Saying Goodbye to a Wonderful Experience
“We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.”
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Today marks our last full day aboard Silversea’s Silver Wind , as our journey that began in Muscat, Oman exactly two weeks ago comes to a close. Tomorrow, we’ll arrive in Piraeus, Greece – the port city for Athens – and we will disembark our floating palace one last time.
That’s later. Today, we’re docked alongside in the port of Kusadasi, Turkey – a resort town of about 70,000 people. Pronnounced ku-shad-assy, Kusadasi is 95 kilometres (about 60 miles) south of Izmir, and just a quick 40-minute drive away from one of the region’s most magnificent sites: the ancient city of Ephesus.
Built in the 10th century BC, Ephesus was once a bustling city and a busy harbour port. During the Roman period, nearly 60,000 people made their homes here. It was an advanced, highly modern city, with a complex system of aqueducts and even underground piping designed to carry away wastewater in what was one of the world’s earliest sewer systems.
But Ephesus, like ancient Rome, gradually found itself on the decline. After being sacked by the Goths in 263 AD and the partial destruction of the city by an earthquake four hundred years later, a much more serious problem presented itself: the loss of the sea.
Despite repeated dredging (evidence of which exists to this day), Ephesus harbour was slowly overrun with silt and began to dry up. This caused Ephesus to lose its access to the Aegean Sea, which today has retreated five kilometres to the west. Faced with a decline in trade as ships found other ports of call, the citizens of Ephesus gradually packed up and left. By the 15th century AD, the town was abandoned. It would remain hidden for another four hundred years until excavations during the middle of the 19th century.
Today, it is estimated that three quarters of Ephesus still remain buried in the hills that surround the city. Excavation and preservation are time-consuming, expensive tasks, but more and more of the city is gradually being revealed to this day.
The most iconic structure of Ephesus is, of course, the magnificent Library of Celsus. Completed in 135 AD, the interior of the two-story Roman-influenced library was destroyed by an earthquake in 262 AD. The façade finally gave way around the 11th Century. It was painstakingly put back together by German archeologists between 1970 and 1978, using newer concrete pieces where needed to ensure structural integrity.
The Ephesians were terribly practical people. Recognizing that after a hard day of reading in the Library of Celsus (or chiseling scripture into a stone tablet) that the male labourers might need a break, they had the town brothel constructed across the street. But the Ephesians were also mindful of privacy concerns. And so, a secret tunnel was built beneath the library that emptied out into the brothel. Honey, I’m off to renew my library card…
Of course, you could get together and gossip about this in the town latrines which were – you guessed it – conveniently located behind the brothel. Holes cut into bricks of stone, the latrines were designed with water elements that mimicked an early spa and featured “entertainment”, though our guide vaguely trailed off when someone asked what sort of “entertainment” might be featured there. Today, the latrines are roped off, but on a visit in 2000, you could actually sit down on the blocks – and there would have been a lot of flesh touching. My guess is that diseases like the Black Plague put a stop to the communal W.C. practice.
On my first visit to Ephesus in March of 2000, I was in high school. One of my classmates – unbeknownst to us – had trained as a classical opera singer. When we were in the massive amphitheatre down the road from the Library of Celsus, she favored us with a small operatic performance that reverberated perfectly off the stone walls and benches, all these centuries later.
Our group inadvertently lucked out today by having Voice of Silversea Melanie as our Silversea escort. After some good-natured prodding by the rest of the guests, she performed a duet with Voice of Silversea Daniele, who was there on another tour. The sound is just as fabulous as I remember it.
On the return from Ephesus, we were treated to the Turkish Carpet Experience. Despite the fact we were told in no uncertain terms from the ship that we could, in fact, ditch the tour before being pulled in for a healthy round of apple tea and high-pressure sales, our tour guide kicked into high gear and managed to round up nearly the entire group, save for one couple that managed to successfully slither away.
To be fair, this was the nicest and least-threatening Turkish Carpet Experience I’ve ever been through. I’ve been unwillingly dragged into ones in Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia that were far worse. Just like those, however, we were led to the back of a maze-like building panelled exclusively in mirrors to a large room filled with carpets that were all rolled up.
Here’s how this works: you’re served apple tea (or wine, or coffee), along with some snacks. Then, the lead guy – we’ll call him The Ringmaster – begins to extoll the virtues of the Turkish Carpets, with each one being more fantastical than the next. His accent is an odd mix of Turkish melded with English and Australian, and I spent most of the time trying to figure out whether that was his real accent, or if it can change on-demand (ninety percent of our group were Aussies.)
The Ringmaster is assisted by two young men dressed in shorts and Nike’s, who roll each carpet out onto the floor with increasingly elaborate flair. Whoosh! Carpet rolls out. Whoosh! Another. And another. And another. Fifty-seven carpets in all were rolled out while we were fed the whole line about quality and traditional methods and this and that. Price? Oh, The Ringmaster replied, that’s difficult to estimate. It depends on each carpet, you know…ah! My associate is here. He can tell you.
The Associate walks through the door, dressed in a grey pinstripe suit with a powder-blue tie. He’s built like a construction worker, and the suit seems ill-fitting on him. It shows a lot of muscle – as if the man’s business acumen includes special skills in the art of cracking heads.
In the end, most of us made a break for the exit, and to their credit, there was very little hassle on the way out the door. Or maybe they just think I’m broke. Either way, it was nice to escape into the heat of the Kusadasi streets again, and head back onboard the Silver Wind for one last relaxing afternoon onboard.
In the past, I’ve written about how difficult it is to disembark a Silversea ship. Every voyage I take with them, I hope it will get easier. Unfortunately, it only seems to get more difficult. I know more crew members who have become old friends that I get to see every so often. I meet new and interesting people. I discover the world’s most wondrous places.
Why do we travel? Why do we cruise? Is it to escape reality, or to discover the future that has been awaiting us all along; the future unknown that reveals itself with each passing moment? To me, sailing the oceans of the world is one of life’s most beautiful adventures. I love ships. I think that a ship underway, running lights on, radars turning, propellers churning, is one of the most gorgeous sights in the world. But I can give up the ships. No problem.
What I can’t give up are the places I’ve seen, and the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. My life is better for having sailed with the people I’ve known from past voyages here aboard the Silver Wind, and for meeting those that I hadn’t met before. In a past life, I met no one when I worked as a Film Editor on animated television shows. Now, I meet the most fantastic people.
That’s why I travel. And it never hurts when you travel in style with Silversea.
Silver Wind Middle East Adventure
|April 5, 2015||Muscat, Oman||Embark Silver Wind||19:00|
|April 6||Day at Sea|
|April 7||Salalah, Oman||13:00||23:00|
|April 8||At Sea|
|April 9||At Sea|
|April 10||At Sea|
|April 11||At Sea|
|April 12||Safaga, Egypt||07:00||21:00|
|April 13||Aqaba, Jordan||09:30||21:00|
|April 14||Transiting the Suez Canal|
|April 15||Port Said, Egypt||08:00||17:00|
|April 16||Ashdod, Israel||08:00||23:00|
|April 17||Haifa, Israel||07:00||18:00|
|April 18||At Sea|
|April 19||Kusadasi, Turkey||08:00||17:00|
|April 20||Piraeus (Athens), Greece||07:00||Disembark; Live Voyage Recap|
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind has sadly come to a close, but we’ll have a full recap of our voyage – and our next four adventures – coming next week on From the Deck Chair! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.