EPHESUS, Turkey – If you're visiting Greece and its islands in the Aegean Sea, the ruins in Ephesus, Turkey, make a worthwhile side-trip. From the port of Kousadasi, it's about a half-hour to what was once a Roman city of a quarter-million people, but left in ruins by pestilence and earthquake. (Tours are available, and the best way to go.)
Remains of an aqueduct and the Temple of Artemis (one of the ancient wonders) mark the way to this early center of Christianity, where archaeological restoration continues. But it takes little imagination while walking amid the ruins to envision yourself among its toga-donned denizens of nearly 2,000 years ago. While the remains of colonnaded temples, the ornate fountains of Trajan, and a library that once held 12,000 scrolls draw your focus, it is wise to look to the ground as you move on.
The marble walkway leading to the main square is pocked by gouges meant to keep the ancients' sandaled feet from slipping on wet days (as was the day we visited). Also etched into the stone are circular carvings that reference Christianity. Saints Paul and John were among the early visitors.
Along the side, intricate mosaic-tiled floors remain in what were once were homes. In Domitian Square, a ground-level relief portrays a flight of the victory goddess Nike, her draped garment swooshing into the shape used in the modern sportswear brand.
The public lavatories provide an eye-opening glimpse into the social life of the era. Lines of marble-seated toilets form a right angle at the sides of what was once a pool; it was here that the ancients gathered and swapped gossip while they also attended to their personal business.
Watching your step, you will see what's believed to be the world's first advertisement, and certainly an early form of graffiti. Carved into the stone walkway are the likeness of a woman's head, a left foot and a bird; it is said to be an ad for the local brothel. A tunnel from the remains of the venerable, two-storied Library of Celsius was connected to the same house of pleasure.
This stroll takes one past the semicircular theatre where St. Paul preached, and leads to the marble-paved Arcadian Way. At one time this was a procession route for the power couple of their time: Mark Antony and Cleopatra.