The pace of this tour is beginning to tell on most of the passengers, who have been taken by surprise by the early starts and long journeys. Our Anzac Day sleep deprivation is a major factor, of course. The thing is, though, that Turkey is so big, and its history and culture so rich, that there is just so much to see. And today we had variety.
We started with religion, visiting the Virgin Mary’s house up on a hill above Ephesus: a little two-roomed shrine, mostly reconstructed, with a holy spring and a Wishing Wall covered in multi-lingual begging prayers, most of them written, quite bizarrely, on toilet paper. One person had come prepared, though, with a laminated printed card. Another had used a hair ribbon and, not wanting to waste its length, requested all good things for family, friends, career, health, love, life… Thorough.
Then we were back in ancient history, exploring the city of Ephesus with the usual elements of processional avenue, tumbled columns, reconstructed archways, tiered theatre, and treacherously smooth and cracked marble flagstones once trodden on by Mark Anthony, Cleopatra, St Paul, St John, and now me. The differences this time were the latrines, a sociable arrangement of holes above a running stream, the holes perhaps a little too snugly spaced for modern sensibilities; and the library, now reduced to a magnificent façade of arches and pillars shading icy marble slabs. There were also, of course, cats and poppies, and this time dogs as well.
For a bit of a break from history and architecture, we visited one of the area’s many leather outlets, Emelda. They specialise in lamb leather here: very fine and smooth, not waterproof but beautiful, and made into super-stylish jackets that were very desirable but, even with all the various discounts applied, still around $1000 each. But some people bought them.
Then, passing distant snow-capped mountains, we went to Pamukkale, to see what we Kiwis recognised as White Terraces. Shame we lost ours to the Tarawera eruption: amazing! So brilliant white that we were glad not to be arriving at midday – even at 5pm they were dazzling. Stepped terraces of corrugated pools of aqua water (tepid, not warm) are hung with stalactites; we paddled through under the stern eye of the whistle-police, keeping us to our area. In a fairly familiar story, much of the calcium-rich springs are now diverted to hotels, but there’s still enough to keep tourists happy.