No really, we did, and it was very special. Holy to Christians and Muslims (Jesus is considered a prophet of Islam and Mary is held in high regard as well, as I understand it), pilgrims travel there to pay homage at the shrine in Turkey called Meryemana.
Colleen and Pat took the kids to attend an outdoor mass as a steady line of tourists flowed by in an endless queue, most off cruise ships, many but not all of which were relatively quiet and respectful. I saw reactions on people's faces ranging from tears of sorrow or joy to simply bored to tears.
After the service was over our family passed though the tiny chapel built at the site of Mary's house (above) which was a pensive sort of place, photography not allowed, with music playing so quietly you were almost not aware of it. Then Colleen and I lit candles for our mothers.
Down the hill a bit from the chapel is a stream, said to have healing powers. It was a bit less mystical than it might have been, seeing as how the healing waters now come out of spigots, but those looking for miracles can't be too picky. And isn't acceptance one of the major aspects of faith, after all?
Plus, it was more practical than mucking in a stream trying to get a drink while a score of others do the same. I should think that without the taps the faithful would be eating mud. And then there's the health issue...well anyway, the taps were not a bad thing.
Past another of the wishing walls where thousands upon thousands had tied their wishes up in a monument to hopefulness, there were the usual spots selling postcards and the like, including rows and rows of bottles of holy water. I am always a little mystified by the idea of selling religious symbols and artifacts for profit, but it sure has worked since the beginning of time, and who am I to question success?
Ersan told us there was a huge forest fire in 2006 which burned right to the very edge of Meryemana but left the sacred site itself untouched. One point for those who wish for miracles. Another goes to the invalid, bedridden German nun who, never having left her country, described a vision of Mary and St John the Apostle travelling from Jerusalem to Turkey and a detailed description of Meryemana many years before it was rediscovered by the church.
Whether it is true the Mary and John came to this place, and that she is buried in Ephesus, or that her body lies in Jerusalem, well who knows? More importantly, does it really matter?
And by that I mean, either you believed it or you didn't, and that was OK.
Either way, St John's Basillica was our next place to explore. The bees were buzzing, poppies and thistles happily blooming in the sun, as we went through the Roman portal into the ruins of what was once a great church in the saint's honor, then a mosque, and is held to be the his final resting place, near where he wrote his portion of the Gospels.
We were now following the same route recent Popes from Rome have trod, Meryemana and then St John's, giving mass at the sacred sites to believers, and leaving plaques behind.
The site had long since been plundered for building materials, but some reconstruction had been done and it was easy to see what a magnificent place it must have been once, overlooking the valley and the town.
Of course, for our kids, it was mostly a place to climb and jump and explore. They tend to stick with their strengths.
Pretty slick playground.
I'm starting to think our kids are a little spoiled. In a good way. Whatever shall they do when they don't have ancient ruins to clamber around in?
The Fortress of Selçuk which is just beyond St John's Basilica (closed to the public, sadly). Also love the DUR Turkish stop sign. A fabulous addition to my stop sign photo collection.
Hey, everybody's gotta have a hobby, right?
The next set of ruins was one of the most magnificent ones in the world, Ephesus. Unfortunately, like Buddhas, no matter how sacred or special, there are only so many ruins one, particularly if one is a kid, can endure.
So Ephasus, being an especially extensive site, had to be couched as more of a game. Set down the mountainside from Meryemana, after more sunscreen application, we hiked around
and while Mike was in historical ecstacy with the guide book, the rest of the family looked for goofy photo ops, which was undoubtedly an utter misuse of an archeological treasure like this one. But it worked for us.
The kids were especially tolerant of the theatres, (we have seen many an ampitheatre) especially considering that Ephasus has two. Personally, I was happy they didn't revolt after we failed to find the magic "x" to stand upon where your voice is almost magically amplified. Nope, they kept on truckin'.
Having grandparents there helped immeasurably. I highly recommend a ratio of 4:2 adults to children.
Temple of Hadrian, with Medusa (I realised later) in the center archway. Looking at others' photos, I messed up that shot. The temple, even at a casual glance, is lovely, but inside there are many small, beautifully detailed figures telling the story of the origins of Ephasus, 2000 years ago.
Here's how it goes: after the obscure prophesy of an oracle -I suppose they are all that way, now that I think about it- "Choose the site indicated by the fish and the boar" the area was deemed meant to be after a fish intended for lunch jumped out of a brazier, knocking coals out of the fire, setting a nearby bush aflame, which startled a boar, who was hiding in the bush, who then ran away.
The folks at the campfire apparently fancied pork for their midday meal even more than fish, so they chased the boar and where they killed it was designated the site for the Temple of Artemis, and the spot where the fish lept from the pan became the site for Ephesus' Great Theatre.
I suppose that's as good of a way as any.
Headless statue of Alexandros the Physician
Whenever the kids got squirrely I would start yet another lizard hunt. We never caught a single lizard, though we did see some, didn't matter, they fell for it every time. Little kids are awesome.
Also helpful were the scads of cats. They accounted for the skitteryness of the lizards, I am sure. Either way, a friendly feline looking for a pat is far superior than a 2000 year old monument to a kid. It put me in mind of that old question, about how if a place is burning and you only have time to save either the cat or a priceless painting, cat wins, pretty much every time.
The one building in Ephesus that really shouldn't be traded for a cat, however, is the Library of Celsus. Built by a son to honor his father, with double walls to protect the knowledge housed within, and the statues of beautiful the virtues Sophia (wisdom) Episteme (science) Ennoia (intelligence) and Arete (excellence).
Sometimes you have to let the pictures do the talking.
There were hours and hours worth of discoveries in Ephesus, and I think we did OK, considering. But afterwards we went to watch some skydivers landing their parachutes at the tiny local airport and that was just as much of a hit with the kids, Thomas wistfully watching them land.
You could tell: he wanted to do it too.
Later, when I asked Bethy, looking over the ten gazillion photographs of the day, which was her favorite, well, I doubt heart-shaped bit of a column is high on most tourists lists of memories when it comes to Ephesus, but it was the top of hers.