Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 37: Izmir (Symrna)

Just as I was just starting to settle into this whole idea of "European" Turkey I had to jump on a plane over to the "Asian" side.  We had an early start from the ship to make our one hour flight to Izmir.  Turkish Airlines isn't all that bad.  It was a bit of a rough ride but we actually got a meal (since food offerings are far more important than passenger safety).  It figures that the only place they still serve meals on all the flights is a place where you can't actually eat everything without the risk of getting sick. 

Upon arrival we met our bus and guide before taking a short drive thorough modern Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey.  Back in the day Izmir was known as "Symrna" so for the sake of our ruin exploring this was a much more practical label.  We started off by visiting the Agora of ancient Symrna.  It was a pretty typical archeological site and neat to see some of the regional adaptations like using lead to connect blocks for earthquake preparedness, the use of original piping, and built-in "air conditioning" via water ducts.  After this mini trek we went to the Izmir Archeology Museum where a lot of local ceramics and statues from the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods are displayed.  I was pleased with our guide and his style.  He was definitely an interesting local fellow but presented a lot of info in a concise yet intriguing way.  Sometimes museum tours can be overwhelmingly too detailed but he did a nice job.

My only real complaint about the trip was the food (or lack thereof).  We were supposed to have a boxed lunch included but for some reason that fell through.  We ended up being responsible for our own lunch and stopped at some strange roadside grill thing that was more grease than anything.  This and the whole water avoidance thing has led to a diet of carbs the last few days.  Yay for multi-vitamin tabs.  After "lunch" we continued the drive to Sardis.  The first stop was the Artemis Temple (not to be confused with the Temple of Artemis) which was set in a really beautiful little valley area.  The enormous stone pillars seemed small compared to the surrounding mountains and were used to support one of the largest temples that ever existed.  A short drive later we found ourselves in the old Synagogue of Sardis.  We walked over some very pretty and intricate original mosaic floors to reach a huge restored building.  Apparently Saint Paul visited and preached at the synagogue numerous times.  Also nearby the synagogue is the famed Royal Persian Road that still exists in original form.  It is only partially excavated but stretches from Sardis all the way to Sousa, Persia. 

The synagogue visit was followed by a rather lengthy drive to the town of Selcuk (outside of Ephesus) and our hotel.  The accommodations were actually pretty nice for being in a rather remote part of Turkey.  Our tap water was brown and the buffet dinner rather gross but no complaints otherwise.  There wasn't much to do in the evening so it consisted of a few card games, reading, and some much needed rest in preparation for the next day's journey to Ephesus.

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