Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mediterranean Coast of Turkey (& Rhodes)

Amphitheater at Ephesus...seats 25,000. Still used today.
Our next stop was focused on seeing the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (Efes in modern Turkish) which later became a Roman city and the chief port of the Aegean. Ephesus was the site of the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed or damaged in a raid by the Goths. It (and the city) was further damaged by an earthquake in 614 AD. As for the city, over time the harbor became silted up (today the harbor is 3 miles inland) and over time it became the ruins it is today...helped along by locals recycling the construction materials into new homes and public buildings.

Ephesus is important from a Biblical perspective in that Paul wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians there. Additionally the Apostle of John may have been written there.  (It is amazing how much Biblical knowledge we picked up from Muslims on this trip.) 

Folks often stay in Izmir (a favorite with Turks…we don't know just why as we didn't go there) when they visit Ephesus.  We chose to stay in the physically closer Sirince.  (Note that we say "physically closer".  It is a 30 minute car ride up to (and therefore another 30 min ride back from) Sirince.  Sirince was a simple, quaint village until it's fruit wines became known. Now 9-5 bus tours populate the village with its wine shops, markets and various other vendors selling locally made products. Fortunately they also make some pretty decent grape wines as well. Even with the bus loads of visitors that arrive daily, Sirince feels lost in time. The few streets paved with large stones (frequently with a few missing) and it is a short, delightful walk to the fields, olive groves and open areas on the hillsides surrounding the town. And the town itself is very peaceful overnight. 

Photos below: Pat in the fields above Sirince with Greek House in distance  AND paving in Sirince

Other observations/comments re Sirince:
- Shops offer typical souvenirs along with a few with real crafts (mainly jewelry which is fine with Pat). Natural products, (local oils, soaps, …) are promoted.  Juice "bars" offer orange and/or pomegranate juice. And of course there is wine tasting, 
- Sirince was formerly Greek but in population exchange following WWI the Greeks were moved to Greece and Turks now inhabit the town.
- Fortunately we were there in the off season (or at least during the week). The gigantic overflow parking lot was empty & only a few buses in main lot (but to imagine a weekend in the summer…maybe not.)
- We enjoyed a so-called Macaroni & Cheese (really Fettucine with cheese and walnuts).  Great combo. 

- Most meals are served with both potato and rice.
- What's on the menu versus what is available can be significant. The menu selection is varied at noon.  But amounts are planned to cover the daytime visitors. By 2pm the choice is limited.  And by evening even more limited (although there is usually something quite fine left to enjoy.)
- We discovered Turkish Pancakes ("Gözleme"). It's kind of a combo of pizza & crepe. A little more substantial than a crepe. They make a great light meal. 
Cooking Gözleme...we think they bake them briefly first
and warm them over the open fire.
- Speaking of light meals, here is a shot of the typical breakfast spread for 2 persons.

On our day trip to Efes/Ephesus we first visited the house at Meryemana where it is believed that the Virgin Mary lived out her final days. It's quaint and surprisingly peaceful given that thousands of tourists visit each year. 
House of Virgin Mary
This is just a few of the thousands of notes requesting blessings from the Virgin  
Ancient Ephesus stretches for some distance from the governmental area to the commercial area. The Library of Celsus (the front still stands) and the huge amphitheater (seats 25,000…still used today) are impressive. As for the rest they are indeed ruins. 

(Photos below: Close-up of Library of Celsus and view of Library from Government Hill)

Ayasuluk Castle (7C, top left), Basilica of St John (530 AD, below the castle), Column from Temple of Artemis (550 BC, on right))
On to Parmukkale
There are many more ancient sites worth visiting in the area but we moved on. A morning pickup from our hideaway in Sirince brought us down to Selcuk to meet the rest of the group headed to Pamukkale. After a 3 hour drive, we enjoyed lunch (a buffet with what looked like a killer dessert table but it turned out most of the desserts were variants of jello. Disappointing.) and headed to Ancient Hierapolis & Pamukkale with it's hot springs and travertines (terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water). Hierapolis has another impressive amphitheater (from 200BC) but is otherwise still being excavated. 

Pamukkale was the draw. Parts of the site appear as snow covered hillsides. Parts appear as snow covered walls with large icicles hanging down. And the best are the terraced pools where folks used to swim (thereby contributing to the decline of the area). The site is unique in the world (although in Croatia & Slovenia there is similar geology & a baby one in Krka Falls). Near Rotorua NZ they used to have red & white terraces but these were destroyed by quake/volcano in 1896.

Naturally it was hard to live up to the imagined site that for Pat would cover vast acreage. (It actually spans about 4 acres.) Despite the damage of the time (too many visitors enjoying the thermal pools, too much water being diverted to hotels.) the combination of the turquoise pools and their white travertine basins is simply gorgeous.

Actually, ignoring Pat's overactive imagination, in fact, the active/growing pools look to be about 1/10 the amount of living pools in the past. But again, it is so beautiful.  To understand this better, see the photo at: and then imagine it 100 times larger. (OK, so it's not realistic. That's what good imaginations do to you.) Then look at our photos. Still beautiful, but… 

Standing below Pamukkale
One of the Terraces. Think of these as stair stepping down from the top right.
Pool size might be 10 feet wide by 40-80 feet long.

We spent the night at the family run Melrose Hotel. It was comfortable and has a good restaurant. But…the rooms seem to be a choice of those with round beds and satin bed covers and or double rooms with with a queen bed, a day bed and even a futon that could become a single bed. 

And next, on to Kas (pronounced Kash)
A rather long, meandering local bus ride from Denizil (the city closest to Pamukkale) to Fethiye (on the Mediterranean) followed by 60 miles along a winding, cliff side road brought us to Kas, a small town that is busy but not over-crowded (most likely due to the effort required to get there). The town is sandwiched between the Mediterranean and a steep backdrop of mountains. And less than a mile offshore is the Greek Island of Mais (our first glimpse of Greece).

Kas with it's backdrop of mountains
Sunset view from one of our windows (The Greek Island of Mais is on the left)
The warmer weather was very welcome. Yet on our cruise we spied snow on the distant  mountain peaks. 

We cruised along the coast to the sunken city of ancient Kekova (destroyed by earthquake) with several opportunities for swimming in the cool water, and a hike to the Byzantine Castle in Kaleköy with its views of Lycian sarcophagi both on the nearby hillside and in the harbor. (Note: Lycians date back to the Bronze Age. They were rebels, pirates and raiders from the point of view of the Hittite and Egyptian Empires. No one knows the details as they left no written records of themselves.)
View from the Castle (that little round item in the bay on the right is
one of the tombs  (see  photo below)
View of the Castle from the water
Below: Lycian Tombs (per a friend who peeked in, the one in the water appears to be one stone)

We watched hang gliders floating down from the mountains to the harbor in Kas and captured some shots of sunrise and sunset over the harbor and nearby islands (both Turkish and Greek). We browsed shops and patronized restaurants featuring seafood and Turkish cuisine along the shore and streets leading up the hillside. A very pleasant and quiet place to relax and enjoy the scenery. 

We moved on to Fethiye for an intended brief visit before taking the ferry to Rhodes. There was a little hiccup in our plans... The ferry was cancelled due to high seas and we spent an extra night in Fethiye. We had some good seafood and spent a little time shopping and the rest working out alternatives in case the ferry got cancelled again the next day. The fish market in Fethiye is interesting. It is surrounded by little restaurants.  You shop at the market and have the fish delivered to your restaurant of choice to be cooked to your preference.

Rhodes for 1.5 days

We made it to Rhodes but with no time to see more than Rhodes Town. (WE had planned to drive to Lindos for a day, but no longer had the time. Oh well.) The museums and shops of Rhodes Town kept us busy. We walked around the old city and the port. We even spent a little time in the new city. While there are plenty of souvenir shops here, there are also shops with fine crafts and truly appealing goods. And some fine restaurants. We had beautiful weather and the short stop was quite pleasant.  On the way to the airport to fly to Chania on Crete, our B&B hostess commented how much she love Chania and how she wished Rhodes Town had controlled it's development more. We found both places to be lovely but now that we are in Chania, we find it a much better place to live. (More on Crete later.)

Rhodes was occupied by the Knights Hospitalier in 14C. We visited the Palace of the Grand Master with it's grand staircase.)

One of many floor mosaics from the Greek Island of Kos (all on display at the Palace)

Today two columns topped with statues of deer (a stag and a doe) mark the location where the Colossus of Rhodes is thought to have been located.  Elsewhere there are impressive windmills (not operating when we saw them, we really don't know if they are operational.)

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