A day in Ephesus

Trip Start Oct 08, 2012
Trip End Nov 29, 2012

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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Friday, November 23, 2012

We were collected from our 'modest' hotel by our guide Babur and driver this morning at 9am. We drove to the house in Ephesus in which Mary the mother of Jesus is thought to have lived after Jesus ascended. The belief is that the apostle John came here to live, bringing Mary with him. While there is no concrete evidence to support this it is not a dumb idea. We know that John was exiled to Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation and he almost certainly had Mary with him wherever he was. Patmos is not far from here. There was a peaceful atmosphere at the house and surrounds, which reminded us both of San Damiano in Assisi. There was also a long prayer wall to which people from all over the world had attached written prayers. Then we went to Ephesus. Ephesus of Paul's day was situated between two hills. From a car park far above it looks like quite a small site. However, when we got down there it was easy to see how it had been a city that accommodated 400,000-500,000 people in its day. Although archeological excavation of the site has been taking place to almost a 100 years there is still a great deal of the city which is underground, and this is deliberate. One of the challenges of preserving a site like Ephesus is to prevent its destruction by the natural elements and human beings. Millions of people visit the site each year and the impact of them walking on the paths and touching artefacts is considerable, so the government and archeologists have chosen to leave much of it underground, until they can work out how to best preserve it when it is excavated. For example, the hall of Tyrannus in which Paul taught has not yet been found, although they have an idea where it may be. What is overwhelming is not just the size of the site, but the fact that it is virtually untouched. In Israel there are many sites of biblical significance, but so many of them have been built over or so commercialised they have lost their power. I have never seen a site like Ephesus. Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has visited Ephesus more than a dozen times, says the city "is almost like a snapshot in time. You get the sense of what walking down the street of a Roman city was like without having to use your own imagination." It really felt like that. Our guide, Babur was a fund of knowledge on Ephesus and the entire history of ancient Turkey. Ephesus boasted a magnificent library and public baths, as well as the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. It was criticising Artemis that got the Apostle Paul into trouble (Acts 19) because it began to affect the business of the Ephesians. Turkey has a large number of biblical sites, almost as many as Israel. Mark Wilson's book Biblical Turkey provides a scholarly overview of most of the major sites. We had lunch nearby and were treated to a demonstration of carpet weaving, which Rosanne even had a go at. We were then given the hardsell to try to inveigle us into buying a carpet but we held out, much to the chagrin our the carpet shop owner. We visited the Basilica of St John in the afternoon built in his honour and which at one time was thought to have housed his grave and bones. We had two hours to spare at Izmir airport on the way back to Istanbul so I decided to have a beard trim. It's been easier not to shave and it was getting a bit long. Having negotiated a satisfactory price I sat down ready for my trim. I should have realised there could be communication problems, but it wasn't until he pulled out his cut-throat razor that I realised he was going to shave the beard off completely not just trim it. What was even more concerning was that after he had shaved the entire beard off he whipped out what looked like a mini flame thrower. I wasn't wearing my glasses and it was difficult to see what was happening. I could just see a flame. He proceeded to use the mini flame thrower to burn off any ear hair, which I have to say was quite painful. What really had me worried was that the nasal hair would be next cab off the ramp. Fortunately he drew a line at the ears. Rosanne was highly amused when I turned up clean shaven and told her the story of how I lost my beard. In short it was an amazing day.
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