Today was going to be an exciting day; today we would be in a completely different country and even a different continent. Today the cruise ship was docking in Kusadasi, Turkey. The country is partially in Europe, and partially in Asia, and lucky for us, we would be visiting the part that’s in Asia.
After breakfast, we left with our tour at eight in the morning. The bus was waiting for us just outside of the port; it was clean, air-conditioned, and had wifi. It was a Mercedes-Benz (like a lot of tour buses here apparently). Our guide spoke English well, and was extremely informative throughout the day. He told us about the sites we would see during the long and winding drive up the mountain to the House of the Virgin Mary, our first site of the day. The house sat at the very top of a hill after a walk up a stone path. We passed a baptism pool and a small statue of the Virgin Mary.
The whole site was shrouded in greenery; there were trees and plants I had never seen before, like fig and olive trees. It was an interesting and rapid change compared to the desert looking landscape on the way up. Our guide had told us how sacred the land is here, where the Ephesians settled, because if you plant something it will grow. The land springs life.
The house was small and made of various sizes of stone. Standing in line to get in to the little house, I found it interesting that a very old and large tree was growing up out of the ground and partially out of the side to the house. Inside, we couldn’t take pictures out of respect, but we could pray. There were candles lit and people were kneeling in prayer. Our knees and shoulders had to be covered. Upon leaving, there were more candles to be lit for prayers.
Our guide had told us that in Turkey all religions are welcome and respected in that all gods are one God and we are all brothers and sisters of the world. We were given gifts on our ride up, including a clay pot with a cork stopper to fill with Holy Water. There was a fountain just down the hill from the house that provided the spring of Holy Water. We each took a minute to fill up our jugs from the spring. Along the wall containing the spring were handkerchiefs of tears and prayers tied in hope of blessings.
At the site we learned all about the house (there were English signs, reiterating what our guide had said earlier) and how it was said to be Mary’s final resting place among the Ephesians after John, Jesus’ disciple had taken Mary as his own Mother and they had been exiled from Ephesus. Taking our time given to look at the souvenir hut near the parking lot, we finally met up back with our guide and hopped back on to the tour bus. On the road down, we saw a giant statue of the Virgin Mary on the mountain.
Stay tuned for Turkey Part II on Thursday…