Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Turkey - Part II - Ephesus

Phase two of the trip, off to Selçuk (the funky ç is a ch sound) for a couple days alone, exploring the ruins of Ephesus and whatever else I could find.

The flight from Istanbul to Izmir was only 45 minutes, but Turkish Airlines managed to serve us a meal and drinks in that time.  How's that for service?

To see Ephesus, cruise ships come into Kuşadası and Izmir has the airport, but I'd decided to stay in the town of Selçuk, which is the closest city to the ruins.  It was about an hour journey from the airport and since it would be after dark and I'd be alone, I paid the extra bucks to have the hotel arrange a shuttle.  The hotel owner himself, Osman, picked me up in Izmir and off we went, driving through the dark Turkish countyside while Katy Perry accompanied us.  Me and an older Turkish man alone in a van - high awkward potential, but it was totally fine.

I settled into my little room for the night at Hotel Nazar (I'd recommend it) and caught up on all those Kindle books I'd downloaded from the library.  Next morning I went downstairs where Osman and Asim were cooking breakfast for the handful of hotel guests that were around.  Turkish breakfasts are excellent.  Not that they eat anything that we don't eat, but the foods are eaten a different hour and their produce is really fresh.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, a variety of olives and cheeses, bread, cherry jam, eggs, and apple tea.

My tour group was supposed to pick me up at 9am, but the guides are friends with Osman and called his cell phone to let me know that they were running late.  I love how tourism functions in small places - everyone knows each other.  I headed upstairs to the hotel roof deck to read and see the city.
The hotel is apparently the only one in town with a swimming pool.  Totally wanna go back in the summer months and enjoy it.
Finally, I was off on the tour with a handful of Americans, a couple Brazilians, and an Italian girl.  First stop, the House of the Virgin Mary.  The Apostle John was entrusted with her care after Christ's death, and it's believed that when he came to Ephesus, he brought her along with him.  A German nun had a vision about this house, someone else wrote about it, and eventually when the ruins were discovered, they compared them to the vision.  Is this officially her house?  No one knows for sure, but it's visited by Christians and Muslims alike, as the Mother of Jesus is the only woman mentioned by name in the Koran.
The house is now a Catholic church, and there's a wall of paper where you can leave a wish.  I declined.
We drove down the hill towards the ruins of Ephesus to get into the meat of the tour.  
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, founded in the 10th century BC.  During the Roman period, it peaked at  a population of maybe 400,000 and was a major port city and center of Christianity in Asia Minor.  The Apostle Paul spent some good time there, John may have written his Gospel there, right right.....Only 15% of the city has been excavated, and I could've easily spent a full day exploring the site.  It was probably a pretty cool place back in the day.  It's been through lots of earthquakes, so who knows how many times these ruins have fallen and been put back together.  

Walking into the site, it's mostly ancient plumbing. 
And then you get to the Odeon, which functioned as a meeting place of the Senate or city councils.
And then here's a bunch more stuff that was cool to look at and learn about, but I'll spare you the details.  
Because I know you just want to see the Library of Celsus from the early 2nd century.  Earthquakes and fires have destroyed most of it, but the facade has been restored and is about 70% original.  It's the most famous part of this place.  

Here's the view from the top of Curetes Street.  
But before we get to the library, there are the Terrace Houses, where the aristocrats of Ephesus lived.  
They had nice mosaics out front, and clay pipes to carry hot air through the houses to keep them warm.
Across from the terrace houses is the Temple of Hadrian, dedicated to the Emperor, who was one of the Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, in case you were wondering).  Have we ever had Five Good Presidents in a row?
Finally, we reach the library!  Notice that there's no one in the photo?  Yay for low season travel.  
And now there are 3 people in the photo.

As Miley would say, it's pretty cool.

This is looking down Harbour street, which used to lead to water.  The sea is now 5km out.  I'd like to watch the sea movement in time lapse satellite view.  Google, get on that, will ya?
The Stadium held about 40,000 people and was used for sports, ceremonies, and later gladiator stuff and throwing Christians to the lions.  Elton John and Sting have both played there, too.  Kinda wild.  

We drove back into town to pay a visit to the Ephesus Museum which is small but worth a quick visit.  There's the Ephesian version of Artemis.
And Domitian, rocking it out as Emperor from 81 to 96 AD.
All the stuff in this museum is pretty old.  And it's just out there in a room, no protective coverings or anything.  I could just go pat Domitian on the head if I wanted.  Isn't that not how museums are supposed to work, in order to preserve this stuff?  I guess if it's been around this long though, it doesn't matter?
We left the museum and trekked over to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.  Oh yeah, check one of those off my list.  It was rebuilt a lot and crumbled a lot, but one of the first reconstructions started in 550 BC.  That's old.  There were 127 columns at one point, but only a single one stands today.
Done with the ancient stuff and with a delicious lunch that was included.  One of the 'perks' of being on a tour is getting to visit all the artisan shops so you can easily buy souvenirs.  First up, the leather factory.  We were ushered into a room with a few rows of white chairs along a shiny black platform that went down the middle of the room.  Can you tell this is shaping up to be Ephesus Fashion Week?

The shop owner welcomed us and told us they had a little fashion show for us.  I thought a couple people would just come out with some leather coats, he'd talk about them, and that would be that.  Nope! The lights were dimmed, Lady Gaga came on, and as soon as those beats hit, it was spotlights and strutting.  Full hair and makeup.  I think we were all laughing really hard inside.  How does one get this job?  Do they really want to be models?  Or do they know it's a joke like we all did?  One of the funnier experiences I've had.  A girl would walk out, followed by a guy who'd rip off her jacket, then turn it around and put it back on her, because it is reversible!  Hilarious acting.  I should've taken a video.  Magical moments for sure.
Despite it being the owner's birthday and 50% off for everyone that day, the coats were still really expensive.  I don't need a 700 euro jacket, thanks.  But I absolutely loved the next stop - watching ladies hand draw and paint these gorgeous ceramic bowls.  I wanted all of them.

Last stop of the day - Turkish carpet school!  I came to Turkey thinking I wanted to buy a rug, but I knew I'd have to be prepared to walk away.  I had no idea what I was doing in terms of materials and pricing, and I'm terrible at negotiating.  I just knew they were expensive and that I'd probably lose at the Grand Bazaar.
But here at the carpet school, I'm going to pretend I learned enough to understand why these things are so expensive.  Of course my eye is drawn to the gorgeous silk ones (vs the wool ones) and naturally they're the most expensive.  You start with a vat of hot water that kills all the silk worms.  Since a single silk fiber isn't strong enough alone, they're twisted up with a few others to make a strong silk strand.  Then they're dyed.  Then the weaver ties knots.  Lots and lots of knots. I think a wool rug has something like 170 knots per square inch.  A silk one - three or four times that.  Crazy!  To make a normal size wool rug it takes 3-4 months, but a silk one can take 2-3 years.  And that, my friends, is why rugs are expensive.
Unlike my rug view experience in Morocco (I ended up in a little room, separated from my friends, drinking strange tea and being pressured into naming a price when I was a poor college student), this was one was pretty relaxed.  They just showed us different styles and materials of rugs, and mentioned that they've now refined cotton in a way to make it look like silk, without the silk price.  My ears perked up at that thought.
Minutes later I was sorting through a huge stack of smaller size cotton rugs, while a guy ran into another room to get even more.  I was determined at this point to get one.  They gave me the off-season price, and after understanding the whole production process, I thought it was totally worth it.  Behold, my little rug:
I think it's kinda perfect for a starter rug, and I'm sure there will be more purchases on my next trip to Turkey!

I had dried apricots and chips for dinner that night, since there were no tourists around town and literally every cafe/restaurant was full of Turkish men, puffing away on their cigs.  I didn't really feel like hanging out in that after a long day of touring.
I had another half day in Selçuk, and while I could've probably made it to the little Greek town Şirince the next morning, I decided to stay in town and see a couple other things.  I borrowed a travel guide from my San Diego friends at the hotel and set off up the hill to the Basilica of St John.  I didn't get too far when one of the shop guys called out to me (first in Turkish, of course) and we started to chat.  Before I knew it, I'd accepted his offer of some apple tea, and he pulled out some benches for us to hang out. Şehmus was pretty captivating, not gonna lie.  We chatted and flirted and 45 minutes later I promised to return after I toured the two sites.  But only after trying on some hats. 

To the Basilica of St John!  Built in the 6th century, it stands over the believed site of John's grave.  Except hmmm..... 


While wandering the grounds, a guy came over and asked me if I wanted to go up and see the fortress, which I'd heard was closed for renovations.  He assured me that he had keys and could get me in if I really wanted to go.  Um, no thanks, dude.  
Down the hill is the Isa Bey Mosque, aka the Jesus Mosque.  
I made it inside the courtyard, just as the call to prayer started.  Only two people went in.

Back down the hill I started, to hang out with
 Şehmus a little more before catching the bus to the airport.  If only I'd met him a day before, he said.  He'd have taken me to dinner, talked with me, and maybe I'd fall in love and marry a Turk.  He was amazed that I don't shack up with a boyfriend and don't drink, so hey, maybe he'd be cool with a Mormon girl. 
Next stop, Cappadocia from a hot air balloon.........

1 comment:

katilda said...

ok clearly i'm behind on my blog reading, but how much do i love the story of this turkish man???? love. you lived in a movie plotline, at least for part of a day. (hey, it all adds up eventually....)

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