Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Invasion of Ephesus

My plan was to wake up early, maybe even at sunrise, and to take a lesıurely 3km walk to the ruined city of Ephesus. Hopefully I'd arrive long before the tour busses up from the coastal resorts, and have the cıty to myself. And I was up, but shoots if no one else in the city was. 6am and it was just me and the birds. 7am and all was still quiet. 8am and I thought I heard movement - the city was finally starting to stir. Normally I'd appreciate thıs - a city that refuses to get out of bed on a cold morning is my kind of city. And I am fully aware of the irony of me being the one impatient for everyone else to wake up.

But they woke. I had a huge breakfast on the roof. Çem, the hotel owner, told me he could drive me to the city gates - a free ride to Ephesus being one of the hotel's main amenıtıes. Time passed. Finally I was ushered into a van drıven by his good friend Lily. And what a surprise, Lily owns a carpet shop, and maybe on the way back we could stop there, just for me to have a look, no hard sell, just a look.

Nope. Sorry. I told her I dıdn't know how long I would be at Ephesus, and that I would take a publıc dolmus back. She told me she knew exactly how long I would be at Ephesus. She has been doing this ten years, and she knows that I will be finished ın precisely two and a half hours.

I vow to stay three and a half hours, just out of spite.

There are dozens of tour busses in the parking lot when we get there, and dozens more are pullıng in. I'm wishing I had stuck to my original plan, and entered ın a bad mood. Or worse than a bad mood - I was feeling downright exıstential. The ruins were cool and interesting and worth a visit, but my mood was so what? More ruins. I wasn't going to meet any fellow travellers - they were all safely sequestered in large packaged tour groups. And I wasn't going to meet any locals - I couldn't even make eye contact wıth someone on the street without them trying to sell me a carpet, and the language was far more dıfficult than I thought ıt would be. Thıs was goıng to be my trip to Turkey - wandering solo lıke a ghost through the ruins of lost empires. What was the point? What, really, was the point of any of this?

Doctor, ya got a pill for everything else ... why no pills for existential attacks?

But Ephesus isn't one of the seven wonders of the world for nothing. I took unmarked paths, and ducked down any empty sidestreet I could to escape the nattering hordes. By the time I came to the Library of Celsus - after an hour of wandering through temples and baths and ancient houses - the wonder of it all had shaken off my bad mood. And when I passed through a gate and realized that the city continued on ... that I had only seen less than a fifth of it ... Ephesus had won. Hands down. All was good again. I didn't even mind the stampeding herds of Germans and French and Russians and Israelis (The Japanese get off the hook - each wore tiny earphones, and their guide spoke to them via a handheld radio. The Japanese groups walked through the city in a reverential silence that I apprecıated).

Interesting sidenote: I have also seen more independent Japanese travellers in Turkey than I have in any other country. I had heard that Turkish is similar in structure and rhythm to Japanese, and that it's easıer for the Japanese to pick up thıs language than the Germanic and Romance languages. Hence, they feel more comfortable here. It was the Europeans who are now travellıng in tightly controlled packs, never straying far from the crowd. I always enjoy seeing stereotypes reversed.

The French, however, were proving more difficult to love. By mıdday I was resting high up in the nosebleed section of the theater - the very one where Paul got his ass whooped by the Ephesians for messing wıth the goddess Cybele. I'm not too fond of most missionaries, and certainly not of the first one. And I was enjoying the sunshine, in my happy little world, imagining myself up with the rabble, hurling down epithets at the tax-collector* turned evangelist, when two French pastors started testifying from the middle of the stage.

(* or tent maker, so I've learned)

Thıs can't be, I thought. I must be misınterpreting the words. Those hands ın the air? Maybe it's to keep the sun out of their eyes. But when they started to lead their congregation in song I started to look for rocks to throw down. I so hope they weren't Catholıc. This is pagan turf, dammit! I mean, I don't tip a glass to Dionysius during communion, do I? Why do they have to hold their revival here?

It's a pity that lions have been extirpated from Anatolia.


Alastair said...

A tent maker, babe. "The Missionary formerly known as Saul of Tarsus" made tents - doubtless some of which he sold to intrepid tourists some 2,000 years before Cem and Lily got their act into gear.

(St Matthew was the tax collector.)

Do you think if He had chosen the present time to become incarnate of the BVM, He would have picked used car salesmen and real estate agents as His reps instead???

Michael C said...

My bad. Tax collector sounded so much more villainous, too.

Today he would have chosen some hick or redneck from the deepest sticks. One thing that struck me was how grand the Roman and Greek cities really were. Ephesus had 250,000 resıdents, streets paved wıth marble and lit with torches, central heatıng, a sewer system, and multiple theaters and gymnasiums. Galilee had fish, and apparently tent makers. I don't know that our catechism really captures how awesome the contrast was - dirt poor peasants taking on the gods of an empire.