July 8, 2012

Athens, Greece & Ephesus, Turkey

I decided to compile Athens & Ephesus because if I gave each city its own post, I'd be talking about this vacation forever... SO I decided I'd give my favorite cities their own individual posts. Not that I didn't love either of these places, because each place was amazing in its own unique way, but it just had to be done.

Okay so on to Athens. The city itself is honestly massive. It was about 105 degrees the day that we stopped there, and between the amount of buildings and the heat, I felt like I could barely breathe. Until we got up to Acropolis. The word "Acropolis" in Greek means the highest point, so those smart Greeks back in the day decided to build the Parthenon at the Acropolis of Greece. 
The Parthenon was gargantuan. You could still see so much of the detailed artwork and sculpting that was over 2,000 years old, and the sheer size of it was incredible.
We spent a good two hours there exploring and reading about the history of the Parthenon. 
Also on our list of things we did in Athens was the Temple of Zeus, and watching the changing of the guards. We stopped at the President's palace (like the Greek white house) to watch the changing of the guards, and while we were there the President of Greece drove right past us! He put his window down and waved at us as he was driven into his palace. I don't think that would ever happen in the U.S.
Our guide for the day also took us to a monastery at one of the highest points in Athens. To get up to the top we had to climb at least 150 stairs. Our guide, Kostos, thought we were crazy since it was so hot, but we all decided that it was worth it. And it definitely was. Not only was the orthodox monastery beautiful (white stucco FTW), but the view of Athens was breathtaking. Totally worth sweating through all my clothes.

A view of old town Athens from the bay

The Parthenon

After our hike up to the monastery

The temple of Zeus


Ephesus, and Turkey itself, was one of the neatest places I've ever been to. While Greece is beautiful and scenic, the climate is almost desert-like. Lots of sand and brush, with little trees and foliage. Turkey on the other hand is lush and green, and very clean. The air felt cleaner, but that may have been because it was less crowded than Athens. Regardless, it was beautiful, and such a neat experience to see the ancient town of Ephesus.
The city of Ephesus held Ephesian citizens, which were the people that Paul (of the New Testament) wrote to in the bible. The town was rich with history and so neat to learn about. They were an idolatrous people a little bit, and lived a relatively lush lifestyle. One of the neatest things I found was that so much of their city was still in tact, and the parts of it that weren't were being restored by archaeologists. To see things like where they lived, where they read books, and even their ancient commodes was incredible.
After our time in Ephesus, our guide took us to a rug weaving school. The man who owns it is famous world-wide for his Turkish rugs, and even furnished the Grand America hotel in Salt Lake with his rugs. He was one of the nicest men I have ever met. One of his main methods of teaching and philanthropy is that he brings women from nomadic tribes in Turkey to his weaving school, and first teaches them how to read and write. Once they know how to read he teaches them how to make rugs (starting from harvesting the silkworms all the way to hand dyeing the rugs to weaving them). Once they are proficient enough to make rugs without supervision, he gives them a loom and supplies and sends them back to their towns so that they can make a living making rugs, so that they can provide for their families. The entire history behind his work and his methods was fascinating, and I was extremely jealous of my parents when they bought a Turkish rug.

Kusadasi, Turkey  

Ancient Ephesus

The library of the Ephesians

Ancient toilets

Some of the amazing silk carpets at the weaving school

Next up, days at the Mediterranean beaches in Rhodes & Mykonos!

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