Eleven Dollar Gas Anyone? Artemis?

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gladiators, Turkish Baths, a Nature Goddess, Christian missionaries, Storks, and dozens of ruined columns all pointed towards Ephesus, the Asian capital of Rome. At the time, Asia was only a small part of Eastern Turkey, but eventually became the name for the entire continent to the east, with Turkey known as Asia Minor.

As I first roamed around, the storks greeted me as they fed their young up in the aqueduct ruins. Their nests graced many of the ancient ruins, including the one column of the Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient wonders. The nests were fitting, as Artemis was a nature goddess and this was her cult temple, the opposite of Apollo's cult temple at Delphi. They were siblings, with one representing the sun, the other the moon, with one representing masculine traits and civilization and the other representing things more wild and dark yet also nurturing, a symbol of fertility.

Before the Romans settled in Ephesus, Artemis took other forms and other names, because the mother goddess predates her as Cybele in Anatolia (Turkey) and Gaia in Greece. In Rome Artemis, the Greek name, was also called Diana, and the ancient idols still survive today, with some in natural human form and others in more symbolic form, with multiple breasts, signs of the zodiac, and animals, explaining all the aspects of the goddess.

The Roman ruins were extensive, yet for a city of 200,000, only the stone buildings and structures survived as ruins, including the Celsus Library full of literary treasures on parchment and papyrus, a stadium where gladiator fights were held, temples, and homes of the aristocrats. This was where St. John preached and was buried. His tomb is now located at the basilica.

When the Roman Empire became Holy and Constantinople came to be, the Byzantine empire destroyed the Artemis temple and built the Basilica of St. John. Times changed.

Today, things have changed even more, although the streets of Ephesus are equally busy, only with tourists enjoying the ruins. The harbor is long gone, as the river silt has created five more kilometers of land. The siltation of the harbor was a major cause of decline, as the loss of a port meant that trade was hindered.

In Selchuk, the newer, much smaller town, I took a Turkish bath, which included a scrapedown with a woolen mitt to remove dead skin. "I've lost some of my tan," a woman complained afterwards. The bath men also soap you down and give you a rough massage, so the women there all learned how to say "not so hard" in Turkish, while at the same time, the masseuse was slapping some guy upstairs.

Inside the bath, you relax on a marble slab heated from below. For Turkish people, this has a long tradition and is a focal point for interacting.

I left Ephesus by bus, one of many Turkish Mercedes buses. On the buses, the "flight" attendants serve cake or even ice cream and provide tea or coffee and lemon-scented cologne. At regular intervals, we would stop for a toilet or food break and the bus would be washed, again. Toilets were almost a dollar for one visit.

But the big shocker for everyone was that gasoline was over $11 per gallon. I hear that gasoline is now $4 a gallon in America and that people are suffering. But in America people on average make about $40,000 or 1000% more than the average Turk, who makes about the same amount that many Americans budget for fuel.

Somehow American transportation, fuel efficiency, driving solo, and the way cities have been designed did not have high fuel prices in mind, to the detriment of the average person living there, not their fault. I'm told things are changing there based on the changing economics.

How about $11 gas!

Let the Turkish be an inspiration, able to survive with the highest gasoline prices in the world, with much less income, an extremely difficult feat at times to make ends meet, but they make ends meet because their transportation system--buses, trolleys, trams, dolmushes, and more--is designed to get people from place to place, together.

Artemis, the nature goddess, would agree, though she's a goddess so a bus isn't really necessary for her. And does she even exist...anymore?
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