A Turkish proverb says that "no camel route is long with good company." This statement epitomizes our recent family trip to Turkey, especially with our little ambassador Harper. She proved again to be good company and a real trooper, even when her parents were doing things that were not particularly of interest to a 19 month old. During our trip we focused on three areas of Turkey, Ephesus, Cappadocia, and Istanbul.
We started our journey near Ephesus on the Aegean Sea. The area around Ephesus is a place steeped in history. It was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age in around 6000 B.C., and later inhabited by the Hittites several thousand years before the birth of Christ. The city of Ephesus was originally an ancient Greek city and during the Roman period was the second largest city of the Empire with a population around 250,000 in the first century B.C. making it the second largest city in the world. After the harbor silted over, Ephesus declined in importance.
Ephesus is thought to be the location where St. John wrote his gospel. Ephesus is mentioned in Acts and again in Revelation 2:1–7. In Acts Chapter 19, Paul visits Ephesus and a riot occurs when Demetrius the silversmith stirs up trouble because the silversmiths were losing income in the sale of silver idols of the Goddess Artemis. As people converted to Christianity they stopped buying idols, which hurt the silversmiths' bottom line.
We visited the theater in Ephesus that is mentioned in Acts 19:29 "Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius Aristarchus, Paul's travelling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater."
We saw a prison where Paul was held. It was Paul's expulsion from Ephesus that lead him to write the letter to the Ephesian Church, which Christians still read in the Bible as the book of Ephesians. We visited the Celsus Library, which was directly across from the brothel. Ephesus was a port town and visitors looking for the brothel could simply ask for directions to the library. In one of the photos you see the outline of a left foot etched in the marble floor - an advertisement for the brothel, just follow your left foot.
We saw a house that is believed to be the final home of the Virgin Mary and has been accepted as a pilgrimage site by the Pope. We visited the ruins of the temple of Artemis, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, and which is also mentioned in Acts. We also saw the ruins of the Basilica of St. John, which is believed to contain the tomb of the Apostle John, the disciple of Jesus. On our final evening in the Ephesus region, we went to Pamacuk Beach on the Aegean Coast for dinner and to watch the sunset.
In the Ephesus photos you will see:
· Harper meeting Kassia, the daughter of the owner of our hotel
· The ruins of the Roman aqueduct that now serve as a nesting place for storks from April through September
· A night shot of Harper and I standing outside of the Basilica of St. John
· The public toilets in ancient Ephesus, where servants would sit to warm up the seats for their masters on cold days and where musicians played to cover the sounds of the public toilet;
· Sarah, Harper and I in front of the Celsus Library
· Harper snoozing on my back in the carry backpack
· The theater mentioned in Acts,
· The ancient brothel street advertisement
· Harper making friends with other travelers in a shop
· A replica of Artemis, whose abdomen is covered in egg like breasts and the replica of a phallic fertility god
· Harper making more friends at the beach
Cappadocia - http://picasaweb.google.com/ssw1278/0410Cappadocia#
Our next stop was Cappadocia. Cappadocia was unbelievable and was Sarah's favorite spot. It is an other-worldly moonscape dotted with "fairy chimneys." Entire villages are carved in caves and caves have served as homes in Cappadocia for thousands of years.
We stayed in a cave in the town of Goreme. Although it sounds rustic the room was very upscale.
The highlight of Cappadocia was a hot air balloon ride over the canyons and rock formations. It was the first time in a hot air balloon for all of us and Harper enjoyed herself too, strapped to me in a front pack.
We went on a 4km hike in Rose Valley and visited the Kaymakli Underground City. The Troglodyte caves were originally excavated in Hittite times and then were expanded over centuries to evade various marauding armies in search of captives and plunder. The city contains churches, cellars, wineries, kitchens, living quarters, and even animal stables, all underground and all connected by tunnels. Elaborate ventilation systems ensured that people could stay underground for long stretches at a time while invaders roamed above. More on the city is available here http://www.goreme.com/kaymakli-underground-city.php
We also visited the Goreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a monastery carved in the cliffs, complete with churches and chapels featuring beautiful mosaics painted on the walls and ceilings. Most of the churches date from the 10th through the 12th Centuries but some of the paintings date back to the 7th Century.
It was humbling to think of the dedication and faith that was required to build such a place. More on the Open Air Museum is available here http://www.goreme.com/goreme-open-air-museum.php
In the Cappadocia photos you will see:
· Harper enjoying a fig, which looked and tasted surprisingly like a Fig Newton
· Our cave hotel room
· Shots from our balloon ride
· Pictures from our hikes
· Various rock formations in interesting shapes. What do you think they look like?
· The churches and monastery paintings in the Goreme Open Air Museum
· Harper meeting some Turkish tourists at the open air museum
· Harper's little finger that was constantly pointed somewhere – at the "teet teets" (birds) "woof woofs" (dogs), "qak qaks" (any bird that even remotely resembles a duck) and the rocks
· Me taking a try on the kick powered potter's wheel, the same kind used by the Hittites four thousand years ago
· Buying nuts and dried fruit from a road side vendor
· Harper impressed by the "teet teets" in Pigeons Valley (notice one of the pictures at the end with the tourist taking the photo of Harper)
· A Bactrian Camel –notice how different it looks from the Dromedary camels in Arabia – shorter two humps instead of one, and shaggy fur
· The blue "evil eyes" meant to protect the wearer from evil spirits,
· Harper meeting some Turkish soldiers. They even gave us their e-mail address so we could send them the pictures
· Harper and daddy relaxing at hotel waiting for our taxi to arrive
· Harper enjoying some genuine Ruffles brand Turkish potato chips at the airport
Our final stop in Turkey was Istanbul. We packed a lot in and Harper continued her work as the world's tiniest ambassador. Istanbul was founded as Constantinople, the Eastern Capital of the Roman Empire. Even after the fall of the Roman Empire, Constantinople remained the capital of the Byzantine Empire until the 1450s. We started at the Blue Mosque and then went on to Topkapi Palace. We visited the Harem and several other areas of the palace. The palace was ornately decorated in an oriental style and was very impressive. After that we went to the Hippodrome, where horse and chariot races were held during the Byzantine Empire. We saw two Egyptian obelisks that were brought from Karnak Temple in Luxor to Constantinople by a Byzantine emperor in the fourth century. It was thought provoking to look at the Egyptian obelisk set on a base with reliefs depicting Byzantine emperors watching chariot races with Ottoman minarets in the background. Istanbul is a city with so much history.
We saw a fountain that was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II to the Ottoman Sultan in 1901. The Ottomans fought with the Germans in WWI. The German defeat was one of the things that lead to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Republic of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Attaturk who founded Turkey as a secular western looking nation rather than a theocracy.
After lunch we went to Hagia Sophia, the imposing church built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th Century. Legend says that when he first walked into the completed church he proclaimed himself blessed for having been given the chance to build such a monument to God and declared "Solomon, I have outdone you!" The historian Procopius wrote of Hagia Sophia's "indescribable beauty." I first wanted to see Hagia Sophia in the tenth grade after seeing a painting of it and reading about it in history class. It is hard to comprehend how such a structure was built so long ago and all the people who have worshiped there. It was the biggest church in Christendom for nearly a millennium and was built over one thousand years before St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Istanbul is still the seat of the Orthodox Church and we saw an Orthodox priest walking in town one afternoon. In the Fifteenth Century the Ottomans defeated the Byzantines and converted it to a mosque, which it remained until the 1920's when it became a museum.
After Hagia Sophia we saw the Million Stone, from which all distances were measured during the Byzantine Empire. Next we went down into the Byzantine cistern. An aqueduct brought water to the cistern to supply the city with drinking water. Columns from pagan temples were used in the cistern and part of the Bond Film "To Russia with Love" was filmed there. After the cistern we went to the Grand Bazaar, then a local Bazaar where Turks buy everyday items, and then to the Egyptian spice market. We took the public tram back Sultanamhet, the area of town where we are staying. While waiting at the tram stop we were continuously chided by a Turkish woman with a baby because Harper was wearing sandals and had no hat. She has lots of layers that she wears throughout the day, but this woman was not content with the level of layers that Harper was then currently wearing. She offered us a pair of baby socks and was only happy when she had tied my jacket around my waist so that Harper's feet were covered. However, the woman was nice and as always Harper provided unique opportunities to meet people.
We had dinner in a cafe that also served sheesha water pipes. There were couples sitting together enjoying their pipes. We had lentil soup, cacjik, a yogurt mixed with cucumbers and garlic, apple tea, freshly squeezed orange juice, and lamb kebabs. We finished with baklava. After our meal, a whirling dervish was performing so we got to watch him and listen to the live music. Harper danced and clapped.
On our second day in Istanbul, we took a cruise on the Bosphorous and crossed from Europe to Asia. We also saw the impressive Byzantine city walls, which kept invading armies out until the Ottoman defeat in the 1450s.
The city was alive with spring and Tulips were everywhere. The tulip originated in central Asia and the Dutch initially received the Tulip as a gift from the Ottomans. Sitting in a park on a Sunday afternoon, Istanbul presented us with tulips, cool spring weather, bright blue skies, and Turks of all ages enjoying themselves. It was not the image that I initially had of Turkey.
In the Istanbul photos you will see:
· The Blue Mosque
· Topkopi Palace
· Harper Enjoying the flowers at Topkopi
· The intricate mosaics that are now being restored in Hagia Sophia
· Signs of former crosses that were removed when the church became a mosque
· Harper in her belly dancing costume
· The city walls
· Cruising on the Bosphorus with the bridge spanning from Europe to Asia in the background
· Harper enjoying a nap while mom and dad enjoy lunch and an Efes Beer (Efes is the Turkish word for Ephesus)
· A Turkish festival of some kind that we came across.
· The Four Seasons hotel that was formerly a prison and was where the events featured in the