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Stephanie March's Istanbul Diary: Modern Ancient Ephesus

by Stephanie March

Stephanie on location in Ephesus.

EPHESUS – My eyes are sticking to my eyelids. It was a very big day.

We met in the lobby at 6:30 a.m. for our 8:30 flight to Izmir for our one-hour drive to Ephesus for our seven-hour tour. I have a pretty consistent schedule on trips like this. Day 1: Getting there. Day 2: Being there. Day 3: Getting there catches up to you. The third day is always the worst: the jet lag, the sleeplessness, the diet. The pictures are good, but the girl is not pretty. I have never chugged so much canned Lipton tea in my whole life.

Here's what I learned today:

1. Ephesus is a sun-broiled ghost town from another millennium. Way back then, its residents enjoyed running water, radiant heating and cooling, and a fully operational sewage system.

2. The theater at Ephesus sat 25,000 people and needed no microphones, as its superior architecture amplified all sound from a sweet spot at the center of the stage.

3. In ancient times, doctors were held in high esteem, and they, in turn, worshipped the goddess Hygeia. Those guys washed their hands.



4. Musicians were employed in the public latrines to play over all sorts of unpleasant sounds.

5. A thriving Jewish population practiced their faith unmolested, as evidenced by the honorary menorah carved into the ancient library.

6. Their sundials still work.

7. I can extrapolate from the above that western "civilization" could have learned a thing or two from the ancients. The Dark Ages were marked by a bunch of unwashed Jesus freaks using the ruins as quarries and forgetting how to read.

8. Sunscreen, a hat, and a parasol are only good for three hours.


Everyone should, at some point in their lives, travel with Chris and Kevin. Get this: They are Harvard-educated doctors who dress like models, engage the guide with all manner of interesting questions, and will, for hours on end, carry your giant purse AND the water AND the guidebook. When they are done with that, they buy you refreshments and help you rate the outfits of other tourists. When they are done with that, they whip out the iPad for group Scrabble. They have been sent to earth from Travel Heaven.

If you think you might make the earlier flight back to Istanbul, you should not do that and you should wade into the Aegean instead. Alas, we learned this too late and spent two useless hours at the Izmir airport.

If you think you left your phone in the hotel and wish you had it for all the picture-taking opportunities throughout the day, you are wrong. That accounts for the attached photo of the raki and Pringles I took at the airport upon discovery of the phone — at 6 p.m. Too late for the agora. Just in time for getting blitzed on anise liquor after a day of tromping through Anatolia.

Stephanie, a Fathom contributing editor, is an actor, activist, and chronic wanderer. You can follow her at @marchstephanie on Twitter and Instagram. She travels for the sheer animal pleasure of seeing something new.

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