Thursday, April 9, 2009 – Kusadasi, Turkey
Sunny day with perfect weather!
Turkish Lira = US$1 is 1.56 lira
Port time was an early 7:00 but we only had until 1:00 so we were up very early to be the first off the ship to make the most of our time. We hired a taxi for three of us and enjoyed the time with Savash, our driver, as he guided us. We had been to this area about nine years ago so it was nice to relive it again.
Kusadasi is a mountainous resort town on the Aegean coast. The Yavansu Fault Line passes nearby and there have been earthquakes here throughout history. The name comes from Kus (bird) and ada (island) as the peninsula has the shape of a bird’s head. With a residential population of 50,000, it rises to over 500,000 during the summer months.
We began at the House of the Virgin Mary, (Meryemana) a humble chapel located in the valley of Bulbuldagi, on the spot where the Virgin Mary is believed to have spent her last days. She came here with St. John and stayed from 37-45 AD. This is 9 km from Ephesus and the site was officially sanctioned for pilgrimage in 1892. Consider reading “Mary’s House” by Donald Carroll, which traces the extraordinary history of this small pile of stones back over 2000 years. To Muslims, Mary is Meryemana, Mother May, who bore Isa Peygamber, the prophet Jesus. Below the chapel is a wall covered in rags. The Turks tied bits of cloth, paper or plastic to a frame and make a wish. The Pope visited in November 2006.
Just down the hill is the Ancient City of Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which was destroyed by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom in 401 AD. It was rebuilt in Emperor Constantine I and new public baths were erected. You can actually sit on the old latrines for a great photo! There are long stone benches, about 12 feet long, with cut out holes. There are no stall doors between the holes (!) and there is a sewer gutter in front of the bench area. The city was partially destroyed again in 614AD by another earthquake. The city was originally on the harbor but the area slowly filled with silt from the River Miander.
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John was written near here and it is also the site of a large gladiator graveyard. The magnificent Library of Celsus was built in AD125 and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. Designed with an exaggerated entrance to enhance its perceived size, the building faces east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light. The theater has an estimated seating capacity of 44,000 and is believed to be the largest outdoor theatre in the ancient world.
You do feel as if you are walking through an ancient city. You can visualize the citizens in their togas hurrying down the narrow streets. Columns line the avenues, terrace cottages line the hillside and the excavations of statues and reliefs are all around you. They litter the sides of the street and show how advanced the craftsmen were in their carvings. It is at least a mile from the entrance to the exit and then there were stalls and stalls of vendors. This is a truly one of the grandest reconstructed classical cities in the eastern Mediterranean.
I slipped down the marble steps at one point and fell onto my pinky! How can a body fall and their entire weight go on their pinky finger?? The camera fell apart and the batteries rolled but we found the pieces. At first, we thought the camera was broken but the camera shop managed to help me put it back together. My pinky is slightly swollen but not broken and I am fine.
On we drove to St. John’s Basilica, a holy pilgrimage site where St. John wrote the fourth book of the Gospel on Ayasuluk Hill. A 4th century tomb was believed to house his remains so Emperior Justinian erected a magnificent church (526-65AD) over the tomb with 11 domes! Another earthquake left it in a heap of rubble and it was only a century ago when restoration began again. There is also a hilltop citadel built in the 6th century but you cannot visit it as the walls are falling down.
Our guide owns a quaint and clean boutique hotel with 12 rooms facing the ruins of St. John’s Basilica. Bella Hotel. They are written up in Lonely Planet, Fodors and Frommers guide books for very good value with character. There is a lovely restaurant on the top floor with a GREAT view of the ruins, of their resident storks and nests on the telephone poles. Half to the area is enclosed to sit on carpeted benches with a fireplace and the other half is open-air. Great atmosphere! And his family sells carpets, paintings and very nice ceramics…
Just down the street is the Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was larger than the Parthenon in Athens with 127 columns, all with figures carved around the base. Only one pillar remains today.
Peaches, oranges, cotton, artichokes, pomegranate, pears, dates and olives are grown in this region. The Silk Road (China) ended in Ephesus many years ago and was the reason for the prosperous city in Turkey. From here, goods were shipped to Europe.
We found a nice grocery store to buy water and an ice cream bar and headed back to the ship. The pier is very upscale with designer shops and touristy gifts. They have done a wonderful job of creating village streets with interesting shops for the passenger who does not wish to tour the area. There is an ocean drive filled with hotels and restaurants and it must be lively at night.
The afternoon was pleasant with colder winds than we are used to – about 50 degrees! Entertainer was Francisco Yglesias, a Paraguayan harpist. It was a very unusual harp and he played Latin and international songs which were quite lively!
Lesson for today: Don’t be so vain that you feel the need to match the shoes to the outfit when climbing around ruins. Wear sneakers when you know you should.