Monday, January 09, 2006

From the coast of Turkey...

Fortunately, I have yet to catch avian flu and do not plan to do so anytime soon. One of the "joys" of international travel is that hotels tend to have a single channel in English; in this case, BBC News simply repeats the same story over and over again. If it is not avian flu, it is Sharon's illness. So, for those worried out there, remember that Turkey's population is about 75 million. If I catch avian flu, my first response will be to buy a lottery ticket.

We are about halfway through our jaunt through most of Turkey. I actually wrote a blog entry the second day we were in the country only to lose it because of the internet cafe's lame computer.

So far the trip has been incredibly eye-opening. We started in Istanbul and then headed down the coast. We visited the presumed location of Troy and then moved to Alexander Troas and Assos. Assos was particularly striking as its ruins lie on a high hill overlooking the Aegean with the island of Lesbos looming in the horizon. Simply beautiful. We then visited Pergamum, Ephesus, Priene, Miletus, and Didyma. I am struck repeatedly by the magnitude of these ruins and straining to imagine what they must have looked like in the midst of a bustling ancient city.

A particularly striking event occured on the way to Ephesus when we stopped at the Virgin Mary's House, purported to be the home in which Mary spent the last years of life on earth. When we arrived, we were told that a Korean group of Catholics had received special permission to hold mass in the tiny building but that we could still peak in and get a sense of the place. This was a true blessing in disguise. The service was familiar enough from life in the church to know what was happening, broadly speaking; yet, because everything was uttered in a tongue foreign to my ear, there was a sense of mystery in the air. I complained in a previous blog that tourism can drain the sacrality of a place. It is amazing how the simple presence of devoted people could convert that small place from a touristic opportunity to gawk and take pictures into a sacred space.

More forthcoming in the next few days or so....