Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Aegean Sea Cruise: Kusadasi & Ephesus

Until today, I had never been to Turkey or the Asian continent. Now I can say I have been to both. (Part of Turkey is considered Asia, and part is Europe) The Grand Princess ship arrived at the beautiful port city of Kusadasi, which is on the west coast of this wonderful country. This is a modern day destination for Turks who want summer villas or seaside homes. It is a lovely area that is well maintained and welcoming to tourists. Having never set foot in a Muslim country I had trepidations all of which were dismissed after spending a day here. Mind you, Turkey is not a typical Muslim nation; it has strong roots and ties to Europe, so this does not have conservative Muslim regulations. People here dress just as many people throughout the Mediterranean. It is a free open, democratically elected society that share the same values as the rest of us. Many of you may be aware that Turkey is in the process of applying for admission to the European Union, which takes many years to adjust a wide range of internal programs, laws, and operational standards relating to trade, commerce, transportation and secular laws.
We started out with a visit to what is known as the House of The Virgin St Mary. Christians know her as Mary, The Blessed Mother, or mother of Jesus. The mystery of this site started with a German nun called Caterina Emmerish who was born in 1772. She documented a story called The life of the Holy Virgin Mary, where she describes in great detail the exact description locating the house where Mary lived, on a mountain in Ephesus. In the late 1890’s two priests were fascinated by her writings and decided to research what she wrote. The priests were amazed with what they found, by an invalid nun who had never left Germany. Her visions described what they found. In 1951, the site was
carefully resto
red to reflect the way the home was when Mary lived there over 2,000 years ago. It sits on a natural spring, which today serves as holy water from which the faithful come to drink. I must admit, it was quite impressive and inspiring. Several Popes have visited this site and officially recognize this site as the home where Mary lived until the end of her life on Earth. Here are some photos of the home:

above: if you look at the low quarter of the side- along the foundation, you can see bricks of a different color. That was the original level of walls that were still in tact.

above: these are the three fountains they installed that tap into the natural spring water, which the faithful drink and use to heal themselves.


above: this was the same baptismal pool that St John and Mary used as they converted followers to Christianity.


above: the nuns who maintain the site built an area for church services. The House of Many was an interesting stop, even if you are not a religious person or catholic. But I do recommend doing a tour or reading the background story of the nun with the original vision, it will enhance the experience.

From there, we traveled to the ancient city of Ephesus, which in ancient times was a major city to both Turks, Greeks and Romans. Its origins actually date back prehistoric, but it came into its own starting roughly in the 400BC era. It was in 133 BC that Ephesus became a major site of power for the Roman Empire. Ephesus is referenced many times in the Bible, most notably by Sts Paul and John who wrote letters to the Ephesians and spoke publicly on Christianity here. Ephesus has been pillaged by archeologists who removed many of the artifacts and sent them to museums back in their home countries. But it was in the last few decades through a combination of government and private grants that excavations have unearthed really significant discoveries. Ephesus was n enormous city, with a well developed, advanced society, heavily influenced by Roman technology. It is a marvelous blend of Roman, Turkish, pagan and Christian symbolism and traditions. It is a history lover’s dream and nirvana for an archeologist. I took the following photos to give you an idea of the city. It is believed that only 10% of ancient Ephesus has been uncovered so far. The rest remains buried in the adjacent hills. There is a residential development of terrace houses currently under significant excavation. They have constructed a roof overheard to protect it from the elements. Today they work to carefully uncover and re-construct components that reflect life in those times. Ephesus was truly a remarkable city to visit. I was very impressed by our tour guide and how committed the Turkish government is to protect its culture and promote tourism today.

above: a floor mosaic depicting Zeus (right)

above: floor mosaic of Medusa. It is highly unusual she would be in a home, as it was believed looking at Medusa would turn you to stone. They surmise the inhabitant of this particular home may have been a follower of witchcraft.


above: lion floor mosaic

above: I think this was a floor mosaic of Apollo
above: excavations in progress of house terraces. Note the incredible wall decor


above: another view of the excavations. Considering this was built about 2,000 years ago, its amazing it is still in tact at all.


above: the early origins for the symbol for medical doctors. Wish I had the time to explain it, but its very cool

above: Within the Roman Baths, these were the men's toilets. They had advanced sewer systems in place.


above: at the Temple of Hadrian


above: Medusa, depicted at the arch over the entrance to Hadrian's Temple

above: one view of the main "street" in ancient Ephesus. It is huge, and this is just one road.


above: The Goddess of Victory, Nike. (yes Nike)


above: me standing in front of Celsian's Library


above: exterior facade of Celsian's Library

above: one of the statues at the Library.


above: from Hadrian's Temple


above: from Hadrian's Temple
We also had time to visit a family ceramics establishment. Here they make all kinds of ceramics and decorate them following traditional methods and techniques. I watched as they worked on the various ceramics.

above: The ceramics artist begins his work

above: and begins to create jars and egg cups

above: the women paint each item, with incredible precision


above: Each color is painted by hand (not patterns) with organic colors, no lead or chemical paints
I’d highly recommend a visit to Turkey, while we only spent a day in Kusadasi and Ephesus, I feel enriched and better educated on this wonderful and important city. -Rick Rockhill

8 comments:

Lois Grebowski said...

Thanks so much for sharing your journey!

KathyA said...

Amazing!!! I'd never thought about Mary's life before Christ or after! I've always wanted to visit Turkey -- now it's a must!!
Who's watching 'the kids'?

grace said...

i am speechless. What wonders. Thank you for sharing your Holiday travels. :)

lime said...

for a very long time i've wanted to go to greece and turkey. thanks so much for these marvelous posts. i'm enjoying catching up on the back reading of them.

kenju said...

Since I will probably never see it, I really appreciate your good photos!

Lorraine said...

Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey is the Foundress of Mary's House in Ephesus, Turkey and the one to whom we owe gratitude for the finding and restoration of this precious gem where Christians and Muslims pray side by side in peace. Read more at www.sistermarie.com. I am just back myself and your photos have me yearning to travel there yet again! Thank you!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I have been looking at all your pictures of Turkey, Rick...It is an incredible place. I must admit to having a bit of a prejudice against Turkey because of something that happened to my sister there in 1983...It Was Very Bad!!!
She has been back a few times since...but me? NEVER! Istanbul is just gorgeous---You got a lot of WONDERFUL Pictures of Everything there....And to think you only had the one day. (Was this the Proncess Line??)
The Hand made Ceramics in this post are EXTRAORINARY!!! What a Fantastic trip, Rick.

All Istanbul Tours said...

While in Ephesus, you can visit Pamukkale and Hierapolis Ruyins, Didyma, Priene, Miletos, Pergamon as well. http://www.privateistanbultours.com/ephesus-tours,80.html

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