Take a look at the Library of Celsus. You could probably do it for hours. You might be marvelling at your luck in getting yourself here and seeing something in person you know you’ll never forget. And that might come from astonishment at the impressiveness of the Greek and Roman achievement here, soaring above your head, seemingly near-intact and perfect – and only a part of the marvels you’re seeing that day. There’s a good chance your eye will just want to wander over it, to linger here and there, and just be awed at the level of detail, the quality of carving and the genius of the architecture.
Begin, maybe, with the tiers of columns and their intricately-cut capitals; the harmony of it all, and the statues that would be highlights of a museum. But then step closer, stand near a portal and look up to a world of dazzling carving, where the light-and-dark is accentuated by the sunstruck honeyed stone and the defining shadows and depths around the dentils, the beads, floral carving and carefully-shaped Greek letters. And tell yourself:
This is a special day that I will never forget.
For Roman aristocrats, governing the province of Asia was the pinnacle of a career. Come to Ephesus with us and you can see why. It’ll certainly make itself one of your most unforgettable memories, and all accompanied by senatorial levels not of work, but of food and relaxing surroundings. The library is worth travelling to on its own, but you have the rest of a sprawling city to see – arcaded streets, multistorey homes with their wall paintings as fresh as anything from Pompeii, and a treasure-house museum.
And this is just one day amid Turkey’s ancient remains. Now, let’s be honest, it’d be ridiculously easy for me to wax lyrical on the same scale about every day of our tours in Turkey. It’s not only one of the world’s greatest archaeological regions, it also has some of the most awe inspiring country and most magnificent coasts available anywhere. So if I carried on, we’d rapidly be turning into a coffee-table book, rather than a newsletter, albeit one with some of the best food and wine you’ll ever close your eyes and dream about attached.
But I might just hint about the fields of Lycian tombs, bow-gabled stone villages etched with that familiar-unfamiliar alphabet memorialising the departed to their since-departed; the silent red-rock cliffs of Caria where the Lycians’ neighbours had their rest, or the thick maze of reeds which make the wonderful atmospheric approach to the hidden city of Kaunos. Or there are the great temples further north, huge works of piety with spills of carved columns arranging themselves as beautiful artistic symbols of passing ages, passing gods; mighty Bodrum castle, emissary of a militant monastic warrior power, now home to one of the great museums of the Mediterranean and its revelations of ancient catastrophe.
I could bring you quiet coves inviting the swimmer, markets that are a riot of colour, hidden solitudes where only the tinkling of goat bells reminds you there’s a civilisation beyond the headland, producers of superb wine or the impossible sky-touching view over the steep tiers of Pergamon’s theatre, each of them worth a book. But rather than me bring them to you, why not bring yourself to them? Standing there, being there, rather than seeing it on a screen or in a book – that’s the way to make a life’s memories.