|Subject: Turkey Part 2-Izmir and Rhodes|
The weather that I experienced in Turkey was excellent and well timed as I left Instanbul in rain and arrived in Izmir airport (South Western Turkey) in sun. I met my tour guide Yeldam and driver David which took me directly to the house of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus. It is believed that St. John brought Mary to Ephesus for her final days where she stayed in an isolated house on Mt. Corresos. The property is maintained by a group of nuns that live nearby and overall is truly a remarkable place to visit.
After a quick stop to pick up a hat and some bottled water we moved on to the highlight of the day, Ephesus. Ephesus reached its peak in 100-200AD after which the harbour silted up and the city was abandoned, as it was no longer viable for trade. The city was one of the best places to get a feel of what it was like to live in a Roman city. Starting at one end of the city you pass by the Varuis Baths, the State Agora (Market Place) before end up on Curetes Street.
One of the most impressive sites I saw the Temple of Hadrian at the time when Romans were worshipping Emperor's as gods after their death (when temples were destroyed by earthquakes or Goths it was the emperor's that rebuilt them not the gods hence the worshipping of Emperor's). Just behind the temple is the Bath's of Skolasticia that had central heating and private and public facilities available.
Moving on I came to The Library of Celuis, which was built in 135 AD and was one of the great knowledge centres in the ancient world after Alexandria, Egypt and the Library at Pergamum. The structure was build using ionic columns with niches to house Statues of Goodness, Thought, Knowledge and Wisdom.
Moving on down marble street passing we came to the great theatre, which could hold 25000 spectators and is over 50m wide. It is still used for performances today and one of it major functions in Roman times a public meeting place for the government. Overall I found Ephesus incredibly impressive and truly worth the long walk in the hot sun.
The last stop of the day was the Basilica of St. John that was built with six small domes in 300AD. It was built to house the remains of St. John and is within in walking distance of the temple of Artemis that was one of the 7 wonders of the world. Unfortuately there is nothing really left other than a column to show the place where it once stood.
The following day I was taken to the Pergamum that was founded in 300 BC by one of Alexander the Great's generals. The kingdom survived for 100 years until the last king upon his death willed the kingdom to the Roman Empire. The first main attraction is the library that contained of 200000 scrolls and was considered by the Egyptian's to be a threat to the library at Alexandria and because of this they cut off the supply of papyrus. As a result the Pergamumese developed Pergamen, which allowed them to write on animal hides. The second major site is the very impressive temple of Trajan, which was also used to worship Zeus.
Another of the more unusual sites is the vertigo inducing 10000-seat theatre that was built into the hill. The walk/climb down from the top was quite a work out by itself and I can't imagine actually trying to sit down, as the theatre was very steep. The last site was the base of the Temple of Dionysus that was originally covered with intricate friezes. These friezes along with the Altar of Zeus are now housed in Berlin in the aptly named Museum of Pergamum.
The last sight of the day was Asclepion that housed one of the first hospitals. There is a legend that says the demi-god Aclepios was working on the secret of immortally when he angered Zeus as he was going to give the secret to mortals. Zeus struck him dead with a lightning bolt but with his dying breath he related this secret to a plant known as garlic. Regardless of this being true or not Galen an early physician studied here and added to the knowledge of the circulatory and nervous system. The hospital contained a lecture hall that could seat to 600 and also a tunnel that was used for dream treatment.
The next day I left my hotel in Izmir and was transferred to Maramis to catch the hydrofoil to Rhodes, Greece to relax and catch come sun.
Upon reaching Rhodes my first impression was that the city runs at two speeds. Slow and Slower! I checked into the Mediterranean Hotel and over the next few days took in parts of the old city. Rhodes town has one of the largest best-preserved medieval town centres. It was built by the knight templars that ruled Rhodes for over 200 years until they are driven out the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. It contains excellent sites such as the Grand Masters Palace, moat around the wall, a small but excellent archaeological museum in the knights hospice and some excellent squares to have a drink at. On the whole I found Rhodes an excellent place to relax after Turkey's culturally rich sites.
Tom, London, Canada