Monday, 3 May 2010

Turkish Delights

Tuesday 27 April 2010. We docked in Kusadasi, Turkey and joined the second of our two excursions of the week from the Ocean Village Palaces and Pyramids cruise. This was a tour we had done before as a full day last year, but we were doing a half-day version today, visiting the Virgin Mary's house and the city of Ephesus.

The Virgin Mary's house is a 6th or 7th century AD reconstruction on top of 1st century AD foundations which are marked on the side of the building with a red line. All the evidence for this simple building being the last residence of this most venerated Lady is given in my blog entry of our previous visit, but however sceptical you are, it is fairly compelling if only for the reason that there was a church to the Virgin Mary here since a very early time, when dedications could only be made to saints who had lived in proximity to the church.

It was a fairly dull day to begin with. In fact on our arrival at Ephesus it started to rain just as we had entered the city with a full hour's walk ahead of us. It only rained for five minutes though and the wetness soon evaporated.

Again, there is an entry in the blog of a previous visit which you can read in conjunction with this one. It was an ancient city even when the Romans came and virtually rebuilt it. It housed the Roman world's third largest library and is so well documented that we know the names of its streets. This is Curetes Street and it leads downhill towards the Library of Celcus and the great theatre of Ephesus.

It was lined with shops and temples. This is the Gate of Hercules. On the left hand pillar he is pictured holding the head of the Nemean lion. No ordinary lion, it's fur could stop any sword and its claws could cut through armour. Hercules kills it as told in the legend of the First Labour of Hercules. Stunning it with a blow from his club, he strangled it with his bare hands then skinned it, using one of its own claws - his knife unable to pierce the pelt which he later wore as his armour. In fact there actually once did exist a sub-species of lion that lived in south eastern Europe!

This mosaic floor shows how well preserved some of the remains are. Whilst the structures have had to be recreated using fallen stone, this flooring is virtually intact and is still home to this little chap, who demonstrates how lions have shrunk over the centuries...!

This is the Temple of Hadrian - the same Hadrian who had the wall built across the north of Britain.

The impressive but reconstructed front of the Library of Celcus faced East so that the reading rooms were lit by the morning sun. Directly opposite this (so behind my back as I took this photograph) was the brothel... Hence the saying "Just popping out for a read at the library, love! I'll be a good hour or so because the Gazette's got an exclusive article about Ephesus United and their chances in the play-off against Alexandria Rovers..."

The Library of Celcus was the third biggest library of the Roman world after Rome itself and Constantinople. It contained over 12,000 scrolls. Many is the man who returned from the library and brothel, fending off the wife with the phrase, "Not tonight, Love - I think I've got the scrolls..."

By turning to my right and walking down Marble Street we arrive at the magnificent theatre. Seating 24,000 spectators, it was the site of sermons by both Apostles St John and St Paul and was the site of the Riot of the Silversmiths, described in the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible. Marble is a slippery surface to walk on. I stood on a sloping piece and my sandalled foot slid forward quickly only coming to a stop when my second toe collided with the edge of another solid chunk of marble... Several people went "Ooh..." but let me tell you, dear readers, that their sympathy was lost on me just for the moment...!

Leading between the theatre and the harbour (which has silted up - the sea is now 6 miles away) is the Arcadian Way or Harbour Street, an 11-metre wide thoroughfare along which many notables of the time must have walked or ridden. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra walked hand in hand down the road, but there again, so did I and Fran! And strangely none of the guidebooks mention that!

We returned to the port and I quickly declined the attempts to wave us into a carpet shop for a demonstration (hard sell) and Turkish hospitality (which you are asked to pay for afterwards...)

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