Years ago, I vacationed on Prince Edward Island in Canada. While there, we visited the house of Anne of Green Gables. It was a beautiful house, full of tourists and a gift shop where my wife bought an Anne of Green Gables doll. The only problem with all this is that Anne of Green Gables never existed except in the imagination of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne was a fictional character. Yet the tourists came in droves and literally, and figuratively, bought the myth.
I bring this up because as I am writing this I’m on a ship in the Mediterranean having just visited what is purported to be the house of the Virgin Mary near the ancient city of Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. There is evidence that Jesus existed and that Mary was his mother. But there is scant evidence that Mary ever set foot in Ephesus. In fact, the only evidence is that Saint John lived there and he was told by Jesus to take care of Mary. But no matter, the tourists come anyway, and those tourists include three popes.
So our ship docked in Izmir, Turkey, and we got on a bus that took us to the ruins of ancient Ephesus – a 90-minute ride to the south. We toured Mary’s house and the ruins at Ephesus. Our guide made no bones about it – no one knows if Mary ever lived in Ephesus. But we were all here so let’s pretend that Mary was here once upon a time.
After touring Mary’s house and the nearby ruins at Ephesus, we got back on our bus and headed for the commercial advertisement of the tour – a Turkish rug store that apparently pays the tour operator to deliver tourists for a sales pitch. The rugs were gorgeous, but the prices were high. Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything. And that’s when the real adventure began.
We boarded our bus for the ride back to the ship. It was 3:00. We were due back at 4:30, and the ship was scheduled to leave at 5:00. A minute later, our guide gave us the bad news: the bus would not start. The guide asked everyone to get off the bus and then he asked the men to get behind the bus and push it to help it start. So we all got off the bus, but no amount of pushing would budge the bus. It was now 3:15, and we still were 90 minutes from the ship.
The tour guide called for a new bus. That arrived at 3:30, and we all got aboard. We were relieved because the 90-minute trip back to the ship would get us there just before the ship was scheduled to leave. The bus headed back to Izmir at top speed. And then about 45 minutes later, there was a sudden smell of steam, and the driver pulled over. Smoke was coming from the back of the bus. One of the passengers shouted, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” as we all realized that it had happened again. A second bus had broken down. So we all got off the bus once more and stood by the side of a Turkish highway while we waited for our third bus.
This proved to be a much longer wait. Our five-hour tour was quickly turning into something like the SS Minnow. We all began to have visions of being left behind in Izmir.
Finally at 5:00, the time our ship was scheduled to sail, the third bus came. Fortunately, our tour guide had a cell phone and he contacted the ship. We broke Turkish speeding laws as we made it back to the ship at 5:35. The ship’s engines were on, smoke was coming out of the smokestack, and they were waiting impatiently, ready to go. We jumped aboard quickly (bypassing Turkish customs), and our adventure was over.
Despite the stress, it was a great tour and we made some friends who helped us keep in good spirits as the minutes ticked by. So all in all, it was a good experience. But after all this, I sure hope that Mary actually lived in that house!