02 October 2003 Thursday - Ephesus - 113 Photos

Today was a Biblical day. We started out visiting the home of the Virgin Mary, at least as far as some people are concerned. Somehow, through the various scriptures, they deduced that Mary lived out the rest of her days with James the Just, brother of Jesus. Apparently, scholars knew that James lived near Ephesus, and then some woman in Germany had a revelation and was able to describe the location of James' and Mary's house, describing the Ephesus area perfectly, even though she had never been out of Germany. Based on her insights, they launched an expedition and discovered the house, just where she said it would be. They found the remains of an old home and church, plus probably some more inscriptions. It was all described in a plaque at the site.

Anyway, we visited there.

After that, we visited the ancient city of Ephesus, commercial center of the ancient world. There was an enormous temple to the goddess Artemis. It also had a very big library, which was cool. This is also the city where the Apostle Paul visited, tried to incite people to join Christianity, and promptly got tossed in the slammer.

Mete said the prison was closed to the public.  There was a beautiful Roman Theater

where you could see the prison where they kept Paul.

They kept him in prison for six months or something, but they eventually freed him. The site also had the usual cool carvings,

including carved columns,


and a wonderful library, which Mete said was one of the biggest in the ancient world, second only to the famous Library of Alexandria, which was one of the wonders of the ancient world.

One of the curious rooms was a public restroom, where there were multiple toilets for the ancient citizens to use.

After lunch, we visited the Byzantine Basilica of Saint John,

the dude who wrote the Gospel according the John and also the book of Revelations.

We saw John's grave site,

and also the room where he did a lot of writing.

Sitting on a hill above the site, there was a very cool Selcuk castle, but we didn’t go inside.

On the way to St. John's, we drove by one of the churches of the Apocalypse. Mete said something about there being only

When we got back to Kusadasi, we had Mete drop us off at the far end of town, and we walked through the local bazaar, where we bought some things. Kathy bought a purse, and I bought a leather vest. We walked back to the hotel.

Previously, we had invited Mete to join us for a good fish dinner, however fish is expensive and we offered to pay. Mete came up with a perfect solution. We went back to the other end of town, where there was a fish market, and he picked out a good sized fish, which he called a "Lagos" and he said it was the best fish that money can buy.

It only cost us 35 million Turkish Lira (about 25 dollars) but it would have cost us five times that if we bought it at the restaurant, rather than buying it at the fish market. We learned later (at another restaurant) that it was a grouper. We paid the fish seller to clean the fish and cut it into portions, then another man walked our fish to a restaurant (as required by law), and we paid the restaurant a nominal fee to cook it. The fish was excellent, some of the best fish I've ever tasted. So we drank beer (a Turkish beer called Efes Pilsner) ate fish and talked all night. It was a lot of fun.

We talked about politics throughout the trip, not just at dinner. Every so often, while we were driving, we would get into a political discussion. Mete would ask us a question, like whether Americans perceive Turkey to be a middle-east third-world country, like Syria, or whether they view it as a European country like Greece. I expected it to be more Eastern, but it's a lot more Westernized and European than I ever expected. It's a lot like Greece, with very friendly people and very modern attitudes. In some places, like Konya or Eastern Turkey, the people are more conservative, like the scorpions Mete pointed out, but in most places we visited, it was very European, and even the girls walked the streets in modern stone-washed Levi jeans and shirts so short that their bellies showed, as is the fashion.

Eventually the conversation would turn to politics, and we would tell Mete that the fanatics, like Bin Laden, have really hurt Islam very badly, because now many Americans (and the rest of the world) are blaming Islam for the world's problems-the terrorism, the bad economy, etc., and of course, they are wrong. You can't blame Islam for the problems, because, like Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster or any of the religious figureheads, Mohammed taught good things (from what I've gathered by talking to the people) and not violence. Everyone we talked to agreed that the terrorists were very bad people and they're hurting the religion of Islam. Do they really think that killing and hurting innocent people will win people to their cause or promote their religion?

So with all this in mind, while we were eating, I asked Mete this question: In the eyes of these scorpions, if their beliefs are correct, why does Allah bestow all the wonderful blessings on the United States? He surmised that they would say America's wealth comes from the rich Jews who are pulling the political puppet-strings of the United States. I told him that ordinary American citizens are not Jews, we are almost all Christians, and in general, we don't care about the Jews. To ordinary citizens, it seems like the United State is intervening and trying to help the general peace. For example, in the first Gulf War, the war started because Saddam invaded Kuwait. America stepped in and kicked them out, so what is their natural response? As absurd as it seems, Saddam's response was to lob some missiles into Israel! As a result, Israel wanted to pour missiles down upon the people of Iraq, possibly with nuclear weapons, but the United States intervened, telling Israel that they should not respond. This is a prime example of the United States helping to protect Arabs from Israel. So, I asked, why do they see us as the enemy?

Then I made up a scenario: To the people of the United States, acts of terrorism, like the attacks on September 11, 2001, seem not only wrong, but also extremely absurd. We can visualize some Arab man saying, "Hey, these Israelis are really bad guys, so let's go kill some Americans and we'll really show them!" If they hate Israelis, why don't they spend their energy bombing them, rather than us? I suppose some would argue they do. And of course, to the scorpions, the friend of my enemy is also my enemy. It just seems to me that these people don't value human life, and that is wrong.

We've had other similar discussions throughout our trip. One time, I pointed out that fanatical Christians don't kill innocent people to make a point. Fanatical Buddists don't kill innocent people either, and neither do fanatical Hindus or any other religion. Only Muslims seem to do this evil thing. In my mind, I wanted to ask with some measure of indignation, "In the Topkapi palace, I saw the holy sword of Mohammed. Now what kind of Prophet carries a sword? What kind of example is that? Jesus taught the people to love their enemies," but I held my tongue because Mete was our friend.

Mete told us that during Mohammed's lifetime, there was a lot of political strife, and there were always groups of people trying to conquer his Muslim people. Periodically, armies would come in, conquer a city, and then take their land, eat their food and rape their women. The people asked Mohammed what to do, and he told them to not be violent. However, after this had happened several times, Mohammed finally said enough is enough, and he changed the law and told the people that they could fight back, thus the concept of a holy war, but only if your land is occupied and your women are being raped, etc. However, just like the Bible, the Koran is interpreted a thousand different ways by a thousand different people, and the people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. That's what our discussions were sometimes like.

We didn't always talk about politics and religion. Sometimes, we talked about men and women and the differences between them. For example, you may recall that Mete told us that he is a hunter. One time he told us that, as a hunter, when he opens up a birthday present, the very best gift he could receive was a box of bullets for his rifle. Nothing brings as big a smile, or such a feeling of delight as that box of bullets. But of course, his wife doesn't see a box of bullets as an ideal gift to give him. Kathy and I have a similar thing going: my ideal gift is a compact disc (CD) and Kathy doesn't like to give them. And so we laughed and celebrated our differences and our similarities.