So, on the way back north from our beach vacation at Bodrum, Sevket let slip the fact that we would be closely passing by Efes, or Ephesus as it was known to the Roman Empire. I’m an ancient history and archaeology buff from way back; in fact when I was a little girl I thought I’d grow up to be an archaeologist ((either that or a zoo veterinarian; never did I imagine myself as a lawyer! lol). So there was no way that I could sit on a bus and bypass the chance to see Ephesus!
We weren’t exactly at the entrance to the site and had to walk quite a way. I was not in good walking shoes since I’d only been planning a few days R&R at a beach resort and almost immediately came up with bloody blisters. We found a shop that sold athletic shoes and found a couple of pairs that would fit me, one white with navy accents and one pink. Sevket liked the white ones best. I later discovered that he had had his eyes on them for himself, because we wore the same size and because I had athletic shoes at home in Istanbul. Anyway, the white and navy ones it was.
When we finally got to Efes, the searing sun and heat had just about vanquished both of us. In the parking lot for the tourist buses, vendors were hawking cold bottle of water. We got several, and I remember Sevket using one to douse his head with. Good idea! It was high summer and high tourist season, so Efes was crowded and hot. Nonetheless it was a wonderful experience to be within its precincts, just as I’d imagined for so many years.
Wikipedia has this to say about Ephesus, in part:
“[Ephesus] was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates, Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor after Sardis and Alexandria Troas.
The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed or damaged in a raid by the Goths. It may have been rebuilt or repaired but this is uncertain, as its later history is not clear. Emperor Constantine the Great rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. Following the Edict of Thessalonica from EmperorTheodosius I, what remained of the temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom. The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. The city’s importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Küçükmenderes River.
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation.The Gospel of John may have been written here.The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils (see Council of Ephesus). It is also the site of a large gladiators‘ graveyard. The ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction….”
And of course Paul’s epistles to the Ephesians were addressed to the people at Ephesus.
My favorite photo is the last one, in which I’m holding up an ancient column. LOL It was really remarkable to me here at Efes, as well as at other historical sites in Turkey, how basically unprotected from tourist intrusion the monuments are. I suppose that will change; but on the other hand, everything has lasted this long following a laissez-faire method, and it is great to be able to actually touch these ruins! I was especially impressed by the facade of the ancient library. The Romans were renowned for their establishment of libraries around the Empire. In fact, one of the largest was at Pergamum, which featured in my post, “I Used To Live In Istanbul…Part One.”
The great library at Ephesus:
We also went together to see Sevket’s favorite futbol (soccer) team, Fenerbahce, play at their huge stadium. Futbol is such a much bigger sport in Turkey (as in Europe), than it is in the US. I really enjoyed myself, even though there were very few other women there. The thing I particularly enjoyed was how the entire stadium of fans (largely home team fans–the away team fans were in a separate section guarded by riot police!) would sing and chant in unison during the entire match. There were also huge bass drums being played in the stands and during one of the matches I attended there was one in the balcony right above me that gave me a pounding headache!
Before I knew it, Ramadan (or Ramazan, as it’s spelled in Turkey) was upon us. Our upstairs neighbors invited us to “iftar,” the meal at the end of the day’s fasting. It was delicious!
We also went out at night to celebrate Ramadan and have iftar at a restaurant with some friends of mine from Tomer, the language school I had attended in June. There is a real carnival atmosphere at night during Ramadan in the old city, to which we lived very close.
After Ramadan, things seemed to go downhill for Sevket and me, which brings me to the final two sections about my life in Istanbul: Musings and Outtakes.
Sevket and I initially met up through an online dating site, Turkish Personals. After having known and visited the late Cem Ozcan in 2001-2002, I was intrigued by the thought of returning to Turkey to stay and by the thought of having a committed relationship with a Turkish man. So after corresponding and chatting for many months, Sevket and I took the plunge and arranged for me to go visit him to see how we liked each other.
Although Sevket was a “Westernized” and university-educated Turk who wasn’t an observant Muslim, and although I considered myself an open-minded non-ugly American, who was also a non-practicing Christian, we still had cultural differences that caused us some friction. When we first met in April 2006, Sevket started out doing all the cooking our first few days at the pansiyon on Cunda Adasi. I was thrilled with this and considered this to be his norm. I myself am not a very domesticated woman, having spent my life in academic and artistic endeavors to the exclusion of accomplishments in the home arts. Finally Sevket asked me, after several days, if I was ever going to cook. So I started cooking. And that’s why, when I returned in early May, I brought along ten packets of McCormick’s chili seasoning, so that I would be able to make at least one familiar and foolproof meal. As the months went by, I turned into a full-time cook and also did most of the cleaning, although not all of it, to give Sevket his due.
This transformation into something pretty close to a housewife was not at all pleasing to me. I also didn’t understand why Sevket would leave me alone in our apartment without letting me know where he was going or when he would be back. Later I discovered that this was just a normal way for Turkish men to behave. But it wasn’t normal for me. I felt isolated in the apartment, although I did go out everyday to shop and to walk. One of my favorite walks was down to the Marmara Sea, to see the ancient sea walls and to walk along the seaside park and picnic areas. My upstairs neighbor lady also invited me to run with a group of Turkish women each morning, but my knees weren’t up for that.
Another issue between Sevket and me was our age difference. Although he never actually did own up to his real age, I’m certain that I was about twice his age. I was in my fifties and he was in his late twenties, at best. My third husband (an American) had also been much younger than me, by over 18 years, so I was familiar with some of the problems that Sevket and I might encounter. But one problem was that Sevket refused to acknowledge that there was any issue at all with our age difference. He would say, “Age is just a number.” I’ve heard that a lot in my life and while I do think there is some truth to the saying, I also believe that it obscures much that is real. For example, when a woman such as myself is so much older than her partner, she gets a lot of strange looks from people, which is not pleasant. Although I could by and large ignore other people’s looks and their assumptions about us, still it put a bit of a strain on me.
But probably the biggest problem for me in living in Turkey was my failure to learn the language, which kept me apart from the community. If I had been ten or twenty years younger I think I could have caught on to Turkish, which is admittedly a difficult tongue. I noticed at Tomer, the language school I attended for a month, that everyone else in the class was much younger and that they could retain vocabulary from day-to-day that simply eluded me. It would have helped if I could have continued in school. It also would have helped a lot if I had not been so shy with Sevket and been more willing to try to speak Turkish with him instead of relying on him to speak English with me.
I wonder these days what it would be like to be an American living in Turkey now, even in the great metropolitan city of Istanbul. Turkey has become more conservative and nationalistic and more observant of Islam. When I was there, at least half of the women I saw, even in my fairly conservative working-class neighborhood, dressed Western-style. I did notice a few more women in full black hijab in 2006 than I had in 2001-2002. During my earlier stay, I got a lot of questions about why the US had invaded Afghanistan. When I returned in 2006, the war in Iraq was added to that equation. However, except for a very few of Sevket’s most radical friends, no one held me responsible for the actions of my native country, for which I was grateful, since I couldn’t entirely explain them even to my own satisfaction.
I found Turkey and the Turks to be so very beautiful and so warm and welcoming. I wish I could have stayed forever, but it was not to be. Maybe I’ll get to return again someday. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with an outtake or two..
My American expat friend Collette, an English teacher, invited Sevket and me to join her and her friend at a dinner house that also provided traditional entertainment such as belly dancing (called Oriental dancing there). We got there too late to sit in the main room and watch the dancer. Instead we had a private table on the rooftop, which to me was even better. We could see the lights of Istanbul spread out around us, and we ate by candlelight. Later, we went downstairs and continued our evening of drinking pretty massive quantities of wine and the Turkish national drink, raki, a hard liquor that appears to be a clear liquid that turns white when you add water to it. It is usually drunk along with cheeses and melons. Sevket and I partook of lots of raki in clubs and cafes and restaurants around Istanbul. So here is what happened that fateful night that we were out with Collette: I was persuaded to get up and try to dance Eastern-style. What a disaster! LOL When we got back to the table, both Collette and Sevket were in tears from laughing so hard!
Then there are a few miscellaneous photos I want to include.. This was from an evening when Sevket and I joined some of my friends from language school to watch Sufi dancers. Unfortunately my camera wasn’t good enough to capture the dancers in the low lighting conditions:
Also, I wanted to include this photo of Sevket with his old schoolmate at their old school in Bursa:
That’s it, folks! That’s a precis of my life in Istanbul, in three parts.. Hope you enjoyed it!