor Wilhelm II.
The tower is 82 feet high and decorated in an Ottoman style. Four fountains with three water taps each are set around the base of the tower in a circular pattern, and the columns are inspired by Moorish designs. The clock tower has become the symbol of Izmir, and it appeared on the back of Turkish 500 lira banknotes from 1983 to 1989.
More Things to Do in Aegean Coast
Isa Bey Mosque was built in 1375 near the ancient city of Ephesus in what is today Selcuk, Turkey. Parts of the mosque were built using stones and columns from the ruins of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis. It was designed asymmetrically instead of a more traditional symmetric layout and includes a large courtyard. The mosque uses a Selcuk style of architecture rather than the Ottoman style that was used more often in later years.
Visitors can admire the facade on the western side which is covered in marble and carved with geometric designs and calligraphy inscriptions. You can all see the brick minaret that has survived over the centuries on the north side of the mosque and two domes in the center. The mosque sits below the citadel near the Basilica of St. John. From the mosque, you can look up at the impressive ruins of the citadel and the basilica. The view from the hill where the basilica sits gives an impressive perspective of the mosque as well.
The Celsus Library is the most famous part of the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. It was built between 110 and 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Celsus Polemaeanus. Unfortunately his father died before the library was completed, and his tomb was placed in a special room beneath the ground level of the building. A statue of Athena was placed at the entrance to the tomb because Athena was the goddess of wisdom.
The library was two stories high and had three entrances in the front. The entrances were designed with exaggerated height in order to give the building the overall appearance of being bigger than it was. The building faces east which allowed plenty of morning light to shine into the reading rooms. The Celsus Library was once the third largest library in the ancient world, after Alexandra and Pergamum, and could hold more than 12,000 scrolls.
The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ephasus are located in Selcuk, Turkey. The city was the second most important city in the Roman empire during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. One of the popular sections of the ruins are the public latrines, which are on next to the Hadrian Temple and the Bordello. The latrines were the city's public toilets, and they were built in the 1st century AD as part of the Scholastica Baths. These baths were built to provide the city with the modern conveniences of public works, including 36 marble toilets.
Visitors can still see, but not use, the toilets that are lined up along the walls. There was an uncovered pool with columns surrounding it which supported a wooden ceiling. Underneath the latrines was a drainage system. There was also a trough with relatively clean water near where your feet would be. People who wanted to use the toilets had to pay an entrance fee.
Kadifekale, also known as The Velvet Castle, presides over the town from its vantage point on top of Kadifekale hill.
Built by General Lysimachos, a successor of Alexander the Great, Kadifekale appears to have acted as both a castle and a fort, giving clear views over much of the city and across to the Gulf of Izmir.
Restoration work is underway at Kadifekale but you can see the castle gate, Roman cisterns, watch tower and some castle walls.
Sitting on the coast of the Aegean Sea, Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city and second largest port. Once known as Smyrna, its history goes back to around 3,000 B.C. Today, Izmir is a modern city with a European feel that serves as a jumping off point for visits to nearby Ephesus, Pergamum and Asclepion.
Arriving in Izmir, you’ll dock at Alcansak, about a 20 minute walk from Konak Square – the center of town. If you don’t feel like walking, taxis are also available outside the terminal. A one-way trip should cost around 12-15 Turkish lira. The terminal is also about a 5 minute walk from the upscale Alcansak neighborhood, which offers plenty of shopping and dining opportunities. .
Another option is to join the city’s hop-on hop-off bus sightseeing tour, which passes right in front of the port every thirty minutes. .
The Fountain of Trajan is a building in the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey that was built in the 2nd century AD. It is a two story building that was constructed in memory of the Roman Emperor Trajan. There was once a giant statue of Trajan and a pool with water flowing from beneath him. The statue was created with Trajan's left foot on the ground and his right foot on a ball that represented the world. Trajan ruled during the height of the Roman Empire, and showing him standing on this ball was meant to represent him as the ruler of the world. The left foot of the statue can still be seen today.
The ornate facade of the building includes Corinthian columns and Composite columns, which were a combination of Corinthian and Ionic columns. The pool was approximately 66 feet by 33 feet and surrounded by columns and statues of Dionysus, Satyr, Aphrodite and the family of the Emperor. These statues are preserved in the Ephesus Museum.
That photogenic stretch of hills providing a scenic backdrop en route to the ruins at Sardis is the Bozdag Mountain Range.
Capped with snow from December to March, the mountains rise 3,157 meters (10,355 feet) above sea level and are topped with a resort lake and the ski town of Bozdag. The ski runs range from 1,530 to 2,155 meters (5,018 to 7,068 feet), and the ski resort has a chair lift and T-bar.
Visit in winter to hire skis from the resort and glide down the slopes. In summer, the forest of chestnut, walnut and cedar trees provides a cool oasis from the heat of the surrounding plateau. You can also go hiking, mountain-biking and fishing on the mountain.
Facilities at the ski resort include cafes, Turkish restaurants, terrace bars and ski resort hotel, which is open year-round.
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