Thursday, August 13, 2009


Well, here’s an interesting fact I didn’t entirely know about myself before this trip: Tour guides annoy me.

In Athens, I had a taxi driver who took me to all the sights, told me all about them on the way there, and then dropped me off, leaving me to explore them at my own pace and see what I did and did not care about.

On my shore excursion to Ephesus, I was with a tour guide who took our group of 17 through the site -- walking ahead with a silver umbrella, talking for awhile while we all gathered around him, and then set off again for the next point. If we tried to stop for a photo (which took more than just a moment, as other people were often standing where one needed to be, having their own Kodak moment), we ran the risk of losing sight of the silver umbrella completely. There were really only two times when we had any time on our own -- while our guide was doing some paperwork, he gave us all ten minutes to explore the ancient latrines at our leisure; and, at the end, ten minutes to poke around the Celsius Library and make our way out (the “making our way out” part took a good three or four minutes off the total).

Let me try to context this out for you. Ephesus was once the site of the second largest city in the Roman Empire (the first being, y’know, Rome). It has been substantially excavated and restored over the years, so there’s quite a lot to see -- the main road, the agora, the theatre, the odeon, 7 private homes, the Library (which is the most impressive facade in the place), the baths, the latrine, and so forth. And we had the very most free time to look at the john. I’ll be honest with you -- I took some pictures in there as I was fairly impressed with the Romans’ solution to the problem of human waste. But this was nothing compared to the pictures I WANTED to take at the Celsius library -- which I pretty much had to run through, taking a few snaps, and figuring I’d look at the pictures in more detail later. Bottom line, I haul my ass all the way to Turkey to see the ruins at Ephesus, I want to spend my time taking them in at my own pace, not listening to my tour guide endlessly repeat the facts he thinks are important (my tour guide was a moonlighting schoolteacher -- this explained much) and running after him.

Others in my group probably had a different opinion -- I expect some found what he had to tell us to be quite enlightening. I just found myself wishing I’d had the option to rent the little audio tour (the one that lets you listen to prerecorded info about whichever building you’re wondering) and just meet him back at the bus in two hours. I guess I’m just more of a do-it-yourself-er when it comes to going around museums or historical sites. Besides, sometimes I just want to stand there and stare at it until it speaks to me in some way -- and the toilets weren’t saying anything I wanted to hear.

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