Saturday, January 21, 2012

Traveler Al’s “Almost a Last Hurrah”

Ephesus has many feral cats living in the ruins

Chapter 3 – Kusadasi and Ephesus, Turkey

When I arrived in back in my cabin to freshen up for dinner I found quite a bit of printed material to go through later in the evening.  One of the items was the notification to take with me to show the dining room Maitre D’ who had a waiter accompany me to my assigned table.

I met my table mates – two families from Orange County, California traveling with their wonderful daughters.  Both families are intrepid ocean cruisers; in fact, I was recently contacted by Richard Hardy who let me know that he and his wife, Michelle, are currently on a cruise to Antarctica.  The two daughters are both avid equestrians.  We had many wonderful conversations during our two weeks together.

My dinner companions - 1st formal dinner night

I got quite a surprise when I returned to my cabin after the first formal dinner on the night the ship departed Istanbul.  The agency,, who I had booked this cruise with gave me a “romance package”.  I suppose this was intended as an incentive reward for their customers. 

 I found my bed strewn with flower petals, towel animals shaped as two swans with their necks forming a heart shape and a bottle of wine.  I was taken by surprise and a little puzzled as they all knew that I was traveling solo and the only occupant of the cabin.  

I gave the bottle of wine to Santorino, my room steward at the end of the voyage – I don’t drink alcohol because of all the medications I take. 

 Early Morning Panorama of Kusadashi

We arrived early the next morning at the Turkish seaside resort city of Kusadasi (Coo–SAHH-dah-see).  Kusadasi lies about 8 or 9 miles south of  Ephesus on the coast of Turkey – or Asia Minor as it was called in ancient times. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city which became the 2nd largest city in the Roman Empire. 

Locations of ancient cities of Asia Minor 

Panoramic view of the fort on Pigeon Island at the entry to Kusadasi's port

The staff in the tour departments of most cruise ships have assembling people and getting them off the ship quickly for their tours down to a science.  I had an early breakfast and proceeded to the meeting point at the assigned time for my tour of Ephesus.  Things happened a little faster than I hoped for, so I was always hurrying to catch up to my group right from the start of all my voyages and tours!

 Here are the ticket receipt and notices received about the excursions I was taking on this voyage.

We boarded a beautiful tour bus and were given a small bag with a map of Turkey, a bottle of water and a small terra-cotta medallion that said “Ephesus” on it.  Away we went for a 20 minute ride North along the coast and then inland.

Our guide explained that Ephesus was the 2nd largest city in the Roman Empire with a population that numbered an estimated 300 to 400 thousand inhabitants at its peak during the century starting at 100 CE (current era) .

Our guide at Ephesus

The city was built in a river valley. The river carried silt down requiring constant dredging to keep the seaport open.   .The waterfront area of Ephesus kept moving closer to the Mediterranean because of the silting action of the river that caused the area to become a marsh.  Eventually the city was too far from the ocean, the marshes were breeding grounds for mosquitoes which spread malaria.  The city was finally completely abandoned during the Ottoman era.

We passed a turn off that went higher up the valley to the house purported to be where the Virgin Mary probably lived the final years of her life.  Our tour did not include viewing the house.

The bus parked at the top of the valley. We were one of many tour groups. There were several cruise ships docked at Kusadasi. Each of the ships produced 4 to 6 buses of visitors arriving at Ephesus all about the same time.  We started our tour near the bathhouses at the head of the valley.

Our tour started at the top left near the Varius Baths and State Agora

The State Agora area

The bathhouse area

 The Odeon 

In front of the Odeon

Greek, Latin and a feral cat

Hercules Gate   ?   

Detail of a Corinthian column capitol - laying
 upside down

 Trajan's Fountain

Ephesus was served by 3 major aqueducts providing water to the city. 

There is a caduceus carved on the left side of this block

Greek and Latin engravings

A Roman Goddess  -  Note resemblance to a Biblical "angel"

 Hadrian's Temple

 Hadrian's Temple - detail of Medusa as a keystone in the arch

Public outhouse with space for 48 occupants. Note  the trough in the floor that had running water to rinse the hands - they did not use toilet paper!  Imagine the sickness that was spread by the water from that trough!

Detail of outhouse seating

 Alytarchs' Stoa - note the spiral carving of the columns

Anthony and Cleopatra spent time in an elegant house in this wealthy area of Ephesus soon after their relationship started.  The houses here had hot and cold running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This area is covered by a shelter which I did not enter.

Informational sign about this area of the city.

The library which contained about 12,000 "books" or scrolls - a very large library for the time.

A sign for a brothel on the street that leads to the seaport.  Archaeologists have discovered a tunnel that led from the library to the brothel.  "I think I will spend my day at the library, my dear!"

The beautiful 3 tiered theater.  Actors and speakers could be heard in all seats due to the natural bowl shape - there were no electronic enhancements.

It was at this amphitheater that Dimitrios, a silversmith and others, who made small idols of the goddess Artemis / Diana for religious pilgrims, fomented a riot against the Apostle Paul fearing that the success of Christianity would end his business.  The riot caused St. Paul to leave Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis was located very close to Ephesus. St. Paul mentions the incident in one of his Epistles to the Ephesians.  St. Paul or Saul of Tarsus (another name for ancient Turkey) spent several years in Ephesus.

We walked the old road to the seaport up and over a small hill to an area with many vendors and the bus parking lot.  We did not know it, but this lower area was actually the modern times main entry to the city.  

  Get your genuine fake watches here !

We then returned to Ephesus with the inevitable stop at a commercial establishment.  In Turkey with its famous rugs, that stop would be at a rug merchant's store.  One nice thing about these "sales" stops is that you may use the restrooms and they often serve refreshments.

The tools used to extract the silk from the cocoon

Demonstration of the technique of rug weaving

"Have we got Turkish carpets to show you ? "

"How about these beauties?"

All are beautiful - but none of them could fly!

Outside in the shaded resort shopping area - Summer temperatures near 120 F
(40 - 45 C) are common.

Kusadasi - resort waterfront area

Kusadasi - resort water front area - Celebrity Constellation in background

I believe that this boy is being driven to his circumcision ceremony. Boys in Turkey are circumcised  at the age of 7 to 12 years old.  The boy is dressed like royalty and given a party with many gifts as rewards for his bravery.

Soon we were back aboard the ship. I had a late lunch and later, I went to one of my favorite spots to read and take photos, the Sunset Bar on deck 9 at the stern of the ship.

Sunset over Pigeon Island - Kusadasi, Turkey - November 8, 2011

Next - Athens and the Island of Rhodes

Please click this colored link to view my other blog about living in Hawaii Life in the 50th State .

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Please contact me at should you need to use my photos commercially.

Please share this blog with your family and friends.

Your comments and criticisms are my reward for the effort to do this blog – they are appreciated.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my travels.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Holy Land Cruise Boarding – Finally !

Chapter 2 of Traveler Al’s “Almost a Last Hurrah”

The Galata Tower from the ferry boat terminals
Sunday, November 6th finally arrived.  I left the hotel just before Noon to take a taxi down past the ferry terminals, over the Old Galata Bridge to the cruise port in Kadiköy near the junction of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. 
By the way, the Golden Horn is a river valley that leads southwest into the Bosporus that curves between hills on the European side of the city. The name comes from the legend that during the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks so much golden treasure was thrown into the Golden Horn’s water that the treasure gave the water a golden color.

 Map of Istanbul - emphasis on the old city and European side of the city.

Istanbul has had many names in its long history.  It was founded by the Greeks under King Byzas about 770 BCE then later known as Byzantium by the Romans.  Emperor Constantine the great, of the Roman Empire renamed the city Constantinople after himself and rebuilt it extensively about 330 CE. The Ottoman Turks laid siege to the city in 1453 capturing it after a 53 day siege of the city. The Ottoman influence ended when the group of Young Turks led by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk led a revolution to create a modern, secular nation in Turkey.

For more information about this amazing city you may click on this link.
Boarding the Constellation

I arrived at the cruise terminal before lunch hoping to be allowed to board the Constellation right away.  We were told we must wait in the terminal, a large warehouse like room with many rows of plastic chairs lined up, because the ship was having “special cleaning and sanitizing” performed inside.  The special sanitizing and cleaning procedures and alterations of procedures on board the ship continued throughout the 27 days I was aboard her.  We learned that the ship had had quite a number of cases of flu and the norovirus on the two previous cruises.

I will explain the remedial measures taken by the staff to combat the spread of the illness in a later entry.

We were allowed to board about 1:30 PM, but were told we could not go to our cabins as they were still in the process of being prepared for our arrival.  We could go up to the buffet and pool decks for lunch and to wait there until it was announced that the cabins were ready. We had to take our hand baggage with us.

Celebrity Constellation from the dock 

The enormous, beautiful Constellation is quite a contrast to the small ship I and my family had taken to move to Turkey back in the middle of the 1950’s. 

 MSTS - Pvt. Elden H. Johnson        

A Side Trip Down Memory Lane

We rode on the (MSTS) - Military Sea Transport Service’s vessel, Pvt. Elden H. Johnson for a 23 day voyage that started in New York City with stops in Casablanca in French Morocco, Tripoli in Libya, Naples and Liverno in Italy, Athens in Greece and finally Istanbul. The ship was very small and usually made supply runs to and from the Canal Zone in Panama and airbases in Greenland. 

Milk was limited to small children after just 3 days at sea, however, in keeping with passenger cruising tradition, the food and service in the small ship’s dining room was very good.

My sister Vicki's 4th birthday on the Johnson. Notice the furniture shackles on the wall.

On that long ago February voyage, we did run into a gigantic storm on the Mediterranean Ocean just outside of Naples. The Johnson’s rails were going under the waves as the ship pitched and rolled. Cups and other crockery were tumbling along the decks after falling from cabinets in the dining room. Meals were served on wet table clothes to keep glasses and plates from sliding off! 

My little brother, Larry, was sitting in a chair that was shackled to the wall in my parent’s stateroom when the shackle broke. The rolling of the ship threw Larry and the chair completely across the stateroom. 

We spent more than 24 hours taking the high seas to shield a small Italian Navy gunboat that had lost its rudder in the storm.

 Italian gunboat in distress during a storm.

This was the first and only time in my life I was seasick.  I remember thinking that I would trade my right arm for a piece of solid ground that was just 4 feet by 4 feet to stand on to let my stomach calm down!

 Okay! - Back To The Present

I had lunch and continued to read my Kindle electronic book.  This device saved me untold pounds of weight on my trip. I had it loaded up with 45 books that included not only fiction, but city guides for the various places the ships were stopping.  The Kindle has been one of the best purchases I have ever made.

The cabins were released for occupancy about 3 PM. I went down to put my carry-on baggage away and returned to the Sunset Bar, an open air bar at the stern of the ship on the Resort Deck – Deck 9 to take photos. 

The Galata Tower from the ship

 Topkapi Palace from the ship

 A panorama from Seraglio Point to the Galata Bridge as sunset falls on the City of Istanbul

The Constellation is registered in Malta - View of Topkapi
and Seraglio Point from Deck 9 - The Sunset Bar

 The Galata Tower in the sunset

The Mosque of Suleyman

 The lighting on the New Bridge over the Bosporus

The Constellation remained docked overnight for people to tour and to enjoy the sights of Istanbul.  I did take a long walk to go to a small grocery store and internet café alongside the dock during the second day the ship was in Istanbul. After shopping and checking my e-mail to get back onto the ship, I had to walk almost a mile down to the security check point at the port entry and a mile back inside the port fence to the ship.

Security is quite good on cruise ships.  Passengers must have any shopping bags, cameras and luggage they are bringing on board passed through the x-ray machines. Passengers must go through the metal detection devices and have their cruise pass inserted into the machine that reads the magnetic strip to bring up your photo and other information for the ship’s security personnel. One difference; unlike airport security you do not have to take off your shoes or belts going past the ship’s security check point.   
The cruise or sea pass also functions as your cabin key and charge card for the entire cruise.

 Examples of Sea Passes or Cruise Cards

The sea pass serve as a cabin key, security pass, your on-board charge card and tells staff whether or not you have unlimited soda drinks.  It also  has your lifeboat muster station listed. Different colored cards also tell staff how many past cruises you have taken with the cruise line.

The ship was docked very close to a beautiful mosque. We were close enough to hear the muzzein's calls to prayer. 

A call to prayer with a panning view of Istanbul

 Mosque next to the Constellation

The ship departed Istanbul just before sunset on November 7th, 2011 with the next stop being the Turkish town of Kusadasi (Kush-ah-DAHH –shi) near the ancient city of Ephusus, the second largest city of the Roman Empire after Rome itself.

 Saying goodbye to Istanbul

Leaving the cruise port

Seraglio Point - Topkapi Palace is to the right up the hill.

We got an excellent view of the city as the city rounded the gigantic Turkish flag flying from Seraglio Point below the Topkapi Palace.  Soon we were gliding past the Hagia Sophia (Aya So-FI-a) and the Blue Mosque which is named for the intense blue colors of the interior tile work.

Looking back towards the cruise port and the Golden Horn around Seraglio Point.

 The Domed Roof of Topkapi Palace

 Topkapi Palace from the Bosporus, Cadessi Kennedy and city fortifications

 Hagia Sophia - Now a museum, formerly an Orthodox Basilica and later a mosque

“The Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya as it is known in Turkish was actually a patriarchal Basilica that has been considered to be an embodiment of Byzantine architecture and also had the distinction of remaining the largest cathedral in the world until 1520. Built on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, its interiors were richly decorated with artistic mosaics depicting various religious scenes and were supported by massive marble pillars.”  From Hagia

”The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii, Ottoman Turkish and Arabic: مَسجِدُ السلطان أحمد pr. masjedu alsultane Ahmad) is a historical mosque in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire (from 1453 to 1923). The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.
It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.”  From Wikipedia.

 The Blue Mosque from the Bosporus, Cadessi Kennedy and City Fortifications

Soon we were out of sight of the magnificent city of Istanbul, it was time for our first superb dinner on the Constellation.    The ship continued on through the night across the Sea of Mamara through the Straits of the Dardenelles where the British Empire was mired in World War I trying to take the high ground at Gallipoli.   

Next –  Kusadasi and Ephesus


Please click the colored link to view my other blog about living in Hawaii "Life in the 50th State"

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I encourage you to share this blog with your family and friends.

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Thanks for taking the time to read about my travels.