We had a full day at sea between Dubrovnik and Ephesus and it was spent full of a variety of activities (working out, pool time, Bingo!, etc.). It was quite relaxing and the day seemed to zoom by. When the night came around, my sister and I stayed up at the bar chatting and drinking the night away. She woke the next day just fine… Me on the other hand, I was a wee bit hung over. We had a scheduled tour to get to however so as we approached the port town of Kusadasi, it was time to buck up and sober up!
Our tour was to the Virgin Mary’s house (where after the crucifixion of Jesus she escaped and lived in hiding from persecution by the Romans) and to the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus. We met for our tour abroad the ship then were all escorted out onto the tour bus and off we went. We were each given a little welcome package including a pin of the eye of Turkey for good luck, a bottle of water (I really needed that!!), a postcard and a little ceramic container with an impression of the Virgin Mary on the front and a cork top.
We were also issued little headsets so we could hear our tour guide throughout the tour as we wandered around. I had seen other tours use these before and always thought them a great idea. However, after actually having used them, I’m not so much a fan. The reason being that the guide was many times speaking about things way ahead of where I physically was (I was lagging a bit with my crazy picture taking) so I would hear her explain something, but it wasn’t until 5-10 minutes later that I’d catch up to the area where the information was relevant. Just goes to show that even with those little headsets you still have to keep up with the guide!
Leaving Kusadasi, we drove up the winding mountains of Turkey, past the large golden statue of Mary, watching the terrain turn from almost rugged, drier land to lush green forest land. It somewhat reminded me of being in New Mexico, driving from Albuquerque to the mountains of Santa Fe in the summer time. We arrived at Mt. Koressos, the site of Mary’s house. The house was originally discovered because of visions that Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (a book was later published about her visions) had of the Virgin Mary and her home in hiding. Searches ensued to find the home seen in the vision and was indeed found as described by Blessed Ann Catherine Emmerich. Today the home is a shrine for both Catholics and Muslims who flock to see the very simple but functional home.
Outside the home a church has been set up and today people come to pray and even hold regular masses. The home itself has been visited by several popes and has been blessed by them during their visit. Outside her home, three taps of spring water exist, Holy Water, for visitors to drink, bathe, or fill up their little ceramic containers:) I filled mine up, and though we weren’t supposed to drink from the ceramic container, I took a sip figuring it could only help with the hangover:) Further along the wall from the Holy water were hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of cloth, each with someone’s prayer or hope or dream written in scores of different languages and tied onto the wall. It was quite powerful to visit this site. It is also a beautiful setting and a feeling of calm and peace is very present there. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside her house, but my favorite bit on the inside was a very faint and almost unnoticeable chalk drawing on the wall, just before the exit that seemed to be the face of, what looked to me like Jesus. I can’t be 100% sure that it was Him (that’s how faint it was) but it made me wonder the history behind that. I loved the simplicity of it.
From Mary’s house we were escorted back on the bus and down the hill to the shopping area (Genuine Fake Watches!!) just outside the ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city that long ago was actually a port town! It is the same Ephesus where Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians (thanks mom). It was founded in the 10th century BC but was devastated by an earthquake in 614 AD. The earthquake strike along with the harbor slowly silting up by the Cayster River declined the cities importance as a commercial center and was eventually abandoned (Thanks Wikipedia!).
Today only about 25% of the city has been excavated and it is only in the past 100 years or so that excavations have been taking place! It was amazing to hear about how modern the people of that time really were! They had indoor plumbing, a library, a theater, a brothel (the foot and heart imprint could be found throughout the city leading the way there) a gymnasium, there was even evidence of surgeries having been conducted! Pretty much anything you could want in a city was there and everything was so stylishly done in marble or brick! At least in my mind, it’s hard to envision civilizations from thousands of years ago being so modern. We like to think with our technology that we are so much more advanced than people were back then… After visiting these ruins, I’m really not so sure!
From the ruins we were taken to a very touristy spot where there was nothing but shops and food and a little play depicting the days of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony enjoying some gladiator action between soldiers (no lions involved;)).
We had some kebabs, drank some beer then it was back to Kusadasi for a demonstration on how the famous Turkish rugs are made. The presentation was fascinating and the store owners very kindly provided us all with some refreshments during the showcase of the rugs. According to the store owner, making Turkish rugs is a dying art. Not many people know how to make them or are trained to make them any more. In an attempt to get people trained again in the art, the government got involved and developed a program that allowed stay-at-home moms to learn the art. They were then allowed to work from home on the rugs:) Love it!! I had no idea how intricate each rug could be! One silk rug we were shown had a million knots per square meter!! Absolutely incredible!! My sister ended up buying a very lovely rug after some hard bargaining, then we were off on the streets again, wandering around checking out the Kusadasi for more gifts and things to buy, then back off to the ship.