It seems impossible to visit Turkey and leave without buying a carpet. Near Ephesus, at our request, we visited a carpet co-op, where women hand-make wool and silk carpets. We saw how they deftly spin and create silk thread from silkworm cocoons bobbing up and down in a large cauldron of hot water. Our budget, alas, didn’t allow for one of the gorgeous classic silk carpets, but we settled quite happily on a small wool-on-cotton rug from Usak, where carpets were traditionally made for the Ottoman court since the 16th century. The whole experience of rug buying is quite delightful – from seeing the lady weavers dressed in head scarves and long traditional dresses working on the looms, to watching the rug attendants deftly roll out colorful carpets on the floor, to drinking apple tea from tulip-shaped glasses while trying to decide what our few Turkish lira might buy.

 

But let’s back up. Our tour with Vanguard Travel Services, which also arranged our guide, started bright and early at 8 a.m. that day. We were picked up punctually from our hotel in Bodrum (on the coast) by our guide and driver for a day tour of Ephesus and Sirince (about 100 km from Bodrum). It was a 2-hr scenic drive in an air-conditioned, luxury SUV-type van, past rolling mountains and hills blanketed with forests of pines and wild olive trees – some fields of cotton, corn and potatoes, and occasional cows by the road and goats too. Our van was equipped with an icebox of bottled water and towellettes, and there was a Turkish carpet on the floor - a nice touch! It was a pleasure to relax in comfort in the hands of our very safe driver.

We were lucky. There were no cruise ships in port, so Ephesus wasn’t as crowded as it can be. We saw the prostitute’s footprint in the marble street showing the way to her house; the rows of marble toilets in the toilet house; the terrace houses with their wall frescoes, kitchens, courtyards, etc., where archaeologists and workers are doing ongoing restoration and piecing together the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world (marble pieces of the walls and floors). The Celsus library facade rises impressively – and is more magnificent and grander in scale than surmised from pictures. Blood-red poppies bloom among the marble ruins, and the breezes still carry the imagined laughter and chatter of Romans bartering with shopkeepers on the marble-covered Curetes Street. Our knowledgeable guide also brought the historical city to life for us with her narrative explanations.

 

After, our guide took us to Bizim Ev. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at this wonderful restaurant, which started out as a little place some 20 years ago and has now grown, as “Mama’s” reputation in the kitchen has spread. Everything comes from local gardens and there was a buffet spread of some 30 dishes, from yogurt-and-cucumber spreads to stuffed zucchini blossoms and dolmades to “Mama’s” famous creamy grated carrot dish, all made fresh that day under her supervision. We sat outside in the garden under arbors of trees by a fountain.

 

A 10-minute drive away up the mountain is Sirince, an old traditional Greek village known for its fruit wines, nestled as if in a bird’s nest on the top of the mountain. There are no cars and the streets are hilly with old stone lanes. People live much as they did centuries ago. The women crochet doilies and embroider napkins and some men blow glass for jewelry. It’s a lovely low-key town, where the villagers earn their livelihood by selling fruit wines, hand-made olive oil soaps, crocheted tablecloths and other handicrafts. There are lots of delightful little cafes and small pensiones too. We were fortunate to see a lively circumcision procession in progress- a young boy of about 10, dressed all in white, rode atop a white horse holding a mace, while his family and friends danced around him, playing flutes and banging a large drum. Nowadays, our guide explained, male babies are circumcised at birth (rather than as boys), and then the celebration happens when the boy is older. Very interesting!

 

And finally, our last stop – the rug-weaving co-op, and our small carpet purchase. It was a very full day, and one we will remember long after we return home to Canada…

 

Janice and George Mucalov

Travel Writers/Photographers

www.JaniceMucalov.com

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