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Day Three, Izmir-This tour to Izmir, a city of over five million people, gave us a new sense of the population of Turkey. In a country only slightly larger than Texas, the population of 86 million people is only one-fourth the size of the United States, but their cities are similar to those of China in that the density is enormous. Housing, traffic, employment, and governmental control of services are exhausting challenges. Izmir is a beautiful resort town that attracts the very rich. The sea allows them many choices from wading to surfing. As we headed out the 15 kilometers from Cesme to Izmir, we saw the sea walls lined with retired folks enjoying the peace of a lazy day with their fishing polls hanging in the waters.

The purpose of our tour was our visit to Agora, the antiquity dig of the ancient Greek site of social meeting for civic, religious, athletic and trading activities. The architectural arrangement of the original Doric, Ionic and Classico columns lined a large portion of the grounds. The Izmir citizens are very proud of the discoveries of the ancient statues of important, and often wealthy, community leaders. They created a museum for many of their findings and it was opened last year. The museum also presents scenes of life in the past, as well as the tools that their ancestors used in the building, textile, and military occupations. We were quite impressed with these extensive and exceptionally beautiful presentations. Izmir has much to be proud of, including their coffee shops. Robert enjoyed a cup of Turkish coffee and I experimented with a delicious blend of espresso and a spice from the root of the orchid plant. The aroma was delightful and the taste was exceptional along with the presentation. A piece of honey apple cake was accompanied by a white blossom of whipped cream and a dark chocolate spoon that melted as I stirred my coffee.

I had an opportunity for a conversation with our young female university student who was our guide’s assistant. Like our high school student encounter yesterday, she was very interested in continuing our relationship over my website as well as with email. Hurrah to Turkey’s young people.

Our day was capped off in a shared happy hour with our new acquaintances, Paulette and Jack Drewy from Orlando, Florida, and Toledo, Ohio. Added to our pleasure was the champagne and delights of fruit, cheese shrimp, and biscuits provided by our gracious butler and attendants. The lovliest part of travel is the people we meet and enjoy.

Day 4-Kusadasi, Ephesus- This day in Ephesus is one that was a special attraction for us as we viewed the cruise brochure. Our guide, Raife, an English teacher, explained that Turkey has uncovered only 15% of this ancient Roman civilization. What stands is the magnificent library façade, a multitude of sarcophagus (tombs), columns, and a mile of streets of granite and marble. This land is the cradle of the spread of Christianity to the non-Jews. Paul of Taurus spent much of his time preaching here and his letters from Rome to the Ephesians remind us of his concern and love for those converts he left there to spread the message about Jesus. The city holds the legend that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was brought here by the disciple John to protect her from the Jews as she spent her last days on earth. It honors her with a dwelling that marks her life here.

We were privileged to attend an evening concert in the ancient 2nd century AD Odeon Théâtre. Our ship, the Azamara Quest, sponsored the Aegean Chamber Orchestra with a performance of classical arrangements. Climbing up to and down from the original seats of rock was a physical challenge for the majority of the senior audience. But when this theatre, holding nearly a thousand people, sparkled with the moon and stars above paired with small lights rising among these rocks, and the music filling the air, it was an evening of magnificent memories.

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Canakkale is the home of the legends of Troy and the excavations of the land of the Iliad, Homer’s fictional account of the battle of Sparta and Troy over the most beautiful woman in their world, Helen of Troy. Briefly, it was the call of Paris to fulfill his destiny predicted by the oracle and gifted to him by Aphrodite. The story is fiction but the battleground is real and believed to be uncovered in Canakkale. Archeologists have discovered ten settlement layers and it was this unearthing that our tour focused on. As fascinating as this information was, it turned out not to be the highlight of our day.

Following the two-hour walk-through the archeological site, we headed for the new Museum of Troy, a new, as of 2018, contribution to archeology. Still exhausted from yesterday’s all-day experiences, Robert and I headed for the café, enjoying a well-deserved rest. We joined two young women who offered us the vacant chairs at their table. One topic led to another of photography and Robert began a photo shoot with these two very beautiful young women. This attracted the attention of five equally engaging young men who also wanted to pose for the camera. Soon we found ourselves surrounded by a cadre of five additional youngsters. We learned that all of these young people were students from a high school in Macedonia, all of whom were conversationally fluent in English. Soon, popping up with a microphone and many questions was a young male interviewer whom we perceive to be their teacher. We and our lives became the center of these students’ attention. For approximately 30 minutes, we two octogenarians engaged in conversation with approximately 15 very well-behaved teenagers.

The interviewer also was accompanied by his 11-year-old sister who had her own questions.

Soon we were all called to our buses, and our moment in history came to an end. To experience such a joyful engagement with youngsters of another culture could not have been planned. It will undoubtedly be the best memory we will hold of this trip to Turkey. I hope there will be a chance for these youngsters or their teachers to catch this blog and know what appreciation we hold in our hearts for them and this encounter.

From this chance meeting, we are confident that the future of our world will be in excellent hands.

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