Life Style

A retreat in Türkiye’s Aegean: How I found myself in Ephesus

A story about how visiting one of the most historically significant and spiritual regions of Türkiye can reignite your fire and lust for life. Ephesus is, was and will always be one of the most beautiful and inspiring spots in the world..READ THE FULL STORY HERE▶▶▶

Over the Qurban Bayram, also known as Eid al-Adha, holiday, I had the opportunity to have a getaway to Ephesus, which is a region named after the ancient city it houses, but is actually located in Izmir’s Selçuk. I planned a one-day holiday to visit the sites and stay in the spectacular Ephesus Retreat Center, which unsurprisingly turned into three nights as I couldn’t seem to muster up the drive to leave. Both the region and the center were simply mesmerizing and otherworldly with endless vistas of ancient sites, the sea and a lake and the energy of the region being calming and contemplative.

Founded in the 10th century B.C., Ephesus served as the main Mediterranean commercial center from the Dark Ages to the Late Middle Ages. What remains is one of the most well-preserved ancient cities to date. From the two-story Library of Celsus, there is a facade adorned with statues representing the Four Virtues: wisdom, bravery, knowledge and thought. In addition to a museum, the site also has a theater, a temple, an agora as well as the Terrace Houses, which are homes sufficiently intact that help gain an understanding of what domestic life must have been like for the upper echelon in Ephesus.

The town of Selçuk also boasts the Temple of Artemis, which was built in 550 B.C. with admittedly little remaining, yet categorized as one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and believed to have been a place of pilgrimage and festivities for worshippers of Artemis, the Olympian goddess of hunt and wilderness. In town, where a number of expats also reside while running cafes, restaurants and hotels, there is also the Basilica of St. John, an impressive castle believed to be the burial site of Apostle John. There is also the Isa Bey Mosque which dates back to the 14th century and serves as an excellent example of Seljuk architecture. Last, but not certainly not least, the region also boasts the House of the Virgin Mary, which is believed to be her final residence and has since become a place of pilgrimage and spirituality.

This is why I chose this destination for my own personal quest to find some meaning and answers in my life, to be found in instances of awe the region inspires. What I didn’t expect is for the Ephesus Retreat Center to be the epicenter of my amazement in the beauty of this country, nature and the human spirit. Nestled on top of a hill overlooking the valley of Selçuk, the Pamucak beach beyond and the Gebekirse Lake, the Ephesus Retreat Center is a spectacular and upscale respite in nature. The immense infinite pool arguably has the best panoramic views in the country as you can actually see the road leading up to the Virgin Mary’s house along with so many historical and natural elements in the endless vista.

In addition, the 17 rooms, all named after and nestled into different elements of nature, appeal to all sort of travelers, from those like me on their own seeking comfort and inspiration to shared rooms to accommodate the many yoga and other mindful practicing retreats that are held there. This is because, the Ephesus Retreat Center also has three top-notch yoga spaces ranging from a glass circular building overlooking the valley and beyond, to one studio entirely set up for aerobatic yoga, and another open-air platform a stone’s throw from the pool. This enabled me and other solo or family visitors to practice yoga on our own all while a yoga retreat was being held on the sidelines.

Mingling with fellow visitors, I learned that for some this was their first experience trying out yoga, but for those like me, upon coming across a yoga camp offered in this spectacular center in the hills of Selçuk, jumped at the chance of combining tours of the sites along with working on personal development. Other guests included fellow Americans who wanted a trip combining the historical sights, nature and luxury.

The owner also happens to be a fellow expat from Switzerland, who came to Türkiye at the age of 60 to fulfill his dream of creating a space for growth and introspection in such a sacred region. Both Mesut and his partner Pınar shared great wisdom with me, teaching me how to enjoy the present moment and just as importantly how to weather any storm. The two are also avid sailors and divide their time between the center and their boat. This project took the couple eight years to complete, which they finally did last year. The stonework alone, makes one reminisce of what the toil must have been for those building the pyramids, as creating the spectacular buildings and structures that adorn this scenic mountaintop would not have been an easy feat. A true labor of love, it was in the comfort and luxury of the environment, coupled by the complete immersion in nature equipped with pine forests, natural springs, their fruit groves, garden and even the sighting of an occasional wild rabbit.

I am so grateful to them and to the spectacular history, nature and energy of this very spiritual and sacred region of Türkiye, where these sites have served to provide meaning and answers to many other visitors, or shall we say pilgrims, that venture to this region to experience awe at this amazing world we live in.

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