Day 11 - Ephesus (Port of Kusadasi), Turkey
We started out with Pat joining us, but he had a hard time making it down the dock, so decided he would spend the day on the ship instead. We met our guide outside the dock, who was the ex-husband of the guide we were supposed to have. Apparently our guide broke her leg a couple of weeks ago - a hard thing for a guide. Anyway, the new guy had been a guide for 15 years and was quite knowledgeable himself, so we were well taken care of. He gave us a lot of history on our drive over to Ephesus (from our port at Kusadasi), then took us from shade spot to shade spot as we toured the city ruins.
Ephesus was one of the main reasons we took this particular cruise agenda (Istanbul and Santorini being the other two). I had been here when I was 13, and it was one of the two places that stuck out in my mind as totally amazing. It did not disappoint. It was easy to imagine life going on in the city as you walked around. The public latrine was fun - a bit too public, but it had running water to keep it sanitary. The library façade was standing - that's the picture most people think of when they see Ephesus. The detail in the stonework on the outside of the building was amazing. There were lots of statues and fountains through the city. They had central steam heat in the buildings. The buildings themselves were mostly small inside, as the rooms were square with flat ceilings for the most part, so the roofs couldn't span far. A new section that was opened since I was there so many years ago was the terrace houses - the homes of the rich - even more amazing than the city itself. The mosaics and painted walls were intact, and what wasn't intact was being reconstructed like a jigsaw puzzle.
Ephesus was once the center of the Eastern Roman Empire - a port city and the site of the huge Temple of Artimis one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World. The temple housed a festival every year where people from all over the region came to hang out for a month, trading goods to take back to their regions. The city began its decline after the spread of Christianity (after a peak of about 500 years of importance). The temple became taboo and the festival declined. Constantine moved the government seat to Constantinople (Istanbul). There was a river that began silting in the port which they dredged for awhile, but couldn't keep ahead of. The port became swampy and malaria or some other plague came through, weakening the city further. The final straw was an earthquake which damaged the city structures, and the weakened city couldn't rebuild. They finally gave up and moved the town to the top of a hill not far away where they could better defend it and could rise above the swamp.
We were hot and tired after touring in the HEAT and sun (CNN news said our part of the world was in an unusually hot cycle right now), so we requested a lunch break. Our guide found us a local place where we ordered several "mezes" - appetizer plates and meat dishes that we shared. Really yummy food - especially the meatballs. We decided that we loved Turkish cooking. Ephesus was a bit crowded, but most of the tours seemed to be a step behind us all day. A smaller tour group came through the restaurant as we were leaving. We were the only large cruise ship in port - something we learned later was an important factor in crowd management. Our guide asked what we wanted to see. We chose a quick drive-by of the Temple of Artemis (just a reconstructed pillar that isn't even full height), and Basilica of St. John (where the apostle spent his last years), then had a very quick tour of the highlights of the Ephesus museum (they removed all the artifacts like statues and pottery to the museum).
Our guide took us to a local pottery factory, where we watched a master potter create a quick pot on the wheel, then he made a lid from scratch for the pot that fit the rim exactly - by just eyeing it, and he made a little tear bottle that women used to collect their tears. Since they were only done quickly, he had the boys each smash one (though we didn't see any defects). Then we watched the painters hand painting the ceramics - each one a different pattern. Of course when they took us to the showroom/store, Sally and I had a hard time resisting the beautiful wares. They served us pomegranate tea or apple tea (hot or cold).
The next stop was a rug shop - a coop run by the government for training people to make rugs. Out of 5000 that have been trained, only two or three became masters capable of doing the finest work. The first level work is geometric patterns done with sheep wool on a sheep wool lines. The geometric patterns are unique to different family groups - similar to a tartan for Scots or a crest. As the wool gets finer and as they progress to cotton and mercerized cotton, then silk, the detail work gets finer as the knots get smaller. They showed us the silkworm process - from the dry pods, to the soaking pods, to the spinning of the strands into threads. Each silkworm produces about a mile of silk thread. Turkish rugs are unique in that they are double knotted. The rest of the world makes single knotted rugs, but it's illegal to call it a Turkish rug if it is not double knotted. Again, Sally and I had a hard time resisting the workmanship, and both bought small rugs suitable for framing - artwork really. Zach had fun helping to roll out the rugs. We got to see how silk allows light through - the original fiber optics. They had a light box that they would place the rug over and the light patterns would show through when the room lights were turned off.
On the way back to the ship, we asked our guide to stop at a baklava store. He took us to a place that the locals go that is known for the best in town.
It was a great day - very immersed in Turkish culture.