Monday, January 21, 2013

Mediterranean Vacation { Izmir, Turkey }

Izmir was the only port of call where we booked a shore excursion.  We wanted to see Ephesus and didn't have any Turkish Lire, didn't speak the language, and weren't sure about booking a taxi at the docks.  As it turned out, it was a pricey but good decision.  We saw the house where the Virgin Mary spent her last years (after the crucifixion), all of Ephesus, and even had time to tour a rug factory, which was incredible.

Our tour guide was a sweet, very stylish little Turkish woman (she could not have been more than 5 feet tall, but she wrangled a busload of tourists and pulled off the sweater/leggings/boots combo like nobody's business) who punctuated every three words with an enthusiastic, smiling "especially". I burned a lot of memory card for this portion of the trip, so settle in for a tour of Izmir and especially Ephesus.

The road up to the Virgin Mary's house (Meryem Ana Evi) was not so much a road as a continuum of one and a half lane switchbacks up the side of a mountain.  Taken at 50 mph on a tour bus, we felt Super-Safe.  But it was a beautiful view. And we were in Asia at last!  

The lines were long and the tour short, but it was worth it.  Unfortunately, we stood behind a loud, ridiculous American couple with their nanny and spoiled, unmannered little girl.  I felt I should apologize on behalf of my country to everyone else in line, but maybe we were the only ones annoyed. 

After we were herded through the house, there was time to explore the grounds.  Meryem Ana felt so peaceful; the air was heavy and warm, the sun twinkled through the trees, and although there was not much of a view, you felt somehow removed from the world.  Below the house were water springs and a wall of paper and cloth and leaves on which people had written prayers. Any new scrap was tied to an old one until everything was covered.  It was bizzarely lovely.

We boarded the bus and down the winding path we went, on to the Main Event; Ephesus. I'd downloaded a Rick Steves podcast and map prior to leaving the States, so we listed to that as we walked through instead of taking the official tour.  It was a good decision. 

Also?  There are cats all over the place.  It's kind of cute and a little creepy.  Like after people left, they took over the place.  Cats.  They will rule the post-apocalyptic world. 

They let you walk everywhere in Ephesus.  I mean, I assume these Ancient Ruins are of some Importance.  But you walk. all. over. them.  Which, not gonna lie, was kind of cool.  We gingerly sat down on the crumbling stone benches of the Senate House and grinned at each other like the huge geeks we are.  

The two places they actually have roped off?  A beautifully preserved mosaic sidewalk and the public toilets.  Go figure.

 The Celsus Library was just as amazing as we thought it would be.  Seeing the third richest library of the ancient world (after Alexandria and Pergamum) was the highlight of the day.  We went to the ship's library that afternoon to read, and it was...not the same. 

On our way out, we passed the road to the ancient harbor (the Aegean is now almost 2 miles away) and the Theatre, which is actually still in use.  Rick Steves tells us Pavarotti and Sting have performed there...and it is so acoustically perfect, they sang sans microphone. 

 Last on our itinerary was the rug factory, which to be honest, we figured would be a total hustle.  We had no money to buy a rug, no matter how much we wanted one, so we decided just to enjoy the visit and be as blunt as we needed to be with the salesmen about our financial situation.

However, our host was kind and knowledgable and extremely eager to share his culture and his work.  Everyone obviously took so much pride in what they did that even when the salesmen started their routine, it was hard not to be charmed.  One of the guys even took us back into the spinning room and explained how they extract thread from the silkworms,  letting us feel the difference between the raw silk and the washed silk.

If we go back to Turkey, we will be buying a rug.  A silk rug. They are incredibly gorgeous.


Izmir was massive, and we wish we'd had more time there.  We'd go back to Ephesus, for sure, and it would be nice to explore the modern city.  Another trip!


all photos, mine


  1. Hi Shayna - Thank you for visiting my blog today and taking the time to comment. My husband and I want to take a European cruise for my 30th Birthday this year. What cruise line did you take? I want to visit Turkey so bad and your experience looked amazing!!

  2. Aww, you're welcome! We took Costa. It was really cheap, but we did get an inside cabin. We'd get a room with a view the next time; not knowing if it was day or night was disorienting. But otherwise, Costa was great. Lots of awesome destinations, great food, friendly staff. And good! I'll post Istanbul in a few days - it was incredible.

  3. oh my god!
    i adored your pictures quality!


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