2011
03.26

SYNOPSIS:

Where tourists flock and the apostle Paul  got into trouble.  Where libraries and “Houses of Love” flourished.

For seven hours, I walked the roads and climbed the theaters of the ancient city of Ephesus.  I waited patiently for clusters of tourists of one tour group to disappear before the next cluster arrived, messing up my pictures.  I tried to take pictures which at least gave the illusion of monuments over people.  That was a real challenge.  Tour bus after tour bus after tour bus, spilled loads of tourists into the open air museum, but Ali told me that today was a slow day.   He must know.  He has worked with tourists at Ephesus for years making a living selling guide books and trinkets.

Ephesus’ history is varied and complex.  From a Greek town it developed into a Roman one, changing hands back and forth in between with the Persians and a few other powers to be; way too much for me to sort out.  Just this much:  With over 200,000 inhabitants in its heyday around the 1st Century, it was second only to Rome.  The Grand Theater could hold 25,000 people – twice as many as the one at Hierapolis.  The famous library of Celsus – whose façade is one of the signature images from Ephesus – held over 12,000 scriptures.  But the prosperity of Ephesus owed much to the harbor which over time slowly silted in, leaving the town without access to the Aegean Sea – only one factor in its ultimate decline.

St. Paul, one of the key apostles of early Christendom was booed out at the Grand Theater.  He preached against paganism but the Ephesenes wanted none of it.  For hours after his sermon, they shouted slogans in favor of Artemis, their beloved, multi-breasted goddess – or are those cow-udders she is carrying at her chest…?!  (See an image in the next blog.)  They stopped only when the governor promised to throw Paul out of town.

There were brothels, public latrines, gymnasiums, baths, villas, schools of philosophy, aqueducts, fountains, and multiple agoras with rows of shops.  One of the most important churches of early Christianity is there as well:  The Church of the Virgin Mary.  In the 5th century a church council took place there in which heated debates were held whether Mary should be called the bearer of God or Theotokos.  I guess, this did not get very far since I have never heard her called by that name.  Or is this a title used by only some Christian denominations?

For much of the town you need a lot of imagination.  Still, the site is picturesque, impressive and manageable in size – the main visitor area stretches just over 1.5 kilometers.  But it is overrun.  Except for a few grassy side streets, there is no escape from the masses and from the tour guides who outshout each other in their various languages.

The Grand Theater was the culmination of a circus.  Shortly after I had sat down, at center stage a tour guide clapped his hands to demonstrate the echo and acoustic effects.  Some Turkish people at the top of the theater picked up the idea and clapped in response – thereby destroying the echo effect.  Some Germans in the middle of the theater got it into their heads to sing – not very well, I might add.  But a Chinese tour group in the lower ranks thought they could outdo them and started their own tune – also not very well.  Now some people got annoyed by all the noise and started to call for quiet, in vain…  I gave up on any pictures of the theater and got the hell out of there.  Too much is too much.  Give me back my Hierapolis Theater – where for a good 20 minutes I sat with a handful of other quiet and well-behaved visitors just soaking in the breathtaking scenery and the magnificence these old theaters radiate.

There is too much commotion for contemplation at Ephesus.   But for me, this all is a bonus.  I never thought I would have the time to make it up the coast.  Every day now is a gift.  I did not get sick or unreasonably delayed.  I had to skip one of my scheduled stops due to snow:  Mount Nemrut.  And so I have almost a week to wend my way up the coast and to take in a few extra sights before my time in Turkey comes to an end.  No complaints.

Good night.

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