I Lost my Toenail in Ephesus

Trip Start Jun 05, 2010
Trip End Jun 19, 2010

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Flag of Turkey  , Izmir,
Friday, June 11, 2010

We had to get up at 4:30 to catch our plane. En route I was finally able to witness a sunrise that matched the images I had in my head of an Istanbul sunrise: the hazy orange glow that can only be produced from a city polluted from thousands of years of industry creating profiles of the mosques that tower over the city.  Being that this image of a sunrise or sunset was the summation of my knowledge of Turkey, it was a very gratifying experience.

We had a 1 hour flight to Izmir.  During the flight the attendants came by and offered coffee or tea.  Not realizing that it would cost me, (I'm not sure that it really would have mattered) I got some coffee, and then of course paid the 3 lira rather than embarrass myself by canceling my order after finding out it cost.  Afterwards, Tara asked "do you always have to get something when it’s offered?  Why don’t you try not getting something for once?"  I’m not quite sure why I have the overwhelming feeling that I’m skipping out on an important opportunity if I say no.  I’m also not sure if my behavior more closely resembles an addict or a post-depression hoarder, but I spent the next few days trying to pass up these "opportunities."

We arrived in Izmir where our travel agent said someone would be waiting to take us to Selcuk.  While in Istanbul we had booked the final 7 days of our trip and were given 4 handwritten receipts on the travel agent’s letter head, which he told us were our “tickets and reservations."  So these 4 papers were supposed to cover 3 airport transfers, 3 different hotel reservations, 2 tours, 3 bus rides and a 4 day cruise.  His confidence assured me that I did not need to ask for any clarification, as clearly these were sufficient.  However, when there was no one waiting for us in Izmir, I started to panic and question why I had such blind faith.  After about 20 minutes of frantically walking back and forth between the two airports exits, we made eye contact with a guy getting out of a van who then held up a sign, “TARA.”  I suppose the travel agent had no way of knowing which English name belonged to me when we wrote them down; and I guess I’m being sexist to think he would have used my name for our reservations anyway.

It was about a one hour drive to Celcuk, the modern day Ephesus.  The countryside consists of agriculture set on high plains which are surrounded by mountains.   I asked what was growing in the vineyards alongside the road. 

“Peachens,” the driver told me. 

“Peaches?” I asked.


I didn't bother with any further questioning to verify that we were indeed talking about the same thing. 

We arrived in Celcuk, dropped our bags off at our hotel, changed vans, picked up a few other passengers and headed out for our tour of the ancient city of Ephesus.  Three girls on our tour are from Colorado, and one of them lives 10 blocks from us.  If we weren’t half way around the world, we would have no interest in them, but a phantom regional pride kicks in and serves as a connection that carries through the day.   So we talked about Colorado and shared our experiences in Turkey. 

Our first stop on the tour was the main stretch of the ancient city.  The highlights are an old government building where the representatives met, a public toilet, a hospital, a 3-story library whose front wall and entrance have been beautiful restored, a brothel, a big amphitheatre, and a pier.  There was enough of the city still remaining to get a good idea of the scope and layout, along with biblical ties that bring it alive in a new way for Tara and me.  The amphitheatre is where a riot had broken out after Paul denounced the idols and threatened the livelihood of a group of silversmiths.  The story was brought to life for me as I read the account the following day from Acts 19.

The view from the amphitheater was incredible.  Surprisingly, the pier seen on the right used to have water up next to it, but the way the water flowed filled in the area with silt and now the bay is 3 miles away. 

After our tour of Ephesus, we went to the Mary’s house, the believed site where Mary lived (and died) during the years when John took care of while he ministered in Ephesus.  A nurse in Germany several hundred years ago loved Mary and always prayed to her, etc.  She had a vision of Mary’s house and was able to describe the site in great detail, which matched perfectly with this house.  The woman had never traveled outside of Germany before.  It was a cute area and neat to see, but was not as special for us as protestants as it would be for Catholics. 

We also went to a museum which held some of the more fragile statues, and particularly the famous statue of Artemis, the fertility goddess that was hugely important to the Ephesians.  The statue was pretty underwhelming, being only about 8 feet high.

Our last stop on the tour was at the first site of the city of Ephesus, older than the one seen above.  Very little has been excavated from this site.  The most important structure was a temple to Artemis (which housed the statue from the museum), built by the Greek empire in 550 B.C, and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  It consisted of 127 ionic columns, but now only 1 remains.  The rest of the columns were taken for other construction projects, including the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but primarily a nearby mosque built by the Ottomans in the 14th century.  While looking at the ancient site, you can see the remains of 5 civilizations; Greeks represented by the temple, a Roman castle built while Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, Byzantine, represented by St. Johns Basilica, the Isabey Mosque of the Ottomans, and the town of Celcuk of modern day turkey.

After the tour we checked into our hotel.  It was a very cute, small hotel with a rooftop terrace garden overlooking St. John’s Basilica and the Mosque built almost entirely from the aforementioned Temple of Artemis.  We decided to walk over the St John’s Basilica, straight up a steep hill from our hotel.  It was a pretty neat site, but I always struggle with whether or not these types of places are special places of Christendom, or the beginning of Christianity becoming a political initiative leading to corruption, military conquest in the name of Christ, and the beginning of the downfall of Christianity in Europe and west Asia.  The end of the New Testament is the end of any holy account of the Kingdom of God on earth, which creates a new problem of Christians’ disagreeing on where God was working and where human error prevailed in the church.

After touring St John’s, we took a 20 minute bus ride to the nearby port city, Kusadasi.  We didn’t have any knowledge or agenda in Kusadasi, so we got off in a bustling area of town and started walking in the direction we believed was the ocean.  We found our way to a pier where we enjoyed some fries and cokes.  There was a group of about 10 adolescents practicing their b-boy skills, a cute kid trying to fly a kite in a faint breeze, and cruise ships heading back out to sea, so we soaked it all in for a couple hours.  Finally we headed back to the bus stop, and got on a very hot mini-bus.  About half way through the bus ride I told Tara that I was realizing once again what a legitimate cooling tactic sweating is.  It also occurred to me that cotton is not the best material for assisting your body with this cooling process, but I’ve yet to figure out a better option since I won’t be filling my wardrobe with linen anytime soon as not only would it cost a fortune, but wouldn’t gain me any social acceptance either.

Back by the hotel, Tara found a neat little store called Tara: Silver and Jewellery.  The store was run by a really nice older guy whose daughter’s name is Tara.  Tara found a nice bracelet.  We then went across the street to an open air bar called Odion Beer Garden.  It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a beer garden, but I think I can appreciate the name and associations I have with the words beer and garden being used together. 

As the sun was setting, we decided to walk and see if we could find a little convenient store.  We walked about a half mile and it ended up being one of the most special moments of the trip.  Tons of locals in the sleepy town came out and sat in chairs outside of their homes to enjoy the night air.  There were old women sweeping around their houses, children playing in the streets, flowers perking up after the heat of the day.  I couldn’t help but think that other than a few modern luxuries, these were the same people of the ancient Ephesus, still living equally simple lives, sharing a community that I don’t think I’ll ever understand.  It was beautiful.  I succeeded in finding toenail clippers at a small store, as I was in dire need of cutting off my dangling toenail that had been mostly severed a few weeks ago from a stray drawer. 
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