Ephesus, and a list


Ways that we know we’re in Turkey and not California:


+Minarets top the skyline;


+Calls to prayer from those minarets throughout the day;


+Dark hair and only dark hair on women;


+Scarves on most women to hide that dark hair;


+Hookahs in bars. I told Liam and Dolora that I want to try one of those for the cultural experience and they both threatened to leave me;


+Toilets: This is its own subcategory:

a. Don’t put toilet paper in the toilets (same in Greece). That’s right, put it in the basket.

b. We’ve seen our first squat toilets.

c. Weak flushing action;

d. The small reservoir of water in the toilet basin is angled in such a way as to catch nothing. Hence, the toilet brush becomes your best friend;

e. Is this getting disgusting yet?

f.  Now here’s something unique to Turkish toilets: There’s a thin metallic pipe about two inches long that juts out beneath the seat. I presume it shoots out water but I haven’t gotten onto my knees to inspect it. Do I need to?


+Ok, getting away from toilets… Dogs and cats: Lots and lots of stray cats prowling the streets and reclining on hot stones in lascivious positions like Odalisque. And dogs, lots and lots of stray dogs that are no menace at all, that just walk by and look up at me with old grandpa eyes. They don’t bark or snarl, which leads me to wonder if leashes turn mellow creatures into Spartans and Huns and Ottomites and Christian Crusaders. (You know I’ve been in this part of the world too long when I start coming up with those similes.) Leashes imprison a dog, informs them that they are beasts in need of restraint or they’ll go berserk.


Who cares, move on.


+Merchants in the sidewalk stalls are slightly more aggressive. “No” and a smile apparently means “Hey, please invite me in 20 more times because I’m in the market for a 15-pound rug to tote on my back around the world.”


+Men gather at night to watch soccer and smoke from hookahs.


+Ah, yes, a big one: The blue eye. It’s everywhere, this blue circular glass in the image of an eye that is embedded in the cement around businesses to ward off evil. We’ve also seen this eye on the back of trucks and in the pins that some people wear on their lapels.


+Tea: Men carry a specialized tray that holds a half dozen glasses of tea in hourglass shapes. And they seem to be drinking tea all day long.


+Diesel fumes from cars.


+Massage chairs front and center at hotels. I scoffed at them until I tried one yesterday. For a mere fifty cents I fell in love.


+Rolling hills of olive trees.


+Men’s haircuts that includes a mud mask. Yes, a mud mask.


+Men, especially older men, walking arm in arm down the street.


+Women who bend at the waist, not at the knees.


+Fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice.




+The Turkish flag: red background with a white crescent moon and a star.


+People working crazy long hours—like 8am until 10pm, with a longer break at lunch.


+Olives and spicy feta for breakfast.


+At roadside stands that sell honey, the merchant flips the jar a few times and then opens it up, extending the upturned lid for you to run your finger through the honey for a taste.


+Haggling over the price of everything, including the price for a hotel room.


Okay, enough of that. A five-minute recap of our yesterday: We drove to the ruins at Ephesus, these incredible vast remains of the Roman outpost about 2200 years ago. This was no small village. The estimate is 250,000 people once lived here, with only Alexandria a larger city. These ruins included a theater for 25,000; a library, where the first parchment books were made; a marble street that went down to the harbor; the interior of houses with detailed mosaics of Poseidon on the floor and frescoes of birds and olive branches; public toilets for 40 at a time, a gathering place for your morning poop and a debate about Caesar vs. Alexandra (crucial side note: their toilet paper was a sponge on a stick). Dolora just said, “I could dig that. What a nice social thing to do, looking out at the mountains with the water running through. I could chat with Andrea and Carolyn about the auction.”


While we were sitting in the theater a group of Americans from Arkansas climbed up the stairs and sat down. One man stood and gave a sermon. He preached the usual—about the evils of idolatry, about the one true God, about Jesus and Mary and Paul coming to this city to convert the pagans to Christianity—and then they started to sing. It was all very intrusive on the experiences the rest of us were trying to have—here in this Muslim country, here in this city that prayed to myriad gods.


Perhaps those happy young Christians from Arkansas soured us on entering the house where the Virgin Mary is reputed to have lived and died. The story is that a nun in the 19th century had a vision that on this mountaintop, a thousand miles from Jerusalem at a time when Ephesus may as well have been Mars, Mary came for her retirement years. Really? I had a vision last night in my dreams that Moses lived in a hut along the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, selling chestnuts and rooting for the Cleveland Browns. Any chance we could get some pilgrimages going there.


As usual, more to say but off we go….



  1. Patrick

    Don’t forget to visit the area where Sarah Palin claims Jesus used to gather the crowds and listen to them tell him about how important Easter was to them. (google it if you need a laugh). Great post.

  2. Lainie

    Didn’t know if I could reach you by regular e-mail or not: Rachel had her baby, a baby girl, named Kinsale Kathleen Walsh, October 17th.

    • Jim Toner

      Jim Toner

      Wow, how great. Let the great world spin!

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