Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Cruising to Kusadasi - Turkey

I've wanted to go to Turkey for a long time, partly because of my devotion to bellydancing but also because it seemed exotic and a rich mixture of interesting cultures. I had to settle for a stopover of 3 hours on my cruise.

We had sailed towards Turkey during the evening. I looked out my cabin window at the port. The architecture was certainly different to the Greek stuff I'd seen so far. It seemed better organised, cleaner and tidier and rather less run-down.

We transferred to buses to visit a truly impressive archaeological site - Ephesus. This is a must-see. It's huge. The first neolithic settlements were established 6000 BC. It was one of the Seven Churches of Asia mentioned in the Bible and the Divine Revelation came to Evangelist John in this city

To kick-off the visit we started at the nearby site of The House of the Virgin Mary. With all the persecuting of Christians going on, Apostle John took the Virgin Mary to Ephesus. She didn't like it there so she settled at what was to become her final home (it is alleged)not far away. She died there in her 60s in 45AD. The house became derelict and forgotten though it was referred to in old writings.

Over the next 2000 years nuns and others made visits to find the grave of the mother of Jesus, a nearby church is said to be built over the place Mary lived. The current pope visited this church but it's worth keeping in mind this version of the church is barely 200 years old.

Ancient toilets in the city still remain. I was constantly amazed at the technologies used 3000 years ago which seemed to have become lost during the subsequent millenia. Slaves would have sat on the toilets, warming them for the well-to-do. The toilets had water supply flowing underneath to carry the waste away. it was a large room with toilets around three sides, most of which can still be seen.

The old library of Celsus initially had 12,000 books in it as of the second century AD. Celsus's son built it with the money his father had bequeathed to do so.

Over the two thousand years of its existence, severe earthquakes have toppled most of the monuments at Ephesus. Wars have taken their toll too but it's mostly the earthquakes that have destroyed this amazing city.

I was surprised to see the quality of workmanship evident still in the city: relieve carvings, statues (often headless now), old fountains with amazing plumbing, a huge marble-paved road with columns which would have supported walled buildings for shops and restaurants, baths, a temple to Artemis, bathhouses, numerous churches, a bordello (yes they could tell it was that), residential dwellings.

Despite the extreme heat, I climbed all the way up the Grand Theatre, a huge amphitheatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators. The exact date of construction is unknown but we know it was there in 100BC. Like the rest of the site, it was severely damaged in a series of major earthquakes at various times.

Turkish leather is well known for it's good qualities. Our excursion group discovered we had a compulsory stopover at a Leather manufacturer near Kusudasi. On arrival an organised fashion show took place. Nothing took my eye and it annoyed me a bit because I didn't want to have to sit through it and have the hard sell afterwards. We dutifully filed through into their showroom and filled time for 20 minutes.

There's no doubt it was very good quality. Some of the garments were so supple they felt like silk and draped accordingly. One of the salesmen came up, assuming I was English. No, I replied I'm from NZ. "Kia Ora" he replied, that surprised me, clearly he'd had contact with some Kiwis. I explained there was nothing in my budget for purchases and I absolutely wouldn't be swayed. Jean-Claude looked on with interest and probably amusement as the salesman insisted I try on a jacket the guy had selected. A perfect fit. he explained it was his job to know my size and he never got it wrong as he brought out garment after garment for me to try. I had fun and the salesman flirted outrageously. The answer stayed no. I didn't have 200 let alone 1500 euros to spend on a coat.(see photo of me with the hard-case salesman)


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