When Jack and I discovered that day trips from Istanbul could be had for a semi-reasonable fee, we decided to take a tour to Ephesus. Yes, that Ephesus. If you’re not a Bible person, that’s where the Ephesians lived.
Semi-reasonable turned into not entirely reasonable but by then we were pretty far in to the process, so we said to Grand Wonder Tours, yeah, fine, take us for a ride.
Still and all, the 5:15 a.m. departure, the 8 a.m. arrival at the tour company where they ignored requests for coffee or drinking water and removed two Canadians from seats on the bus for “false tickets” were all dwarfed by seeing the ruins of the old, old city.
The tour started with the ruins of the temple for Artemis, then went to the house where Mary, Jesus’ mom, died. Very cool, that wee house, and kind of a spiritual moment. I mean, this was Jesus’ human mom we’re talking about. It makes everything so real, not just a story.
Then we pulled into this place called “alamede” or something like that, and got herded into a building where we were treated to a fashion show of leather and fur, complete with strobe lights and a hard sell. Not a good juxtaposition.
Since we started that morning, I had been steadfastly ignoring the headache and energy drain warning signs of a sinus infection, but the strobes were too much. I went outside and sat resting my head on a table–and the owner appeared, immediately solicitous. “You want tea, water? You are all right?”
Yes, I was all right. I had to be all right. This was EPHESUS we were going to see, one of the great Biblical sites. Jack and I were so excited to see it.
So were the 8,000 other people visiting that day.
While Ephesus is crowded at any time, April 25 is National Children’s Day in Turkey; we saw children in every conceivable kind of school uniform, being pulled through the ruins by harassed-looking teachers. It doesn’t matter if she’s wearing full-on hijab or a track suit; you can tell a teacher on a field trip from every other person in humanity by that look of cynical dedication on her face. Here’s to you, ladies and gentlemen of the educating world.
Besides the plethora of dear little children, one of my overwhelming memories of Ephesus will be the men’s public toilet- the really old one from the city, I mean–where I rested in the shade by sitting in one of the troughs that took the stuff away. Nice and cool. Just don’t think about the rest of it. Did you know they used to have ducks swim in the men’s toilet because their quacking and eating kept harmful bacteria-making wildlife away?
When I began shivering in the 85-degree baking sunlight, Jack gave up any hope that this would pass and led me to a table outside the museum shop. It’s amazing what comfort food a diet coke can be. I think it was the first of my whole trip.
We went to watch how carpets were made and I rallied long enough to sit and tie two knots in one–rather a highlight for a yarn nerd like me.
Back on the bus, the nausea took over. Jack hauled out the plastic bag from the fridge magnet we bought my Dad from Ephesus (hey, he had to have SOMETHING and the guide books were silly) and I began losing my “traditional Turkish lunch, included in price” with as much unobtrusive grace and dignity as can be mustered by an American woman who has lost the will to live on a moving tour bus.
We were supposed to wander the charming little town of Selgul and have dinner in a quiet restaurant before flying back to Istanbul, but back at the tourism office, Jack pulled two chairs and a table together and I climbed into this makeshift cradle, pulled the hijab scarf I’d been carrying for mosque visits over my face, and passed out.
I awoke at 7. Jack said for two hours the people in the office had been tiptoeing around my body, casting surreptitious sympathetic looks while pretending not to notice I was there.
The office owner asked my husband, as I sat, head in hands, “Is she okay?”
I gave him a brave smile. He recoiled.
“I tell you what,” he said. “It is sun, and people. Your stomach is dodgy?”
I admitted as much, but noticed the computer screen next to him sported a Facebook site with a lot of photos of a very cute chocolate Lab puppy. He followed my gaze.
“Is my dog. She is wonderful.” It was like pushing a button as this man who had seemed so surly that morning came alive with conversation. He was a dual citizen of Canada and Turkey, his wife Canadian; they’d planned to live in Canada but houses in Toronto were so expensive they’d come to Turkey and Sylvie, his wife, was learning Turkish before she started working.
“Is a man’s world here, this is not right. Womens should do as they want, I am not one of those guys. But first she must learn Turkish and be comfortable in the country. And she has this puppy to play with.” He smiled again at the dog, whose name meant “cutey-pie” in Turkish.
“I tell you what,” he said suddenly. “You need tea. And you–” he indicated my husband– “you need whisky for looking after her. One moment.” He picked up the phone. A few minutes later a tea boy appeared, bearing something that had whisky and eucalyptus in it for me. I took one sniff and my sinuses opened wider than the Bosphorus.
The man grinned. “Yep. It will take care of you. Salu.” He and Jack raised their glasses. I raised mine. Life looked a little better.
We exchanged horror stories about why we hated all Canadian airlines in general and Toronto Airport in particular, discussed favorite airlines–Lot for him, out of Poland; Thai Air for me; Al-Italia for Jack–and chatted like old chums until the taxi driver came to take us back to the bus terminal.
So now I’ve seen Ephesus–or been done by it, as the case may be. And I will remember the strong Mediterranean sun, and the stronger hospitality of strangers to the puking American tourist.