Monday, May 12, 2014

Turkey - Saint John's Basilica Ruins and Buying Turkish Pants

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Saint John's basilica ruins. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Tuesday, November 8

The morning was warmer, windless, and pure sunshine greeted us as we set out on foot. Days off the bike are adventures in themselves. We aren't content to rest with a book. Rather, we take advantage of more exploration and revel in walking or hiking; this time we aim for high ground, intent on visiting another early Christian site, and discover we are its sole visitors.  

Atop a Selcuk hill stands the ruins of Saint John's Basilica. It was constructed in the 5th or 6th century over his burial site. The Turkish government is working on excavation and renovations and – as we are beginning to learn, due to current economy – many projects are funded by American foundations. In it's time the cathedral was enormous, 7th compared with today's cathedrals. Only the basic framework remains: column bases and some floor tiles, are exposed so travelers can imagine the once massive structure. And, as Ephesus's importance as cultural landmark grows – it was an early Asia minor Christian capitol, major center for cultural and medical sciences – so does tourist interest in the region. Hopefully, an infusion of capital will continue to improve these historic sites.

Before returning to the pansiyon, Andy and I step inside Efesus's museum. Like many historic sites on our journey, the most precious excavated relics are preserved from further decay by placing them indoors. Larger than life statuary from the Temple of Artemis are on display.

At lunch we sit on the pansiyon's rooftop. We ask Anna and Daryl about trekking in Nepal and also meet a young Scottish cyclist. He'd stored his bike in Marmaris and bused to Selcuk. He's on course for Syria, Jordan, and Israel. It's a reminder that we are on our own separate journeys and it's a flip of the coin whether we cross paths.

Modeling new pants (traditional style is below) with a Turkish tailor.
Afterward we set off again, perform necessities: purchase stamps, phone card, ATM withdrawal, pick up more food, then return to a tailor shop I'd previously seen. Various colorful pantaloons hang outside the shop above the sidewalk. I'd fallen in love with these flowing pants adorning full-figured Turkish women. The unique feature of these pants, I would later learn, is a gusseted crotch that hangs to the knee, adjusting to women of any size. Between the patterned colors, draped material, the whole effect is gyspy-like. If there was any memento of our travels in Turkey that I desired, and could afford and eventually mail home, it was to own a pair of these special pants.

My drawing of common Turkish pants.

Andy's drawing of typical Turkish tea service.
I choose a couple patterns I liked, priced at 250,000 lira (7.50 USD) and step inside the tiny shop, searching for a dressing room. I planned to bargain the price, once I determined the fit was okay. With the 3 of us squeezed inside, the shop itself is approximately 12' x 20', just enough space for two sewing machines, a counter, a few shelves, and three chairs. But before business takes place, the tailor summons tea from an adjacent restaurant. A moment later, a man delivers a tray with three clear glasses, spoons, and sugar cubes. The tailor spoke some English. We chit-chat. He is Yugoslavian born and specializes in custom pantaloons. Also, the restaurant owner sometimes performs the call-to-prayer worship we hear amplified from mosques.

My prized Turkish pants, dreamy and drapey. The colors go with
 many solid color tops. Twenty years later, I still wear these 
With our business transaction completed with help from our dictionary, the tailor takes my arm and leads me behind the counter. He is all smiles. He tugs at the waistline of my skirt. I glance at Andy across the counter. He sits on chair by the door. It's then that I realize I am in for the entire experience. I must have the pants. The shop is empty except for the three of us. I remove my skirt.

I am standing in my t-shirt and underwear. The proprietor helps me into the garments, gently pulling the elastic ankles into place. He has me stand and inspects the pants. Indeed over the next hour, I repeat this process as he takes in the side seams on both pants. We continue to sip tea, smiling. I grew comfortable in underwear and t-shirt as the tailor completed alterations. The tailor was obviously proud of his craft. He showed us his license, tacked to the wall. After the first few minutes, I realize how foolish I'd been to question any improper conduct on his part.

By the time he finished, I didn't have the heart to negotiate the cost of the pants, as is the expected custom. He insists we take his photograph and I happily oblige. I'm glad I did. Later, the picture would remind me of a much-treasured experience.


  1. I found people in Turkey to be so friendly. Buying things there is a social transaction in itself, unlike anywhere else. I love the pants you got!

    1. Thanks Vicki. The pants in the last photo, I believe are made of rayon. It's my favorite material for skirts and pants because of the texture and linen-like flow. Yes, Turkey was full of many interesting and very sincere people. I have more stories like this one.


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