Tag Archives: Travel

Historical imagination & imaginary history

Here are some useful things to keep in mind while visiting ruins anywhere…

There are three approaches to excavating:
1. When you find something, leave it as it is.
2. When you find something, try to reconstruct it using your research and imagination.
3. When you find something, dig it all up to see if there are older or more valuable ruins beneath it.

We have seen evidence of all three approaches in the past few days. In Ephesus we saw some Byzantine ruins, but most of them had been ripped up to get to Roman ruins beneath. My professor who used to work on that site said that she recalls reading the journals in German and seeing the phrase, “then we brought in the bulldozers…” Ugh! So much history gained, but so much lost.

And then there’s the bit about using your imagination. We all do this every time we come to a site with only bits and pieces of buildings. But we can get carried away with our imaginations too. Today we went to a site in Laodicea where archeologists are making what seem to be wild claims. If they are correct, we just saw the earliest church known to humanity. And that would be awesome. I’m glad I saw it. The oldest church we’ve uncovered thus far dates late 400’s, this one claims to be 312. Discoveries like this take time, and the archeologists at Laodicea seem to be in a rush to finish. My hope is that they don’t get sloppy in their rush. In any case, it was especially cool to see a site being actively excavated and to get any idea of the work that goes into it.

Imagination comes into play in our spirituality as well. Yesterday’s trip to the House of the Virgin Mary, for instance—did Mary really spend her final days there? Catholics say yes, Orthodox say no. But whether she did or not, the place is religiously significant and spirit-filled based based on the millions who have made pilgrimages there, prayed there, been changed there.

So come to Turkey with a healthy dose of academic skepticism, but don’t let it close you off to the real wonders that have been and still are.

PS Aphrodesia was an amazing site as well—both because the ruins give you an especially vivid idea of what a typical Roman city looked like, and because the vistas are breathtaking.

Tagged , , , , ,

Emphasis on Ephesus

Today was a very full day in Ephesus. But one thing Ephesus was not full of: people. Turns out there are some perks to visiting Turkey in the winter!

We started at the Church of Mary–where it is thought the Third Ecumenical Council in 431 CE took place. The third council is where Bishops agreed on the title Theotokos or “God bearer” for Mary. There happens to be a great baptistry there as well that a few of us took turns getting into.

Next we walked up the “Harbor Road” from the harbor uphill into the town. It’s truly amazing to behold. You can see where stalls and shops would have been and just imagine the hustle and bustle of antiquity. A great theater seating 25,000 sits atop the hill. It may be the largest outdoor theater in the world. The scope is just breathtaking.

Hang a right and you’re on your way to the Roman Library of Celsus, originally constructed in 125 CE. This library would have housed 12,000 scrolls. The architecture is magnificent.

From the library the road goes up another hill, lined once again with shops and such. On the left side of the road is an extremely well preserved latrine. One of the few places our professor said she could be sure Paul visited, ha. Jay asked why such a thing would be preserved, and I can tell you that you’d understand why if you saw it. There must have been 40+ latrines lining the periphery of this single room at one time. Can you imagine all those men pooping together? And that was only the men that could afford it! How strange.

Across the street from the latrines is the entrance to some magnificent ruins of terraced houses. These houses are still being excavated, so they are covered from the elements (shielding us from the rain too!) It is so cool to see a live worksite. One of our professors worked on this very site back in 2009, so she was a wealth of information. I took particular interest in the eating areas since that is what I’m studying while I am here, but I’ll write more on that later when I have pictures handy.

Walking further up the road, we passed a number of bath houses. What is it about the Greco-Romans and their gyms and baths? It’s like a YMCA on every corner!

We saw another smaller theater for official announcements and the victorious goddess of Nike. We saw statues with crosses on the accompanying inscriptions indicating their Christian faith. We saw sheep on the hillsides and caves. It was like a 3-D backdrop to the Bible. So cool.

We stopped for a late lunch of home cooked food–the cook was expecting us. I bought her cookbook it was so good. Lamb meatballs, okra, spinach, chicken, beans, eggplant, stuffed peppers, yogurt, fried cauliflower, more eggplant, and some dessert made out of crushed walnuts and cinnamon. And apple tea.

Next we swung by the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Only one column remains of it now.

And finally we made our way to the House of the Virgin Mary–believed by Roman Catholics and others to be where Mary lived out her final days after John brought her to Ephesus. The Eastern Orthodox do not believe this to be where Mary lived, but people of many faith traditions make pilgrimage there regardless. I can say I was moved. I lit two candles and I bought two blue Mary medallions which I dipped in the Holy spring waters outside the house. (Spoiler alert, Mom… I knew you’d want one!)

A great day that will stick with me forever. Now if I can only get some sleep!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Turkey: first impressions

After 24 hours of airplanes, airports, and buses, we arrived to Yeni Hitit Hotel in Selçuk Thursday evening. Everything is lovely and cold.

The lovely: Our guide Gülin (pronounced Goo-leen). Our warm Mercedes bus. Our slightly gentrified (I mean that in the best way–think of all the life experiences I can learn from!) group of 33 interesting people. Our two professors from back home. The people here. The food. The countryside. The sunset last night. The naps. The sites.

The cold: Sleeping in socks, pants, long sleeve shirt. Two wool blankets. Heat on full force (but windows and walls as breezy as the seminary). Turning the hair dryer on while using the bathroom. Standing in the cold rain, walking in the cold rain, grateful for respites on the warm bus.

Supper last night consisted of a soup with some kick to it, beets, couscous, yogurt with some dark red paste, broccoli, lettuce & tomato, potatoes, small tasty meatballs, cooked spinach, rice, chicken, and chocolate pudding. Then I asked for the sage tea, which was a simple sprig of sage with some lemon slices and hot water. Beautiful!

Breakfast this morning included homemade goat cheese, yogurt with fig compote, hard and soft boiled eggs, rolls, hot chocolate and tea. There were other items, but that was my selection!

Both breakfast and supper are served buffet style at our hotel.

We loaded up our bus at 8:30am and made our way to Miletus. It is crazy to think that the roads we are driving on used to be covered by the sea. The ruins we saw at Miletus were once on a peninsula surrounded by water. We walked around a Greco-Roman theater (4C BC), read Greek inscriptions, saw Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman structures from a single vantage point. We used our imaginations a lot.

Next we headed to Didyma (or Priene) for a visit and lunch. The ruins of the Temple to Apollos are unique architecturally, but typical in other ways. You could tell that the temple was unfinished (even though it was used) because of certain non-fluted columns, inscriptions in some of the stones indicating which quarry they had been brought from (these would have been smoothed out), and knobs on some of the stones that would have been used to pull them from the quarry. It was not unusual to leave a temple unfinished, as funds would sometimes run out–not unlike today! We did not get any word from the oracle.

We had lunch in a cafe facing the ruins: roasted zucchini squash and tomato, salad, and whole fish. My fish was twice the size of my plate!

I slept on the bus as we made our way back to Ephesus (Selçuk, where we are staying, is right next to Ephesus). We’ll spend more time in Ephesus tomorrow, but today we just stopped by the Basilica of St. Jean (St. John) 4C BC. Legend has it that John, the Beloved disciple, brought the Blessed Virgin to Ephesus after the resurrection of Jesus. John’s remains are believed to be at the basilica–so supposedly I saw those today. Many people have made pilgrimages here for that reason! My favorite part was the baptistry–which I’ll have to sketch out at some point. Father Malloy would have approved.

Tomorrow we are in Ephesus all day. I’m hoping it will be warmer and dryer, but it’s not looking likely.

Other random things of note: solar water heaters on every roof, orange trees, olive trees, wind turbines, paying for restrooms, minarets and calls to prayer, lots of happy dogs and a guy with a trunk-full of sardines.

That’s a wrap for our first day of touring about.

Tagged , , ,

learning to escape

before moving to west africa, i had to read and learn a lot about culture shock.  i was told that it was common to hit a major slump about 3 months into your stay–a truth i experienced, as did every other missionary and peace corps volunteer i know.  jay and i aren’t in west africa, but nyc is enough of a culture shock to merit that same reaction.  and 3 months into jay’s stay (he moved here before me) everything started to suck.  everything was draining.  and about the time he pulls out of his slump, i’ll likely fall into my own. 

so we hit the road.  we searched all over for b&b’s outside the city, near train stations and hiking trails.  our options were limited since it’s a holiday weekend, but we finally settle on Crabtree’s Kittle House Inn in chappaqua, ny.  were we dorks hoping to see bill & hillary clinton, who live a few blocks away?  yes. yes we were.

the good thing about the inn is that it’s less expensive that many places we looked at.  it’s not a b&b, but does serve a lovely continental breakfast.  it’s a 50-minute train ride from the city, and an $11 cab ride from the chappaqua station to the inn.  the bar and the restaurant provide lovely piano music on thursday and friday nights, serve up delicious meals and boast the most extensive wine list in the entire US.  indeed if you ask to see the “long list” of wines, you’ll be handed a 3-inch binder of wines ranging from $28 to $25,000.  very impressive.

the down side to the inn is that it can be noisy–a lot of people like to throw parties there–weddings especially.  we were glad we left saturday before 2 weddings came in.  also, the rooms are very clean, but a little stark–not as cozy as the rest of the inn.  and while the remote location makes it a quiet escape during the day, it also makes it hard to do anything but sit around unless you have a car…

so we rented one 🙂

ahhh, to have a car!  i didn’t realize how much i missed the radio!  the fast moving pavement beneath the wheels!  the bubble containing just me and jay!  you know i’m all about public transportation, but i really must admit that a car is a lovely luxury every once in a while.

armed with said car, we began our exploration.  first to wilkens fruit farm.  don’t ever go there.  remember how fun it was to go apple picking with your school buddies on field trips?  turns out kids still take field trips to apple orchards–700 kids to be exact.  we took a cute picture and left.

next we went to FDR state park because i was itching to walk some trails and jay was eager to appease me.  while our trail walking wasn’t as successful as we had hoped, we still got our fix of being outdoors, getting our feet muddy, catching some rays, and breathing in the fresh air, away from the sounds of construction, shouting and honking.  sweet.

on our way back to chappaqua, we noticed a sign for rye, ny, and made a quick detour.  jay had visited rye as a child and was excited to go back to the boardwalk.  i was excited to visit the birthplace of one of my best friends (jamie) as well as the church home of one of my favorite priest-geeks (father matthew moretz).  i think it’s safe to say we’ll go back to rye.

and that’s our trip in a nutshell.  we learned that you don’t have to go far to get out of the city.  we also learned that it costs about as much to go 50 miles as it does to fly to charlotte. hmmm….

Tagged , ,

costa rica

last week i went to costa rica with a group of 17 (11 kids, 6 adults) peeps from my church. we spent most of our time in san jose, the capital, working on the diocesan house (which is essentially home base for the regional episcopal churches).

it was a great time. we worked our tails off, plastering, sanding, sealing and painting walls, cleaning up our innumerable messes, gardening, and working (and playing) at hogar escuela, one of our pet projects. hogar escuela is a safe place for children to play and learn. it is a nursery, a school and an after school program. the children there typically live with their mothers, and know no father. if it weren’t for hogar escuela, these kids would be left to the streets during the day while their mothers worked to make ends meet. the streets are not a safe place to be.

hogar escuela started 45 years ago with only 6 families. several years ago, it was almost shut down, bankrupt and in ill repair. with a little help from the church and a lot of dedication from the families in san jose, hogar escuela is now one of the top ranked schools in costa rica (maybe the top ranked school?) and a favorite place for us to visit.

the episcopal diocese is about to build another school and daycare center like hogar escuela, just outside the worst slum in san jose, guarari. there, families live in corrugated tin lean-tos. most have come over illegally from nicaragua, where conditions are even worse. i look forward to returning to costa rica in years to come to see the school’s progress.

our lighter moments in costa rica were spent eating, drumming, singing, salsa dancing, watching the premier of harry potter, playing LOTS of games, zip-lining through trees, and chillin on the beach. we came home with stronger relationships, different perspectives, fun memories, inside jokes, new priorities, and a hunger for more of what God has to offer and asks us to offer of ourselves.

Tagged , ,


finally… the long awaited (and highly abbreviated) synopsis of our pilgrimage to ireland.

every year, as part of our 10th grade sunday school curriculum at church, a group of teenagers and teachers depart on pilgrimage together. it is a unique opportunity to leave the rhythms, rigors and routines of home behind. to come away, together, to a foreign land. to explore our surroundings and ourselves, and to draw closer to God and one another throughout our journey. it’s pretty awesome.

this year 37 young pilgrims and 6 slightly older pilgrims spent 10 days traveling around western ireland. you might think it’s impossible to have any kind of meaningful community with 43 people–i was definitely concerned. before i left for ireland, my boss (and head priest) asked what i was looking forward to most in leading this pilgrimage. having never lead a pilgrimage before, i told him i was looking forward to the things i knew i’d have no control over… the moments of grace. he said, “so… you’re basically excited about everything.” “yep,” i said, “i’m pretty psyched.” that was certainly the case with the community forged during our trip. it was nothing any of us could have controlled or planned for, and God’s grace was hugely evident as a result. again, pretty awesome.

so what did we do? we explored castles and forts. we walked around abbeys and cemeteries, thinking (and writing) about how we would want to be remembered. we hiked 4 miles along the cliffs of moher, mere inches from 800-foot drops to the rocky shore below, contemplating the sheer greatness of God, and how it makes us a little nervous and draws us closer all at once. we played golf (the monastery where we stayed had a pitch and put course). we bought loads of groceries and cooked meals for one other (iron chef style), we served and cleaned up after one other. we hiked up crough patrick, the second hardest climb i’ve ever done, in part because of the hail that rained down on us as we summated the slippery shale incline. we traveled to the smallest of the aran islands, a place called inisheer. we visited pubs and listened to irish music. some of our kids met up with local kids and went to an irish dance. we worshiped together in some really holy places, most memorable for me being kevin’s church, which is covered by sand every year, and every year dug out by the islanders on june 13. we shared ourselves in a way we will likely never share again, crying and laughing in spaces made safe by God’s presence. really, it was awesome.

i came home very exhausted, because really, it was a lot of work. but i also came home renewed, because really, it’s fun to watch God work.

Tagged , ,

ringing in the new year

pierce, pablo, cou and i spent new year´s eve with cou´s family. well, first we went to pablo´s parents´ house, met his family, then went to his grandparents´ house, met more family, ate some sushi (pablo is japanese), and then made our way to ernesto and luisa´s (cou´s family) where we met up with aunts and cousins that i hadn´t seen in years. we enjoyed a delicious meal of maybe 5 different salads, canelones (the same meal luisa made for me my first night in argentina 11 years ago), and a platter full of sweets. as the clock struck 12, we each ate 12 white raisins while making 3 wishes, a tradition luisa´s family brought over from spain.
then the fire works started. explosions sounded from every direction, so we ran to the back yard to watch… and light a few of our own. i´m not talking little wussy roman candles or sparklers. i´m talking HUGE fireworks of green, purple, red and gold! i cackled like all get out, knowing i could never play with such explosives back home. so fun! globos also filled the sky… miniature hot air balloons like slow motion shooting stars. it was a beautiful night.
the next day we went back to cou´s parents´ place for an asado, which is like a cook out, but to the nth degree. chorizo (spicey sausage), ribs, steak, morcilla (blood sausage) and chicken. and that´s just what we ate on new year´s day! pierce and i have also sampled liver, kidney, tongue, brains, intestines. so much meat. so delicious. so fun.

Tagged , ,

i see dead people

yesterday cou and her cousin sylvina took pierce and me back to the capitol to see one of my favorite places… recoleta. the cemetary in recoleta is reason enough to visit, though cou hates being there and pablo was glad he missed it. i don´t think they like to be around dead people. but the cemetary is unlike anything we have back home! i was just as fascinated by it this time as i was at age 16. pierce also loved it. many famous people are burried in this cemetary, including eva peron (evita!!) and presidents and military leaders. often people are burried close to the very man that killed them! but the structures in the cemetary are what interest me most. like miniature chapels all over, some with stained glass, some with huge angels atop marble, some with little ventilation fans! it´s a maze of culture, and i love it.

after cruising the tombs, we stopped by the adjacent church and then visited various artists´ booths, buying a few souvinirs for ourselves and our friends. we stopped for an afternoon snack (as is customary), people watched, and talked about life. pierce and i are really enjoying this leisurely pace.

Tagged , ,

the good stuff

last night we ate pizza (my favorite international food), empanadas and dulce de leche ice cream. ahhhh, the good life.

pierce and i went shopping with cou and her cousins (who look the same as they did 11 years ago) yesterday. probably wasn´t pierce´s idea of the perfect day, had had to take a nap afterward, but it was a cultural experience nonetheless (where else can you smoke IN the mall) and he was a good sport. and every one of us bought something, so a successful day overall.

there´s a 3 hour difference between here and home, so pierce and i have taken to living as if we never left the states. we stay up till 2am (11pm back home) and sleep till 11am (8am back home). lovely.

and now it´s time for lunch!

Tagged , ,

don´t cry for me


the truth is… i´ve been away 11 years.

pierce (my not so little bro) and i are in argentina visiting the family i lived with 11 years ago, when i was a mere sophomore in high school. it´s been awesome. my family hasn´t changed a bit. corina (cou… the girl who nick named me lau) married pablo 2 months ago, so that´s different. it´s also the purpose of my trip. we made a pact waaay back to go to each others weddings. i´m just 2 months late. cou and pablo live in a darling house they just built, but they only have their bed and a table and chairs for furniture. pierce and i are sleeping on cots. it´s great.

luisa and ernesto (my argentine parents) live in the exact same house with the exact same furniture. it was crazy to walk into my old room yesterday! like i´ve only been gone 11 days. i love it. and luisa still coddles me as if i were her own baby. she also keeps encouraging me to eat… i´m pretty sure she´s responsible for the 30 lbs i gained when i lived here! that won´t happen again.

some things have changed, though. it´s not quite as safe, mostly because people are less sure of their circumstances, i suppose. i used to be able to walk on my own… now cou get´s nervous at the thought of me running with pierce, though i keep telling her i´ve done much worse.

today we went to the capitol city, buenos aires (cou lives in a suburb about 45 minutes north). we visited la boca (the brightly painted italian slums where the tango orignated) where we people watched for hours as we waited for our lunch to arrive. pierce was excited to split a parilla (meat plate) with pablo. he´s pretty pumped about 10 days of the best red meat in the world. we also went to the plaza de mayo, where we walked the plaza, visited the buenos aires cathedral and the casa rosada (that would be the pink house, like our white house, where evita sang her lovely songs off the balcony in movie life). while at the casa rosada, i conned pierce into taking a picture with me and one of the guards… who, by the way, is smiling because his hand is on my butt. very friendly! then we went to the puerto madero, the old part of town, where we boarded a boat and watched a catholic mass (on the boat) and walked all over. it was a full day.

pablo is a great addition. pierce and i like him a lot. he and cou dated for 8 years before marrying in october, so they´re like best friends. pablo can COOK! he stuffs more food down my throat than luisa. he´s got a great sense of humor, and the 4 of us travel well together.

anyway, the argentine adventures begin!

Tagged , ,