Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

At nine at night, we took a shuttle through the crowded streets of Istanbul and arrived at the airport-like bus station by ten. Erin and I sat together and Josh sat alone until a large Muslim woman came down the aisle. Looking at her ticket and the empty seat beside him, she turned and said something under her breath. She walked to the conductor speaking in long sentences. He walked down the aisle, and then speaking in Turkish said something to Josh, then to us and pointed at each of us. We looked at each other confused. Several passengers turned to look at us and one finally said in English, " he say, change. Man, man. Woman, woman. No problem." We vaguely understood what was going on and knew that it was best to not rock the boat. Erin switched seats with Josh and it seemed to pacify the woman. The other passenger looked at us shrugging their shoulders and smiling. We shrugged back and the bus departed.
At midnight, the bus qued for the ferry line. By 12:45 we were motoring across the mouth of the Bosphorus, just as had the thousand ships that the Greeks sent towards Troy. By 1:45 we had landed and were driving again. I stared out the window, not being able to sleep. My neighbor across the aisle, an old man with a moaning wife illuminated his watch with his lighter. It was 2:30. A short while after that I finally drifted into sleep. Then, the bus stopped and the lights came on. It was 4AM and people were shaking my seat as they grabbed it to balance themselves down the stairs and out the door located behind us. We stayed at the bus stop for half and hour as people ordered food and drank tea. We ate flatbread warmed on a griddle with melted cheese in it. My eyes burned like they had been washed with seawater, but by 5 I was asleep again. At 7 we stopped for breakfast. The sun had just risen and we saw a sign for Selcuk, 12km further. An hour later we arrived, tired but happy.
Still, our good timing lasted (with the exception of in Bulgaria.) The weather was chilly, but pleasant. It was not weather for the beach, but it was great fro taking walks. Also, we had choices of places to stay, and found a nice family-run pension whose hosts were determined to make us feel at home.
That day we toured the Basilica of St. John, where John the Baptist moved with St. Mary (as in the Sacred Virgin.) At his crucifixion, Jesus asked John to take care of Mary, as she was "his mother as well." After that, John and Mary moved to the area that is now Selcuk. Mary lived in the hills around the city, and John founded the Baptistery where his tomb is now. Walking through the ruins I was impressed by its importance in Christian history. Here is the final resting place of St. John and a site where Mary had lived as well. Not only had these two had such close relationships to J.C. himself, but by some theories, in their time, they were potentially just as revered as him. With time they have taken roles as lesser importance, but nonetheless they were very important figures and we were at the tomb of John, above a small town in Turkey, in the ruins of a Basilica that he had founded just after the crucifixion. Though not much remained of the structure, for being some 2,000 years old, it had held up well. There was also a 2nd century church beside it, and with modern restoration one gained a good sense of the place. From the standing columns we gazed out over the brown hills. Groves of orange and olive trees patched the countryside, and I felt the sensation that perhaps not n\much had changed since those biblical times.
In a slight depression towards the South stood a lone column, rebuilt with patches of concrete and other column fragments. Beyond that another 2kn was the ruins of the Greek city Ephesus. Reading in the book that we purchased there, we realized that the column was the remains of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. At one time it was part of a temple stretching some 350ft by 150ft and filled with some 350 columns. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The depiction of it in the book was impressive, but the remaining column left some doubt. I suppose that it, and the five other wonders were either not built as well as, or not located in a stable enough land as the pyramids at Giza.
That night, we ate Turkish pizza, a break from the olives and cheese that we had been consistently dinning. It was a thin crust, shaped like a canoe, brushed with olive oil and filled with herbed minced meat and cheese, then baked in a brick oven. The parsley, onions and garlic were a good combination. The crust was flavorful and crisp, and the warm meal sat nicely in our stomachs.
The next day we walked the shady 3km path to the Ephesus ruins. During its time, Ephesus held between 250 and 300 thousand people, making it what would have been the third largest city of the time. Before it was silted in, there was a water inlet from the sea, and a harbor at the end of town. We entered at Harbor St.; a grand white marble avenue lived with columns and spaces for vending stalls along its sides. There were two small indented lines running down its center, carved by chariots as they ran from the merchant's ships into the town center.
Harbor Street ended at the theatre and turned 90 degrees to the right. A section from the Old Testament reads about how the silver merchants of Ephesus started a protest against the "One true God" (they made high profits selling silver idols of the goddess Dionysus and were afraid of losing their bi\business as Christianity preached against idol worship.)
It reads that a protest began in the streets, and then formed into a large group of people, which moved onto the theatre and chanted for two hours "long live Dionysus, goddess of Ephesus." John would have been there at that time. We sat in the 25,000-seat auditorium and absorbed the imagery before we continued.
We then followed the chariot marks to the library, a two story building with an elaborate facade of columns and statues of Virtue and Justice. The avenue turned to the left here and we followed it up a hill past old fountains, small temples, public toilets, private houses, a large covered market, and a government forum. Along the side of the street were mosaic sidewalks for pedestrians; some of the colorful mosaics were still intact. As we crested the hill we admired the complexity of the city.
Strolling back into town I thought about the importance of the sites around Selcuk. Choosing to go there was just one choice out of several, and I wished that we had more time to explore Turkey.
Our last day in Selcuk, I spent collecting my thoughts, and trying to put them down on paper. Erin walked to the beach, and Josh investigated where he would go next. We ate our final dinner together, and then found a shisha bar that had eluded us through our time in Turkey. The waiters saw us peering through the window and with large smiles invited us in. We took seats towards the rear of the large hall, walking past several tables of smoking men playing backgammon. A young boy, maybe twelve years old, brought us two tall water pipes, loaded with apple flavored tobacco. He placed hot coals on top of the bowls and stoked them into a rich, aromatic smoke. This would mark the end of our travels through Turkey and with Josh. As we inhaled the sweet smoke, our heads tingled with a flirting buzz, and we laughed about the roads we had traveled.
With 20 minutes left before we boarded the bus, I inhaled deeply. I was expecting a similar return trip and thought that a small buzz would make it better. However, rather than euphoria, the deep pulls of smoked produced nausea, and I realized that it was too late. We said farewell to Josh and got on the bus with a green face and cold sweats. This trip would definitely not be any better. A wise man once told me, "Sometimes you just have to be hard."
We returned to Istanbul and spent our final days touring more sites, buying gifts, and eating olives and cheese. On the 17th of November we ended the European chapter of our trip and flew to Cairo.
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