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June 29, 2010

Ephesus {text by Andrew}

Tuesday June 29 - Ephesus

We visited Ephesus today.  Wow, this place is amazing!  It was for a time the second largest city in the world (behind Rome), with around half a million inhabitants, meaning at the time it housed approximately half a percent of the entire world's population -- this is significantly larger than any city today.  And it had everything. 

The Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders.  Ephesus was home to St Paul for a long period, and was the last home of Mary the mother of Jesus.  There was a great library, and a stadium capable of seating 25,000 people.  It hosted essentially every leader of consequence in the Ancient western world.  The city was a leader in women's rights, and boasted a famous marketplace, and additionally a large slave market.  Three years ago, a large gladiatorial graveyard was unearthed.  All manner of goods were distilled or fermented to make alcohol, and a variety of recreational drugs were in common use.  The city recognized both Latin and Greek as official languages, and inscriptions in each are common. 

But all of this doesn't really convey how grand the place is.  It's so enormous that only perhaps 15% of it has been excavated, but that 15% is very impressive.  There aren't any pictures of what the entire city looked like, but from what has been excavated and reconstructed, you have to imagine what a modern-day megalomaniac turned benevolent dictator might cause to be built after conquering the planet. 

We walked along building after building of exquisitely carved multi-story marble edifices in various stages of reconstruction with enormous plazas hosting breathtaking facades of libraries and brothels, temples and marketplaces, fountains and imperial tributes.  We saw expanses of excavated piping used to deliver water from an external reservoir.  The reconstructions were beautiful, and barely begun.  It's estimated there will be another 500-600 years at current course and speed to complete the excavation of the city.

What could possibly follow this kind of immersion in the ancient world?  Well, according to our tour planners, re-integration into modern society is best accomplished by a little while locked in a room with a Turkish rug salesman.  This particular twist on an old classic involved apple cider, pastries, and repeated claims that we were here to be educated in the ancient and dwindling art of weaving, rather than, heaven forbid, sold to.  Methought the over-bearded Turk didth protest too much. 

We left the halls of education and wandered around the Bazaar for a while.  Like many before me, I realized I'd never had a haircut in a Turkish Bazaar before, and this might be my last opportunity in a while, and let me sum up by saying again: wow!  Not just a haircut.  It involved a straight razor, what I can only describe as a small flaming marshmallow repeatedly plundering my eardrums, a vigorous application of highly astringent alcoholic jelly to any small lacerations from the razor, a vigorous clipping of the interior hairs of nose and ear, and a back massage.  All for eight euros.  It took 45 minutes.  Given the chance, I'd go back in an instant.


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