Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ephesus, Turkey (Kusadasi) – Day 5

The primary appeal to Turkey's Kusadasi is its proximity to the ancient Roman city of Ephesus, the best preserved classical city in the Eastern Mediterranean. Just 30 years ago Kusadasi was a sleepy, traditional Turkish seaside village, dependent for its living on fish, farming and honey production. Since then, though, the double-edged sword of mass tourism has brought wealth (its main street sidewalks are now finished in marble!) and, with that, mass commercialization. Thronged with traffic and lined with ever more expensive carpet and jewelry shops, you can still find pockets of old-style Turkey amidst the narrow, winding streets of its old town, which house vibrant markets and traditional Turkish baths, and offer a chance to bargain for Oriental carpets.

A trip to Ephesus; it's the best-preserved ancient city in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Virgin Mary is believed to have visited here between 37 and 45 A.D., and the fabulous Temple of Cybele at Artemis -- which Alexander the Great visited during its construction in 334 B.C. -- was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Located just eight miles from Kusadasi, Ephesus at one time was the most important commercial center in the region. The city was built on the river Cayster -- a strategic trade route to Anatolia. The ruins range from a theater and library to private terrace houses with magnificent mosaics and frescoes.

We took a ship excursion to Ancient Ephesus. After a short bus ride from Kusadasi to Ephesus we began our tour. We were able to see the Odeon, the Fountain of Trajan, the five terraces of the apartment houses, the steam baths of Scholastika, the temple of Hadrian and the impressive library of Celsius. The library was adorned with columns and statues.

The last highlight of our walk through the ruins was the Grand Theater, where Paul preached. It is the largest theater in antiquity with a capacity of 24,000 seats. It was amazing to stand there and imagine the Word of God going out from the mouth of Paul to a stadium full of eager listeners. I would have loved to have heard him today.

After leaving the ruins we headed back to town and to a famous rug making gallery. They gave us an excellent lesson in rug making and purchasing. We even had a sample of Turkish hot apple tea and a pastry. We enjoyed the display very much. It was mind boggling to see these rugs that are hand made and to hear the time and labor required. The top rug we were shown took three women, three years to make. Prices weren’t mentioned but I’m fairly sure that it was out of our price range!

We had lunch on the boat, rested in the room, and then Maria decided to head to Adventure Ocean in time for the ice cream party this afternoon.

With our visit to Turkey today we marked off continent number 5! The only continents we haven’t set foot in are Australia and Antarctica. Maria still needs to get to South America but that’s much closer to home!

At dinner tonight the wait staff serenaded us with the Italian love song, “O Solo Mio”. This is a cruise tradition on Royal Caribbean and maybe other boats as well. We laughed and cheered and hooted and clapped. It was lots of fun to see them being goofy.