Tag Archives: wikipedia

Ephesus

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;)).

Cleopatra & Marc Anthony
Cleopatra & Marc Anthony

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.

On to Santorini

Back to Europe

Heidelberg

At this point in my trip, I unfortunately caught the European crud:(  Since traveling from Salzburg, everyone around me seemed to be hacking and coughing and sneezing and sniffling and well, it finally caught up with me.  I wasn’t feeling well at all, but had to power through anyway.  The afternoon I got into Heidelberg I first checked into my hostel (Steffi’s Hostel located just a few minutes walk from the train station) then immediately went back to the train station to check out a store I had spotted that seemed to be a mini-mart.  I stocked up on throat lozenges, teas, vitamin C, apple cider vinegar and tissues to care finally get myself taken care of a bit.  I had dinner at the Chinese restaurant located conveniently downstairs and had soup with tons of sriracha in it, just to help sweat out those germs;)

Heidelberg is a huge University town.  Just about everyone I came across and chatted with was somehow involved in the University, whether studying or working.  It’s a lovely little place with a great young energy and I’m just bummed that I felt like such crap the entire time I was there, but I’m thankful that I was able to get better while there.  In my mind it will always be that quaint little town where I got to rest a bit:)

The next day I still felt like run-over dog but thought “I’m here, I better do something!!”.  So I went for a walk to see the Heidelberg castle:)  I even ended up taking a tour of the castle once there, but honestly don’t remember much of it since my brain was mush from not feeling well:(

One bit that I do recall from the tour however was of the story of Perkeo.  Perkeo was a short, red-headed Italian who  didn’t speak German, yet lived at the castle as the keeper of the wine!  Seriously, this barrel of wine in the basement of the castle is absolutely HUGE!!  According to Wikipedia it can hold over 57,000 gallons of wine!!  Anyway, as the keeper of the wine (and being Italian of course) Perkeo was quite fond of wine and drank quite a bit of it.  Because he didn’t speak German and the Germans didn’t speak any Italian, when he was offered wine he would simply say “Perche No?”, which means “why not?” In Italian.  Perche no… perkeo… see the similarity??  He was the keeper for some time and as the humorous yet untrue story goes, one time someone went to play a trick on him.  They offered him some wine (to which he said “perche no?”) but instead gave him a glass of water.  Perkeo took a sip and fell dead in that moment;)  Too funny!

Another cute story revolved around the King and his wife.  King Frederick V was quite the romantic!  In the archway that leads to the entrance of the castle there are lovely etchings of nature and animals sculpted into it.  It is said that each animal is a symbol of love to his wife.  Once it was constructed he simply told her to search the gardens of the arc to find little mementos of his love for her…  Awww!!

Lovers Arc
Lovers Arc

After the castle tour I wandered the gardens, which after having been to Versailles definitely seemed to lack;)  At this point my body and mind were getting severely tired from being ill and just couldn’t do much more.  I headed back through town to the hostel and passed out.

The next day I was feeling quite a bit better and decided to head to the zoo!  I took the bus there and arrived just as it was opening.  I spent the day wandering back and forth from animal enclosure to animal enclosure just taking in all the critters.  It isn’t a huge zoo by any means, but they do have a decent variety of animals and because it was so small, it made it easy to get around to each of the feeding shows .  The sea lion feeding was like many of the sea lion feedings in other zoos where they tell you about the critters and have them do a variety of tricks for the fish.  This one was a bit unique for me however as the feeding was all in German, so I hadn’t a clue about what was being said.  It was still quite entertaining however:)

Some things I noticed about this zoo that was different from others I had been to was first the amount of babies they had.  Baby sea lions, baby camels, baby porcupines, baby monkeys, babies everywhere!  Second, even though they were a small zoo there were staff members everywhere all throughout the day working in one way or another; cleaning, preparing food, moving the babies from the nurseries to the adult pens for some acclimation time, etc.  Generally I never notice zoo staff around, but at this one they were very present, which I found nice!  Finally, of all the zoos I’ve been to, never before had I seen a feeding for the tigers and lions…

Oh my goodness… I can’t describe how amazing it was to see the tigers literally going from “look at that beautiful/cute tiger” to “never in a million years would I ever want to tangle with one of them!!!”.  The wild and the instincts came out in a flash the second the food arrived.  Claws scraped the enclosure bars trying to get a quicker grip on the meat about to be fed to them.  It was just amazing to see such a wild nature so close!

The lions were much more relaxed about the feeding.  It was a group of lionesses and it was easy to see which was the Alpha female.  She got her meat first (quite patiently compared to the tigers) and headed to her eating spot as the others then practically lined up to get theirs.  The order and calm in their enclosure versus the “fear for your life” energy from the tigers enclosure was incredible!  I would go back just to view the feeding again.

After the zoo I headed to the hostel once again and spent the evening plotting how to get to and where to stay in Füssen, Germany.  The “Fairy Tale” castle of “Mad” King Ludwig II, located in South Germany in a little town called Hohenschwangau was a must see on my list.  Thankfully all my plots to get there worked out and after several relaxing days of actually taking care of myself in Heidelberg I was ready to set out once again.

On to Füssen

Back to Europe 

Paris

Paris, the city for lovers!  It is quite a beautiful place with the old structures jutting up next to new ones.  Before I met up with the walking tour I walked all the “TV” areas (and more) of Paris so I could get some pictures without being rushed and I must admit that when I came upon the Louvre, I got chills.  Maybe it was the idea of what it represents as given to us by “The DaVinci Code”; the final resting place of Mary Magdalene.  I just don’t know, but it was a bit emotional for me, seeing it for the first time.  I made it to the Louvre, the Obelisque and onward to the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile roundabout (which has 14 streets that merge into it and not surprisingly has the highest rate of accidents than any other part of the city) to see the Arc de Triomphe (which I believe there is an Arc in New York City that was modeled after the Arc in Paris) before heading to Place St. Michel for the guided walking tour.

Unlike free walking tours I’ve taken elsewhere, this one was sadly not very memorable.  The guide I believe was new, or rather for her sake I hope she’s new.  She seemed to make more of an effort in acting dramatically and putting on some sort of theatrical show than telling interesting stories.  There were little facts from each place that were interesting of course, but nothing that really stuck in the memory bank as being “really cool” or “oh wow!”.  It is really a shame given the rich history Paris has.  Bummer!  But at least I did get some more exercise during the tour, was shown a few places I probably would not have found on my own and most importantly, learned about the Versailles tour which I signed up for once the walking tour was over.

Pictures taken on the way to the walking tour meeting spot:

Fashion week was in town while I was in Paris and there were many temporary constructions going up to accommodate the event.  I never did notice any models or supermodels and what not however, but it was cool knowing it was going on.

The Louvre: home of the Mona Lisa (which apparently is disappointingly small and more famous for it having been stolen for 2 years than for any other reason); there are over 35,000 pieces of art in this museum!!  If one spent 8 hours a day looking at each painting for one minute after 2 months they still wouldn’t get through all the artwork!  Lesson for visitors: have a plan before you go of what you want to see!

Jardin des Tuileries & the Obelisque: the obelisque is an egyptian obelisk that was originally located at the entrance of the Luxor Temple in Egypt!  It is over 3,000 years old and has a twin that is still at the Luxor Temple in Egypt.  This particular one was moved to Paris in 1833.  Cool stuff! Thanks Wikipedia!

For 80 Euro you can drive one of these babies for a whopping 8 kilometers!!!

Arc de Triomphe: It does have a sister Arc in New York City!  I looked it up:)

Eiffel Tower: Not surprisingly when this was first erected the Parisians despised the very sight of it and thought it a scar on the face of Paris.  They didn’t see the use for it so the artist, thinking on his feet, said “of course it’s useful!  It can be used as a radio antenna!”.  It did function as such and apparently did work, as it warned Parisians of Hitler’s approach.  I went back to the tower the following day in the evening to snap the other picts as it got dark:)

Walking tour bits: Place St. Michel– a fountain depicting Saint Michael battling demons and keeping Paris safe; Pont des Arts– stop with the freaking love locks already!!!  There are apparently so many locks on this bridge that it is making the bridge unstable.  There is a movement in Paris to get people to stop adding locks, lol!!  So much for true love!  Though the bridge is getting unstable, it certainly didn’t stop anyone from walking over it; Notre Dame– Famous church actually located on a teeny island in the River Seine!  The gargoyles are there to scare away evil spirits and also function as drains to funnel rain off the roof.  Love the double function!

I know I haven’t provided as much information at this location about all the spectacular places in the city, but again, I write from what I’ve learned while there.  I could cheat and look things up, but then I wouldn’t be giving you an accurate account of my experiences.  Granted I do look up little things here and there such as I did for the Obelisk above (I was personally interested in what it was all about) but I don’t make a habit of it for sure.

On to Versailles

Back to Europe

Arthur’s Seat & Calton Hill

One of the very best things about Scotland in general… The surrounding nature!!  Edinburgh is no exception!!  It is surrounded by groups of hills that many take advantage of for fun daily hikes.  In the case of some, you could definitely tell that the surrounding hills were a daily exercise for them because they were running up them while tourists (including me) huffed and puffed their way up!

One of these groups of hills, located not far from Holyrood Palace (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) is Arthur’s Seat.  Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of the surrounding hills that make up Holyrood Park and has a height of 251 meters, or 823 feet at it’s peak.  Honestly the climb really wasn’t all that bad, with the exception of a small bit that consisted of jagged rocks that I personally did a slight shimmy down, just so I wouldn’t bust my rear on the ground, lol!!  The views from the top of Arthur’s Seat are absolutely phenomenal!!  I’m a great believer now that aerial views are much better than close-ups!!  At the peak of Arthur’s Seat is literally a little white stone chair that many of the tourists clamored to get on and get their picture taken with it… I skipped that part…

In any event, I’m going to now embarrass myself by K&E because I honestly can’t recall the exact story behind Arthur’s Seat… Even looking on Wikipedia (yes, I tried to cheat!!) didn’t ring any bells… Sorry K&E!!!  I mainly just recall that it was called Arthur’s Seat because it was a great point of view to be able to sit and see any oncoming threat to the city…  Anyway, according to Wikipedia there is some fabled connection between Arthur’s Seat and the location of Camelot during King Arthurs reign… But, well, I can’t specify much more than that by memory… You will just have to look it up on Wikipedia yourselves if interested!

Another great aerial view of Edinburgh can be found at Calton Hill.  It is basically a hill in the center of Edinburgh, just beyond the east end of Princes Street (quite well known for the shopping!!) and has fantastic views of all of Edinburgh!!  In fact, this area is the favorite spot of E’s and while she did try to get us up there, we weren’t able to because they have closed it down to car traffic.  But foot traffic was still allowed, so on a later day I returned there to take some pictures.

Calton Hill has several iconic monuments and is the headquarters of the Scottish Government.  Monuments include the National Monument, which is designed after a Greek Pantheon but was never actually finished… The Nelson Monument which at the wee top has a little flag pole at the top of which has a metal ball… This monument was basically used to send signals to the shipping boats in the bay.  How might you ask?  Well, one such example was to alert the ships in the bay of what time it was.  Every day at 1p.m. a cannon from the Edinburgh castle is fired off (yes, this still happens today).  When the cannon fires off, the vibration in the air is so strong that it knocks the ball on the mast of the Nelson Monument to the base of the mast.  People on the ships in the bay are posted to watch the mast of Nelson Monument and when they see the ball drop, they know it’s 1pm!  Now, I can’t say that ships today employ their timekeeping by this method, only that they used to in olden days… But they do still fire off a 1pm cannon from the castle today daily.  Anyway, another interesting little monument is a cairn that has a stone from the castle of Robert the Bruce.  Just a wee bit more of history there…

On to Edinburgh Zoo

Back to United Kingdom