I slept fitfully, the time change wreaking havoc with my circadian rhythms, and was up before the sun. Breakfast was in the restaurant downstairs, and when I walked in, I was the only one in the place. They pointed me to the bread basket and tea pot.
These are the Turkish tea cups. See that paper-thin glass? And no, there isn’t usually a handle. Pour in some boiling hot tea, and you have a recipe for third degree burns. You hold them gingerly at the rim hoping not to drop them and scald yourself. In the US they would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.
After breakfast I was met by my tour guide, N, and we picked up an Australian couple touring Turkey and Egypt. They are a lot of fun, but I kept finding myself distracted by his feet. Tip for the day: if you plan to travel the world wearing flip flops, please consider trimming your toe nails. I know it’s judgmental of me, but seriously, they were frightening.
First stop was the House of the Virgin. As the story goes, four to six years after the death of Christ, the Apostle John and the Virgin Mary moved to the Turkish coast. He built her a house, where she lived until the Assumption (or Dormition, depending on what you believe). This house was later identified based on the visions of Catherine of Emmerich.
The building sits on the top of the mountain, in the comfortable shade of the trees. It is early when we arrive, but the shade is a pleasant respite from the glare of the Mediterranean sun. Below the house are refreshing springs from which one can drink. They are reported to have healing powers.
Leaving the House of the Virgin, we head back down the mountain, around switchbacks, and pause for a few photographs. In the distance, we can see our next destination.
Ephesus, one of the best preserved ancient cities. This was a city of 250,000 people at its peak, and now it is reduced to little more than rubble. This is where Paul lived for a time (two years?) and was one of the 7 Churches of Revelation. This is also the third city of Ephesus, the first two being Greek and Hellenistic. This is the Roman city
We walk in past the baths.
We stop briefly in the agora, but our eyes and footsteps are drawn to the Odeon, the concert hall. It could seat 1,500 people, and is simply amazing. It has been rebuilt (as has much of the area here) but that doesn’t diminish its significance. I climb to the top and view the surroundings. I sit on its cold stone seats, and feel the history in her bones.
Finally we move on, pausing, periodically to discuss the city and the things about us. The path, and our footsteps, are carrying us down the Curates Way
We pass Trajan’s Fountain.
We pass Hadrian’s Temple.
And we pass the bathroom (just because I always like to throw in pictures of ancient bathrooms). Beyond the bathroom we pass the brothel to find the library.
This is the Library of Celsus, the third largest library of the ancient world. It is a grand structure, towering over the remains of the city. It is breathtaking. I walk in and feel its gravity grounding me, the cold of the marble and brick offering solace from the unrelenting sun. It is a sacred space, as so many places of learning are.
It is magnificent.
Beyond the library, we walk past the second agora, toward the ancient harbor. We stop again at the Great Theater, which sat 25,000 people. The guide points out that this was a Greek theater, not Roman, and we can tell the difference because the Greek engineers weren’t as skilled as the Romans, and had to build theaters like this using the hillside as support. The acoustics are remarkable, as voices echo around the structure.
And with that we are on our way out of the ancient town of Ephesus and back to the modern world.
After lunch, with plenty of mezes, we see how Turkish rugs are made, starting from silk and on to dyeing using natural pigments.
We see this woman weaving by hand. It is really very impressive.
Then we go to the next room to look at some of the rugs, and the hard sell is on. I fall, first, for a lovely blue rug on the wall. Of course, it turned out to be $28,000, which made it markedly less attractive. But this is the sell: you go to a Turkish rug store, and they unroll about 15 rugs so you can look at them and walk on them, and fall for them. Surely there is something you need.
They keep unrolling and get your interest, but here is where the system breaks down for me. I know I have to negotiate, but I’m not good at it. So as much as I like the rugs, I walk away before we really get down to brass tacks. Because I know I can’t out-haggle a Turk. This is what they do. They are raised bargaining, and it isn’t in my skill set.
After lunch we stop at the Isabey Mosque. It is apparently one of the first mosques to have a courtyard. The guide is openly surprised that I have never actually stepped foot in a mosque. As I think about it, so am I, but it has just never happened.
Inside, it is empty, quiet, and serene. The rings of lights hanging overhead fit the stereotypical image in my mind. The weight and solemnity of the building call to mind the churches of Europe, but those buildings are heavier and darker, the walls are thicker, and the stone is colder. I am also noting that this building is oriented sideways, relative to churches. I will look at other mosques, or perhaps ask the guide.
Finally, we see the remains of the Temple of Artemis, a wonder of the ancient world. Apparently one of the greatest temples (at least as it’s third incarnation) little today remains. The site has been scavenged, with columns moved around the country. In fact, some of the columns are in the mosque we just visited.
And with that our day wound to a close. We returned to Kusadasi, where I explored the city for a time before finally finding dinner and bed.