Ephesus will probably go down as a highlight of the trip in and of itself, mainly because of a little old man named Cengis (pronounced “Jingus). Despite the fact that Cengis looks like a little old man, he is actually a big man on campus, if you will. He was the chief archaeologist at Ephesus for 41 years and is virtually an encyclopedia of knowledge on the ruins. He would hobble along (he had a cane – bonus!) telling us about the statue he found in a hole and carried in his back pack for two kilometers or picking up what appeared to be random rocks on the ground, only to explain that it was actually a piece of fresco or an ancient iron nail.
Because of his status, he was allowed to take us into some restricted areas, some of which haven’t been excavated yet. We also took a look at a special terrace area, which has been covered by a huge, permanent indoor-outdoor covering. It was incredible. This part of the city consisted of houses, in which some of the city’s more important residents lived. One was the home of a religious official, who had his own private, heated, Turkish bathhouse, and a giant atrium. Everything had been tiled in various types of stone; some were cut so thin that researchers still do not know how they cut them. In addition, there were elaborate mosaics and frescoes on the walls and even some indoor plumbing. I’d say it was pretty good to be an important guy in Ephesus.
Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor. As such, it was a very large city and an important center. Which is why I bring up the library. At the time, there were only three major libraries in the world: Alexandria, Pergamom and – you guessed it – Ephesus. This wasn’t just any library, it was the library and was on par with the most famous of all the ancient libraries in the world. To stand in the place where scholars and volumes once stood was thrilling. And if saying that makes me a nerd, then I don’t want to be cool.