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Ephesus

After another on time, uneventful, one hour flight with a meal, we arrived at the Izmer airport.  We all signed up as drivers at the Avis desk, collected out car and headed off for Selcuk.  Walter drove, I sat up front with the maps navigating.  

It turned out to be an easy forty-five minute drive.  The roads were very good, and despite ending up on a toll road it turned out to be very inexpensive, and we even managed to find the lane for cars without an automatic card.    

Walter had made us a reservation at Jimmy’s Place in Selcuk.  It was just behind the marketplace in a charming old four story building.  It was cold and rainy, and there was a fire burning in the brick fireplace.  To the left of the fireplace there was a large bookcase filled with guide books in many languages about Turkey, Ephesus, Alexander the Great, the Roman settlements, Islam, St. Paul,  art, weaving, anything you could want to read about Turkey it’s history or culture was on the shelves.

In front of the fireplace were dining tables and it turned out you could order from Jimmy’s menu, tell them what time you wanted dinner and sit down at that time.  Adem, Jimmy’s brother showed us to a large triple room with an enormous bathroom compete with a bathtub which made me very happy.

Just up the street was another large shopping area that was predominately a pedestrian mall although the little scooters came weaving through the crowds.  We picked a restaurant at random, and had another fabulous meal.  This time I went with meatballs because they had beef meatballs, and there were the best I ate in Turkey.  I always wanted to get back there, but alas I never made it.  Next trip.  There were the usual contingent of cats and I shared my meatballs with the furballs.

After lunch we headed off to Ephesus.  We found the car and park and were immediately confronted with a “guide” who wanted to take us to the cooperative for kilm making.  They would then drive us to the upper entrance to the site, and we could walk back down to our car.

Walter said we should see the demonstration so we hopped in the van, and got driven back down the main road to a sprawling white washed old building with the ubiquitous red tile roof.  Unlike the coop in the Kurdish village this one was supported by the Turkish government.  Here young women learned to harvest silk, dye wool, and know and weave the rugs.

A handsome young man (let me pause to mention how beautiful the people are in Turkey), gave us the tour.  We started at the vat of warm water where silk worm cocoons bobbed like misshapen ping pong balls in the water.  A beautiful girl with long black hair to her waist would occasionally brush the cocoons with a stiff whisk-like brush.  Threads would begin to pull loose from the cocoons, and she would catch them in her fingers.

Because the outer layers of the cocoons are dirty much of that silk is discarded.  The level below the dirt is also discarded because those threads are inclined to break.  Once you are past that second level the girl captured the hair-like strands and pulled them to a metal tongue where they stuck and were drawn through a hole and then wrapped on a spindle which she operates with a foot pedal.  

Emerging from the water is a fan of threads that coalesce into a single thread.  We were allowed to lay a hand on these fan fibers as the moved toward the spindle.  I was very delicate, but the guide said to press down on the threads — they wouldn’t break.  Silk is the strongest naturally occurring fabric.  After the first thread is made several more threads are twisted together to create a strand thick enough to use for a rug knot.

The Turkish rug makers use a double knot technique unlike the Indians and Chinese who use only a single knot.  That’s one reason the Indian rug my mother insisted I buy is of inferior quality to my Turkish rugs.  It’s incredibly delicate and tedious work, and after each row of knots they take this hammer/comb and lock down the knots.  I’m glad to have the rugs I do own because I’m not sure how long this particular art form is going to endure.

After the demonstration we were offered the obligatory glass of apple tea, followed by the showing of the rugs.  The young man gave us a lecture on the various styles that were unique to particular regions.  I inquired as to the cost of a silk on silk rug with the ?Tree of Life design.  $6200.00 American, and then I realized that I had gotten an incredible deal on my silk rug that adorns the floor in my dressing room.  A girl trains for two years before she is allowed to even try working the silk on silk, and they said it takes a very different personality and mind set to do the silk work because it takes so much longer to make a silk rug than a wool rug.

They could tell we were not going to drop a few thousand dollars on a rug so they let us go, and drove us back to Ephesus.  Most of the coach tours start in the lower lot, but our entrance at the top proved to be far superior because it saved the breathtaking ruins for last.  Look at the cherry trees on the mountain to the left of the ruins.

 

At the top of the hill there were the ruins of a few small temples, and homes, the tomb of  Sulla’s grandson.  It served as both a tomb and a warning.  At one point the Ephesians had at the urging of Mithradates risen up and massacred all the Romans living in Ephesus — 30,000 people.  Sulla re-conquered the city, and it an act of forbearance for a Roman didn’t kill all the Ephesians.  But his grandson used the tomb to warn them not to do that again or Rome wouldn’t be so merciful.

A little farther down the main road, the stones rutted by chariot wheels, was the gigantic temple to Domitian.  Domitian was a really terrible emperor who was hated by the people.  He knew he wouldn’t be deified after his death so he made himself a god before he died, and had this enormous temple built.  When the Ephesians heard he had died they stormed the temple and tore it down.

Along the way there was a particularly nice carving of Nike.

We passed the remnant of an amazing fountain built by or for Trajan.  The enormous water works, the cemetery where a number of gladiators had been buried.  And examination of the remains revealed that they were fed an almost vegetarian diet similar to the food eaten by sumo wrestlers with the same result.  Apparently the gladiators were very fat so a sword thrust would be absorbed by the fat and not hit a vital organ.  

Embossed cornices and pillars were everything shouting out the grandeur and fairly gaudy taste of the Romans.  Ephesus had been the wealthiest city in Asia Minor with 200,000 residents.  The trade routes ended at Ephesus and from the harbor the ships left with the riches of the east.  But the harbor is gone, silted up until now the water is almost 9 miles away, and with that retreat the city died.  It wasn’t sacked or burned it was just abandoned.

On our right there was a massive Bird Air structure climbing the steep hillside.  It was protecting the excavation of Rome which tended to be for the poor.  This was a Park Avenue pent house.  We paid to go in, and it was amazing.  The building had been destroyed in an earthquake so everything was still inside — furniture, jewelry, decorations.  The turkish and Austrian governments are paying to have the rooms not just excavated, but restored which involves men piecing together bits of broken marble wall sheathing and putting them back on the walls of the banqueting hall.

In addition to the marble wall panels the other rooms were adorned with frescoes, and elaborate mosaics on the floors. 

 

Here’s some of the piping from the latrine.

 

I’ve tried to give some sense of the scale of this excavation, but my lens wasn’t up to the task.  I made a note to self — when you get home go buy a really great micro/macro telephoto lens.

We emerged blinking at what we had seen, and back tracked to another monumental fountain ruin.  We stopped by the public latrines,

 

but we were drawn to the library which now dominated the skyline.

As you face the front of the library off the right was a massive gate that was constructed by two freed slaves.  One of them had belonged to Julius Caesar, and after being freed he had returned to Ephesus, made a fortune, and built this gate to celebrate their wealth and power.

The four statues in niches on the front of the building are intelligence, knowledge, virtue and wisdom.  These statures are copies, the originals are in Vienna.  In honor of my Edge books and my Prometheus character I posed in front of knowledge.  This was one of the largest libraries in the ancient world.

We continued down the grand road and came to the amphitheater on our right.  It climbs up the side of a mountain, and seated 25,000 people.  What other theater can claim to have had Greek dramas performed thousands of years ago, and also hosted an Elton John concert.

The final point of interest was the handy map that showed horny sailors the way to the whorehouse.  Carved into a marble tile was a bare left foot.  Next to it on the right was a woman in an elaborate headdress, and below her was a bag.  Translation for the average illiterate sailor — straight ahead, on the right, women, bring money.

We walked the short way down the grand road that would have ended at the docks, but now all that remains is a darker color of vegetation shaped like a bay.  Back at the car park there were the usual Crap Sellers, and this one particular booth.  I  approve of truth in advertising.

Our drive back to Selcuk took us past the Artemesia where a statue of Artemis had been discovered carefully buried beneath the alter.    That statue is in the Selcuk museum.  All that remains of the temple is a single pillar in a green field, and a small pool.  Excavations in the pool revealed hundreds of goddess figures — Isis, Artemis, Cybele.  At one time this was one of the largest temples in the ancient world.  It was the start of our sadness tour that was to continue the next day.

We returned to Selcuk and Adem told us they had fresh fish from the Aegean.  Walter and I eagerly voted for grilled fish, fresh caught.   We ate in front of a crackling fire.  Walter insisted we all try Raki which is a licorice flavored liquor which when mixed with water turns the color of milk.  We toasted each other and the wonderful days behind us and the wonderful days yet to come.

I was up early and shared a table with a fascinating young man from Beijing.  He had worked in Germany, been in the film industry in France, and was now returning home to China by way of Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, he hoped to go to Afghanistan and Iraq, India, Tibet and then home.  He and Walter had visited the night before, and we made a date to go to dinner that evening.  He wanted to talk about the chances for him working in Hollywood.  I had to be honest that things were tough right now, especially for a writer where English is his third or fourth language, although he spoke English beautifully, and French, and German.  It put me to shame.

After the usual breakfast of cheese, hard boiled egg, olives, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, bread, butter, jam, tea, nescafe we toured the small, but exquisite Selcuk museum.  It’s filled with the artifacts from Ephesus, and it’s wonderful.  I was glad we had toured Ephesus and the Artemesia first, it put everything into context.  Here are couple of photos of Artemis figures.  The larger figure was the one I mentioned earlier, buried under the altar.  

 

Many people have interpreted the globes on her chest to be extra breasts, but I don’t agree.  I think they are representations of fruit.  The detail on the rest of the statues (check out the toes) is so precise I can’t imagine they would get breasts so wrong, and they didn’t on other statues.  Also, later in our trip we saw this shape over and over again incorporated into wall friezes in various temples.  And as to detail —

I also liked these table supports found in an excavated insula.

 

The Romans really knew how to live.

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