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Cunard Queen Victoria 2012
A Magical Mystery Tour of the Ancient Wonders of the World - Part 3

Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 December - Kusadasi for Ephesus, Turkey

Our new schedule was for arrival at Kusadasi at 1300, but when we arrived the wind was still too high and the local pilot could not get aboard – we had been there before. We watched from the Lido at lunch as his boat went back to harbour and the captain announced he would try again later. At the next attempt the pilot did come on board, but we did not manage to get into the harbour and we watched in amazement as the solid looking tug was thrown up and down like a toy in the harbour entry and the pilot boat was almost disappearing in the spray. We waited, had another attempt, and with the help of the local tug were finally safely alongside. The berths here are just long fingers into the harbour, with moorings on both sides, and with the wind behind us it was a difficult approach, carried out very elegantly by Captain Philpott. The gangways were only at the bow, closest to the shore, because the spray splashing over the quay side and up like fountains beside the ship were too violent. It was splashing up over the sea wall too.

Kusadasi is a lively resort, but December is out of season so it was very quiet. The shops had all been re-opened in expectation of the arrival of the QV, and as soon as we were allowed ashore we went out hoping for enough light for a few pictures. After meandering past the little shops outside the Cruise Terminal we walked along the coast in the last of the evening light. It was really too windy to get the camera out of its bag and we could feel the salt spray as we walked along. We turned back just before reaching the yacht marina after taking pictures of the statue of a hand and another said to commemorate the war won by Ataturk.

The shops were all open so we turned inland towards the shopping streets. Our objective was to find some more Turkish coffee, and to purchase a proper pot for making Turkish coffee. We changed a £20 note in local money (2.85 Tl/£) and quickly found a small supermarket which sold packets of Turkish coffee at 1.70 Tl per 100 gms, so that part was easy. Some of the souvenir shops had pretty copper pots, but they did not look very durable for actually making coffee and looked as if they had tin, or more likely form the appearance lead solder lining. As we walked up away from the harbour we found a few typically Turkish shops for the locals, and saw an aluminium coffee pot in the window of one. We ended up purchasing two of slightly different sizes and they were only 6.5 euros total. Although Kusadasi is in Turkey, everything is for sale in euros, and even the hardware shop gave us change in euros for the coffee pot.

The souvenir shops here were full of similar items to those we had seen in Istanbul, and Pauline checked prices of beads, shawls, shirts and Turkish delight for when we came out tomorrow afternoon. The traditional Turkish carpet shops were together, close to the harbour, and we were caught looking at some carpets on display outside Harem carpets. There followed a discussion with the owner, Ferhat Saribek, about the various qualities of carpet, and we finally were drawn in and drank a cup of apple tea while a dozen different carpets were displayed. This was part of getting an understanding of the qualities, and the prices. We actually wanted a carpet to replace our well worn rug in front of the stove. They were more expensive than we had hoped although much higher quality than we had realised - the most beautiful carpets were silk and very fine detail. It would be easy to spend the price of a new car or boat, depending on size and quality, but the work is all hand done and double knotted and so is inevitably going to be expensive as even the smallest can take months of work. The shop claimed to have 5000 in stock from various parts of Turkey, a huge investment although the export carpet trade is being heavily supported by the government.

The next morning we had an early start at 0830 for an organised Cunard tour to Ephesus. We had never visited Ephesus before, and had decided to take the easy option and book a half day guided tour (at $61). It was not too expensive compared with going independently because the costs of the entrance to Ephesus were 25tl and 15tl for the audio guide, and then an additional 8 tl to visit the church of St John nearby. This meant it would have been $20 each for the entry tickets alone, to be added to the 10 mile taxi journey from Kusadasi.

Just before reaching the coach parking at the Magnesia Gate we could see the House of the Virgin Mary, isolated, on Mount Koressos, and looking down onto Ephesus. Our tour did not climb up to the site, but it was nice to see it in the distance. This is where the Blessed Virgin Mary is reputed to have spent the last years of her life, and was made famous by visits of Pope Paul VI and Pope Paul II.

Ephesus itself was memorable and it will take time to correctly rank it in comparison to Petra, the Pyramids, Pompeii and the historic areas of Athens which must be the main competitors. The area covered is vast and the state of preservation is good as most has only recently been excavated with great care. Over the centuries, a succession of empires, Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and, finally, Ottoman ruled over the city of Ephesus. No matter how many times it changed hands, it remained one of the most vibrant cities of the ancient world with nearly 300,000 inhabitants at its peak in the second century A.D.

Ephesus started life on the coast and was the Western end of the great trade road through the Cayster Valley and on into Asia. It was for many centuries the Gateway to Asia, even after the port silted up and the city was left many miles from the sea. It became the magnificent Roman Capital of Asia Minor and became the second largest city of the Roman Empire. Ephesus was the place where St Paul spent many years preaching and where St John and the Virgin Mary spent their last days.

Ephesus still contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated. The ruins that are visible give some idea of the city's original splendour, and the names associated with the ruins are evocative of its former life. For example, the theatre dominates the view down Harbour Street, which leads to the silted-up harbour.

Having left our coach at the Magnesium Gate we had a gentle stroll downhill to rejoin our coach at the other end of the site at the Gate of Koressos. The exploration began with the Varius Baths, one of the largest in Ephesus. In typical Roman style there is a frigidarium, apodyterium, tepidarium, calidarium and sudatorium. Our path had interesting remains of buildings on both sides and we allowed our guide to decide which to visit next. The state Agora is a wide area, built in the first century AD, and measures 73 metres wide and 160 metres long. The religious and state meetings were held here, In the middle are remains thought to be of the Temple of Isis, and the various state offices were around the edge. The Basilica on the other side of our path has two rows of columns and was a centre for commerce and banking. The Odean behind it was our first view of tiered seating, and in good condition. There are 13 rows of seats in the lower part and 10 rows above giving seating for 1500 people and it is said to have had a wooden roof. It was used for concerts but it was also the place where the city council, rich Ephesians and the Curetes met and discussed policy.

The Curetes were virgins who were daughters of the distinguished families and were the priests dealing both with both religious and state affairs. They were also responsible for the incessant burning of the sacred fire in the Municipality Palace. They were highly respected by the people and lived in the rooms surrounding the courtyard in the middle of the Municipality Palace. The Curetes street leads down to the Memmius monument and on downhill to the Celsus library.

Water storage was very important and the Water Palace was one of the largest buildings of the city, built on the Northwest of the State Agora about 80 BC. The area in front of the Water Palace is the Domitian Square, with the Domitian Temple built during 81 – 96 AD. The Pollio Fountain with its large restored arch and pool distributed water from the Water Palace.

The pharmacy and hospital, marked by a marble carved stone, and the Memmius monument are at the junction with the Curetes street, returning from the Domitian Square. Nearby is a relief of the Goddess of victory, Nike. Our guide said that the folds of her skirts were the inspiration for the logo on Nike shoes. Our group had become widely dispersed, but still able to listen to our guide through the microphone and remote headset system.

To progress further we had to make a narrow line to pass through the Heracles Gate. The gap was narrow deliberately so that chariots could not go through and therefore the road beyond was pedestrian. Pete found it was possible to climb up to a viewpoint above the Heracles Gate and get our first glimpse and pictures looking down on the famous Celsus library. Continuing along the Curetes street is another fountain, the Trajan Fountain. Originally two storeys high and with various statues 12 metres high it is now restored but reduced in height and only the foot of Trajan remains, standing on the sphere of the earth.

The beautiful stonework details at the Temple of Hadrian meant we spent too long admiring it and took too many photos. The frieze of the Goddess Fortuna is in the middle of the vault supported by four columns with Corinthian capitols. The semicircle has a relief of Medusa. The series of friezes on both sides describe the establishment of Ephesus. It is exceptionally beautiful fine stone work. On the opposite side of the road are the regulations, in Greek and Latin, about the building of the city walls and the state holidays. There is restoration work on the row of houses belonging to important families, and we were told the houses contained beautiful mosaics and private bathrooms.

We were dragged back to more mundane matters to see the Scholastikia baths, the public male latrines and the brothel. Christian Scholastikia was responsible for restoring these and hence they carry his name. The brothel is close to the Celsus Library.

There has been a spectacular reconstruction of the façade of the Celsus Library from original pieces found lying on the ground in the area, and if there is one single image which represents Ephesus it is the view of the facade shining in the sunlight. It reminded us of the facades in Petra, which are glorious, but now we wonder whether the Celsus library is more beautiful. It was originally built c. 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an Ancient Greek who served as governor of Roman Asia. Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth, and is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it. The library was mostly built by his son Gaius Julius Aquila and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. It was designed with an exaggerated entrance so as to enhance its perceived size and the building faces east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light. There are four statues in front of the Library, Sophia, Arete, Eunoia and Episteme. The Library in later days was linked by a tunnel to the brothel as not all of its readers were interested solely in academic research.

Just on the right of the Celsus Library is the entrance to the Agora, the monumental Mazaeus and Mithridates Gate. It was built in honour of Emperor Augustus and his family by the two slaves who were freed by them. The Agora is a very large market place and the biggest trade centre of the city. There was the usual covered colonnade for walking, the stoa. Goods arrived for sale from the ships in the harbour and were sold alongside goods brought from inland by trading caravans. The Marble Road leads from the Celsius library to the Koressos Gate, and had a sewage system beneath.

The Celsus library is arguably the most important building on the site, but is followed closely by the Grand Theatre, reached by walking along the Marble Road. There are 24,500 seats divided into three areas with two horizontal walkways, and 22 rows of seats in each area. It was not covered and there are rainwater drainage channels. The fights of gladiators with wild animals took place here so there is a high wall to separate the audience from the action. Concert performances have taken place her in recent times but have been discontinued because of concerns about damage to the structure. We were warned to take care, but were allowed 7 minutes free time to go inside and climb over the seats for a proper view of the stage. Opposite is the Theatre gymnasium, with classrooms and libraries, where gladiators were trained. The marble street from the Grand Theatre to the old harbour is 11 metres wide and 530 metres long – it was also where the sewage system under the street emptied into the harbour. Unfortunately because of silting the sea is now a long way from the end of Harbour Street. There were monumental porticos at each end of the street and roofed colonnades and stores on both sides, but only some of the columns remain.

We finally reached the coach parking at the Koressos Gate where there were free toilets (it is 0.50 euros at the other gate so hold on) and shops. Our guide book was only 3 euros and included a good aerial view of the site, and if we had more time there was a large café for drinks and snacks.

The remains of Ephesus were rediscovered by the British architect John Turtle Wood, sponsored by the British Museum to search for the Temple of Artemis and, in 1869 discovered the pavement of the temple, but since further expected discoveries were not made the excavations stopped in 1874. In 1895 German archaeologist Otto Benndorf resumed excavations and the following year founded the Austrian Archaeological Institute which still plays a leading role in Ephesus. Finds from the site are exhibited notably in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna, the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk and in the British Museum. We have made a resolution to spend a day in the British Museum when we get back home.

Leaving the Ancient City of Ephesus we travelled two miles north to the town of Selçuk to visit the Church of St John. St John came to Ephesus in 42 AD with the Virgin Mary with the aim of spreading Christianity. He then travelled to Rome where he was tortured and returned to Ephesus where he died shortly afterwards. A church was built in the 4th century in the place where a monument was erected to indicate his grave. The large basilica with 11 domes was built later on the site and has been compared to St Sophia Basilica in Istanbul in size. The church is now in ruins but there is a wall painting conserved in a permanent wooden building, and lots of marble pieces and remains of columns. It is yet another interesting archaeological jigsaw puzzle to reconstruct the building from the remaining materials. As was common in those times, when the church ceased to be in use the building materials were removed and used to construct new buildings. The body of St John is no longer here, although there is a marble slab at the place of his tomb, and our guide said it had been moved to the church of San Giovanni in Rome. The Citadel castle is on the same site but was closed to visitors. Below the church of St John is the mosque of Isa Bey, built in 1375. Only one of the original minarets remains standing.

In the distance we could look down onto the remains of the Temple of Artemis (Diana). It was built on marshland and was one of the "seven wonders" of the ancient world; it was almost four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens. The temple was originally built by the Lydian king Croesus and designed by the Greek architect Chersiphron. The temple of Artemis in St Paul's day was supported by 127 columns, each of them 60 meters high. Unfortunately a single standing column and a few fragments of marble are all that remain on the site and the other remains are in the British Museum in London following the excavations by DG Howarth in 1904-05. We must go and see them there. There is evidence of four buildings on the site, dating from the 8th century BC, with the most recent being built after the invasion of the Goths in 263 AD. We had a closer look at the Temple of Artemis as we passed it on the way back to the ship. The remains of old Turkish baths were next door, and it was not clear whether these were the Saadet Hatun Baths mentioned in our guide book.

As we left Selçuk we passed a large carpet cooperative shop with women working looms on the pavement. It really is a local industry. Our final stop on the tour was an optional visit to a carpet shop in Kusadasi. We were told that the carpet shop was approved by our cruise line and that it was a cooperative outlet. To our surprise the coach stopped outside the Harem shop which we had visited the previous evening. Mr Saribek came out, looked at us and we looked at him, then stepped forward and we shook hands. The tour guide watched in surprise. Most people on the tour came into the shop, where we had a snack and a drink; we chose turkish coffee although others had tea, beer, wine or raki. Being part of a large tour group meant that we could watch one of the experienced weavers showing how a fine silk carpet is made, and also see a full range of carpets, of all sizes and qualities, up to the most beautiful and expensive ones.

After the others had left we continued with Mr Saribek in a smaller room. We knew that we were only interested in a small rug made of wool (much cheaper than the silk) and not of the highest quality which also depends on how many knots to the square inch. After looking at dozens of different colours, patterns, qualities and prices we had reduced our selection to 3 rugs. For comparison we then saw a cheap rug, and then were made good offers if we would buy two rugs instead of one. While they were beautiful and we were tempted, there is nowhere in our house which stood out as a home for an extra rug, and the second rug was much too nice to go next to our wood-burning stove. We carried our rug away wrapped in a small brown paper bag. Normally the prices include full shipping and other costs which are subsidised by the government. We decided to take ours with us and got a further small discount. If we go to the region again in future then perhaps we will indulge in something special, and we would go back to the same shop.

Finally we bought some local beers, apple tea and boxes of Turkish delight on our way back to the ship for afternoon tea.

The voyage continues with Piraeus for Athens - Greece

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