Date of Trip: July 2009
Sunday, July 26: Kusadasi, Turkey
Today was our 40th anniversary! We had arranged a tour with Hello Ephesus for the day.
Got up at 8am because our guide wouldn’t be here until 9am. I finished writing yesterday’s journal, as I knew I would not have time today.
After breakfast, we left and met our guide, Eylem, and proceeded to our vehicle, a black VW van with a driver. It was great that our day was arranged so well — we couldn’t have planned it quite like this. We were the only ones on a tour that usually is reserved for more people. We had a separate driver. Our personal tour guide Eylem Kurnaz, who usually does groups, is a Bible scholar who has studied all the historic places in Turkey. He recently spent 17 days as the guide with a Christian group touring throughout the country. I was not aware, until Eylem told me, that every church from the book of Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, is situated in modern-day Turkey.
Our driver’s name was Selçuk, the same name as the town to which we were driving from Kusadasi. Jim bought a hat for protection from the sun (8€) and a bottle of water (1€). We then drove on to the ruins.
Ephesus was once a harbor town, but when the harbor filled with silt, everyone moved to Selçuk. The ruins were great! Only a small percentage, probably not more than 25%, has been excavated. They are being rebuilt and have been since the 60’s — earthquakes had leveled the city — and there are numerous renovations going on. We took photos of the row of structures: the parliament buildings, followed by a temple dedicated to the current ruler at the time, and next to that, the city hall. Our guide would always show us the best spots for picture taking.
The Latrina is a bathroom area that could seat 48 men at once — with no partitions between them. In the center was an uncovered pool. The columns around it held up the wooden ceiling. The toilets were lined up along the outer edges, and had a drainage system, flushing the debris. Musicians would play there to drown out the noise.
The Terrace Houses, “houses of the rich” were next. There is a lot of work going on in there. It was the Beverly Hills of the area. The houses had hot & cold running water, intricate mosaic floors and frescoed walls. Each had an open courtyard surrounded by rooms. The three-story homes were heated with underground clay pipes that carried the hot air through the structures.
The Celsus Library, with its imposing two-story façade could hold more than 12,000 scrolls. The side columns are shorter than the center columns, an optical trick that makes the building look bigger. The builders constructed double-walled bookcases to prevent the scrolls from being damaged by heat or humidity. It was a tomb named for the provincial governor by his son. Celsus is buried in a grave below the floor. If you look closely, you can see which are original pieces of the columns and which are restorations.
We saw a couple from the ship and stopped to chat with them. They live not too far from us.
On our way out of Ephesus, I bought a camel bag purse (9€), and a coin purse for 2€.
It was now time for lunch, so we were driven to the Yüksel Hale carpet co-op / training center / restaurant. We were seated at a beautifully set table on a lawn in a lovely area, and a waiter started bringing out the food. It started with a lot of appetizers: eggplant marinade (freshly made & very good, nothing like the stuff in a jar that I tried once), fresh tomato sauce with eggplant & squash, cucumbers with yogurt, green beans, fried cheese rolls, and a salad consisting of parsley, cucumber, tomato, & dill. We chose peach & lemon teas for drinks.
The next course was the meats: skewered chicken, meatballs (oval), and bulgur. Lastly, a fruit plate with honeydew melon and watermelon. The owner also brought us a bottle of wine when he learned that it was our anniversary.
After the large fabulous lunch, we went into the carpet school. We saw a few girls working at the different areas. They are trained for 3-4 months out of the year, for 3 years. Then they return to their villages to make the carpets. They are provided with a loom and their carpets are then purchased by the factory/school. The young women are paid privately to enable them to keep the amount secret from their parents, who if they knew, might take it from them.
The carpets were really beautiful. The owner showed us a couple of award-winning ones. He was justly proud that his peers had judged his carpets as the best of the year.
We saw the silk-making process, also. The silk cocoons float in the water. The girl stirs them & lifts them up by their silk threads to determine the beginning thread. Then she spins many threads to make one stronger thread used for weaving. Even a very small rug here costs close to $1000. But they are lovely, & I can see why they are popular.
We then drove to Sirince village. Very cute, lots of small streets lined with family run shops, selling crocheted socks, table linens, oils, spices, soaps, teas, & clothing. Jim bought a fake Polo shirt (5€) and 3 naturally made olive oil soaps ($5) (better than the others I bought for 1€ elsewhere).
I bought a small but lovely lace embroidered tablecloth from a peasant woman who kindly gave me a serviette/napkin as well. She charged me only 8€, when usually it was 10€. I think she spoke correctly — it was very nice workmanship with pieces of lining fabric covering the embroidery threads underneath. I also bought some natural apple tea for 3€ (a small bulk pack — better value than the bags).
Then we had coffee in a cafe. Jim was going to pay for it for all of us, but Eylem insisted that he pay. I also bought a long-sleeved black shirt embroidered with silver thread for 10€. Bought a bottle of water for 1€.
As we still had time, we drove to St. John’s Basilica in Selçuk, where John is buried. This was not part of original paid tour, so we paid 5€ entrance fee for the two of us. The baptistry at the Basilica is in the shape of a cross with steps leading down. John’s tomb is marked with a plaque. This church is located in a very pretty area, and it was not at all crowded when we were there, which was nice. We were almost the only ones there, until a tour group showed up a while later. Made for better photos, also.
We then ended the tour with a trip to Ephesus ceramic factory. Eylem asked if we’d rather see ceramics or leather, and we chose ceramics, since I love that stuff, and was a ceramic hobbyist/addict years ago. They have a beautiful showroom. We saw an artist making a sugar bowl and lid. It’s amazing to me how someone can use a pottery wheel to make a bowl, and then make a lid that fits exactly on the bowl. (I never did any of that stuff. Just cleaned & painted greenware that came from molds.) I oohed & aahed my way around the shop. I found a beautiful teacup & saucer that I bought for 40L (credit card). It was a perfect reminder of my memorable tour and our wonderful anniversary in Ephesus. It was so hard to just pick one! (Aside: We used mostly euros for cash in the shops, having used our Turkish lire in Istanbul. Could have, but never used an ATM except for our last day in Europe, when we needed to.) Aside: The factory tours are such a snapshot of Turkish culture and are so important to them! The Turkish people love to show their crafts and skills, and are rightly proud of their accomplishments. I enjoyed these forays into their world, even though we didn’t spend much.
We finally headed back to the ship. We enjoyed our day immensely. Our most memorable day of the trip!. Eylem is a sweet guy who absolutely loves being a tour guide. I still chat with him now and then on Facebook. We did some walking today, about 4.5 miles. We spent $180 for our 7 hour tour, plus $30 &10€ in tips for guide and driver.