Kusadasi, Turkey April 19, 2016
We made it to Turkey. For a few months we weren't sure if the ports would be cancelled because many other cruise lines stopped calling on Turkey. But a few days ago the captain told us we were going ahead with the planned itinerary. We were given some tips about how not to stand out as tourists. Hmmm...I think no matter what we will look like tourists. The cameras are a dead give away.
We arrived in Kusadasi (a resort town) in the morning and were treated to another hot and sunny day. I think it got up to about 30 degrees. My mom booked a tour quite a while ago with a company that I don't know the name of so I will have to add it to the blog later. It was a great price $43 USD per person for our group of 12 which included all our entrance fees and lunch. Our guide Erol was waiting to take us to ancient Ephesus.
This area of Turkey is incredibly green and clean. On the drive to Ephesus we learned a bit of history. Erol told us that Turkey's history goes back to about 10,000 BC. Seriously?! Our North American brains comprehend that much history! Luckily for you readers, I got lost in the beautiful scenery and didn't pay attention to the narrative explaining 12,000 years of history so I can't share it with you.
Ancient Ephesus is amazing. It was a port city until the land started drying up and got all swampy. Then the mosquitoes started transmitting disease (malaria) which was killing people so the ancient city was abandoned. The ruins are fascinating. We wandered through the ancient city and visited the Terrace Houses. The houses were built in to the cliffs and they were owned by the wealthy. I think there are about eight houses open and they are continuing to restore them. The houses have 2000 year old frescoes and marble mosaic tile floors. One has a pool and a few shared a cathedral. There are some exposed clay pipes which give a glimpse in to their plumbing systems.
Ephesus has important religious significance. St. John came to Ephesus and started spreading the message of Christianity. There was some sort of scuffle in the amazing theatre between St. Paul and someone else and St. Paul ended up staying in the counsel tower in Ephesus. I'm not sure if was for his protection or punishment? Anyhow while he was in the tower he wrote some of the letters in the gospel. That's my condensed version of history.
The library is very impressive and very grand. Our guide told us that there was an underground tunnel between the library and the brothel across the street. The men would tell their wives they were going to spend some time at the library while they shopped...
The cats ruled this site - there are a lot of stray cats in the Mediterranean. We are amongst ruins that are thousands of years old but we are all trying to get photos of the cats lounging in the sun.
The Turks like to sell and they are good at it, but you have to barter. It's was only men selling. Some of them start with the line - how can I get you to give me your money? It sounds harsh when I type it but they do it in a charming way. We visited a carpet factory and a ceramic factory. Both were very interesting and both were eager to sell to us...after some apple or pomegranate tea. Tourism is down by 60% because of the terrorist threats and attacks. It is hard on the industries that rely on tourists. So we were only being good global citizens by leaving some of our money in Turkey! After bartering.
We visited what I call Mary's house. I think it has a more official name, but it is basically the site in the mountains that Mary (as in Jesus' mom) is claimed to have lived in her later years. Jesus had asked St. Paul to look after her so it is believed he set her up in the mountains and brought her supplies. The area is serene and peaceful. The house was rebuilt on the original foundation and is very small. We left our wishes stuck in the wishing/prayer wall.
We also visited the site of the temple of Artemis which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was burned in a fire in 354 BC and then destroyed by Christians in later years - no pagan relics allowed! Now all that is left is a tall column and some other ruins in the middle of a slough. It's not very spectacular but it would have been in its day.
We had such a wonderful day. We even had a large Turkish buffet for lunch. Not once did I feel unsafe at any of the sites we visited. There is a police and military presence but it doesn't make you feel uneasy. The Turkish people have been so friendly and grateful that we visited Kusadasi/Ephesus. Every time we bought something we are given a gift. Usually it was a blue eye amulet to ward off evil spirits. The blue eyes are all over Greece too - except Corfu because you may remember Corfu was the only Greek island that was not occupied by the Turks.
I would definitely come back to this area!