Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kusadasi, Turkey & Rhodes, Greece

Good Morning Everyone,
It’s just about 7:45 and our ship is approaching the island of Cyprus. Since leaving Rhodes yesterday we’ve noticed that there is an increased Naval presence in the waters around us. We have also seen a number of military helicopters, which is a first. I guess the fact that Cyprus’ closest neighbors are Lebanon and Israel makes that not such a surprise.

Our visit to Kusadasi was really enjoyable. The best news is that we escaped the island without buying a rug. That didn’t prevent me from admiring the absolute beauty of the offerings. I found myself on the floor of quite a few stores, feeling the nap of the carpets and seeing the way they catch the light. Just beautiful. If only I didn’t have to worry about putting two daughters through college…

Last time we were here, I really admired the decorated plates and bowls made in Turkey. I was determined to find a few to ship home. I ended up walking away with a large bowl and three large plates. I spent under 100 euros so I was pleased with my bargaining skills. James, Josie and I took only a half day in port. I headed back to spend time at the pool with Josie. With the temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees today, I know I would not be taking Josie to the outdoor historic sites.

The following is an excerpt from James’ daily email to friends and family that describe his side of our visit…

And I have to admit that both Michele and mine bargaining skills have become much better because we once shopped for carpets at Turkey. Oddly enough, the shopkeepers treat you with a much highly level of respect once they realize that you know how to play this game. The key is make sure that everybody goes away happy – you get want you want at what you consider to be a fair price, the shopkeeper move merchandise and what he considers to be a fair margin, and you both get to tell stories.

The one thing you DON’T need is a teenage daughter who claims that she “can’t live” without something. Fortunately, I recovered from that negotiation by asking if the storekeeper had teenage daughters (he does) and said, “Maybe it is good for her to NOT have this item so she realizes the value of money”. The storekeeper immediately lowered the price.

Maddie, Leah, and I took a side trip to Mary’s House, where she spent her last days, as well as the ruins of the Roman city of Ephesus.

At the top of a hill in a Turkish National Forest, I expected Mary’s House to be a rather solemn place. Whether or not one is Christian, the fact that scholars and historians have confirmed that there was a “Mary” and this WAS here final place of residence have some significance. Even the Koran mentioned Mary in a few places.

Well, the huge banner at the entrance, courtesy of the cruise lines, that welcomed us to Mary’s house put a little bit of a damper on the rightful solemnest of the this location. Frankly, it’s not must to see – a small, two room stone structure that is now a shrine. But the beauty of the forest and the outstanding view was worth the visit.

The last time I was at Ephesus, I remarked how sad it was for Western Europe, especially the Brits, to sack the ancient cities for their treasures and leave what they considered to be worthless behind. I still share that opinion. Several areas where we had access two years ago where now cordoned off because of additional damage from tourist.

Our visit to Rhodes, Greece was an unexpected delight – we knew little of the island and its history. In the weeks preceding the cruise I try to catch up on my reading, finding the best historic sites to visit. This time I was a bit lax in this area of preparation, so I only had a few pages of an Eyewitness Guide book (these are the BEST guide books –ever!)

As usual, the older girls are sleeping beauties while James, Josie and I are up with the dawn. So, we headed out to explore the town. Wow, how beautiful. We strolled the streets of the ancient walled city and made our way up to the castle of the Grand Masters – the home of the Knights of St. John. I knew the older girls would be sorry if they slept through the experience of being in Rhodes, so we returned to the ship around 11:30 and did the swap – this time James stayed on the ship with Josie while I took Leah & Maddie out to explore.

We took a tour through the castle and I have to say it is one of the most interesting and beautiful places I have ever seen. The mosaics on the floors dated to 206 BC! ‘Awesome’ doesn’t begin to describe the things we saw. Included with the tour was an exhibit of the Antiquities of Rhodes. This island was ruled by Italians, French, Turkish and Greeks in it’s long history. Each left it’s mark. The architecture alone left me stunned – mosques, chapels and clock towers of different ages have all survived earthquakes and conquering armies.

Of course, being out and about with teenagers dictates that we did some shopping. I was able to get two handmade tablecloths for our fully extended dining room table, which are nearly impossible to find at home. I also picked up a linen table centerpiece for my sister Sue’s new house. It’s a square shape with hand- embroidered tomatoes and vines, that I’m hoping will match some part of her new décor. Still looking for the special items for Kim & Claudine – so don’t worry girls, you are on our list!!

WE will be renting a car and exploring Cyprus today, we want to visit a few monasteries and maybe even find a beautiful beach to have a swim. They drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road here in Cyprus – so please say a prayer that James doesn’t kill us all!!!

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