Monday, March 25, 2013

Antiquities and Lizards and Turtles, Oh My

This morning I woke slowly after a very good night's sleep.  Eventually I headed to the breakfast provided by my hosts and was surprised to find not the typical Turkish buffet, but my own personal table heavily lain with simits, breads, eggs, jams, olives, etc. etc. etc.  I got my money's worth telling myself that I would walk everywhere today.  And so I did.

First up was to explore the column topped with a nesting stork couple, and the arch that stands next to it.  The shots I took in the dark did it better justice than the pics I took in broad daylight.  The arch was an entrance to St. John's Basillica.  A fortress surrounds the site of what was once a great church and is the purported burial place of John the beloved disciple.  This link has a lovely and touching story about John's death that is still told today.  The fortress that surrounds the site is immense, very secure, and gave me a sense of eternal strength.  I did take some shots from non-traditional angles.  What struck me most about this place... is the magnitude of who lived here... and who taught here.  I do not have words to explain my feelings or emotion about being in this place.

The day was warming up nicely.  It was the off season so in spite of a couple tour buses, there weren't too many crowds.  Just below St. John's is a mosque that was built by Isabey, son of Mehmet, built in 1375 and still standing with the exception of one minaret that toppled in an earthquake.  What was different about this particular mosque for me was the ceiling, constructed of wood and cross beams, much like one might find in a byzantine chapel.

This is looking up at the still standing minaret of the Isabey mosque.

My hotel hostess had told me that I could walk to all
of the Selcuk sites with the exception of the
house of Mary, Jesus' mother.  She gave me a good
map and I was managing to navigate the town fairly
well.  I headed next to the site of the temple of Artemis. I am not very learned regarding Greek mythology nor am I much enamored, but I fell in love (sic) with this site ... not because of her temple ruins though ... there is precious little left of them, but because of the aura surrounding the place that was once considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

In this picture you can see St. John's fortress up on the hill left, below that the Isabey Mosque, and in the foreground, a single column left from the Temple of Artemis.

There was an odd serenity here that filled me with a sense of great happiness and peace.  I believe that had more to do with the creatures who  have inhabited this place, which eerily enough, fits right in with the mythology of Artemis, daughter of Zeus himself, goddess of wildlands and animals,
(among other things). 

The pools and ponds that once surrounded her temple have long since fallen into the hands of nature itself.  A stork couple nest at the top of the column, cats sleep lazily in the tall grasses surrounding the grounds, geese and ducks hiss and prance and quack and honk near water's edge, hundreds of rather large and ferocious looking lizards inhabit the broken scattered remains of the structures, and the water alive!

As I began to walk the murky water's edge, I noticed turtles sunning on some of the larger rocks.  Every rock as a matter of fact.  I love turtles, and actually had a dream a few days earlier about finding a place teaming with turtles.  It was a happy place in my dream, and the few turtles piled on the rocks in the late March sun seemed as if the dream were coming to life... it was then that I started hearing this strange sound... repeatedly and quickly,  plop plop plop at irregular intervals.  How cute I was thinking, the turtles are startled at me and dropping off the rocks, but the sound increased and changed and I was stunned and startled (I seem to need to use those words a lot here in Turkey)  to see THOUSANDS, and I am not exaggerating here, thousands of turtles on the banks of this once grand pool, slipping into the water as I walk past.  Their camouflage is so excellent I was unable to get a good picture with my simple little camera, but the memory of all those turtles will keep me smiling for years to come.  Artemis remains guardian over wild lands and the animals.

I had been walking and exploring for about 3 hours.  I wanted to stay at the site of Artemis, but two huge tour buses pulled up and began depositing loud people who failed to see the real treasures of the place, so I left quietly past the Turks hawking plaster statues of Artemis that were cleverly laid out on the hoods of their cars.  I did stop to talk to a woman who was picking something in the grass.  In broken Turkish with some gestures I managed to gather that she was picking dandelion root.  My daughter would have loved it.

I continued down the avenue to Ephesus, past the exercise equipment that line parks everywhere here, past strolling men, and couples arm in arm... on my way to the place the letter of Ephesians was written to.  I have seen pictures, but nothing has prepared me for the ability to step back into a time and place that is so steeped in cultural and spiritual history.  I had walked where St. John walked, stepped into a 14th century mosque, sat by the banks of the temple of Artemis, and was now on the road to Ephesus...

... and it wasn't even noon yet.

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