A day I thought would begin late and end early (due to heavy rain that rolled in overnight and persisted) turned out to be one of my most engaging. I wanted to scope out a village about 8 km. from Selcuk and see if a lodging lived up to its recommendations. Sirinçe is famous for wine and olive oil, not to mention that it was formerly a Greek village whose residents got relocated in the Turkish-Greece treaty of 1926.
On a hill overlooking the entire village is Nisanyan Hotel, whose charming German receptionist Anjuli has agreed to give me a deluxe room with a big village view for four nights, $75 a night w/ breakfast. I’m delighted. The entire complex is scenic and photogenic at every turn.
Then, to my surprise, they had a plan to go to Selcuk and offered me a ride. The rain was formidable and so there was no reason to refuse. The owner of Nisanyan, Müjde, was a 40ish woman who smoked constantly, spoke good German and English, and invited me to come along to see a carpet-weaving workshop plus the “house” of Mary, mother of Jesus. She is reported to have come to the Ephesus area in 40 CE, accompanied by the apostle John, to escape persecution in Palestine.
The carpet workshop employed perhaps 10 women making carpets by hand. Thread by thread, pounding the threads into place, clipping excess wool–it was labor intensive to say the least. They use only vegetable dyes and reproduce classic designs with no legal problems regarding copyright issues from the museums or owners of these works. They also recycle old carpet wool, taking them apart and then reassembling into new designs.
The Mary House is way on top of a mountain, apparently for safety in an area that was not friendly to early Christians. A bed-ridden German catholic nun named Emmerich had a series of visions about the life of Jesus and this house. These were transcribed by a local writer in some detail, an account used later to locate the remains of a dwelling on this site. Many of Emmerich’s visionary details about the site were accurate, but the Catholic Church has never ruled one way or the other about this theory since there is also a tradition saying she lived out her remaining years in Jerusalem.
En route to the site is a large, 20 ft. hight statue of Mary standing quite by itself in a large clearing. It was erected about 10 years ago Muhjde said, and remains completely free of any graffiti or vandalism–quite remarkable for a Muslim or any country! The mountain top was cold but not raining hard when we pulled up. Inside the small church was a room for prayers to a small altar, and beside it the room where supposedly Mary slept. A series of water fonts channels spring water to the faithful for the promotion of fertility (I took a sip anyway) and of course there is a gift shop selling a wide range of icons (w/ prices in euros, which I didn’t notice until paying for a gift for my sister Mary). The photos I planned to take after touring the complex were not possible because it started raining heavily again.
The last stop was the site of the Seven Sleepers, a series of tombs cut into rock face on the back side of the mountain that shields Ephesus. One version of the story has it that 7 Christian youths fled to the cave to escape a persecution. When the Roman emperor found out, he sealed the cave. The youths slept 300 years and awoke when the landowner wanted to use the cave for a cattle pen. Rather than flourishing in a new world where Christianity was accepted by the empire and Ephesus now had churches, the seven men died suddenly. Perhaps as a reward for their faith, they were taken up to heaven? Even the Muslims have a version of the story, which was extremely popular in medieval Europe. In Germany, Sweden, and elsewhere, one is called a “seven sleeper” if they sleep long and hard.
(photo from Taxi Kusadasi website)
Prior to the cave visit, we all stopped in at a traditional Turkish place that made a kind of vegetable or meat pancake out of very thin pastry, then was cooked over an open fire. We could see the women who made these and they were cool about photos.
Once we wolfed down these treats, we had 15 minutes while G. made phone calls and smoked. The rain was coming down heavily but Anjuli showed me the way. A fence had been erected to keep people out of the area of the tombs (and the vault of a church built over it), so I scaled one wall to get a better look, but the angle was off and I came back w/ a poor photo. Many other tombs were cut into the rock of this little valley. Anjuli drove back through the town and I jumped out near the bus station to hoof it back to Hotel Bella in driving rain.