Friday, March 17, 2023

Best of Ephesus Tour, Türkiye

We had booked the Best of Ephesus Tour for Monday which was great.  We were the only two who had booked so we actually ended up on a private tour with our guide Mehmet.  

Our first stop was at a big statue of the Virgin Mary. 

After that we headed to Meryemana, the House of the Virgin Mary, which is about 6 km (3.7 miles) from Ephesus and 17 km (11 miles) from Şirince.  The house is surrounded by pine and olive trees.  It's a Catholic shrine and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A bedridden Augustinian nun in Germany, named Anne Catherine Emmerich, had visions, about the Virgin Mary.  One was a description of the house that the Apostle John had built for the Virgin Mary where she lived out the rest of her life.  An author spent five years transcribing the nun's visions, before she passed away, and a book was published in 1852.

Two expeditions completed in 1891, discovering the match between the location and the nun's visions.  While the Roman Catholic Church has never officially proclaimed the validity of the site, multiple popes have given blessings and visited the house.  Each year on 15 August, pilgrims come to celebrate Mary's Assumption.  In 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified Anne Catherine Emmerich.

On the way to the shrine, you pass a key hole-shaped baptismal pool.

Outside of the house is a "wishing wall" where people write their wishes on paper or fabric.

There is a spring under the house which pilgrims believe to have healing properties.  There are fountains that people can drink from. 

I had to make sure to light a candle for my grandmother.  She would have loved that I came here. 

It was then on to Ephesus which was a city in Ancient Greece located 3 km (2 miles) southwest of Selçuk, 8 km from Şirince, 20 km (12.5 miles) north of Kuşadasi, and 70 km (44 miles) south of Izmir.

Ephesus was built in the 10th century BC.  It was one of the 12-member cities of the Ionian League and became part of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.  It's believed that the Gospel of St. John may have been written here.  

The city was conquered by numerous empires over the centuries and it was completely abandoned by the 15th century.  Ephesus is home to one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the Eastern Mediterranean and the ruins were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.

The most impressive ruin has to be the Library of Celsius.  It was built in around 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who served as governor of Roman Asia.  He paid for the library from his own money and he is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it.  The library was the third-largest in the Greco-Roman world and was home to 12.000 scrolls.  

The library was no longer in use after 400 AD.  The facade was damaged by an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century but archaeologists re-erected it from 1970 to 1978.

The Great Theatre could hold an estimated 25.000 spectators and dates back to the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st century BC) with extensive renovation during the Roman period.  It's believed to have been the the largest theatre in the in the ancient world.

As it was just the two of us, our guide Mehmet used the opportunity to show us everything in great detail.  It would never have been possible with a larger group.

Ephesus was famous for the Temple of Artemis which was nearby.  The temple was completed around 550 BC and it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The temple was destroyed by 401 AD.  The only thing left of the temple is a single pillar.

The Basilica of St. John, or rather what's left of it, sits on the slope of Ayasluğ Hill, in Selçuk, about 3,5 km (2.2 miles) from Ephesus.  It was built in the 6th century but was damaged when Turks invaded in 1090.

Many believe that the basilica was built on the tomb of the apostle.  

There's a fortress on the hill above the cathedral but we didn't visit it.

From the basilica you can see the İsa Bey Mosque.  The mosque was built from 1374-1375.  Unfortunately it is currently closed for renovation so we only got to view it at a distance.

Temple, mosque, basilica, and fortress

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Şirince, Türkiye

Saturday was a full travel day to Kuşadasi, Türkiye.  On Sunday we set out to explore the city.  While checking out the sites, we hired a local taxi driver to take show us around his home village of Şirince.

Şirince is a small hillside village of about 600 people.  It's about 8 km (5 miles) from Ephesus, and 26 km (16 miles) northeast from Kuşadasi.  It used to be a Greek village and the local area dates back to the Hellenistic period from 323-31 BC.  

In 1923, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the end of the Turkish War of Independence, Greece and Türkiye agreed on a population exchange.  The Greeks living in Türkiye went to Greece and the Turks in Greece went to Turkey.  Şirince was populated by the Turks who were living in northern Greece.    

Şirince means "pleasant" in Turkish.  Prior to 1926, it was known as Çirkince which means "ugly."  The story goes that the village had been settled by freed Greek slaves who wanted to deter others from coming here.  I guess it's the same as how Iceland is nice while Greenland is cold.  Regardless, it's a nice little tourist village. 

The Church of St. Dimitrios was built in the 19th century.  There's been some restoration but quite a bit more is needed.  There are a number of frescoes inside worth seeing.  Outside of the church are nice views of the area.

The Church of St. John the Baptist was built in 1805.  This church has has undergone more restoration than St. Dimitrios.  There was a photography exhibit going on when we visited.
Besides olive oil, the village known for its fruit wine.  Almost every flavour is available - apple, apricot, blackberry, mulberry, melon, orange, peach, quince, cherry, strawberry.  Some were just too sweet for me but the pomegranate wine was nice.

In front of a cafe is a wishing well topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary.  You're supposed to drop a coin in the water and hope that it falls in a certain spot in order to get your wish. 

Our guide Mesut used to work at the cafe, where his brother and cousin work, and introduced us to some good Turkish coffee.  The coffee was prepared in hot sand and served with lokum which is Turkish delight.  The coffee was good and here's a short video I took.

We enjoyed our visit to Şirince and then headed back to Kuşadasi to check out some more of the local sights.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023


Tchibo, pronounced CHEE BO, is one of Germany's largest retail chains.  The stores are interesting.  It's a café where you can get a good cup of coffee and something sweet.  Of course, you can also purchase coffee beans and accessories.  

Then there is everything else that you can buy there such as clothing, household items, electronics, appliances, and sometimes even furniture.  You never know just quite what they will have when you go there because the non-coffee products change weekly.  In Germany, the company's slogan is Jede Woche eine neue Welt, "Every week a new world".  In Czecland, it's každý týden nový svět

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Tchibo Coffee Company.  It was founded in 19149 in Hamburg where it still maintains its headquarters.  The company founders were Max Herz and Carl Tchilinghiryan and the name Tchibo came from the abbreviation of Tchilinghiryan and Bohnen (coffee beans),  The company started off as a mail-order service for roasted coffee beans.

In the early 1990's the company started to expand outside of Germany.  There are about 550 stores in Germany and over 300 stores in Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Türkiye.  

The company also operates "depots" in various supermarkets have a Tchibo section of shelves selling its coffee alongside non-food items such as clothing, sporting and household goods.

Tchibo Praha, spol. s.r.o., was established in 1991 and today there are 38 stores in Czechland.  In 2021, the company expanded its distribution facility in Cheb, near the German border.  The new facility is over 102.000 sq.m. (+1 million square feet) and services seven European countries.  

Here are a couple of Czech television commercials from about five years ago that I found out on YouTube.

©Tchibo Česká republika

©Tchibo Česká republika

Here's also a short, three-minute video I found that talks about the history of the company.  It's only in German but it's still pretty easy to follow the story.

©Irgendwas mit ARTE und Kultur

Monday, March 13, 2023

2023 Academy Awards

At this year's 95th Academy Awards, All Quiet on the Western Front had nine nominations for an Oscar.  The 2022 German film, Im Westen nights Neues, cost $20 million dollars to make but it wasn't made in Germany.

It was filmed in 2021 in Czechland.  All of the movie's extras, stunt people and technical crew were all Czech.  Their hard work paid off because it won the Oscar for Best International Feature Film.

Four Czechs received nominations but unfortunately none of them won.  However, what an honour to be nominated for an Oscar.

Linda Eisenhamerová - Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Viktor Prášil - Best Sound

Kamil Jafar and Viktor Müller - Best Visual Effects

From the top left corner to the right: Viktor Müller, Viktor Prášil, Linda Eisenhamerová, Kamil Jafar

Here's the film's trailer.


The first Czech (/Slovak) film ever to win an Oscar was Obchod na korze, (The Shop on Main Street).  The 1965 film won Best Foreign Film for Czechoslovakia.  I haven't seen the film yet but I think I need to be on the look out for it.  

Here's the film's trailer that I found out on YouTube.


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

2023 International Women's Day

International Women's Day isn't a public holiday here in Czechland but it is a significant day.

This year's campaign theme is #EmbraceEquity and the goal is to get the world talking about Why equal opportunities aren't enough because people start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging requires equitable action.

It's traditional here in Czechland to give flowers on IWD.  Thanks to some of the ladies that help keep me on track every day.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Russian Empire

The Russian Empire was founded in 1721 by Czar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great.  It lasted until 1917, almost two hundred years, and stretched from Central/Eastern Europe to Siberia, Central Asia and even Alaska.  It was the third largest empire in history, only behind the the Mongol Empire and British Empire.

Peter the Great, a member of the Romanov dynasty, wanted to transform Russia into a modern European state.  Here's a ten minute video I found on YouTube on Peter the Great and the Russian Empire with a bit of background on Russia prior to the Russian Empire.

©History Matters

Following Peter the Great's death, there came a number of Romanov czars and czarinas but the next great ruler wasn't until 1762, with Catherine II, known as Catherine the Great became empress.  

Following defeats of the the Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in a number of wars, the Russian Empire's borders expanded into Crimea, Belarus, Central Ukraine, and Lithuania.  Catherine the Great ensured the empire's status as one of the great European powers.

Catherine the Great ruled from 1762 to 1796.  Here's a short video about her.


Alexander II was czar from 1855 to 1881.  Almost half of the people living in the empire were serfs, peasant labourers tied to particular parcels of land they worked or to the Russian nobleman who owned it.  In 1861 he emancipated all 23 million serfs.  The newly freed serfs received 2/3rds of the land they had worked but in return had to pay annual compensation to the state.  
In 1867, he sold Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the United States for $7.2 million.

Nicholas II took the throne in 1894 and was the last Romanov czar.  In 1917 the Russian Revolution took place which overthrew the czarist government and the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin took control in the October Revolution. 
During the 19th century, the empire was multilingual and multireligious with only about half of the population native Russian speakers and Russian Orthodox.  Russia had fought on the side of the allies in WWI.  In 1918 they exited WWI and gave up Finland, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine.  Later that same year, Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks and the Russian civil war broke out.  

Here's a short video about why Nicholas II wasn't able to flee Russia after his abdication and his eventual execution.

©History Matters

The civil war ended in 1922 and the Soviet Union was established which was one of the world's superpowers almost until the end of the twentieth century.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has lamented that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century".  Putin has compared the invasion of Ukraine to the conquests of Peter the Great.  I think that it is safe to say that things have not gone to plan.

Putin expected to take over Ukraine in a few days.  He got that one way wrong.  But this also has an impact on his goal of either creating a new Russian Empire or just returning to the days of the Soviet Union as more former Soviet republics distance themselves from Russia.
  • Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops in Ukraine.  The blow to the prestige of the Russian military can not be underestimated.
  • Russia has been a peacekeeper between Armenia and Azerbaijan by maintaining a large military presence in Armenia.  Due to the war in Ukraine, Russia isn't able to maintain the peace and Armenia is reconsidering its relations with Russia.
  • Since the invasion, Kazakhstan is strengthening its ties with China, Turkey, the EU and the USA.  The country is also questioning its membership in the CSTO.
Я за Україну. Я за Україною. Слава Україні  Stojím za Ukrajinou!  I stand with Ukraine. 🇺🇦