Walking through Ephesus last Sunday (we can do that freely now that we have our Museum Cards) we couldn’t help but speculate on why people visit the site. Certainly it is impressive – a huge and partially restored Roman City of some importance. It is also well known thanks to the Biblical references, the fact that it’s on the Paul Trail and that it is generally well publicised by travel agencies and tour reps. People have heard of Ephesus, but that doesn’t explain why they want to go.
Oh, those who are into their biblical tourism or archaeological tourism or Roman history will find it fascinating. But those, I think, are the same people who also go to less frequented sites. And, with the massive crowds in Ephesus, they are in a minority.
We understand that Ephesus is convenient for the cruise ships that stop at Kuşadası. Those cruise ship tourists are not necessarily interested in Roman history although they do tour Ephesus in droves. Hilary was told recently that 80% of the tourists in Ephesus come from the cruise ships. This is probably inaccurate because a significant number come from organised overland tours, but it remains true to say that the vast majority come from highly organised tours.
A lot of people come to Kuşadası for sun, sex and booze (we have the sand in Pamucak and few of them make it this far, unless they’re on the jeep tour but that’s a different story). Perhaps they do Ephesus to add some ‘culture’ into the heady mix. But why do they feel the need to add that ‘culture’?
It looks like there are plans to increase the number of tourists going to Ephesus. Already there are people wandering around in Roman costume along with a couple of wooden constructions. On Pamucak beach are a couple of mock galleys, and there are plans to dredge the channel up to Ephesus harbour. This dredging may take a while and there are two road bridges which would need to be raised plus, once near the harbour the dredging may slow as archaeologists get interested in what may be found. The term Theme Park Ephesus starts to spring to mind. But what sort of tourist would be interested in sitting on a mock galley for an hour or so as it travels up a newly dredged channel, quite possibly to be greeted by mock stalls staffed by people in Roman costume?
We are interested in history. Oh, strictly amateur but both of us have been heard to say that if we had our time again we might well want to be archaeologists. We love crawling through ruined sites, trying to make sense of them. We often reserve the guidebook to be read after we’ve formed our own impressions. So, we guess, we don’t always know exactly what we’re looking at. I think, though, that we do know what to look for, and mostly get it right.
The questions remain…. What do people get out of their trip to Ephesus? Why do they go? What do they find enjoyable? And why don’t the vast majority go to the very many other, equally wonderful, sites around Turkey?