Thursday, September 17, 2009


Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 Back in Turkey…..

We woke to overcast weather so we packed our umbrellas and dressed warmly for our excursion today to Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary from our port city of Kusadasi. We hardly knew that we were in Turkey. The cruise ship has all of our passports and handled all of the paperwork for our visit today. Our tour director was a lovely young Turkish girl who said we could call her Rose as that was the meaning of her Turkish name. She was very animated and knowledgeable about the sites we visited.

Our first stop was at the House of the Virgin Mary. Located up the mountain about ten minutes from the town of Coressos, this is where the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ spent her last years. A chapel now stands where her house once stood. There are always four nuns and two priests (one Catholic and the other Orthodox). The Muslins respect and honor Jesus Christ as a prophet and his mother is also revered as the mother of a prophet. Therefore it has been a religious site ever since it was discovered in 1891 following the detailed description given by a German bedridden pious lady who claimed to have been shown this neighborhood during visions of the Virgin Mother. Many Popes have visited this holy place over the years. There is also a spring which is considered “holy” similar to the waters of Lourdes and Fatima. Yes, we drank the water and collected some to bring home.

From Mary’s house we took the buses down the mountain to the ancient city of Ephesus. This is actually the third location of the city as it was rebuilt several times for various reasons. The very first city was built some two thousand years before Christ was born where the modern city of Coressos now stands. Ephesus was originally a sea port but over the years the Kucuk Menderes River that flowed into a bay of the sea silted the valley until the seashore is now about seven miles away.

Built on the north slope of Mount Pion and extending southward to the slope of Mount Koressos, this ancient marble city was home to about 250,000 people. They were skilled artisans and rich merchants; extensive water pipes have been discovered underground. They had a hospital, theaters, temples; Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. After its decline, Ephesus was abandoned and forgotten for a long time. About a century ago the excavation of this ancient city began and continues to this day. It is probably the largest archeological site in Turkey. It has much religious significance to the Christians in that St. Paul wrote his “Letter to the Ephesians” to the citizens of Ephesus. Saint John lived here and was buried here in the St. John Basilica; and of course, the proximity of the house of the Virgin Mary.

By the time we finished our walking tour through the archeological site we had not only had a woman on the tour slip and fall but also rain coming down hard enough to get out our umbrellas. The ambulance arrived for the woman but no one has said as of yet how badly she was hurt. Ironically, her slip and fall took place right next to the site of the ancient Hospital!

Two interesting facts that we were told were (1) the while marble in the long road down to the sea port had white pieces of marble strategically placed on the road to act as guides when the torch lights would reflect on them at night. (2) There was a hole directly in the center of one large piece of marble that held a large torch that acted as a lighthouse to guide the ships into the port at night. The rings used to security the torch are still embedded into the marble on four corners surrounding the torch hole. One wonders sometimes how they come up with these facts?

The very large theater is still used for special performances including many of the well known performers of today. One of the most impressive views was of the Library. It reminded me of our visit to Petra in Jordan, smaller, but still very impressive.

Back to the cruise ship by bus and after navigating the shops between the bus and the cruise ship we were on our way to Patmos, approximately four hours away. We enjoyed lunch again in the dining room and then walked the ship later in the afternoon; stopping in the Stars Lounge on the top deck for the special drink of the day: “Turkish Delight”, a rum based drink that wasn’t bad but not as good as we’d expected. But, the view was spectacular as the sun had come out in between the dark clouds shining down on a brilliant Aegean Sea.

We signed up for the tour of Patmos, a small island with several very historic religious sites. First we drove in the bus to the cave of St. John where, according to tradition, he wrote the text of Revelation, the last chapter of the New Testament, in 95 AD while he was banished there by the Roman Emperor. It is a small cave that has been slightly enlarged by breaking through the wall and adding an adjacent chapel. There are many religious symbols: a hole in the wall where he rested his head while sleeping, another smaller one where he would place his hand to help himself up, a painting based on a dream of St. Johns, cracked ceiling in three sections (the trinity) caused by the loud voice of God telling him what to write plus a few more. Many steps down into the cave and then back up those same steps to the bus for our trip further up the mountain to tour the famed Monastery of St. John the Theologian. It was built in the eleventh century with permission from Constantinople who granted the entire island to the Theologian Hosios Christodoulos to be used as a Monastery with many conditions one of which was that no women were allowed on the island. The original document hangs in the Museum of the Monastery. The Monastery is a very large fort style edifice that dominants the entire island, a museum full of old manuscripts and religious artifacts, and fresco covered walls. This Monastery was built by the monk that discovered the cave based on researching the writings of St. John. It’s also a very cold place as the wind was blowing at full speed while we were there, no rain but we still had a spectacular sunset with pink clouds.

Dinner tonight was assigned seating. Julie had arranged for us to have a table near the window at the first seating and we were seated with a couple from Corona, California. A very nice couple in their forties, two children both actively involved in the sport of swimming, she is an operating room nurse and he is a graphic artist with Disneyland. They have traveled extensively and we really enjoyed the hour that we spent with them. During dinner the Maitre D’Hotel, Grigorios Triantafilou, stopped by the table and asked who knew Miss Julie. He is a personal friend of Julie and was surprised when we said we’d known Miss Julie since she was a child. As a tour director she makes many trips during the season with her groups on this particular cruise ship.

After dinner we headed for the room and an early closing to another full day. Our alarm is scheduled for 5:40 am again tomorrow as the tours start early in Rhodes.

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