Friday, July 30: In the morning, there’s a flurry of confusion as I decide I want to relax an extra day in Kuşadası instead of returning to Istanbul tonight by overnight bus. Kuşadası is a resort town full of blue sky and blue sea on Turkey’s Aegean coast, about 60 miles south of Izmir. I’m burned out from touring and need a rest day. I call my English-speaking tour guide at Turista, Marina, and she arranges it, but it involves me checking out of the Hotel Ozdelick and checking in at the Hotel Sozer right next door. It may be right next door, but it is definitely a huge step down!
The tour today is led by a cute Turkish girl named Gonja who warns us that it is easy to get lost in Ephesus; she’ll carry a white umbrella so we can always find her. She also passes out earphones and transmitters that we hang around our necks like huge pendulums. We have, once again, the Pakistani family of 11 and another group of 6 from Toronto, Canada who were in Croatia for a wedding and decided to visit Turkey as well. On the way to Ephesus, Gonja quizzes us on the capital of Turkey, which we answer correctly is Ankara. She says many people mistakenly think Istanbul is the capital; this historic city is the capital of commerce with 17 million people, but Ataturk designed Ankara as the capital because it’s centrally located.
Gonja tells us about Turkish “permission nights,” when a potenital suitor’s family comes to visit a girl’s family. If the girl thinks she likes the boy, the family puts sugar in the Turkish coffee. If she already has a boyfriend, they put salt in it. If the girl says no way, under any circumstances, would she be interested in that boy, they put anything they can find in the kitchen into the coffee: laundry detergent, chili peppers, whatever. They then serve this coffee to everyone in attendance.
Gonja warns that the sun will be unbearable, that we might want to buy hats and bottled water. I don’t usually wear hats, especially because my head is so huge that most hats won’t fit. 🙂 But when we see a long array of outdoor shops, the first one of which has a sign “Genuine Fake Watches,” I can’t resist exploring this place. I find a hat in the style of Neville’s hat from yesterday. Sometimes I like to take on other people’s identities, and I think it will be cool to look a little like an Aussie around-the-world traveler. So I purchase it and place it atop my big head. Yes, the XL fits just fine.
Gonja opens her white umbrella and we follow her, only to become confused by another guide assuming Gonja’s identity. He too is carrying a white umbrella. Luckily, he is male and she female. We recognize the we might become momentarily misguided, but upon finding ourselves so, we will quickly be able to rectify the situation.
The Ephesus ruins still retain much of their former glory. Enough is still standing of the city to imagine it as it was centuries ago, and with its crowds of tourists milling about, it is brought to life for us modern-day interlopers. We can see it as the bustling Roman city it once was. I wear my hat for a while, but my head gets wet and sticky underneath and I end up removing it to cool off. I remember now that this is why I don’t wear hats, or sunglasses, for that matter; they make me sweat. I hate to sweat.
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Turkey. In the Classical Greek era, it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. In the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city (behind Rome) of the Roman Empire. More than 250,000 people lived in Ephesus in the 1st century BC, which also made it the second largest city in the world (Lonely Planet Turkey).
Ephesus acquired a sizable Christian congregation. It’s said that St. John settled here with the Virgin Mary. St. Paul lived here for 3 years around AD 60, where he organized evangelism missions into the outlying communities. It’s believed Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus and later wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome. The Gospel of John was possibly written in Ephesus around 90-100 AD and Ephesus was one of the 7 cities addressed in Revelation.
We wander through the Odeion, Curetes Street, water and sewer systems, the Temples of the Goddess Rome and the Divine Caesar, The Pyrtaneion, The Pollio Fountain, The Temple of Domitian, The Temple of Hadrian, The Roman Library of Celsus, the Latriana, the Gate of Augustus, the agora. The Odeion is the small theater that used to serve as council chambers. The Temple of Hadrian boasts a head of Medusa to keep out evil spirits.
The Library facade sits like an impressive exclamation point at the far end of the city. This library once held 12,000 scrolls in niches around its walls and was temperature-controlled. The Latriana was the public toilets, arranged side by side with no partitions.
The most impressive ruin is the Library of Celsus which was apparently built to look larger than it really is. Of all the ruins at Ephesus, it truly takes one back in time to its Roman heyday.
We spend several hours in Ephesus and after, we all congregate and go directly to lunch. Another covered open air buffet place, but the food and the atmosphere are better than the same type of place from yesterday. I miss my friend Neville today, because all of the other tourists are grouped; I’m the only lone traveler. The Pakistani family eats quickly and heads off for the nearest mosque for Friday prayers. One of their party gets inadvertently left behind. Seeing I am all alone, one nice girl from the Toronto party befriends me and invites me to eat with them.
After lunch I wander through a small shop and then sit at a table that catches the only breeze in the place. I sit with the shopkeeper, the Pakistani guy, and Gonja. We have to wait a good hour for the Pakistanis to return from the mosque; we amiably sip several glasses of hot apple tea and bask in the small whiffs of breeze that come our way.
After lunch we visit a tile factory where I am overwhelmed by too many beautiful plates, bowls, & tiles and I want them all desperately but they are expensive and will be too heavy to carry. I am determined to stick to my original plan to visit the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul on my last day, and carry whatever I buy directly home to Korea from there.
the virgin mary’s house
We visit Meryemana, the Virgin Mary’s house. Believers say the Virgin Mary came to Ephesus with St. John towards the end of her life (AD 37-45). Pope Paul VI visited the site in 1967, unofficially authenticating it, and it soon became a place of pilgrimage.
Here, places abound for prayers and wishes. Outside of the chapel, I light two candles: one, praying for my son Alex to find his way in his life and, two, for me to find true love in Turkey. Next, there are four fountains that originate from beneath the floor of the house. Each one is supposed to have special curative properties. I drink from the one that is supposed to bring love. ♥♥♥
Below the chapel a wall is covered in rags: Turks tie bits of cloth or paper (or whatever they have on hand) to a frame to make a wish. On a paper tissue, I write a wish to find true love here in Turkey in July/August 2010. Hmmm…. I always wonder when I make wishes such as these if I am asking specifically enough for what I want….
the temple of artemis
After the Virgin Mary’s house, we head to the Temple of Artemis, which was in its time the largest of its kind in the world, even bigger than the Parthenon. This got it listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, there is only one column left remaining. The goddess of Artemis, for whom the temple was named, is the goddess of wildlife, hunting and moonlight.
The first incarnation of the temple was built in the middle of the 8th century BC; it was destroyed by flood in the 7th century BC. Then a new temple of marble was built in 550 BC and then destroyed in an act of arson in 356 BC. Apparently a fellow named Herostratus destroyed it so his name would be known through history; the outraged Ephesians sentenced him to death and forbade anyone to ever mention his name. However, someone recorded his name so the arsonist got his wish for minor fame. On the night Herostratus was killed, Alexander the Great was born. The temple was later restored in 323 BC, after Alexander’s death; that reconstruction was also disrupted in a raid by the Goths. Eventually the early Christians rebuilt the temple only to have it finally destroyed by a mob in 401. The stones were all taken away and put to other uses.
Our final stop today is at a leather factory where we watch a hip and fast-paced fashion show of stylish Turks wearing tight pants and leather jackets. I am sitting nearest the door where the models come out. After the show, the models pull people from the audience and they insist, despite all my protests, that I come up. THIS IS SOOO EMBARRASSING!! Especially because today I am wearing these baggy (read: frumpy) cargo shorts and a loose-fitting shirt. They put me into this cream knee-length leather jacket, and I look like some kind of Bozo the clown. It is so horrible! Thank god these are people I will never see again in my life. I try to be kind of funny about it, because I know there is no way I can pull of “stylish!” Afterwards, I want to climb into a deep dark hole and disappear.
I wander through the showroom and come across a really cool black leather jacket with a belt. The price tag says 900 euros, which I would NEVER pay, but the sales people are very pushy, insist on finding my size, demand I try it on. Frankly, even with my stupid cargo shorts, it looks quite cute! After much pushing and prodding, I say I MIGHT be willing to pay $350 USD. WHAT AM I THINKING?? The girl from Toronto, who has befriended me and is watching over me, comes to the rescue. She says, DON”T LET THEM PRESSURE YOU! She admits the jacket is quite nice, very chic, looks good on me. But she, the voice of reason, says, Do you really want to spend $350 on a leather jacket? She and I go into the ladies’ room where she tells me to take my time. As we walk out of the restroom, Gonja comes up and says, what did you decide? I waver. The Toronto girl says, NO! And we bypass the showroom and the pushy salespeople, and get directly on the bus. Whew! Close call….. 🙂
will the real turkish hamam please stand up?
Back at the lovely (NOT) Hotel Sozer, I decide to sign up for a day-long boat cruise tomorrow. The guy who runs the cruise, Birol, walks with me to the marina to show me the boat. I pay him and then ask him where I can find a Turkish hamam. I want to have the normal experience of the Turkish bath while here, since my “local” hamam experience with Hakan was so bizarre. The boat guy takes me to a lovely lower level spa at a seaside hotel; it’s a modern spa much like one finds in the U.S. I am naked but given a kind of checkered tablecloth covering which I keep wrapped around me the whole time. A young lady in a bikini rubs me down with a soapy scouring pad. She dips a towel into a bucket of lemony suds and waves the towel back and forth; the towel puffs up like cotton candy. She squeezes the towel over me and I am covered in aromatic lemony bubbles. She scrubs and scrubs.
I sit in a waiting room in a fluffy white robe, where I’m given ice-cold water. Then into a massage room, where the same girl, who has changed out of her bikini into tight overalls, gives me a fabulous, utterly relaxing, olive oil massage for a whole hour. Ahhhh… heaven! When I leave, I ask if I should shower, and they say No!! Surprisingly, my body has soaked up all the olive oil and my skin feels softer and shinier than it has ever felt.
Will the real Turkish bath please stand up………?
I am too relaxed. I eat a margarita pizza at a seaside cafe, accompanied by a glass of red wine, and then promptly go to bed where I dream of Turkish baths from days gone by, burly Turkish masseuses, and a sweet guy named Hakan taking me down that crazy road.