Oh, Ephesus, if only the Apostle Paul could see you now, your ancient lanes teeming with people reeking of sunscreen and perhaps a little regret. The tour brochure proclaims the glory of the ancient Turkish ruins but is mum on the inglorious scrum of humanity that moves as one through you.
Mammoth cruise ships bring people here by the thousands. The ships dock in Kusadasi, and load bus after bus for the 8-mile ride through terrain that looks a lot like Napa Valley. Tourists wearing ball caps and wide-brimmed sun hats follow guides with open umbrellas held above the throng. Heaven forbid someone follow the wrong umbrella. Most tourists have round stickers slapped on their shirts to remind them which tour group they are with. Mine is Orange 9.
We walk along Marble Road in front of the Roman Celsus Library (135 A.D.) in tennis shoes and lug-sole sandals, much like I imagine Paul wore, except without the Velcro. The apostle may have been inspired by visits here to write his famous letter to the Ephesians. Some letter, eh? It became the 10th book of the New Testament. The Virgin Mary, too, traveled these same paths. And likely Emperor Hadrian before her.
Tulay the tour guide keeps us moving and corralled. I follow a guy wearing a multicolor plaid shirt and too-tight shorts. He's an Orange 9, too. That's my plan for avoiding getting left to live among the antiquities. I memorize something about the other Orange 9s and stick close. Receding hairlines, bulging backpacks, weird glasses, high-heeled mules (!?), whatever.
The walkways are uneven. People stumble, some regaining their balance by grabbing the person next to them. Others miss and hit the dirt. I keep one eye on shirt-and-shorts guy and the other on the unforgiving path. By the time we get to the Roman Theater, which could hold 25,000 in its day, I am wobbly with worry. Where is Tulay?
Somehow, I lost my guy and was following the wrong umbrella. On a sunny September day in Ephesus there are many men wearing multicolor plaid shirts. And orange can look like red can look like pink under the blazing Turkish sun.
I can say now I visited the ancient ruins at Ephesus. Could I say I've seen them? Only if I lie.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.