I hear her whisper to herself – “Isn’t it just beautiful.” And let out a sigh of amazement. I follow her sight line and looked at the columns and ruins. I rub my eyes and try to refocus and free my mind – but I have nothing.
“I can see it, don’t you see it?” she continues staring at the outline of ruins from thousands of years ago. The frustration in me grows as the sun turns up the heat to “Scorching”. I look around at my fellow travelers who were joyously pondering other worlds and the ancient architecture of thousand of years ago. I try to squint, I try to free my mind, I try, I try, I try – but I just see rocks.
I have a short list of things that I wish I could change about myself – fluency in another language, the ability and enthusiasm for skiing, and an interest in ancient history and ruins. But all of these things continue to elude me. I am in awe of people who have these skills, interests, and abilities though.
So on my 2nd trip to Ephesus, one of the most famous ruins in the world and probably the biggest tour attraction in Turkey, I find myself frustrated yet again. I just see a bunch of columns and rocks scattered around. There is an arch or two still standing, an impressive outline of a building, and if I squint I can see a column-lined road. I try to imagine merchants, villagers, and slaves around this area going about their daily business, but all I see are tourists. Thousands of tourists who literally just got off the boat…the cruise ship.
Instead of focusing on our tour guide, Yenner, telling us about the life of ancient residents and slaves – I find myself completely distracted by the tourists. They come in large waves dutifully following a man with a numbered paddle and they all wear stickers on their shirts with a matching number as if they are sheep with the marking of their Sheppard. I look at us and Yenner and realize in a way I’m doing the same thing.
Instead of examining the columns and ancient markings I’m examining what the tourists are wearing and how the different people are interacting. A woman expresses disapproval of her husband’s behavior (for spitting). I intently watch a teenager get reprimanded in a language foreign to me for climbing on something she shouldn’t have. I study the look of awe on people’s faces as the sea the library. I analyze the tour guides and wonder how they can do this same talk day after day after day in this oppressive heat herding tourists around. I wonder how much they are paid. I wonder where else these tour groups have been cruising to doing excursions. I wonder where the money for the ticket price goes.
But what I’m clearly NOT focusing on is the ancient ruins, period, and the people who lived in Ephesus. It’s painfully clear to me that I’m not interested in ruins and stories of people I can’t see. I’m more interested in the people I can see and observe and interact with – right here, right now. I enjoy present day sociology.
It’s time to accept it.
You can’t force yourself to appreciate or love something. And you certainly shouldn’t like something just because everyone else does or says you should. So for my second time at Ephesus, I decided to exercise my freedom of choice and when everyone else had free time to go observe the ruins and the hillside houses, I just sat in the shade took some notes and watched the tourists interact. Ruins – they just aren’t my thing. But photographing them…well that’s another story…
For those people can appreciate ruins and want to actually learn more about Ephesus and visit it one day, then here’s some more information on Ephesus.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Intrepid Travel on my travels through Turkey, but all of the opinions expressed here are my own!