Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Turkey, looking down

And as a final ode to Turkey, the view looking down. Of course. 

Turkey || Izmir and Ephesus

After our whirlwind and too-brief stop in Cappadocia, we drove back to Kayseri, returned the car (that we avoided wrecking) and hopped on a plane bound for Izmir on the western coast. 

When we landed, we took a taxi ride in the rain to our hotel (and our driver estimated our fare with exactness...he must do it a lot!). We chose a small boutique hotel and each room was themed around a Turkish author. I loved being surrounded by books and typewriters in the lobby. (I WILL own a vintage typewriter one day.)

We quickly got settled and then ventured on a walk to the Aegean Sea. We ate a delicious meal (where there were less than pleased that we didn't order drinks) of beef skewers and chicken with basil sauce and then purchased nougat cakes, baklava, almond tarts and eclaires for our nightly snack while playing a riotous game of Phase 10. 

In the morning, a big, white van showed up at our hotel to take us to the ancient city of Ephesus. Our incredible tour guide, Gonja, filled our heads (and my notebook) with a wealth of knowledge about the religions, economics, history and culture of Ephesus. 

Our first stop after the hour drive was the house of the Virgin Mary - said to be the only place in the world where Muslims and Christians officially pray together. It is argued this home is where the Virgin Mary spent the last years of her life, as Ephesus is where John lived and Jesus asked John to take care of her. We lit candles and tied our wishes onto the wishing wall. (And the boys had a good laugh in the bathroom: "Santa Maria!"..."Thomas? Was that you?")

We then drove along the lush, green, rolling hillsides to Ephesus City. There we saw pharmacies, hospitals, schools, businesses, temples, libraries, homes and more, all unearther, the modern-day excavations uncovering an incredible view into an ancient way of life. 

Dr. Pyfer stood at the doors of the medical school. 

Marathon Maren stood at the foot of the statue of Nike, the Goddess of Victory - glad that my race was victorious this year! 

We toured the Terrace Houses where we saw original mosaic floors, terra cotta pipes for plumbing, game boards for backgammon, kids graffiti etched into the walls, formal dining rooms, courtyards fit for kings, marble beds, wooden furniture, wine cellars, sewer systems and frescoes decorating the walls. And the solo surviving toilet. 

We walked through the Agora commercial market with "billboards" carved in stone lining the marble roadways. 

We walked by the Baths of Varius and reminisced on our own experience just a few days prior (and thanked the heavens for modern day plumbing and heating!). 

We stood on the grounds of the Temple of Domitian, one of the largest temples in the city. 

We walked the stone roadways of the colonnaded street (and other roads) flanked by columns on both sides. Roads where chariots and royalty of days past once stood. 

I crossed another library off my "Library Girl" list. Celsus Library was magnificent. The facade has been reconstructed with all original pieces, its towering tiers of columns, and four statues personifying wisdom, virtue, intellect and knowledge standing guard out front. The edifice faces east, toward the rising sun, to benefit early risers. We stood on the platform for the statue of Celsus, or Athena, the goddess of truth (which is now housed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum). We even found the gate to the basement, where it's likely the Government Documents once resided. I wonder if anyone met their one and only in the basement of a library in Ephesus? 

We ran the steps of the Theatre, where Paul preached to the Ephesians and the citizens enjoyed gladiator fights and other entertainment. I even fell down a few steps. Twice. Carved into Mt. Pion, it is said to be the largest outdoor theater in the ancient world. 

Our next stop (after a bathroom break in open-air stalls!)...

...was the pagan Temple of Artemis, of which only one column still stands. The Temple is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and was destroyed in 268 AD, and again in 401 AD and once again in 614 AD. It was discovered in the 1800s after years of searching. In the distance, you can see the Christian St. John's Basilica and a Muslim mosque built from ruins of Ephesus City. It is said there is a Jewish Synagogue in the area as well, which is currently being searched for. 

Gonja then took us to Topkapi Gardents for a quiet lunch with a stunning view of Ephesus. After, we took a private tour of Topkapi Carpets, a local Turkish carpet studio. We watched as they formed thread from wool, cotton and silk (silk worms! eeek!). We saw the canisters filled with colorful indigo, walnut shells, saffron, beetles, pomegranates and more used as natural dyes. We then witnessed carpets being tied in intricate designs with Turkey's famous double knot before we (figuratively) drooled over the pricey final products. One day. 

After we finished, we hopped back into the van and drove to the airport where we said goodbye to Gonja and flew back to Istanbul for our final night. 

We laughed until we cried (I'm the only one with real fake crying skills) as we took our farewell pictures before we parted ways to head home to Iowa and New Hampshire and officially put #LPGobbleGobble2014 in the books. It was one of those nights you really hate that you live so far from such good friends. 

Ryan and I spent our final morning walking around the streets near our hotel in the drizzle and then cabbing it to a mall trying to find more Turkish Delight, which we were delighted to find, among other, more interesting eats.

We had an incredible time in Turkey with the Pyfers. They are officially on our "will travel with..." list for the future. 

And Turkey definitely made it on our "must go back to..." list. 

People there are the same as here. They go to school, work and church. They have talk shows, reality shows, game shows and news shows. Some are wealthy. Some are poor. They call their friends (sometimes while driving!). They love their kids. They laugh. They cry. They just do it on the other side of the world. And I am so happy to have witnessed a small part of it. 

Like I said before, we only just skimmed the surface, but the landscapes, people and culture were some of my favorite to date. I hope to go back one day, but for now, I'll go stare at my Iznik tiles while I eat a piece of Turkish delight.