April 25, 2009

Say my name, sun shines through the rain

So I've been saying Kusadasi as koo-sa-da-see for like a month leading up to the cruise. When our cruise director started talking about our stop in koo-SHA-dah-see, I literally had to look at the itinerary because I thought I had missed a stop on our tour. Oh those Turks and there crazy pronunciations.
The Aquamarine arrived in Kusadasi, Turkey at 6:30am, also referred to as really bloody early. You know it was early because as soon as we stepped off of the boat, Carly ran into one of those knee-high signs while trying to take a picture of the mountains in the distance. After seeing she was ok, we had a good laugh about it. And as we were laughing, Rachel tripped over a second knee-high sign.  

This is what 6:30am looks like in Turkey          

We had all signed up for the excursion to the ancient city of Ephesus, in Western Anatolia, where the Gospel of John may have been written. It's also the site of a large gladiator's graveyard (which we didn't see). Excavation of the ruins began over a century ago, and still 90% of the city remains buried. I guess it would take a while to dig up the homes of 250,000 people. Located here were the foundations and sculptural remains of the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis was the virginal huntress, twin to Apollo, and Goddess of the Moon. We didn't actually see the Temple, our tour guide pointed off into the mountains and said it was hidden back there somewhere.  

Do you see the Temple???
When our tour guide, Efkam, discovered that our cruise didn't stop in Istanbul, he was heartbroken. He was very proud of his hometown of Istanbul, he was also hung up on the fact that Kusadasi was famous for malaria and prostitutes. If I were him, I wouldn't advertise those things. We followed him and his "lollypop 15" around the ruins.

"You go Istanbul never never?"

Things we actually did get to see:

The Temple of Hadrian (yep he gets another structure) 

The Library of Celsus (reconstructed form all original pieces)

The massive theatre that's used for concerts today  

We also saw the parliamentary amphitheater and a cat licking it's bum in the remains of the men's latrine, to which I asked in astonishment: "how does it know??"

On the way out, I was the sucker tourist who paid €2.00 to get my picture taken with a camel. Efkam told Rachel that he wasn't the original camel - that camel had died two years ago. When Rachel relayed the story to us, she couldn't recall how he had died, but knew there was a snake involved. She said the snake either bit him, or the camel ate the snake. I pointed out that there was a very big difference between the two scenarios and wasn't really sure how she could get them confused. Either way, death by snake, not my first choice in how to go.  

My €2.00 picture  
Back in the port city of Kusadasi, we watched an Oriental Carpet demonstration. We all sat on benches along the walls of a room with hardwood floors, while a man in a suit explained to us the art of the double loop carpet technique, and his minions unrolled carpets one by one, spreading them out across the floor. Beautiful red, yellows, and blues came spilling out of the rolls in diamond designs. We sipped our warm apple tea, which tasted exactly like a jolly rancher, and had visions of Aladdin's magic carpet ride. I believe we even sang the song later on that day... Dan initiated it, I'm almost positive. When they ran out of empty floor space, they started laying them on top of each other, layering the carpets, stacking them higher and higher, until they were at least 6 or 7 carpet-widths deep, spread out over the large floor space. The owner insisted that we feel his carpets and walk on them (but I had just been trekking around the ancient dusty and muddy ruins of Ephesus all morning, so I was definitely trying to figure out how to leave the room without walking on the beautiful €1,000.00 carpets). Others had no such reservations, and were literally crawling around on the carpets. I found this extremely amusing.

Some people really like to get to know the merchandise before they buy it
Before boarding the boat, we shopped and bargained down prices in the bazaar for authentic Turkish scarves. And even though the story of St. Nicholas originates in Turkey, they obviously didn't have any Christmas ornaments, to my great disappointment.

Back on the ship, I took one giant nap. We arrived back in the EU at the Greek island of Patmos around 3:30pm. Docked in the port town of Skala, Dan led our Coktiki group up through the wilderness to the Holy Monastery of St. John at the very top of the hill.

Hiking up Patmos

Holy Monastery of St. John

A view of Patmos from the top

That's where Jeff made friends with a stray cat. It didn't take long for the cat to turn on him - fickle creatures. It bit him. And now Jeff has rabies. Then it came after me...    

Rabies cat attacking my legs

Proof that Contiki made it all the way to the top

On the way back down, we stopped at the little cave, the Sacred Grotto, where St. John was said to have written the book of Revelations, when God appeared to him in a vision, cracking the roof of the cave. The Sacred Grotto had been built into the Monastery of the Apocalypse. We also saw the little indent in the wall where St. John was said to have rested his head. 

The Monastery of the Apocalypse 

That night, on the ship, Contiki had free cocktails in the Moonlight Lounge. Mojitos, yum! Then we had a nice civilized sit-down dinner as a group, followed by a barbaric karaoke night. We, unfortunately, missed Dan's stellar performance of his go-to karaoke song "Eternal Flame" because we wanted to catch the Greek Dancing performance in the Aquamarine Lounge. Thankfully, Cherry filmed it and I got to see it the following night. I have a feeling my life would have been incomplete without seeing Dan sing a Bangles classic! After seeing his performance I was left asking myself: "Am I dreaming? Or is this burning an eternal flame???"

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