A Virgin, a Turk, and a Saint Walk Into a Bar....

Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Saturday, September 2, 2006

I took a night bus from Instanbul to a town called Selcuk. The town itself is somewhat unremarkable, but is only three kilometres from one of the greatest ruins of the ancient world, Ephesus. When our bus was leaving the Sultanmanet area of Istanbul last night we pulled up behind a line of about three trams sitting still in the road. Ahead of us were the flashing lights of quite a few police cars. We were directed into a small, nearby parking lot for a few minutes until - BANG!! - there was a very large explosion. Our Turkish driver wouldn't tell us what had happened, but my best guess is that is was a controlled explosion by the bomb squad of a suspicious package in the tram station. Since the bombings this past week, I'm sure the authorities are on high alert.

Along with the ruins of Ephesus, Selcuk is famous for a couple of other things. One is the Basilica of St. John. John the Baptist supposedly lived out his last years here writing his gospel and watching over Mary, the Mother of Jesus (more on her in a minute). After being ostracized from the city for a while, he wrote Revelations on the nearby island of Patmos. His tomb is in the ruins of the Basilica, which in it's day was supposed to be a magnificent church that inspired the Aya Sofia in Istanbul. Supposed it was a hot spot on the medieval pilgrimage trail. One has to wonder - with so many pieces of John supposedly floating around, claimed by various sites and churches, how much of him could actually be buried there?

Apparently, according to legend, John moved here with the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus asked John to care for his mother, and according to the sign at the site, "after these things the disciple took her into his hose." I will refrain from any obvious jokes concerning the interpretation of that sign, but feel free to make your own. The cottage of the Virgin Mary is nearby, incredibly inconviently located for an old woman, on the top of a mountain. You can drink sacred, holy, healing water from the taps here. People come from all around to venerate the little cottage, and drink the water to be cured. I drank some, and it was at least three weeks until my next case of Runny Bum, so maybe it's true.

Over the last few days, I have wondered through the ruins of Ephesus, one of the largest and best preserved ruins of the ancient world, and visited the remnants of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. With only one column remaining, it is a little underwhelming. (See the video!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s-660DDFY0) I also spent a day driving a car for two American girls I met who couldn't really drive a stick, but rented one anyway. We explored the surrounding countryside, and visited ruins where we had them almost entirely to ourselves with no tourists. It was a great day. I made some local friends in the town and ended up smoking sheeshah and drinking long into the night. Turks know how to have a good time. They love to sing and dance, especially as the drinks pile up. At one point in the evening I was dancing with a man (not a lot of choice in the matter), and then had a back rub from him. I'm pretty sure it's just the way men interact here in the Middle East (a lot more hand holding, etc). That, or I made a REALLY good new friend - I prefer the former option.

Oh, I almost forgot the Circumcision Parade! It seems that Muslim boys around here are circumcised somewhere between 6-10 years old. The week before, the family dresses him up in a fancy costume, puts him on a pony, and leads him at the head of parade throughout the town. His family friends walk behind, playing drums, horns, and clapping. Do you remember that first time your mother brought out those naked baby pictures of yourself to show that girl/guy you really liked, and were just beginning to go out with? Do you remember the embarrassment you felt? Well, picture her inviting the whole neighbourhood to see the pictures, making you wear a little sultan costume, and putting you on a pony. I felt for the kid.

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danayi on

Virgin Water
You should have bottled some for the road

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