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|Cunard Queen Victoria 2013
Black Sea and Turkish Splendours - Part 2
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We approached Kusadasi in the morning in good weather, much better than in 2012. The main destination for tourists is Ephesus, and although we had been there in 2012 we wanted to see it again. In addition, there are nearby ancient sites at Miletus and Didyma. The QV offered a full day tour for $82 to all three, including lunch overlooking Kusadasi. Looking at a map, Miletus is 30 miles and Didyma is 40 miles south of Kusadasi whereas Ephesus is 10 miles to the north.
We began by visiting Miletus which was an important coastal trading post from the 8th to 6th centuries BC. Most famous of its citizens was Thales, one of the Seven Sages of antiquity. He calculated the height of the Pyramids and predicted a solar eclipse. Miletus is also the birthplace of the architect of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Isidorus of Miletus. St Paul stopped at Miletus in 57AD, on his third missionary journey. The River Maeander silted the coastline, Miletus became isolated inland, and the city was then rebuilt. Miletus is now 10 kms from the sea and the silting is continuing.
The most conspicuous remaining building is the huge Theatre in Greco-Roman style with a semi-circular auditorium and seating still for 15,000 people. There are special seats under an awning, supported by 4 pillars, on the middle and front of the benches. A unique feature is the accoustics - all the stone seats are shaped to focus the sound and thee are large tunnels with rooms at the top which again improve the accoustics - there was no amplification in those days! After scrambling over the theatre and through the corridors there was time for a quick exploration of the surrounding area. The first stop was an overview, which showed the Great Harbour Monument in the distance, where the original waterfront had extended, with two stone lions on each side of the entrance. Our guide book describes the stoa on the south of the port had 64 columns and 30 shops inside, the temple of Apollo, the Bouleterion, Gymnasium, South Agora and Stadium. There was not enough time to walk down from our viewpoint and explore. Our final visit was a close look at the Faustina Bath which is the best of these surviving structures, with dressing room, cold plunge, warm room, hot room and sweat room.
It was then back on the coach for the journey to Didyma. There is a Sacred Way linking Miletus to Didyma. The oracle of Apollo at Didyma was famous in the ancient world. The priestess at the sacred spring near the entrance interviewed the questionner, and questions of all types were asked, including matters of high policy of war and state. The prophet provided answers by interpreting the oracle. The present temple was rebuilt around 300 BC, and was planned to be the third largest structure in the Greek world. It was never finished, and much was later destroyed, but the essence of the double-colonnaded and 124 column temple has been restored. One large impressive column indicates the immense size of the structure. A narrow corridor leads down to the large interior courtyard where the prophet interpreted the oracle.
We do not have high expectations of lunch when it is included in the price of an excursion, but we were impressed with the restaurant, a fish restaurant 'Macit'. It was above Kusadasi and had a good view of the harbour and the QV in the distance. The starter and fish were excellent, washed down with local wine or beer.
The afternoon continued to the coach parking at the Magnesia Gate at Ephesus and we could just 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. Our guide told us that Petra had been used as the conceptual model for the rebuilding of the Celsus library. 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.
It is only 2 miles from the Ancient City of Ephesus to the town of Selçuk to visit the Church of St John, built to indicate the site of his grave, which we visited in 2012.
Our final stop on the tour was an optional visit to a carpet shop in Kusadasi, a different one to the Harem shop where we bought a rug in 2012. We chose instead to walk around the shopping centre, sat with a local beer at one of the pavement cafes, and purchased gifts for friends at home. There was still 3 hours for shopping before we sailed. Mr Saribek of Harem carpets was sitting outside his shop and we went and said how pleased we were with our rug we had purchased in 2012.
The next major interest was our entry to the Black sea through the two Turkish Straits namely the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus with the Sea of Marmara between them. They are the boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia. These narrow waterways have been strategically importance since the Trojan War was fought near the Aegean entrance. Both Straits are International Waterways and the treaty controlling them is still the 1936 Montreux Convention which gives Turkey control over warships entering the straits but guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime.
The Dardanelles which we came to first early in the morning connects the Mediterranean to the Sea of Marmara. The Dardanelles is unique in many respects. The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more akin to that of a river. The strait is 61 kilometres long and varies between 1.2 and 6 kilometres wide, averaging 55 metres deep with a maximum depth of 103 metres. It is considered one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous waterways in the world. The currents produced by the tidal action in the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara are such that ships under sail had to wait at anchorage for the right conditions before entering the Dardanelles. Water flows in both directions along the strait, from the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean via a surface current and in the opposite direction via an undercurrent.
The Dardanelles have often played a strategic role in history. The ancient city of Troy was located near the western entrance of the strait and the strait's Asiatic shore was the focus of the Trojan War. Troy was able to control the marine traffic entering this vital waterway. The Dardanelles were the scene of many other conflicts, perhaps the best known being the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War. We then proceeded through the Sea of Marmara.
The alternative dining options in the Lido are always popular and there are were three options: Bamboo, which was Pan-Asian drawing on the influences of Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and China, Coriander which is Indian, and Prime which was Steak and Seafood based. They are served to a limited number of guests and you need to reserve in advance and there is a small supplement of $10. They run on a three day cycle and tonight we boooked Bamboo. It was excellent, especially when accompanied by their selection of 4 Sakes (only an extra $15) and we will let some pictures speak for themselves.
| Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Layout revised: 12th June, 2015