What an incredible last two days! We woke up at 6am on Wednesday to make our 7:30 excursion time after very little sleep. We’re pretty sure that we were served regular coffee on Tuesday night, after we ordered decaf. Amy rolled over at about 1am and asked me in a very normal volume voice whether I was still awake. I was. Not very quality preparation for 3 miles of walking and ninety degree heat. However, it ended up being an amazing day.
We arrived at Ephesus (Efes) early enough in the morning that the heat was not too much of an issue. The crowds weren’t terrible yet either. We had a great tour guide from Turkey who explained to us that Ephesus was the oldest and best preserved archaeological city site in the world – or something like that. Oz also told us later that he received his masters degree in American studies at university near Ankar, Turkey. However, he has never been to America, so we gave him our contact information is case he ever made it to the United States, which he is planning to do. Back to Efes. It was interesting to see the conglomeration of Roman and Greek architecture, indicating periods of occupation. Some carvings were in Greek and some were in Latin. We had fun reading some of the Latin stuff. We had a brief hour and a half tour of the main points of Efes, but the information and ruin remains were priceless. The lowlight of Efes had to have been the painfully cheesy interactive “day in the life of Ephesus” performance, a special treat put on especially for cruise tour groups. “Roman aristocrats” walking out to men “playing trumpets.” A juggler. A “gladiatorial exhibition.” And a fire eater. At the end of the tour we filled out a survey; the “performance” received a very low score from both of us.
After Ephesus, we drove out into the middle of nowhere to see Miletus, a contemporary of Ephesus. We saw a Roman theatre which, as always, is amazing. There’s not much that makes you feel…smaller, more temporary, than walking under an arch that has been standing through 2000+ years on an active faultline, with no cement.
In regards to both Ephesus and Miletus, archaeologists are still unearthing more ruins: the stadium in Ephesus, the gladiatorial burial ground in Ephesus (which the government is still in the stages of buying the land from a farmer whose land contains the ruins), and portions of the ancient port in Miletus. Maybe when we go back in 30 years, we will be able to see some of these ruins!
Then we had a traditional Turkish lunch at a restaurant in Didymus, which means twins, named for Apollo, god of light and music, and Artemis, goddess of fertility. It was a buffet, including many salads and hot dishes, including something that felt like it was biting my tongue when I ate it. It was fun to get to try such a variety of fare. After that we visited a temple of Artemis. This stuff is so old.
At the end of our tour, we went to a carpet store and saw a demonstration of how Turkish rugs are made. It’s amazing. We saw a 4x6 rug that took one girl, working five hours a day, 28 months to complete, and another rug, 10x13 feet, that took two girls working side by side 40 months to complete. In spite of the convincing the salesmen, we did not max out our credit cards to purchase one, although they were very tempting and extremely beautiful. From there we walked through the shops of Kusadasi, and got annoyed with the ravenous sales pitches of the shop owners. When we walked right past one shop, politely ignoring the shopkeeper’s pleas for us to look at his “cheap gifts for cheap friends” and he called after us, “you are stingy man,” we decided we were done looking at their wares, and made our way back to the ship. Except for this insult, we thought Turkey was quite beautiful, and would love to visit again, soon.
Yesterday, Thursday, we left early to see the island of Rhodes after our smallest, shortest breakfast: a caramel roll and yogurt. We brought coffee and a muffin on the bus. Real coffee this time, from the coffee shop, not the fake, see-through stuff from the free coffee and juice corners.
We drove up a mountain to a medieval church that was the strategic lookout for Ottomans during a period of their occupation pre-world war one and for the Germans in world war two. Rhodes was also an important port during Roman times. For us, the medieval church and its surrounding views were great for pictures!
Our descent from the mountain brought us through some housing developments in Rhodes. Houses are about half as expensive to build as they are to buy. So said our Rhodian tour guide. Greeks still use a dowry system for their children. Before a girl gets married, her parents build her a home to live in and the couple move into it after they get married. The husband has no claim to the home in case the marriage does not work out. Thus, the wife is not left out on the street. And the girl’s parents live with them when they are old.
Then we made a stop at a jewelry store/museum filled with copies of replicas of original jewelry. We’re pretty sure it was just a souvenir stop.
Our last stop before lunch was at Kalithea, which literally means great view. It’s true. Kalithea boasts 7 kilometers of beaches and was the site of movie shoots in the 50s and 60s. Our specific stop was at a spectacular swimming hole, which was, again, great for pictures! The water is so blue and transparent. Truly gorgeous scenery.
The tour bus dropped us off near the boat, but we were excited to explore the streets of Rhodes before we sailed away to Santorini. Rhodes was truly a highlight for both of us as we spent the next three hours walking the streets, taking pictures, and perusing the quaint little shops. It was quiet and Mediterranean beautiful.
Today we’re headed off to the volcanic island, Nea Kameni, and then to the thermal springs of Palea Kameni where we will be swimming during the morning. Should be another amazing day.
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Dad, hope your back feels much better. We're thinking of you and praying for you.
Stephie, congrats and good luck!