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Our Mediterranean Cruise (Part 3 of 5)

Part 3

In case you’ve missed them so far, check out PART 1 and PART 2 first!

And if you’d rather “watch the movie” instead of reading the book… here’s our trip video:

Day 4: Ephesus (Turkey)

It wasn’t until we were on our way from the port to the historic site of Ephesus that our tour guide made the obvious connection that Hayley and I had clearly overlooked: we were going to be visiting the ancient city of the Ephesians, a New Testament book in the Bible. That little bit of context hit us hard – that, and the fact that we were now on a totally different continent: we were now in Asia.

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The first stop of the day was the house of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Late in her life, she lived high in the hills outside of Ephesus. I’m not sure why, but we truly just missed connecting the dots on everything that we were seeing on this day until just before it happened. We were walking in the footsteps of ancient, Biblical times.

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The house of the Virgin Mary was a small stone structure nestled amongst fig and cedar trees, high up in the mountains. We walked through the house, which was so serene and peaceful. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it was a very spiritual place.

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My sister Nellie, and Brother-in-law Chris, with us.

After you walk through the very small structure, you are able to drink healing holy water from a natural spring in the mountain. We both took long drinks of the cold, clean water.

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And then as you make your way back, there is a prayer wall onto which you tie a piece of cloth that has a prayer request. Our prayer was for the health of family members (both present and future family members). No, that’s not a pregnancy announcement… sorry!

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The next stop of the day and main attraction was visiting the dig site of Ephesus.

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Once a port city with a population of 250,000, things went badly for Ephesus when the port silted up and mosquitoes moved in. As you can imagine, port cities don’t do well when the port literally dries up. Well, in this case, the coast moved several miles out.

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The coolest part of Ephesus are the terrace houses, a residential district near the center of town where wealthy merchants and their families lived.

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(As usual, we were kept alive by Sophia’s Survival Foods (good name) Jerky Chews!)

The terrace houses had many incredible amenities and comforts for being 2000 years old, including heating, air conditioning, and highly functioning plumbing. Another cultural note is that even the slaves in Ephesus were literate. There are artifacts of grocery shopping lists that the slaves took to the market. Amazing stuff! The terrace houses are situated next to one of the largest libraries of the ancient world, the Celsus Library, which is said to have housed over 18,000 scrolls.

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Needless to say, we did NOT pay money to take this photo.

After seeing Ephesus, our guide Banu took us to an artist’s co-op nearby where we were served a traditional Turkish lunch.

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You cannot believe how wonderful this food was. And to think, Banu apologized profusely for such an ordinary lunch after finding out that the two of us are cookbook authors.

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One of the delicacies from this lunch were the decidedly-Turkish cookies that were served, called Sekerpare. Because the cookies contained flour, we didn’t try them (though we probably should have). However, when we came home we made several different attempts to recreate these cookies in a Paleo-friendly way, although we still have yet to share the recipe.

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Lunch concluded and we were ushered through a series of demonstrations of how Turkish rugs are made, ultimately culminating in what was essentially a “trap” for us to be strongly encouraged to buy a Turkish rug. We did not, though they were stunningly beautiful.

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The day ended with a trip to the nearby town of Selcuk which was the location of a huge church built by St. John the baptist.

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And no further than a stones throw from this church was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis. Or at least, one column from this temple in the middle of a swamp.

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We got back to the port a little early, so I just HAD TO try some Turkish coffee… when in Turkey….

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Day 5: Rhodes (“Magic Beach”)

This day turned out to be one of the most magical of the trip for us. Well ahead of time, we knew that Rhodes itself (the namesake of the city AND the island) wasn’t overwhelmingly appealing to us. Sure, it was the ancient site of another wonder – The Colossus of Rhodes – although historians can only speculate where that short-lived statue was located for its short 50 year erection. Instead of getting up early to see the city, the two of us slept in and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on our balcony, which was on the side of the ship that overlooked the city. The previous evening, we had coordinated with Nellie and Chris to snag a cab just before lunch time to take us down the coast to the small resort town of Lindos.

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It didn’t take long at all to find a taxi driver, and we communicated to him that we wanted to go to the beach at Lindos. “Ah, Magic Beach” … yes, that was how we all identified our destination of St. Paul’s Bay, just south of Lindos. The four of us will forever remember this afternoon of the trip, as we made our way through the Greek countryside of goats, olive trees, and rocky mountains towards Lindos.

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St. Pauls Bay, according to our guide books, was a place of refuge for the apostle. He was sailing around the island of Rhodes during a terrible storm, and after praying to God for refuge, he witnessed a lightning strike near shore which illuminated the passage to this safe harbor. The bay and it’s crystal clear turquoise and green waters was nothing short of magic, indeed. Some advance research on Trip Advisor indicated that there was a great little beachfront restaurant here too. Upon arriving, we scouted out some beach chairs and then went to get lunch at Tambakio.

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Friends, I’ll try and put this as plainly as possible: this was the most wonderful meal of the trip. Fresh hummus, olive oil french fries, fresh seafood, prawns the size of your head, greek salads, olives.  My stomach rumbles at the thought of it. If paradise for you lies somewhere between great food and drop dead gorgeous tropical beaches, then eating at Tambakio in Lindos will help you achieve spiritual nirvana. I’m. Not. Even. Kidding.

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All of this less than 10 yards from a sparkling blue cove of water, served by the most pleasant Greek people.

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After the best lunch in the history of the world, We all got in the cool water and swam.

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Big thanks to my sister Nellie for capturing these pics!

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During lunch, Chris and I happened to notice that there was a great rock for cliff jumping across the bay. With Chris being a triathlete, and me being an average swimmer, we counted down the 45 minutes after lunch then made the 100 meter swim out to the rock and took a leap! I wish I had brought goggles with me for the swim, because the waters were clear enough to see down 50-60 feet, all the way to the bottom.

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During our time at the beach, we watched three couples get married at the small white chapel, apparently built by St. Paul the Apostle while he preached to people at this site. No doubt, it has been revered as a magical and spiritual place far longer than 2000 years.

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I’ll be back in an hour mom, just taking Dad’s ’72 Jaguar XKE to cruise the strip at Magic Beach…

At dinner that evening, we had to downplay just how good the afternoon had been. No one else in the group could know or understand just how magical that afternoon was.

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This trip inspired SO MANY great recipes in our new cookbook! If you don’t have a copy yet, you can get it on Amazon (as well as at Costco and B&N!)

Continue to PART 4

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