Thursday 11 October, 2012

You might think we’ve seen enough of Really Old Places, but half an hour down the road from Kusadasi (a Mecca for sun worshippers and holiday-makers, and our final port-of-call on Turkey’s western coast) is Ephesus – one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world. And that’s where we headed yesterday, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (after being welcomed ashore by Turkish dancers).

On the way, we detoured up a tree-covered hillside and single-filed through a tiny chapel built on the remains of what’s thought to be the house where Mary, mother of Jesus, spent her final years. (Wait till you hear the fascinating story!) This lovely peaceful site, forgotten for hundreds of years, is now a place of pilgrimage for Christians from all around the world.

As for Ephesus … well, during its prosperous Golden Years, before its ancient harbour finally silted up (the ruins are now 5kms from the sea), it boasted a population of 300,000, and was a major Greek port, with noble houses, marble streets, temples, fountains, sewerage, indoor heating, a library, theatre and (what d’ya know?) even a brothel!  Ephesus was occupied at various times by various conquerors – and the superbly restored site records a long and colourful history.

We Kiwis wandered down the ruin-strewn Arcadian Way … took a zillion photos of a zillion re-erected columns and headless statues  … ogled the stunningly-restored Library of Celsus … and tried our best to imagine what bustling, sophisticated, day-to-day life was like for the Ephesians, some 2000 years ago.

Then those who could sing (or couldn’t – it didn’t matter) climbed up into the partially-restored 35,000-seat Amphitheatre (where St Paul once provoked a riot by challenging local devotion to the many-breasted fertility goddess, Artemis – aka Diana) … and then gathered down on the makeshift stage and sang Pokarekare Ana (to the applause of other tourists)!

Back in Kusadasi, we were treated to a demo of Turkish-carpet-making (from silkworms to glorious hand-loomed rugs) … before browsing the shops and returning to our mother-ship (parked as she was between two much-bigger giant cruisers).

Which brings us to today, as the Prinsendam made its lazy way through the blue-blue waters of the Mediterranean to the western isles of Greece – in flat seas and 29-degree sunshine. It was truly lovely … about as good as it gets … and a welcome break from all this fabulous sightseeing, all this ancient history, all this oohing and aahing and clicking of cameras.


Two more of our little yellow ducks have quacked their way into eager, waiting hands:

  • We’re not sure what Sid was thinking the other day at Iztuzu Beach when he waded out in his shoes and socks, but we suspect he was suffering delusions of grandeur after our boat trip on the Sea of Galilee – and have awarded him the esteemed ‘Walking On Water Award’.
  • Yesterday, for the trip to Ephesus, our group was split into two busloads – and when it came time to leave, Jan was missing. We were about to send out a search party when she sheepishly emerged from the bowels of the other bus – and was promptly nominated for our ‘Stowaway Award’.


We’re back in Greece … and the small village of Katakolon is our gateway to the mystical site of ancient Olympia, 40 kilometres to the east – site of the very first Olympic Games. You never know, we might get to sprint (or hobble!) along the famous stadium!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this page, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.



Tuesday 9 October, 2012

Hope you’re not getting Romaned-out or confused about the ancient sites we’ve been visiting, because here are a couple more to add to the list! After docking around breakfast time yesterday in the Turkish resort of Antalya, we drove through the tidy, green countryside of south-west Turkey to the ancient city of Aspendos – where we clambered around its superbly-preserved 2nd-century amphitheatre … wandered over a 13th century bridge … and picked some cotton from a nearby cotton-field.

Next we entered the atmospheric town of Side (‘seed-er’ meaning pomegranate) through a gate in the old city walls, and trekked down a quaint, store-lined street to some more Roman remains. On the way back to the coach, we had time to shop-shop-shop – and sample some refreshing, freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice from a local vendor. (You’ve gotta try it one day!)

Then, after lunch (in the outdoors under trees), we continued to yet another ancient landmark. Perge dates back to 1000 BC … played an important part (centuries later) in the spread of Christianity … and still boasts a Roman-era theatre, a basilica, an early-century shopping mall, a Nymphaeum (hilltop reservoir consecrated to water nymphs), and three Roman temples (dedicated to Dionysus, Apollo and Artemis).

Overnight, while we slept, the Prinsendam motored gently around the coast (known as the Turkish Riviera) to the once-sleepy fishing village of Marmaris. The Mediterranean and Aegean Seas meet here at what is today a popular resort-cum-boatie’s-paradise (with its own castle) – and so did Lord Nelson’s fleet back in 1798, prior to his attack on the French at Abukir.

We drove for an hour-and-a-bit to the tiny village of Dalyan, where we parked our Mad Midlife backsides on a couple of riverboats – that then took us through winding canals, cotton plantations and reed thickets, and past some famous temple-tombs of ancient kings carved into the rocky cliffs, to (i) the ruins of ancient Caunos (featuring yet another Roman theatre and some mud-baths founded in the 5th century BC) … and (ii) beautiful Iztuzu Beach where the endangered Mediterranean Caretta Caretta turtle comes ashore each year to lay its eggs.

Today was, once again, hot, blue-skyish and sunny (that’s all we’ve had since we arrived in Europe 12 days ago) – so a goodly number of us Kiwis stripped to our togs and took to the warm water like ducks. Aaah, yes!


Our hotly-sought-after quacky yellow ducks have been going out the door these past two days:

  • Norman (a would-be sun-bunny) fell asleep in a deckchair beside the ship’s pool the other day, and was overheard by a nameless member of our group “snoring and snorting quite loudly” – and has thus won himself the Mad Midlife ‘Walrus Award’.
  • When Mary decided to join the swimmers this afternoon at Iztuzu Beach, she thought no-one noticed her slipping into (then promptly out of) the men’s changing room – but someone DID notice, and nominated her for the ‘Whoops – Wrong Door Award’.
  • I know we’re no longer in Israel, but Eric takes home the ‘Walls Of Jericho Award’ – for leaning against a temporary partition in a men’s loo we visited today, and causing the thing to fall on the row of guys lined up at the urinal. (You had to be there – but it was probably better that you weren’t!)


Kusadasi is an attractive resort-city on the Turkish coast, with beaches, cafés, gardens, a castle and shops full of carpets and leather goods. But 30kms down the road is one of the world’s finest archaeological sites: the famous city of Ephesus – and that’s where we’re headed …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this page, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.