After three wonderful days in Istanbul we hopped on a short flight to Izmir, 564 kilometers south of Istanbul. We took an early morning flight so we could have still spend a full day at Ephesus. We rented a car and after getting lost trying to find the airport exit and subsequently trying to get on a toll road without the proper card, we made our way to Ephesus, about an hour fro Izmir. Ephesus was a major capital city and part of the Ionian League in the classical Greek era and was also a major city in Roman times. It has ruins dating back thousands of years. It used to be home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, but it was destroyed in the year 401 CE. Okay, enough history. We were thrilled to be there in the fall when there are supposedly less crowds and the heat is a little more merciful. It was still quite hot, and there was still a lot of tour groups there, but it was manageable. We did get frustrated with the many tour groups--there seemed to be very few lone explorers like ourselves--but something I read in our guidebook helped me not get too bothered: although the crowds can be annoying, it only makes the experience more lifelike because in ancient times it was home to over 250,000 inhabitants. We opted not to get the audio guide after our disappointing experience at Topkapi Palace and simply used our guidebook and read a lot of signs. The massively imposing and beautiful façade of the Library of Celsus at the end of a long road did not disappoint, and there are also several interesting remains of temples. The large odeon theater was impressive as well. A highlight was the Terrace Houses, which many people opt out of because they cost extra money. Because of this we were rewarded with some peace and quiet (there were only about four other people there), and it's covered by a roof so we were able to cool off. Not to mention, the remains there are fascinating. You can see actual homes, resplendent with marble walls and intricate mosaics.
The worst part about Ephesus is the tacky market right outside it. This is tourism at its worst and it pained me to see people shelling out money for ugly scarves probably made in China and fake watches. Ephesus is a popular stop on the cruise circuit and I guess that's what happens? It reaffirmed my desire to never go on a cruise.