Turkey - Ephesus

So the story continues. The next day we went to Ephesus with a stop first at the house of the Virgin Mary. It's the house that some believe the Virgin Mary stayed in until she died. Some believe that she died in Jerusalem. I'm not so sure which one is right. Apparently Jesus asked St. John to take care of His mother when he died and when St. John went to Ephesus, some believed that Mary also went with him. The house is located on top of a hill though. It was quite a drive up. Some believe that this is to keep her safe. I was educated in a Christian school and we didn't really talk much about the Virgin Mary. She pretty much only appeared when we're talking about Jesus' birth though I do somehow recall that she was present during the wedding in Cana, in which Jesus performed his first miracle. Either way, I was just excited to be visiting Ephesus because it's one of the books in the new testament. This could be the place where the book was written. You know, I tried to sing the song of the new testament just now. It's this song that we learnt back in school which list all the books in the new testament and I cannot believe it that even though I stumbled at first, I got it right! I think I only made 1-2 mistakes. It's incredible. I guess that really shows how successful my 11 - 12 years education in a Christian school was in brainwashing me with Christian faith :P I don't mean it in a bad way actually, I cannot deny that that Christian education and Jesus do shape me a lot and my belief in God. It's just I cannot be a Christian the way many Christians perhaps want me to be but I really I do not doubt that Jesus is there for anyone who needs Him :)

So anyway, arriving in the house of the Virgin Mary, I was quite surprised that it was kinda heavily guarded. There were soldiers / guards with weapons. There weren't like many or anything but seeing them and the weapons, I did get stunned a bit. In comparison, I didn't recall seeing any guard with obvious weapons in the airport or the blue mosque in Istanbul for example. Also I saw quite a few tourists from the Phillippines. I guess this is one of those places where people really want to visit for a pilgrimage. The house itself for me was just like a small box. It's small and when you go inside it, there's just a small altar. People went in to say their prayer. There's no chair at all, so people were standing. I said a little prayer but then I quickly went out. I guess in a way the place didn't have a lot of significance for me that I thought I should go to make space for other people who felt deeply about the place.

Near the house, there are these few water taps, which I think people believe to be holy water. Okay, I'm not so sure about the deal with the holy water because again the Christians do not really use them like how the Catholics often do. I'm not sure if water can just be holy just because of the source or you need priests to bless them. So anyway next to the water taps, there's this wall where people left their wishes, messages, or prayers. They seemed to be mostly written in handkerchief or tissue papers. I didn't put any because I just never do this kinda thing.

So here, I heard some Indonesian voices from a couple. I was just dying to talk to anyone. I guess even more so because of the dreadful guide. That day, there was just me and YeeMaggio, the guide, and the driver who was super nice to always open the door for me. I felt rather uneasy to always have the door opened for me but the special treatment did feel super nice. Anyway YeeMaggio is not actually the most chatty social kind of person, she's quite passive and that just basically meant that it's me having to deal with the guide most of the time *sigh* So I was just looking forward to talk to "normal" people. So I straight away asked them if they're Indonesian which was a rather stupid question actually because I already knew they were. I heard the lady / tante / auntie jokingly told her husband why he used so many of the water, like he wanted to do wudhu :) We talked a bit, just normal questions like where we come from in Indonesia and then basically said bye. I just needed something to kinda keep me sane, so I was glad that I just started talking to them and it was nice of them to reply back nicely :)

After the house, we were off to Ephesus. I hated the guide. First stop was having to sit down and listened to him giving some lectures which wasn't interesting at all. I couldn't wait for it to be over. When we started walking, of course we would stop at certain points so that he could give some explanation. I took pictures while he's explaining and he's reprimanding me, telling me to only take picture after he's done. Okay, it's perhaps not the most polite behaviour from my part but seriously that didn't mean I wasn't listening. I'm a girl, we can multitask. So that was kinda very strict teacher kind and if he's a teacher, he's not the lovable kind. I just wasn't in the mood for anything anymore. I remembered one of the first stop was this parliament place, pretty cool. Then there was a section with markers that indicate it's the doctor's place and the pharmacy across the street. Then there's also the common toilet place. Very funny. Of course the draw was the library. This ruin was very well preserved that one can really see how big the structure is. The guide was saying that of all the Roman and Greeks archeological sites in the world, 75% of it are in Turkey. So they really do have a lot of stuff to excavate and preserve. In the picture below, the library is the thing in the middle, like 2-storey high.

You can see dark cloud there in the picture. Now when we left Izmir that morning, it was actually raining. It wasn't so at St. Mary's house but it's super unfortunate that in the middle of exploring Ephesus, it started raining again. It wasn't heavy but it wasn't light as well. That really dampen the spirit :( Suffice to say we couldn't stay long :( Now, in front of the library, there's a brothel. My guide said that he wouldn't be surprised if one of these days they would find a tunnel leading from the library to the brothel. Yeah, I think that could be possible. We know there are many high standing men who fall from grace for issues like this :P So anyways, in our hurry to avoid the rain, we were pretty much rushing in seeing the things we saw. We did see the theatre. I thought the one in Orange, France was nicer. Then there were also some sarcophagus which I believe were excavated from the area. As I said, due to the rain we basically just rushed off. I think Ephesus is really cool though. The ruins are very near to each other than the ones in Hierapolis. So that made exploring not so physically demanding. You can really see where the things are, the parliament place, the gates, the streets, the markets, the library, the theatre, etc. It really showed how the city would be like on those days. Oh I have to say, there are many cats in Ephesus :D They're like everywhere.

So anyway, after that lunch. The guide was sitting with is and I couldn't take it anymore, I told him that if he's gonna smoke, I was going to change table. So he moved to smoke but then he came back :( He then told us about his family. Apparently his grandfather is some famous muslim scholar or something, his sister is a tv personality working in Istanbul, and he himself married an architect. He seemed to be having such a classy connection all around, why does he suck? See, I am getting more judgmental. Anyways, after lunch was a visit to this carpet making place. I wasn't that interested to go because I was foreseeing that they would try to sell us things and I had no intention to bring home a carpet. It's just not something possible in my life now. We went anyway. It turned out to be a nice visit, except for when they tried to sell us things. The person who explained things to us was very nice. He was soft spoken and spoke english well and after the guide I had, I was just drawn to him being so nice. First he needed to say the disclaimer that they're not torturing any of the girls working there, that none of them are underage, and in fact they take in whoever want to learn to make carpet so that they can make a living for themselves, and the government support them for this effort and they also preserve patterns which are perhaps disappearing. It never came across in my mind that these workers are perhaps underage or underpaid which is actually a valid point when you think of it. The carpets are expensive and how much of the money actually go into the people who laboriously made them?

So the guy got a girl to demonstrate how to make a carpet. Here in Turkey, they use a double knot, a fact which doesn't really matter to me. I know nothing about carpet making, ingle knot, double knot, what have you. Basically in making a carpet, there's this vertical skeleton. Then the makers take colorful thread and make knots around the skeleton. They have a tool to push the knots down and make them tight and when they finish some centimeters, they use a special scissors to trim the knot. The guy asked me to try making knots. Even though I only had to make a knot based on the thread the girl already prepared for me, in a section of a skeleton she already chose, I was still nervous I was going to ruin it. So when I did one, I declined to do another one. It's so pretty and tedious to do. I seriously didn't want to ruin it. I understood the process but I didn't understand how the girl could translate the paper pattern into areas of the skeleton and which colored thread to use at any time and how they can stop the work today and still come back to work tomorrow and understand where to continue. I guess this is the real secret. I tried the knotting thingy on the wool one where the thread are pretty thick. We saw the silk one and man, the threads were finer and soft and truly a more daunting process. Also we were shown how they got the silk thread from the cocoons. They said they only used cocoons in which they're sure the insects inside it are dead. I'm not so sure how they check if the insects are dead. So they dropped the cocoons into warm water basin and there's this tool that the use to kinda stir the water and the silk fiber will stick to it and they just transfer it to a handle and I think maybe they spin something to get all the silk fiber and they can really get a lot from 1 cocoon. After that, I guess they do more processing to produce the silk thread and of course there's the coloring process. After that demonstration, we were taken to see some carpets. This was the uncomfortable part :( We were taken to a room, given drinks, as the custom is. Then a guy just started showing carpet after carpet. They were really pretty. I particularly liked the ones with was like a painting / story with many different items on it. I like this kind more than the ones with repeated pattern. Obviously we declined buying anything. I feel bad about declining but what I am to do with a carpet. In Singapore, I don't even own the room I sleep in. The carpets were on the expensive side but it wasn't so expensive that I go bankrupt buying it. Of course if I were to buy one that can fit a big hall, I would definitely feel the heart break :P

After that we were asked if we would like to visit the Ephesus museum or the Basilica of St. John. The guide was kinda like saying that there'll be like nothing in the Basilica and the museum was better. I was like whatever, okay, go to the museum then. In the museum, he just gave us time to explore it on our own which was actually a good thing for me. Anything to get away from him. At one point, there was this tour group with their leader who spoke english well and sounded nice and I got really sad because he seemed so nice and more interesting that I kinda stood awhile listening to him. I listened to him telling the story of the seven sleepers. Then even though I kinda didn't have any interest anymore on the things in the museum, I just sat there waiting for time to pass and just to enjoy some time alone away from the guide. Of course, I couldn't get away from him forever.

Then I think we went to see this remains of the Temple of Artemis. There's only a remain of 1 column left. Since there's only 1 column left, obviously I wasn't like amazed or anything. I just remembered seeing that the pond in front of us, though it wasn't pretty or anything, it was captivating for me in its own way.

After which was this pottery place which again I wasn't interested to go to because I wasn't going to buy anything but I wasn't going to argue with the darn guide who was kinda asking us repeatedly over and over that I just said okay, fine. The guy in the pottery place was this young guy. He's also very nice, soft spoken, and speak english well that I was again happy to be able to talk to someone nice. We saw another guy demonstrating making a vase, but I thought the Cappadocia's demonstration was better. They use white clay here instead of the red on in Cappadocia. The young guy was a bit pushy when he was showing us the collection. In a way, I cannot blame him, it's his job but turning down people is never easy. I guess I was okay with the guy being pushy because he's at the very least was charming and came across as nice. He told us the story of the turtle trainer but when I googled it out, the story he told us was different from what I got in google.

After that we went to this shop which sells turkish delights and stuff. There were other tourists there and the owner particularly greeted me and YeeMaggio. He was super nice and funny and spoke english really well. I just like him straight away. We bought some stuff there. I think the products were good. They also had some promotion or something. I got a free promegranate tea because I bought a box of apple tea. They're nice. Now apparently my NUS friend, JTG, was in Turkey too around the same time I was there. From the pictures he posted in Facebook, it seemed he visited the same shop! I seriously wonder if our timeline overlapped. Were we there on the same day or was it different. If it was the same day, was it a different timing? If I had met him there, that would make my day so much better from dealing with the darn guide. Anyways, that was the last stop. It was the drive back after that, thank God! I was so relieved when we're back in the hotel. Thank you God, it's over. May I never experience a dreadful guide like that anymore, or if I should have guide like that again, please let me be in a group of fun people at the very least. Please God, amen! Anyways, to see pictures from the Ephesus trip, you can go here.

The next day we were due to fly to Istanbul. I decided to fly later in the afternoon so that we would have the morning to explore Izmir a bit. Without the dreadful guide, we got sunshiny day with blue sky :) It was rather cold though. We made it to see the sea. It's beautifully blue. We saw a man fishing. I wonder if he could get a fish. I watched him awhile and he did get something pretty quick. It's squid. He noticed me looking at him and he kindly showed me his earliest catch which was a bigger squid. He gestured that he needed to release this new catch because it was too small for him. It was an okay size actually but I understand you gotta be responsible in fishing. I felt very happy that without words I understood him and he took time to tell me something. I am thankful to God for moment like this. I remembered turning to tell YeeMaggio something and when I turned back to say goodbye to him, he was already on his away to find a different spot, so I didn't get to say a proper goodbye and thank you and it was a bummer :( Anyways the water in that sea, which I think is the Aegean sea were filled with jellyfish. You could spot them easily. As we walked we found the clock tower. Sat awhile there seeing kids running after the birds or feeding them. I'm not loving the birds much because obviously they pooped all over. Then we saw there's a shopping area / market nearby but we didn't explore it much because basically we didn't like people asking us to see this and that. Then as we walked back, we stopped at Konak Pier and we had KFC. It was nice :P So that was my second junk food in this trip. I welcomed it though. Again it's the familiarity. Then a horde of french teens came. I spot who I thought to be the teacher in charge / chaperon of the group but he looked so young that I was thinking how on earth he dealt with these kids. Teens can be quite a pain. Anyway then we walked back. We were picked up by the guy who picked us up when we arrived. He sent his son to pick us up in the hotel and brought us to the car. Then his son left for class, I think. I think there's a school or university nearby. Oh, I have to say that I noted something which was also very different from the muslims' lifestyle in Indonesia. Maybe it's the Asian thing as well that we're just not expressive in showing our affection to each other. It's just in Indonesia, it's still something extremely rare when you see couples being all lovey dovey in public. People will definitely stare. While in Izmir as people were enjoying the sun and view, I saw youngsters making out. It would be something deemed scandalous in Indonesia. It would be something normal in many places of the world, it's just for a country where the majority of the population is muslims, it doesn't feel like it at all, so very different from Indonesia. Again, I think I need a special blog post to talk about what I saw, observed, and think. To see some pictures of Izmir, you can go here.

So that was the end of leg 2 and the last leg was Istanbul :) I'll try to get the story up soon. These whole writing and uploading the pictures really take a lot of time :| But I am a person of words and of pictures too :P

:) eKa @ 11:18:00 PM •

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