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The journey of a thousand miles begins with...the perfect pair of shoes.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cruise: Turkey

Good grief, I'm such a slacker. Back to cruising and photos. We spent another day at sea after Israel and then ported in Kusadasi (KU-SHA-dah-SEE), Turkey. Indy and I were going to do a long rigorous tour that included loads of walking over uneven ground and cobblestones, so Gigi and Han Solo went off on their own little easy tour. Turkey was freaking HOT. Seriously. It was around 98 and the sun was merciless. Yay.

This is the view of Kusadasi from our balcony.  Lovely, isn't it?


Here's my sweet little Han Solo getting ready for his big day with Gigi!





Gigi and Han Solo set off for their tour about 30 minutes before we did, though their's was only 3 hours.  Ours was 9.  Indy and I hopped on the bus, crazy excited, and met the most fascinating tour guide ever, Ilker.  He was not only knowledgeable, but he was funny and very personable.  We drove from Kusadasi to the ancient town of Ephesus, which blew my mind!

Hey, there's Ilker!  Seriously, a great guide.  You can't see it in this photo, and apparently, I didn't get one of it, but there's a really high mountain off to the far right that once held the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.


 We entered through one of the top gates of the city and worked out way down to a bottom gate.  It took over 4 hours to get from one end to the other, with a stop at the terrace houses.  Ephesus is HUGE and Ilker told us that only 10% of the city has been excavated.  Holy cow!  He said it was the New York City of the ancient world in its heyday.






See that pipe on the ground right behind Indy?  That would be part of the original water system from the Roman era of the city.



One of a dozen or so temples we saw.











Okay, this is really interesting.  This is a relief of Nike, goddess of victory (Nike is Greek for victory).  This is apparently a very famous rendition of Nike.  If you look very closely at the folds of her dress, just above her leg and below her right arm, you might see a very familiar swoosh.  This is apparently where the Nike swoosh emblem comes from.



This is the back side of the Hercules Gate.  That's Hercules.  Not how I pictured him, but, whatever.


Part of the tile floor for their main shopping district.  At one time it would have been below a portico.



Another temple.


A closeup of Medusa on the temple arch.



We left the baking sun (yay!) and went into the terrace houses, which are where the wealthier citizens lived and is now, to protect it, covered, making it about 15-20 degrees cooler inside.  Whew!  Since it is terrace housing though, there are loads and loads of stairs.  This section here contains workers who are trying to put together what they call the world's largest jigsaw puzzle.  There are literally millions of pieces of tile, marble and columns that they are trying to piece together.  There are rooms and rooms containing crates stacked 4-5 feet tall full of pieces.  Job security!



Part of a mosaic floor.



This was the dining room of one of the houses in the lower terraces.  The red parts of the frescos are done with pomegranate based paints and they are still a deep, rich red today.


A kitchen.


Indy about 1/2 way up the terraces/



This is really funny and I wish I could have gotten a better photo.  If you can zoom in, try.  They found a wall with a child's drawing of gladiators on it.  One gladiator (near the orange section at the bottom) is on the ground and the other is still standing to the far left.  Kids.  They're the same no matter when they live.



More murals.


A mosaic floor.

Close to the top of the terraces.


So, we left the relative coolness of the terraces and went back into the sun toward the Library of Celsius.  This was one of the largest libraries of the ancient world.    Across the street, to the right of this photo stood a brothel.  There was a tunnel under the library, leading to the brothel, so men could go to the library and not be seen going into the brothel.  Classy.



Indy in the library.

We left the library and headed to the main amphitheater of the town.  You can see how huge it is.  The last concert given there was by Sting, but the music was so loud the amphitheater started crumbling.  They have not held concerts there since, and Sting has given loads of money to help in the restoration process.  Go Sting!


Broken pieces of buildings and columns as far as you can see.



They put on a little show a couple of times a day depicting Egyptians and Roman.  It was quite fun.


Gladiator battle!



We finally exited the city and got to the souvenir area.  Man, the Turks know how to sell stuff!  They give you things so you'll feel obligated to buy more.  Smart people.  We came away with several gorgeous scarves, some postcards, a picture frame and small figure of the amphitheater.  Oh, and some Turkish Delight.  It's Delightful.  :)  The shopping area was incredibly fun.  This sign was my absolute favorite:



So, remember the Temple of Artemis I mentioned back in the beginning?  One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?  Yeah, of course you do, because you're entranced by every word, right?  Yeah, so, we left the city and drove to the top of the mountain to see this, the one lone pillar, which is actually made up of fragments from a few different pillars, that is the only remaining bit of the Temple.  I should mention that this temple was a larger version of the Parthenon.  From the scale models we saw, this baby was HUGE.  450' long x 250' wide x 60' tall.



We then went to a really cool museum, but my camera battery was dying, so I didn't get any photos inside.  Boo!  It had several of the statues of the Ephesus Artemis.  Interestingly, she has 24 breasts.  Why?  No idea.  We were in the statue, sitting in front of the model of the temple and one of the statues was behind it.  Indy leaned over and whispered "I'll bet it was hard for her to find a bra."  I almost fell off the bench laughing.  That's my boy.


It was then time for lunch!  We headed off to the Cleopatra Hotel (Cleopatra visited Ephesus a few times with Marc Antony), where we had a Roman style meal, complete with costumes.  My camera had a little juice, but not enough for the flash, so this was the best we could get.  It was fun and the food was really good.



Our ship from the terrace of the hotel.


The opposite terrace of the hotel.  Turkey was stunning.  It was far more than I expected.




Hey, there's my little sweetie!  He was having a good time with his Gigi!


 And finally, we made it back to the ship and this was the view as we left port.  Turkey was my second favorite stop (after Egypt, because nothing can top that!).  I would love to go back and explore Ephesus more thoroughly and visit Istanbul (not Constantinople!).




 Our next port was Piraeus, Greece, where we hopped the bus to Athens and climbed a billion stairs (maybe slightly less) up the Acropolis to see the Parthenon.  I'll have that up....one day.

If you missed any of our cruise, you can see the other posts here:

Egypt: Day One

Egypt: Day two

Israel



 Thanks for stopping by!


 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cruise: Israel

After 2 days in the Egyptian sun, we headed northeast and ported in Israel.  We were there for 2 days and took the first day off.  After our busy days, it was nice to just relax.  We hung out by the pool, took naps and ate way more than we probably should have.  Calories don't count on vacation, right?

The next day we got up early and headed off toward Bethlehem.  Gigi was terribly excited.  Our tour guide Phillip was American, but immigrated to Israel about 10 years ago and was absolutely chock a block full of information.  Except for the one question *I* asked.  He said I won the stump the guide award.  My question?  Where was Amrimathea located?  In case you don't know the tomb that Jesus was placed in belonged to Joseph of Arimathea and I was curious as to where Arimathea actually was.  Phillip looked at me, cocked his head to the side and laughed.  He told us he'd never really thought of it, because he'd always considered "of Arimathea" part of his name.  Haha!  Check me out.

We piled on the bus (there were lots of buses on this cruise since I wasn't comfortable going it alone at many of our destinations) and drove about 45-50 minutes or so and arrived in Bethlehem. 


Our first stop was the Church of the Nativity, which is traditionally thought to be the birth place of Jesus.  Notice the teeny tiny little door in the bottom center.  That's how you enter the church.  It's called the door of humility because you literally have to bend down to get in.  We actually had to tilt Han Solo's stroller back a bit to get it through the door.  The door was originally a fairly standard size church door, but the Ottomans made the door small so that mounted horsemen could not ride their horses into the church.  Weird, eh?


This is the interior of the Greek Orthodox part of the church.  You enter through the tiny door and here you are.



This is a section of the original 4th c mosaic floor.  It is only open a little ways and is actually several feet below the current floor.  Somebody (Emperor Constantine, maybe?  I can't remember) had to the floor raised for some reason.


The columns were originally painted with pictures of the apostles.  If you look closely at the bottom of this column, you can see the faint outlines and colors of a few faces.


 These mosaics high up on the wall are some of the only remaining decoration from the original church.




The entrance to the Grotto of the Nativity.  This line to enter was over 2 hours, so we did not get to actually go in.


When you leave the Greek Orthodox section of the church through a regular size door down near the altar, you come into the cloister that is part of the Catholic section of the church.  The interior is pretty Catholic church typical with lots of arches and vaulted ceilings.  It was much brighter than the Greek Orthodox side.




The cloisters outside.


After we left Bethlehem, we headed to a monastery for lunch.  The restaurant is in a cave like part of the building.  It was really lovely.
 

After lunch we headed to Jerusalem.  On the way we stopped at an overlook for photos.



Looking toward the old city.  The gold dome is the Dome on the Rock.



The Mount of Olives.



Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdelene on the Mount of Olives.



Looking into the old city.


Entering the city through the Dung Gate.


Once we come through the Dung Gate, we had to go through another entrance, that for religious purposes apparently, was segregated, men entered to the left of the post and women to the right.  It was...odd.




We happened to be there on a Jewish holy day, though a cannot remember what Philip said it was.  The people were dressed in amazing religious wear and I wondered how they didn't all collapse in the extreme heat.  By the time we arrived, it was 92 and we were miserable.  Many of the men were in full length, heavy black coats, and those from Eastern sects were wearing huge fur hats.

Inside the city. 


The Wailing Wall.  There was also a segregated entrance to get down to the wall, but as it was so packed for the holiday, we opted not to go all the way down.



The kindness and manners of the people we came in contact with were refreshing and kind of overwhelming.  Our group had split up for a bit so people could take some time at the Wailing Wall or just looking around.  I had taken Han Solo out of his stroller because I was afraid he would cook in there and held him in a small patch of shade.  There were about 25 people crowded in the shade and 3 chairs containing men who were probably old enough to be my great-grandfather.  When I walked over with Han Solo in my arms, they all 3 immediately stood and pointed me to a chair.  Being younger by than them by several decades, I smiled and shook my head, indicating that they should resume their seats.  They were having none of it.  There were repeated nods to the chair and finally one of them men gently grabbed my shoulders and pushed me down into the chair.  They all smiled and nodded at me and spoke words I couldn't understand to Han Solo who laughed at all the attention.  A similar incident took place about an hour later in another part of the city.  Apparently women holding children trump old men when it comes to chairs and if you don't sit, they will make you and then make you feel like you've done them a great honor.

We wandered through the city toward the Via Delorosa, Philip rattling off so much knowledge it's a wonder his head didn't explode, and started on the Stations of the Cross.  Some of them are "lost to history."  For those of you who might not be familiar, they are along the traditional route of Christ carrying his cross. NB: Archaeological evidence contradicts several of the traditional spots thought.

The first station, which we were lucky to get to see because of the holiday (This is not my photo, BTW.  It was too crowded to get a good photo.), is the Franciscan Monastery of Flagellation, where Christ was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate.  It is also said that this is where he was given his crown of thorns.  NB: Archaeological evidence points to this actually happening at Herod's Palace, which was to the south or southwest, IIRC.


This is the 3rd station, where Christ fell for the first time.  These are said to be the actual paving stones where he fell.  True or not, they attracted a lot of attention.



The 5th station, where Simon helped Christ carry the cross up the hill of Calvary (or Golgotha).




The Church of the Holy Sepulchre contains stations the final stations, including the actual crucifixion, death and burial.  This is the entrance to the courtyard.


The church itself.  The church was founded in 326, when Helena (mother of the Emperor Constantine) supposedly found the true cross here.  See the ladder just below the window to the far right?  That ladder has to be there at all times and is called the Immovable Ladder.  There are so many stories about why it is there, but in the end, it kind of all comes down to politics (doesn't everything?).  If you're interested, you can find more info here.  But not yet!


 Inside, the church is really gloomy and looks incredibly neglected, like many of the other sites we saw that day.  I found this incredibly interesting.  These are the holy sites for many, many religions, yet they are, quite literally, falling apart.

An artistic representation of the stations.


When you first walk in you see the stone of anointment.  This is where Christ's body was anointed with oil before burial.


To the right of this is a staircase that leads up to Crucifixion Hill and the Golgotha Altar, which is supposed to be where the actual cross was erected and when Christ died.

Once again, it was too packed to get a good photo, so the one below is not mine.


This is actually my photo and was taken from the gallery where the Golgotha Alter stands.  The altar is to my back  and the anointing stone is below.  Just to the left of the archway is the Aedicule, where the actual tomb is supposed to be.  Unfortunately, like the nativity, the line was way too long to go in and have a look.


After we left the church, we once again wandered through the rabbit warren that make up the old city.  I don't know how anyone finds their way around.  It's just one passageway after another and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.  The passages were sometimes narrow and sometimes wide, but all held stall after stall of trinkets, clothing, household items and food vendors.  Philip said it was the Wal-Mart of Jerusalem.   :)

When we finally arrived at the bottom of the passages (I can't tell you how many stairs we carried Han Solo's stroller up and down!), we exited the city through the Jaffa Gate (below).  There was a huge festival with bands playing Jewish music (you can't stop yourself from tapping your foot at the rhythm), more food vendors and lots of people.


We left the city and drove back to the ship where we all collapsed from heat and exhaustion.  Next stop:  Turkey!

If you missed the first bit of our trip, here are Egypt: Day One and Egypt Day: Two.









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