Ephesus, rental cars, McD's, and carpet "schools"

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End Aug 20, 2008

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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Friday, July 11, 2008

We rented a car the night before, which arrived at our hotel at 7:00am for our 3-hour drive north to the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the final house of the Virgin Mary.  Charlie volunteered to drive (I think he was the only one with his license when we rented the car), and assured us he was a good was good with a stick.  After about 3 minutes of "driving", we had not yet discovered first gear, stalled a couple times going on a busy hill, and almost resigned to returning the car.  Luckily, Lauren jumped in, realized that what we thought was reverse was actually first and, after dodging some kamikaze dogs, we were on our way. 
We didn't get a chance to grab breakfast and didn't see any convenient places to stop along the way (e.g., no places with English writing). Finally, about 2 hours into our trip on a long stretch of road, like an oasis in the desert, we see the golden arches...although we had managed to avoid McD's during our trip, this was like manna from heaven.  Refueled and re-energized, we made the final push and found Ephesus.
The best way to see Ephesus is to park in the main lot and then get a ride to the top of the town (about 2 miles away) and walk back down through the ruins so that you end up at your car.  After parking in the main lot, we were shown to a free shuttle service, provided by the local "school".  In order to use the service, on the way, you stop at the school for a quick tour of the facilities and "students".  This being Turkey, the school was none other than a carpet factory, and the students were women in their mid-20s.  It was pretty humorous listening to the people trying to make loose connections between selling carpets and the school's education value.  The only thing they teach is carpet making. 
When asked about opinion about one particular rug, Lauren and I both blurted out contradicting stories at the exact same moment.  I said that we lived with my parents, while Lauren said that we lived in a very small apartment.  Having decided that he had more room to work with Lauren's answer, the salesmen replied, "we have very small carpets", and we were shown to the small carpet room.  We still managed to get out in under 15 minutes, but while we waited for the shuttle to arrive to bring us to the top, I went back in to use the bathroom.  To my surprise, I found the "teachers" and "students" hanging out having coffee and cigarettes.  They looked surprised, but didn't even attempt to continue the charade at this point.
After finally getting to the ruins of Ephesus itself, it was amazing.  We rented audiotours and Charlie did his best impersonation of Warren from Something About Mary (see 'have you seen my baseball' pictures).  The ancient ruins are still in great shape, and it's easy to imagine what the original city looked like thousands of years ago. 
A couple miles from Ephesus is the final house that the Mary lived in.  The house is small and humble, and has been reconstructed.  We were not allowed to take pictures, and while the physical site itself was not spectacular, the notion of actually seeing where the mother of Jesus lived was overwhelming.  There were many people praying and offering their respects and it was a very powerful scene for me.
Driving in Turkey is pretty intense, and although we managed to escape our entire day trip without incident, we were not so lucky in the 5 minute cab from town to our hotel.  We are racing down a narrow street, while another cab is racing directly at us....Christie actually says that there is no way were are going to both fit, and she is quickly proven right.  The sides of the cars hit and the sideview mirror shatters, sending shrapnel all over the car (including on us in the back seat).  The drivers exchange about 5 words (not heated) and then continue on their way.  Our driver drops us off, and never even acknowledges the incident.  Apparently, it's not that big a deal.
 It's around 7:00pm now, and since the parents had gone out for dinner (the hotel owners), we decided to break out our own booze and have a little party in our room.  Efes beer, vodka, OJ, iPod, travel speakers and about 12 ice cubes makes for a happening evening.  After our party, we head into town with big aspirations, but after dinner (pizza and beers) and cigars, it's around midnight and we lose steam fast.  Charlie and Christie have an early ferry the next morning so we call it a night...our cab driver home is the same guy from earlier (but with a different car this time).  We have a couple laughs about making sure he doesn't kill us and make it home ok.
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