Edit Blog Post
Published: August 3rd 2010
This morning we woke up in a different continent - Asia Minor. The ship was approaching Kusadasi, an ancient port in Turkey. After a hearty breakfast, we disembarked and a sign at the port “Welcome to Turkey” greeted us. We followed Panos and our group for a tour of the ancient Ephesus. Our local tour guide, John, spelled ‘Can’ awaited our arrival with a Mercedes bus that took us on a winding drive up the mountains, treating us to breathtaking sea views from the cliff. John was from Ankara, his father was a famous soccer player and he had just gotten married to a Spanish tour guide; his wedding was in Athens. It was a half hour bus ride, Ephesus was situated near Selçuk and the bus dropped us at the top of the ancient site and would pick us up at the bottom after our tour. Jazzy souvenir stores, hawkers selling guide books of Ephesus greeted us and John led us inside for what I would call the best part of my vacation.
Ephesus is an archaeological excavation site of the ancient remains that still exist. Only 1/8th of the city is currently excavated. The city was built in
the 5th century BC, occupied by different civilizations over the course of time - Ionian, Greek, Turk, Persian, Roman etc. and was evacuated when malaria plagued the city. John led us through the Magnesia Gate (upper gate) and showed us the State Agora. The Temple of Isis is situated at the center of the Agora, the Odeion (Parliament) behind it and the Prytaneion (Town Hall) where the sacred fire used to burn is on its flank. We passed The Baths of Varius, the Monument of Memmius, the fountain of Sextilius Pollio and the Temple of Domitian. Beautiful, amazing architecture! John showed us the ancient hospital, the sign on the marble stone at the entrance that can be seen on the doctor’s coats today. The temple of Artemis used to be one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, but all we could see today is one lone column.
We walked down The Curetes street. The Gate of Hercules is placed on this avenue, the fountain of Trajan is on the right hand side and after this, the Temple of Hadrian appeared in front of us, in all its splendid beauty. The city had 250,000 residents. The streets were
all marble, with the houses of the rich people partially restored and the sewer system ran beneath the marbled streets. John called it the Beverly Hills of the Mediterranean. All the nobles used to live in the street, served by slaves. He showed us the ancient toilets that were used by the nobles. In winter, the slaves would warm the cool marble seats with their butt before their masters came to use it. The toilets were a meeting place for the nobles, a discussion place for politics. The nobles wore long robes and their slaves would hand them sticks with sea sponge in the end with which they would dip into the running water in front of them to clean themselves. Ugh! If I lived there, I would want to sit in the first seat!
All the streets of Ephesus were illuminated at night with oil lamps; this shows us the richness of the city. At the corner formed by the Curetes street and the Marble Road, is the House of Love (Brothel) and the Library of Celsus (built with beautiful Corinthian columns) stands right in front of this. Across the library is the Trade Agora (market place). John
told us that the husbands would bring the wives to the marketplace to buy fruits and vegetables, announce that they had to visit the library, but instead went in for a rendezvous with the whores in the House of Love. Smirk! Adultery while the innocent women engaged in homely chores. John showed us an ancient hoarding advertising the brothel. A stone that had the drawing of a woman, a heart pierced with an arrow and a coin. It meant - “if your heart is broken, it can be mended with a coin paid to a lonely woman”. How innovative! Another stone next to it had inscribed on it, a pot of honey and coins - “The more the money, the better the honey!”
One of the magnificent buildings of Ephesus is the Great Theater, largest in Asia Minor, built during the Hellenistic period, it had a capacity of more than 24,000 people and is in a well preserved condition. St. Paul was dragged into this theater to face the crowds because of his famous letter to Ephesians, but rescued by the security corps of the city. Festivals are celebrated in this theater today, and concerts are also held here. I sat in the theatre for a long time as John left us off here. Ephesus is the best preserved classical city of the Eastern Mediterranean, and among the best places in the world enabling one to genuinely 'soak in' the atmosphere of Roman times. I absolutely loved the ancient city and we walked back on the Arcadian street swanked by pine trees on both sides, the street where Alexander the Great walked after his victory over the Persians, to board our bus that would take us back into Kusadasi.
The bus dropped us off in the bazaar in front of a carpet showroom. A Turkish lady was at the loom outside weaving a fine carpet. I wondered if she would get carpel tunnel. The companies paid village women money and set them up with looms to promote the art of carpet weaving. Turkey was planning to join the EU soon and carpet making was sadly a diminishing trade. The owner led us in for a demo of fine Turkish carpets made of silk and wool. The demo was a true feast to the eyes. The owner promised us free shipping to the United States. We were offered Raki (Turkish liquor made of sesame seeds) and Apple tea. The apple tea tasted like warm apple cider. I fell in love with the colorful Turkish carpets, but felt no great need to purchase one.
We wandered into the colorful bazaar that sold delightful Turkish artifacts and also "genuine fake watches" and "genuine fake bags" side by side. It was fun to experience the kind of shopping that is common in this part of the world - lively, crowded, noisy and typically Turkish shopping experience. The store owners are very determined to get you into their store, to the point of hassling each and every person that goes by it and making it hard to get out of there. Jewelry shops, displaying wonderful 22 carat gold Turkish bracelets and necklaces abound, stores selling leather jackets, at least that was genuine.
Of course, this being Turkey with people who carry trade in their blood, visitors are frequently addressed with the following words: "Hallo, wherrre arrre you frrrom? Come into my shop, I have the best...." whatever. Of course, everybody has "the best", so we just smiled politely and moved on. Panos told us that as soon as a cruise ship docks in port, the prices go up! Therefore, the seasoned shopper haggles and barters even more than usual. It's all part of the fun. I bought some boxes of Turkish delights for friends and a lovely Turkish bag for Niki, while Rajesh chatted whole heartedly with the Turk brothers who owned the store.
We got out of the bazaar and near the port, is an amazing and well preserved castle, which dates from the times of the Cruisaders. Walking along the promenade, we climbed up the many steps to the castle and enjoyed the fortress and stunning views over the sea. I bought fresh pistachio filled baklava from a bakery in the port that was recommended by the 2 Turk brothers. Panos told us that the Turkish baklavas were even better than the Greek. I skipped lunch and instead ate 4 baklavas. Of course, it was the most delicious baklava in the world!
Tot: 0.445s; Tpl: 0.024s; cc: 14; qc: 61; dbt: 0.0229s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb