18-May - Kusadasi, Turkey

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May 18th 2016
Published: May 18th 2016
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the Virgin Mary's house
Hello from Turkey. Today is especially noteworthy because we are not only adding a new country to our list, but this adds a new continent to our world travels as well. Today we have arrived in Asia! Through a peculiarity of geography, even though we are a couple of degrees of longitude west of St Petersburg Russia, back on our Baltic cruise we were still in Europe – never in Asia. Admittedly we are just touching a corner of this huge continent, but today we have officially arrived on our 5thcontinent. It’s too bad we missed out on Africa earlier in the itinerary when they dropped Tunisia.

We had an early start this morning. The ship arrived in port about 7:00 and we were to be in the theater at 7:40. We had gone up to the Horizon Court for a buffet breakfast so we would be fueled up for the day’s tour. It turns out that only one tour was reporting to the Princess Theater – there were 600 people going with us, but spread across at least 13 buses. We were bus 7 and we headed off the ship around 8:00. Our guide Filiz – pronounced

Janet after visit Virgin Mary's house
Phyllis – said that the terrorism troubles in Turkey are essentially in the Eastern part of the country near the Syrian and Iraq borders – about 24 hours drive from here. She assured us that this was a very safe area and that we should not have any worries – the armed soldiers standing around were just there “for show”. Turkey has about 4 million Christians (mostly Orthodox) and 5-6 million Jews, but that 90% of the country was Muslim. She made a clear distinction that Turkey did not follow radical Islam (women do not cover their heads nor wear burkas, people drink alcohol in public, and they are not expected to pray 5 times a day) and was not of Arab descent. So actually we felt quite safe all day while we were here.

The first stop on our excursion after leaving the port of Kusadasi was to the House of the Virgin Mary. The explanation we were given is that John the Evangelist brought Mary her to keep her safe from percussion by the Roman. Rather than to hide her in the city of Ephesus, she had a small house high in hills above town.

part of Ephuses
That house has since been restored and is designated by the Vatican to be a Holy Place. Three popes have made pilgrimages here (Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI), and each has brought a gift which sites in a separate alcoves inside the small house. But I’m getting ahead by a little bit.

Our bus wound around the hillsides in the Solmissos Mountains and we drove past the reconstruction of Ephesus to reach this location high in the hills. Our guide used “whisperers” to lead us to the entrance and got us entrance tickets. She explained and a small shrine, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was found in the ruins when the house was first discovered. The shrine is still cared for by the Lazarist Fathers, and Mass is celebrated at this spot every day. We would follow the line through the 3 small rooms of the house and we could observe everything but could photograph nothing, although David was able to take pictures outside. There was also an opportunity to purchase prayer candles. A “curative spring” runs through the property and is accessed by pilgrims from a set of faucets, and

remains of Celsus Library in Ephuses
we could get a small drink of holy water if we wished. Then we would leave going past a prayer wall where we could leave a small piece of paper with a prayer if we wanted (it was packed). Afterwards there would be an opportunity to use the toilets. And that’s pretty much what we did, but with a great deal of reverence and thoughtfulness. All together we were there about half an hour. For the most part the ground was fairly smooth and not too many steps or difficult angles to climb, so Janet was able to deal with it just fine – she had been a little worried going into today. Our guide told us that it gets very busy in July and August (which also are their hottest months) but the peak day is always August 15th.

Our guide said she is Muslin, but she knew a lot about the Christian religion and who all the key people were and what they did. In any case she projected a friendly and positive image, being welcoming and receptive to everyone. One interesting fact which we learned is that the Muslins consider the Virgin Mary to

looking back up the road from the :lower town" in Ephuses
be one of the three most important women in the Curran. We never knew that.

We then boarded our bus again and drove to the reconstruction of the ancient city of Ephesus. There have been about 3 reincarnations of this town, with the original being a port town about 6000 BC. It was destroyed sometime in the past and no actual evidence of the town itself has been found, but there were plenty of artifacts (like pottery shards) which allowed the archeologist to date the town. A second town was built and subsequently destroyed too before the 3rd city was built several kilometers inland in the year 300 BC. Any remains of the second city are buried under a new city which has been built over them. David was able to make a clear distinction versus the conditions and restorations at Knossos as this is in much better shape and is much larger. That being said, Filiz said that only about 10%!o(MISSING)f Ephesus has been excavated and reconstructed – it will take many years to complete. Ephesus is said to be one of the best-preserved classical cities in the world and is considered “one of the

Janet happy to take a little break in Ephuses
great outdoor museums of Turkey”. Here there were many obstacles for Janet as she walked through the ancient city – not the least of which is that the marble slabs can be slippery even if they are level. Our guide proceeded slowly with frequent stops (partly because there were so many tour groups you could not go very far before running into the back of the next group). Fortunately most of the walk was downhill as we moved from the upper city to the lower city, and Janet was able to make it through the whole tour. As rough as the path was, it was a world of improvement over his tour yesterday.

To try to make a list of all the places would be difficult and probably incomplete, but we started looking at a model of what the current reconstruction looks like at this time. Then we walked through the complex and saw places like the Temple of Hadrian, the magnificent Trajan Fountain, through the public agora (meeting/market area), the Odeon Theater, and the beautiful Celsus Library with its imposing façade and two-story Corinthian-style columns. Finally we saw the dramatic Great Theater which seated twenty-five thousand

the Amphitheater in Ephuses
and was an arena for gladiator games. Our guide pointed out numerous locations where they have only excavated the doorway to distinguish another shop or home which needs further work. She also led us through a public toilet, but apparently it was just for men (she didn’t explain what women used). There were a couple of dozen feral cats on the property running around, and Janet educated our guide that Calico Cats are all female and that she should not call it “him”. We were given a map of the current complex, but it’s probably better that anyone interested should search Google rather than depend on us for having jotted down all the notes correctly. Much of the time David had a camera in one hand and Janet clinging to the other, so he couldn’t really take notes during the walk.

By the time we were back on the bus, it was about 11:00 and we had explored a remarkable portion of the city. However we were a bit tired and were happy to get a chance to sit & ride for a little while. The next stop was at the Basilica of St. John. This is

St John the Evangelist's tomb
also a reconstruction but only partially. There are some large columns, frescos and mosaics which still stand which indicate something about the monumental basilica built during Emperor Justinian's reign. It had been created in the shape of a cross, was two stories high in some parts, and was covered with six individual domes. However you need a lot of imagination to be able to visualize it that way. There is however a burial site where St. John is thought to be buried under what was the central dome. In places there are marble columns that are carved with the monograms of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. Janet and several others had decided to stay on the bus since we only had about 20 minutes to be guided around through the basilica, and that probably was the right choice because walking here was fairly challenging and the visuals were limited.

Our tour ended with a drive back to Kusadasi and we got dropped off at a Turkish Rug shop which was within walking distance of the ship. We were given a quick demonstration of the techniques which are used to hand-make these rugs and then we were

Demonstration of Carpet Weaving by hand
shown upstairs to look at dozens of completed rugs. Frankly it was just a sales pitch, but the rugs were remarkable and we were impressed with the differences in knots-per-square-inch and in types of silk, wool, or combination. Some of the rugs had taken more than a year to make because the lady could only work on it about 25 minutes out of the hour or her hands would be cut to badly by the silk or her eyesight would fail from looking at the intricate patterns. They gave us a selection of drinks (mostly alcoholic choices) to sample, and then tried to entice us to buy a rug. We got to walk on layer after layer of hand-woven carpets. It was pretty interesting and they are very impressive looking rugs, but even with a 40% discount we weren’t going to pay two or three thousand dollars for a carpet without giving it lots of thought first. But again, it was an interesting visit.

We then made our way back along the waterfront and onto the ship. We were aboard about 1:10 and everyone had to be back by 1:30, so we got about as much done in Kusadasi as we could. There were lots of shops near the port where you could buy just about anything, but we declined. The cruise director had advised passengers never to pay the asking price for anything but to bargain and negotiate with the sellers but we just don’t like that kind of thing. Anyway, we made our way back to the ship without any incidents, although Janet was getting pretty tired by the end of the walk.

We went up to the Lido Deck and got a couple of Hot Dogs and Fries from the Trident Grill. David got his camera and snapped a few scenery pictures of the port area from the upper levels of the ship. Then he got some dessert and we went back to the cabin. Janet decided to take a nap for an hour and David went up to the pool. We had terrific weather again today (bright sun, warm temperatures, and light breezes), but once the ship got underway it was pretty windy out of the shelter of the harbor. David swam in the pool for a little while and then tried to find a place that wasn’t too windy to get some sun while he read part of his book. Fairly quickly he gave up and went back to the cabin.

The satellite internet was not working this afternoon on the ship – maybe it was down for the whole world. Anyway, Janet went down to get a cup of coffee about 5:00 and there was a big sign at the Internet Café saying they could do nothing about it because it was a satellite problem. But later it was working again, so we can get the blog posted after all.

We went to dinner at 6:00. The table in the center of the room suddenly had all 6 people, but we still had nobody and no neighbors. Janet had Shrimp Cocktail and then Wild Mushroom Soup. David had Goat Cheese Soufflé and Caesar Salad. Then we had an intermezzo with Orange Sorbet. For her entrée Janet had Sea Scallops and David had a Selection of Lamb, Veal, and Chicken. Janet had wine with dinner and David had a beer. For dessert, Janet had Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream and David had a trio of little cakes and chocolate. We had our after dinner liqueurs to wrap up another good dinner.

After dinner we went to the Captain’s Reception for returning cruisers. Last week we won a bottle of Champagne but not tonight. This week’s cruise there were 764 Platinum members (like us) and 254 Elite members. That’s done from the previous week and down a lot versus the Atlantic Crossing. But looking around the ship there are a lot of people with blue cruise cards (first time on Princess) and many of them are younger than any of the previous weeks. So unfortunately it is pretty clear that we are certainly in the older half this week.

After the reception we went to a production show in the Princess Theater called “Spectacular”. We had skipped it earlier in the cruise so this was our chance for something new and we hadn’t been to one of there shows in a while. Unfortunately David would have titled the show “Mediocre” and Janet would have called it “Raunchy”, but neither of us thought it was anywhere near spectacular. That wraps up the report about our day today. There are only two more ports of call before we have to leave the cruise so we are approaching the conclusion, but we will do our best to enjoy the time remaining. Good night.


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