Friday, June 13, 2008

Traveling in Turkey Three: Ephesus and the Culture of Money

For those of you who may not know, Benepe means "Ben" "epe", or in Latin, "good sword." The name is apt, because it describes Benepe as the writer, whose pen is sharp.

But sometimes that pen can be a poison sword, and perhaps such was the case in describing my experience in Yalikavak in "Cycling in Turkey part two." Maybe I was pissed because in one of his more compulsive moments my host called me "Bush."

I mean for Christ-sakes, not only did we not vote for the no-good, oil-hungry BS artist, we still believe he stole the first election, and slid into the second based on mis-truths to the American public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

With his talk of redemption and war on Iraq that in reality just snuffed out the lives of 4,000 more young Americans for the purpose of gaining control over the Middle East's oil production.

Tiggy Travels is all about cycling, and 45,000 people were killed on the roads BY CARS in the U.S. in 2007. That oil and our dependence on car travel, is feeding the deaths of Americans. Me "Bush?"

Also imagine an independent New Yorker, Wharton international finance MBA, investigative journalist, spending two weeks in a traditional society, with a traditional host, and all sorts of issues come to mind.

For one, American women like to retain their independence.

But in Turkey, I was able to eat for free and live for free until week two, when the whole scheme came to an end because of events beyond anyone's control--perhaps even the economy is to blame.

My lament in Turkey Travels Part Two! was about getting used to being treated for everything. Suddenly I found myself in a twisted knot of feminist hypocrisy.

Here's a pick-up of the rant from last week. A restaurant run by a very portly, moneyed businessman who came to visit his underlings with great pomp and circumstance, and then left without giving any of them a wage for all the time they had been working. My friend quit on principle, a great idea. Except that his strike did not cause any immediate change. It was then that we decided there was no point in hanging around Yalikavak, and it was better to strike out for parts unknown (at least to me). A great idea, because I was getting bored with the routine of going to the beach every day.

Back Story: A couple of week's later, the landlord, who happens to be the Turkish government because the restaurant is situated next to one of the ancient windmills--kicked out the portly businessman, whose sidekick fled to Istanbul with all the cash in his pocket--with still no money to the workers. Overnight, a new team was put in.

Yes, Yalikavak is a truly dreamy place. Perhaps "paradise" as my host called it, but with the restaurant in the doldrums, we decided then to go to Ephesus.

Why Ephesus? It is one of the most beautiful and historic places on earth, some of which happen to be on the coastline.

We took off early one morning on one of those fabulous buses that Turkey is so famous for. If ONLY America had such buses! For a two to four hour trip you pay hardly anything and sit in luxurious comfort, with water and snacks served by a wonderful bus-man (never a woman), while beautiful, lilting Turkish folk songs are piped over the loudspeakers.

At the rest stops we ate delicious fast food, prepared by local people and served in the bus stop shops.

There really is no reason to go by private car, because you might also lose your way. Also in Turkey, it is more of a hassle to drive than to be driven.
My father, Barry Benepe believes this as well, which is one of the reasons I love him so much. He takes public transportation everywhere in the U.S. and around the world. He does not even drive a car from the city to his country home near Woodstock. I fully ascribe to this, and I was delighted to know that my host was similarly inclined--what a bonus!!! Plus, I do not believe in cars--I believe in bikes and mass transit. WAY TO GO!

Each big luxury bus has a man who offers water, drinks and snacks along the way--it's pure heaven!

We first bused to Bodrum, got the luxury bus there, then on to Soke, (pronounced So-kay) and from Soke to Kuşadası (pronounced Kush-A-dashee, where we caught a cab to the top of the mountain in Ephesus where Mary, mother of Christ was accompanied by Joseph after Jesus was killed.

It was a beautiful place, filled with deciduous green trees, with a constant breeze, and a coolness that belied the awful heat in the surrounding area.

There was a natural water spring where tourists quenched their parched lips,

and a wishing wall, where they left messages in paper tissue, fragile colored shards of hope, love and life.

Later we descended to the Ephesus historical site, the ancient city of Anatolia dating back to 1500 BC.

Surrounded by great patches of glorious red poppies and a burning sun, the ancient city offered up a glimpse into the past where the seven churches of Asia laid, referred to in the Book of Revelation, and allegedly where the Gospel of John may have written.

We saw not only the ancient arches and carved stones, but multiple languages cut into the stones; the remains of a huge bath house and a huge bathroom where people presumably all let go together,
with toilet seats cut into the stone, visited by a nonchalant cat with Egyptian eyes, and the Anatolian version of Broadway leading down to the Temple of Artemis. Also discovered in 1954 was a burial ground from the Mycenaean era (1500-1400 BC)

I snapped two Turkish girls walking down the stone laid avenue with their iPods, wearing coordinating black clothing, seemingly immune to the history that surrounded them, as if they really were on Broadway. I told them through EM that they could be hip-hoppers walking down Broadway in New York, but they didn't get it.

This is what Wikipedia says about the site:

The Greek goddess Artemis and the great Anatolian goddess Kybele were identified together as Artemis of Ephesus. The many-breasted "Lady of Ephesus", identified with Artemis, was venerated in the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the largest building of the ancient world according to Pausanias (4.31.8). Pausanius mentions that the temple was built by Ephesus, son of the river god Caystrus. [7] before the arrival of the Ionians. Of this structure, scarcely a trace remains.

The Temple of Artemis was glorious, it's hand carved columns rising elegantly to frame it's golden pink interior. Outside, workers were preparing a dinner to be held for heads of state amongst the ruins.
Largely because I lack forethought and partly because of the heat,we did not engage a tour, but you can rent audio tours which are apparently quite good.

When we reached the ampitheater--one of the biggest in the world--a group of Asian tourists gathered and began to sing a chorus, their beautiful voices lifting into the historic hills around us.

Finally we visited one of the old churches, completely in ruins, and most likely the site of many amorous adventures today. A large group of Japanese tourists found us sitting alone in the back and eyed us suspiciously.

After Ephesus we took a horse and buggy to Selcuk, (Cell-chook): the driver was talking on his cellphone! Once in town, and after some deliberation, we went off to the wine town in the hills called Sirince (syren-chee).

There we saw beautiful handicrafts made by local artisans and had what I thought was one of the best meals ever in Turkey, which included a plateful of Turkish dumpplings in yogurt sauce sprinkled with their wonderful hot pepper flakes.

As the sun set over the mountain, we saw beautiful roses and new baby kittens, old ladies knitting with knotted fingers, and pink ceramic rooftops reminiscent of the small Italian towns tucked into hilltops.

We returned to Selcuk with the setting sun down a vertiginous road, and grabbed the last small bus to a town along the coast where more Turkish tourists flock in the summer, to Urkmez. But that is the subject of Turkey Trip 4--- More later!!!


Jen Benepe said...

This post was edited by the author due to sensitivities of some of the people mentioned. I stand by my words, but there is a cultural as well as language issue and I don't wish my friends to misconstrue my intent, which is to elevate, educate, entertain, and perhaps poke fun at all of us, including myself. I apologize to my other readers for lack of total candor, for that you will have to wait for my novel!

Matthew said...

Excellent reading! I am inspired...

Anonymous said...

hey jen, how you doing! michael levitin here, from your j-school years (specifically, if i remember correctly, radio class?) i'm in berlin, living here the last several years, and glancing at your blog i thought you might want to do a feature sometime on how this city has become a bike-crazy mecca for young two-wheel fanatics. part of what's fueled the city's rise to the top of the "cool" pile in Europe is its amazing accessibility by bike, its biker friendliness, its general freedom-induced-by-biking atmosphere. i, like almost everyone i know, live on my bicycle, taking the metro only a handful of times a year. not many major european - or generally western - capitals can be so proud about the health of their citizens and the light ecological footprint left by a bike-happy culture.
anyway, if you want to pursue down the road, let me know, i'm around here. just thought, as this is your theme numero uno, you may want to check out the idea. hope you're well, stay safe on the turkey adventure!