Thursday was our travel day from Athens to Istanbul. After checking into our hotel, we met our tour group of 36 and our leader Sayat. We have 36 people on this tour with us. It is an English speaking tour but Jody and I are the only “English Only” people on board.
The city of Istanbul is divided between Europe and Asia which makes it unique. The Bosporus is the waterway that divides the East and the West. There are ferries, bridges and underwater tunnels that allows for people to get to and from work – in a fast growing city of 17 million, it is quite congested. Jody is less of a large city person so it is a stretch for her. We also visited a large spice market (like a mall of spices on both sides of the aisles, each small area being a different store often selling the same items).
Friday was a walk around the Old City of Istanbul. Mind you we only saw a portion of the Old City but we walked about 10 miles. We toured the palace area of the Ottoman Sultan (which was off limits to outsiders until the Empire fell in 1923. It was a huge complex with many buildings for food preparation, building for each of his four wives and other women, armory, library, etc. Next was the largest domed building for over 1000 years: the church of Hagia Sophia. It later became a mosque and now a museum. Finally, we walked underground in the ancient cistern, as an important source of water in the summer time.
Friday, August 30. Today we traveled by bus to Gallipoli, a World War 1 site of a bloody battle between the Australians/New Zealand army and the Ottomans. An Australian in our group was surprised to find the grave of a relative. Russell Crow starred in a movie about this battle entitled: Canakkale. The location of this battle was on a peninsula at the mouth of the Hellespont/Dardanelles. 8/30 is Turkish Independence Day so the road to the ferry to cross the Hellespont was busy.
On the last day of August we began the day at one of the most famous archeological sites in the world: the ancient city of Troy. Homer, a native of Smyrna (located just down the road from Troy) wrote about this war some 500 years later in the Iliad and the Odyssey. To be honest, neither Jody nor I have actually read these classic works. The ruins were impressive and the recently constructed wooden horse was fun to climb and imagine this famous trick
Our tour of ruins continued as we stopped at Pergamum. This ancient city was the first capital of the Byzantine Empire before it was moved to Byzantium and later Constantinople. Situated on the mouth of the Dardanelles , it was a strategic site. Constantinople was also strategic as it sits on the Bosporus which opens to the Black Sea.
On Sunday, September 1 we awoke in Izmir (biblical Smyrna, Revelation 2:8ff). We traveled from this port city to Ephesus (letter to the Ephesians, Revelation 2:1ff). The Greeks migrated to this area of Asia Minor in the 10th century BC. Due to the silting in of the nearby river resulting over time in marsh, mosquitos and malaria. The city moved two more times to its present archeological site. It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire behind Rome and Alexandria in Egypt. There was a large temple built to the goddess Artemis, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus in John’s gospel is thought to have come to Ephesus later in life as well as Mary, Jesus mother. Our tour of Ephesus concluded with a visit to the basilica of John and the house of Mary.
As we begin our final week abroad, on Monday we drove to Hierapolis, the holy city. This city is mentioned once in the Bible in Colossians 4:13. It is the traditional site of the grave of the apostle Philip who was martyred here.
Tuesday was an optional day. Jody stayed back to swim in the Mediterranean Sea and I went off to visit some ruins. She was wet and refreshed while I was sweaty but inspired. Jody swam and laid in the sun. I saw statues and stadiums. The best stop I had was in Perge (Acts 12-13).
Today is Wednesday and we have been in the bus a great deal as we travel to Cappadocia. Our sense of humor is tested but we look forward to the whirling dervish tonight and the hot air balloon ride tomorrow morning, weather providing.
Only 4 days until we fly home to the Rockford/Parks area. It has been an amazing adventure but it is time to come home. Even I am tired of my clothes! Thanks for your love and prayers Grace Church! See you soon.