Monday, May 31, 2010


The taxi that we hired actually was not just for the ride. He doubled as a tour guide. And the taxi fare actually was a fee for the taxi tour. So when we finished with Mother Mary's House, he took uos to the ancient ruins of Ephesus. There were two entrances/exits. He took us to one and instructed us where to exit and he would meet us there in an hour. Yes he gave us an hour to look around.
But first just outside the entry to the ruins shops line the street. We took this opportunity to do a little souvenir shopping. I was too busy that the only shot we had inside the store was this shot of the shopkeeper courtesy of my husband. You know that once I got inside the store and started browsing the merchandise there is no way I could remember that first and foremost I was a blogger, right?

Anyway, we took home with us some little souvenirs, knick knacks with evil eye designs for family, friends, and co-workers. I too found one bag, made of fabric with Turkish design, too difficult to resist. I can't remember how much it cost me.

Ephesus (Ancient Greek Ἔφεσος, Turkish Efes) was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era. In the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire; ranking behind Rome, the empire's capital.[1][2] Ephesus had a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, which also made it the second largest city in the world.[2]

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom.[3] Emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. The town was again partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. The city's importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes).

Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation.[4] The Gospel of John may have been written here.[5] It is also the site of a large gladiators' graveyard.

Today's archaeological site lies 3 kilometers southwest of the town of Selçuk, in the Selçuk district of İzmir Province, Turkey. The ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction, partly owing to their easy access from Adnan Menderes Airport and via the port of Kuşadası.[source]

This is CURETES STREET, filled with tourists on that beautiful 70-degree day. There is a rise in the street offering a pleasant view of the Library of Celsus.

Along Curetes Street is a headless statue that was erected in honor of a woman doctor who did great service to her country. It belongs to the Byzantine Period.

Personal Note: I had no knowledge of Ephesus before I signed up for the trip and whatever little research I made in connection with the trip did not prepare me for the beauty that was Ephesus. We all hear of the Acropolis and all of the great Greek ruins, but Ephesus was equally impressive. The fact that some of the ruins are accessible for visitors to enter and explore was a big plus.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

House of the Virgin Mary

The House of the Virgin Mary was one major stop that my husband and I anticipated. Along with the visit to the Vatican, this trip was pilgrimmage of sorts for us.History: According to predominant Christian tradition, Mary was brought to Ephesus by the Apostle John after the Resurrection of Christ and lived out her days there. This is based mainly on the traditional belief that John came to Ephesus combined with the biblical statement that Jesus consigned her to John's care (John 19:26-27).

Archaeologists who have examined the building identified as the House of the Virgin believe most of the building dates from the 6th or 7th century. But its foundations are much older and may well date from the 1st century AD, the time of Mary. This site had long been a place of pilgrimage for local Orthodox Christians.

The modern history of the Virgin Mary's House is unusual. It was "discovered" in 1812 by a German nun, Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, who never traveled away from her home.
Sister Emmerich, an invalid confined to bed, awoke in a trance with the stigmata and visions that included the Virgin Mary and Apostle John traveling from Jerusalem to Ephesus. She described Mary's house in detail, which was recorded at her bedside by a writer named Brentano.
Emmerich described a rectangular stone house, which John had built for Mary. It had a fireplace and an apse and a round back wall. The room next to the apse was Mary's bedroom, which had a spring running into it.

The German nun went on to say that the Virgin Mary died at the age of 64 and was buried in a cave near her house. When her coffin was opened soon after, however, the coffin and burial shroud were empty. The house was then turned into a chapel.

Years after Emmerich's visions, a French clergyman named Gouyet read Brentano's account and traveled to Ephesus to find the House of the Virgin. He found a house matching the nun's description and sent word to the bishops of Paris and Rome, but didn't receive much of a response.

On June 27, 1891, two Lazarist preists and two Catholic officials set out to Ephesus to see the house. They found a small chapel in ruins with a damaged statue of the Virgin.
They returned to Izmir with their report, and more priests and specialists were sent out to the site. Since 1892 the House of the Virgin has been a Catholic pilgrimage site. It was restored by 1897 and a shelter for visitors was set up.

The Meryama was later visited by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who confirmed its appropriateness as a place of pilgrimage. On November 29, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass here. [source]

The 80 or so kms disappeared so fast that I did not expect to be arriving at the site so quickly. The fee to enter was 10.75 tl (Turkish Lira). I cannot remember the exchange rate. Plus parking fee for the taxi.

A statue of Mother Mary greeted visitors and pilgrims. The statue is located along the path to the House.

There was a souvenir store that sells clothing (shawl, scarf, etc), postcards, religious relics and typical souvenir knick knacks. Across the way on the left is a restaurant. We had Turkish coffee there after our visit to the House. The best coffee I had.

Also on the compound is a makeshift altar where masses are celebrated. There was no mass going on when we visited. However, mass is celebrated here everyday according to the information we gathered.
The house is a two-room house. You fall in line. At the time I was there, the line was manageable. Perhaps a 5-minute wait in line before getting in. Once in, the first room is where the fireplace is. You get in and get out as quickly as they can get you. Unfortunately, the most I spent inside was a minute or so. I touched the walls and said my prayers as quickly as I could because the ushers are rushing you to move on. No photography is allowed inside. Please click on the source of the info above to see images of the interior.

When you go to the second room of the house, an usher will hand you two candles that you will burn on this candle stand outside the house towards the back.

There is a spring that runs under the property and apparently Mother Mary has drank from it. It is believed to have healing properties. And so they set up a station where visitors can collect water from the spring. We were glad that we didn't dump our empty water bottle. We filled up our bottle and took a sip and some of the water right now still sits in our refrigerator. Nope, it doesn't hurt to believe.

Also popular feature of the compound is the Prayer Wall where people attach the prayers they wrote down and ask for intercession from the Virgin Mary. We didn't have any paper to write on so we didn't leave any of our pleas to God.
It was a sombering experience to see where Mother Mary lived the remainder of her life after Christ's crucifixion. However, the solemnity of the experience wasn't complete as the number of people vying for elbow room hit me like a ton of bricks that I was in a "tourist" spot.
[Been too busy with life lately, I apologized for sporadic posting and bloghopping.]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Taxi Time

We managed to tear ourselves away from photographing the aircraft carrier to start our day of exploration of Ephesus. While we were up on the deck checking out the carrier we saw quite a number of people already leaving the boat, among them were our Athens tour buddies. This would be their second time in Ephesus and Izmir so they were intent on seeing the sights of Izmir on foot. We were met by a welcome dance. I don't know exactly if that was what they were doing, but I suppose it's the equivalent of a lei when you step on Hawaiian ground. I also wondered if people get this welcome when you arrive at the airport. I guessing again that this "performance" is a collaboration with the cruise lines as part of the total package of enjoying the culture of Turkey.
We were given a mini version of these EVIL EYE amulet, charm or whatever you call them by one of the locals who carry around a small woven basket. In Turkey evil eye trinkets and jewelry are common. They are meant to protect the wearer from evil eye. I thought that was a nice gesture. I pinned mine on my shirt and didn't remove it. I even pinned it on me whenever we would stop at the succeeding ports. It's better safe than sorry, right? I am thinking of making a pair of earrings with my trinket and my husband's share.
Our plan was to take public transportation. We did our research. There is a train station. But apparently not really. There is a train station and bus going to Ephesus, but they were a long walk from the port. We went back inside to speak to a tourism rep and we were advised not to go on our own. The train station they say don't go to Ephesus. And the bus is unreliable. So plan B, which was take the private taxi tour to either Ephesus or Pergamon, started to make sense. But when we saw the price - remember we are on a tight budget - we thought we'd go back to the ship and see who wants to share the taxi with us.
Since we were almost the last ones to leave the ship, the idea of us shouldering 100 euros for 2 -3 hours of tour of Ephesus was beginning to be a likelihood. Until a couple came out and looked lost. Mr. Congeniality - my husband the one in blue on the right - approached the couple and broached up the idea of sharing a taxi tour. We compared notes on which sites we wanted to see and voila, our list matched theirs. Now time to talk to the taxi driver. They talked I shot.
Our taxi driver was Albanian who spoke Turkish and little Italian. Yap what a combination eh? The couple we shared the taxi with are French - he spoke French and a little Spanish and a little English, she spoke French and Italian. The taxi we took was similar to these. This is the one ahead of us on the road.
Ephesus (bible's St. Paul's Ephesians) is 80 km from Izmir. Our driver obviously a pro when it comes to doing his job was chatty and while communication was hindered by language barrier, the taxi was not quiet for long. He revved up the taxi up to 140 km (oh yeah, my heart sank to my Achilles' heel - like riding a rollercoaster ride scary) and when he noticed that I was checking out the odometer from my backseat, he tapped the steering wheel and sheepishly comments: FERRARI! You know the taxi can handle that speed. And nervous laughter can be heard from three passengers. Whenever he sighted the familiar blue car parked along the roadside (tourist police car), he would wisely cruise within legal limits. The police or Jandarma cars are posted on regular intervals along the length of the highway from Izmir to Ephesus in order to safeguard the tourists. I felt really safe when we traveled in this part of Turkey.

The above photo is what I snapped while we were cruising the countryside.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Turkey (Izmir/Ephesus) - Day 6

With Athens behind us and the memory of Acropolis and all it's glorious relics still fresh in our mind, we welcomed another day and the promise of another adventure in another port of call with so much enthusiasm. We have done so much, seen plenty in our limited time in Athens and we wanted to do the same thing here in Izmir/Ephesus. This would be the only back-to-back port days in the entire cruise.
When we went up to the deck to have breakfast before heading out we had no clue as to the surprise that awaited us at the port. We followed camera-toting cruisemates to one side of the deck. Something big is happening I thought for these hungry cruisers to leave their eggs and bacon, ham, croissants, piping hot coffee, etc and excitedly grab their cameras to follow the crowd to that side of the boat. I followed suit :)

And this was what awaited us. While we were sleeping, a US Navy aircraft carrier berthed next to us at the port of Izmir. How cool. Very exciting to see this gargantuan vessel so close to us that no way, not even the best camera could get a shot of the entire thing - unless you stitch photos together - now why didn't I think of that (duh)?
It's especially thrilling for me because my nephew spent 5 years in a vessel like this that was docked in Japan and he worked in the electrical dept [we were glad he wasn't anywhere near the line of fire - too nerve wracking to think] there. Seeing all the aircraft on its deck shows how truly gigantic this vessel is.
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing air base. Aircraft carrier allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases to stage aircraft operations.

Later when we disembarked and was walking out the port, I was able to take a picture of the whole vessel. There she goes to wherever she's supposed to go. I checked where the aircraft carriers are stationed, there are supposed to be 2 in Italy. This is probably going there. And she probably replenished her supplies in Turkey.
Here begins another leg of the cruise.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


According to the website Monastiraki is the place that most of all represents tradition and tourist sightseeing in Athens at the same time. It's next door to ancient agora, so it was serendipitous that the three places we wanted to see were next to each other. Who knew right? And there's flea market too.
My husband and I and the couple with us all agreed to spend time here, to do some souvenir shopping or even just browsing. We were there on a weekday and it wasn't crowded. Correct that, there wasn't anyone there.
I spotted many of these "dolls". Are they dolls? Help here if you know what these are. But at these prices, 50 euros for a doll? I'm not spending more time on them.
So we just decided to go in and get the typical must-buy souvenirs - postcards [I collect them], tee-shirts and little stuff for give aways.

We passed by a food stall and this friendly proprietor who spoke very little English insisted we try his food. It's good he said. And he smiled a lot and smiled some more while he pushed the menu in our hands while we were still deciding whether to eat or not.
We were hungry so we sat. He was after all pretty convincing. However, when the food came, we ate right away. Too late when I realized that I again forgot to snap food photos. I never learn. That's why I will never be any good at being a food blogger.
We walked some more and found the train station, that's the building here. This is the square where people congregate, ambulant vendors wheel their produce, and tourists like me stop and snap photos.
And after getting our train tickets from the automated machine [we eventually figured out how to get one], we saw the sign that would take us back to the port of Piraeus.

For the very limited time that I had in Athens I was able to check off the three major items on my list: Acropolis, Agora, Monastiraki. I was happy that I wasn't rushed at all.

While researching for the trip, all the travel sites have warned tourists to mind their belongings when taking train in Athens. The trains are notorious for pickpocketers. I have seen why. They are crowded, very crowded. But again it is just common sense. Where ever you are, you must know where you put your cash. And you know to put cash in different pockets or location. You all know that. If you are mindful of your surroundings, I think you have nothing to worry about.

However, we heard from the ship's front desk guy that many from our cruise had been victimized. A guy lost a thousand dollars on the train - a victim of pickpocket. No man in his right mind would carry a thousand dollars exploring a foreign city.

I hoped you enjoyed my Athens leg of the tour. Dennis of Nomadic Pinoy asked if I had overload from all the ancient antiquities and ruins. My answer is not yet. This turned out to be like an archeological tour. You'll see if you tune in for the next series.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Peek At The Museum Pieces

The museum was well lit and the display cases were neatly arranged on both sides of the room. Photography is allowed.
I can't remember what these are and I have no snap of their description either.
However, their pottery is so precious. I was so enamored by their designs.
Some gold flowers and leaves. I haven't seen much in gold though.
More pottery.
And then some more. Didn't I say I loved them?
This pair is my favorite. Funny that a few weeks before my trip I was browsing thru a shopping catalog and I saw something really similar. However, these vases that I was eyeing were African vases and were advertised as original design. I don't know anymore :)

I have uploaded a few more on Flickr, click if you want to see the rest. My time and postings in Athens is nearing its end. I have one more then off to another port.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Stoa of Attalos

The Stoa of Attalos was not part of the original structure in the agora. It was later added on. It is considered to be one of the most impressive stoa (covered walkway/portico). It was built by and named after King Attalos II who ruled Pergamon between 159 - 138 BC.
Early stoae were open at the entrance with columns lining the side of the building, creating a safe, enveloping, protective atmosphere and were usually of Doric order. Later examples consisted of mainly two stories, with a roof supporting the inner colonnades where shops or sometimes offices were located and followed Ionic architecture. These buildings were open to the public; merchants could sell their goods, artists could display their artwork, and religious gatherings could take place. Stoae usually surrounded the marketplaces of large cities. [wiki]
The Stoa of Attalos houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora. Its exhibits are mostly connected with the Athenian democracy. The collection of the museum includes clay, bronze and glass objects, sculptures, coins and inscriptions from the 7th to the 5th century BC, as well as pottery of the Byzantine period and the Turkish occupation. [wiki]
The sculptures were on the outside [by the columns]. I took a lot of shot, but I don't want to bore you with all the images I took. It would take a long time to finish this series if I do.

Just a tip, some of you are aware of this but there may be some who aren't in the know. It is considered RUDE and DISRESPECTFUL if you substitute/place you head on top of the headless sculptures for picture taking. Please do not do that. There was an American tourist who fooled around the did that and got the whistle and I believe received a dressing down from one of the officials/personnel of the museum.
The sign for this bust says: Head of a Triton, From Odeon of Agrippa, about 150 AD.
On the next post [hopefully in a next day or so] I will be showing you some of the collections of pottery, glass, gold, etc that are housed in glass cases.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus is the best preserved ancient Greek temple. It is located on the north west side of the Ancient Agora on top of the Agoraios Kolonos Hill. From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George Akamates.
Hephaestus is the Greek god of fire and volcanoes. He is also god of all craftsmen and smiths. He is the equivalent of the Roman god Vulcan.
Although built in 449 BC, it is almost completely intact even today. The columns, roof and pediments are nearly unscathed. As it was believed that Theseus (a hero and king of Athens) was buried in the temple, it is also known as Theseion. However, the remains of Theseus were found in some other part near Acropolis. It is also believed that the temple was dedicated to Theseus. Numerous smiths and craftsmen worked in the temple's vicinity. Therefore, Hephaestus, the god of craftsmen and Athena Ergane, goddess of pottery and arts were worshiped here.The temple is believed to be designed by the architect of the Parthenon (temple of Athena). It is a peripteral temple having Doric style of architecture. The east and west sides of the temple are shorter, having six columns; whereas, the north and south sides are longer, having 13 columns (the columns in the corner are counted twice). Marble is extensively used in the temple. Its sculptures are made of Parian marble. [buzzledotcom]

It is a pretty impressive temple; for one this age, she looks extremely wonderful. The temple can give Parthenon a run for her money, looks wise. She has aged gracefully. What a dame.