Merhaba from Izmir! We're mostly settled in here after a quick flight yesterday, and I don't think anybody has any complaints about the amazing Susuzlu Hotel (the first thing people noticed seemed to be the fact that the mirrors in the rooms are also flat-screen TV's). We're all moving in, actually. My blog post is just breaking the news to all of the families trapped in America.
Anyways, Addison will be on here later to tell you about Ephesus, our first and largest activity today, but I'm going to share information about the other sites we visited during the afternoon. Unfortunately my camera is dead because I took so many pictures (therefore I dot have any to share) but that should just make you even more thrilled to read this post, because that just means we saw a lot of amazing things today.
After lunch, we went to St. John's Basilica, a 6th century church (churches couldn't be created here until after the 4th century) built by Justinian, whose work we've seen a fair amount of since our arrival. The basilica was built on top of St. John's tomb, and if it was in its original condition even today, it would be one of the biggest churches in the world. It was converted into a mosque in the 1300's and in 1402 it was pillaged for building materials and eventually destroyed. Perhaps one of the most interesting things thy has been unearthed in the restoration of this magnificent basilica is a large baptistery set in the marble in the shape of a cross. The baptisms which occurred during the church's operation would have been more private than most are today, and a great deal would have happened on Easter Eve. The fact that the baptistery is shaped like a cross is significant not just as a symbol of Christianity, but to remind those being baptized that they are passing through death (the old life) and entering into a new life (with Christ) as Jesus himself was crucified by the sins of the world and later resurrected.
A short walk away from the basilica is the Isabey Mosque. It is the oldest known mosque with a courtyard. Though the weathered walls and cracked facade may suggest otherwise, it's still an operating mosque and it has been since its restoration in the early 1900's. The original building was constructed in 1375 out of ruins from Ephesus and even the basilica (I mentioned just a few lines above this one that the basilica declined in importance and was ransacked in its last days) so you can actually see the columns holding up the mosque are marble and have some Greek lettering on them. Yet another resourceful use of ruins! The man responsible for this mosque was actually named after Jesus, so if you Google "Jesus mosque Ephesus" (like I just did to make sure I spelled Isabey right) it's the first thing that comes up.
The last stop we made was an old house tucked away in the hills of Ephesus. The owner hasn't been there in awhile, but people still come to visit her every day. Her name was Mary, but you may know her better as the woman who immaculately conceived, gave birth to, and raised Jesus Christ according to many different religious traditions. There wasn't much to see other than the small, single room dwelling where it's said John placed her so she would be safe in the last years of her life, but naturally it's become a pilgrimage place for Christians and Muslims alike who come on August 15th every year to celebrate the date of Mary's ascension.
That's it! That's my blog. You should be waiting with bated breath for Addison's post, because we did even more in the incredible ruins of Ephesus. It's actually storming pretty bad here - out mirror TV keeps losing signal. What else are we supposed to do here?! All I see is a big X on the screen with the sound of broken Turkish commercials about Fiats. It's like being in a third world country! Save us!
Xoxo Danae, room 208 (so you know where to rescue us from).