Tag Archives | turkey

Two Turkish Delights

One of the great under-discovered locations we have visited is Turkey.   We want to take you to two of the most interesting places to visit on your holiday in Turkey.

girl hot springs Pamukkale-The Cotton Castle

Have you ever wanted to walk on clouds?  A visit to Pamukkale will give you that chance.  Located in central Turkey is one of the world’s geological wonders.  Pamukkale in Turkish or Cotton Castle in English was formed by the 17 hot springs in the area.  Water coming from the springs ranges from  95 °F (35 °C ) to  212 °F  (100 °C)!  The water carries calcium carbonate that creates white deposits called travertine.  The creation is so striking.  As we drove into the area the stark white cliffs took our breath away.  The entire side of the cliffs are made up of small pools that drip down to the next.  It almost looks like the entire side of the mountain is covered in snow.

What to do?

view of hot springsHow does soaking in natural hot springs and swimming around the ruins of a Greek Temple of Hierapolis sound?  Drive up the back side of the mountain to the large parking area.  There you have two options.  You can head for yourself and go from pool to pool along the cliff.  The water is not “hot” but the pools are lukewarm.  They are not very deep, not even close for any kind of swimming, but more suited for sitting and soaking.  This is an extremely popular place for both Turks and visitors from abroad. This has been the case for the past 2000+ years!  The best part of taking in the pools is the view of the valley in the distance.  Beautiful!

The second option is to take in the Pamukkale resort.  It is a facility that surrounds the pools with the Greek ruins.  There is a nominal charge to go swimming.  There are facilities for food, clothing change as well as lounging and people watching.

Pamukkle hot springs

In addition to enjoying the hot springs, the Pamukkale area is surrounded by archaeological and cultural historic sites.  One of the seven churches of Revelation is located a short distance away.  Check out our recent post on visiting all seven of the locations.

 The Best of Bodrum

Our next stop on our Turkish adventure is the beach resort city of Bodrum.  If you’re looking for a Turkish escape that will stir your senses, a holiday to Bodrum will be perfect for you. This picture perfect resort hums with the hustle and bustle of locals and holiday makers alike enjoying the sunshine in the beautiful Bodrum bay.

Situated on the south western side of Turkey, Bodrum commands a stunning coastline that marries with the Aegean Sea. Enjoy long, lazy days relaxing on Bodrum’s golden beaches, not forgetting to dabble in some fun water sports to ensure you have a holiday to remember. Bodrum is perfect for families with small children, thanks to the warm, shallow waters that gently lap the soft sands – perfect for paddling and building sandcastles with the kids! There’s a lot for the grownups to enjoy too, such as a romantic sunset stroll along the shore sinking your toes into the soft sand.  Highly recommended!

Romantic Bodrum

If you fancy exploring on holiday, you won’t be disappointed with the sights and sounds of this picture perfect location. The breathtaking Bodrum Castle is a must see, as well as the cosmopolitan marina dotted with colorful boats creating a contrast of the traditional and modern. The castle hosts several fabulous festivals every year, creating a party atmosphere not to be missed – it’s definitely worth trying to tie your holiday date in with one of these events if you love to dance the night away. Take a stroll through the old town, barter with the locals for fine handmade goods or get lost in a bustling bazaar for an hour or two. There’s no shortage of new sights to discover in Bodrum, so you’re guaranteed a new experience every day of your holiday.

One of the best ways to visit this wonderful corner of the world is to join a tour operator. You can book Thomas Cook packages to Bodrum at any time of year, as the Mediterranean climate ensures hot, sunny, summer days and mild, balmy winters.

Add these two wonderful Turkish destinations to your travel plans.

 

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2

On the Road Less Traveled

We took turn after turn on dusty lonely dirt trails, passing thick plantations of tall lush trees and seemingly deserted shanty towns.  The setting sun was casting a red hue on the trees that matched the color of the road.  We finally reached our appointed destination, a small bed and breakfast located on a small rise overlooking forest and meadow.

flat African tree

Beautiful Swaziland

Our travel weariness must have been written on our faces.  The welcoming attendant at the front desk dispatched two young women to mind our luggage and settle us comfortably in our assigned abode.  The service offered by this small establishment rivaled any 5 star hotel.  The proprietors were a lovely Dutch couple and was completely staffed by young women.  Our short stay at this little outpost of hospitality has forever changed Luci and I.  Our hearts were struck by the hospitality, generosity and sheer beauty of the place.  The paradise we have described is Swaziland.

“You are going where??!!”  is usually the typically response we get when we tell friends and family about our next adventure destination.  “Why would you want to go to (insert remote location)?”  The answer is in the paragraph above.  Now the rest of the story from the portrait above.  Swaziland suffers from a number of challenges, poverty, hunger, disease epidemics and numerous social ills.  They don’t tend to put those on the glossy tourist websites. As a traveler, you can choose to let this scare you off, or you can dig deeper and find a treasure as we did in Swaziland.

In addition to Swaziland, we want to introduce you to some off the beaten travel destinations that might change your life.  Strap on your walking shoes, its time for adventure!

Bosnia

We are often asked which has been our favorite location out of the travels, Luci will always say Turkey (stay tuned!).  Mine would be Bosnia.  Bosnia is frankly one of the most beautiful, intriguing, and difficult places we have been.  Our trip, which wasn’t an extended one by any stretch, gave me a taste for a land filled with lush forests, dramatic waterfalls, towering mosques, and war hardened residents.  Bosnia offer travelers historical insights, out of door adventures including hiking, rafting and camping.

Greek coloumnsTurkey

As a kid, I always dreamt of being teleported back in time.  I wanted to live history.  I wanted to see, taste, smell, and interact with the scenes of great literature.  Turkey has made this boyhood dream a living reality.   The characters of the bible walked the same streets as I did.  We drank from the same springs.  I ate wonderful olives, savory meats from a roadside kabab, and partook of the most amazing Baklava!  Turkey brings history to life.

Read about our Open Love Letter to Istanbul.

Turkey was a surprise to both Luci and I.  We were discussing where we might want to go in Eastern Europe.  Turkey came up and we both said, yea….Turkey.  We started our in-depth research about the country, began our quest to learn everything we could about the history, culture and language.  Turkey offers great shopping in the Grand Bazaar, delicious cuisine, ultra friendly natives, and a window into history that has no rival.

Maldives

“Where exactly are the Maldives?” Ask most people, and they might have a challenge pointing the country out on a map.  The collection of roughly 1000 islands is located due south of India and west of the African Continent.  The island country is bathed in the Indian ocean. The temperature ranges from 75 to 90 degrees year round, making it a wonderful year round destination.  It offer travelers seclusion that rivaled by few places.

beach

Lovely Maldives

The most difficult choice is which island and resort to pick!  There are so many options for holidays to Maldives.   Lodging offerings range from Spartan shacks on the beach to five-star full service resorts.  The warm clear waters offer great snorkeling and diving.  Rent a boat and go island hopping.

A few words of warning about traveling off the beaten path.  First, be prepared.  Do your homework. Then be completely flexible.  Things including hotels, roads, and people that were to be there for you might not exist.  This is truly the beauty of traveling where few do.   One of our tricks to traveling well is humility and openness.  You must be willing to try new food, smell new smells?, and be completely removed from your comfort zone.  In return the dividends of off the beaten path travel will greatly enrich your life.

Tell us, where have you traveled off the beaten path?  What lessons have you learned?  Where would you like to go?

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8

Leave the Kids at Home

It is OK to leave the kids at home, and travel as a couple.  Forget the guilt trip and take a real one!

In the mad dash that is life, today’s couples need to leave the kids at home and take a weekend getaway .   Couples need time to build their relationship, reconnect and make plans and priorities.  Some couples just need the quiet time to recharge.  Marriage is difficult.   Families are under a lot of pressures from outside and in.  When it comes down to it, you must ask, “Is it important that the adults in the family have a strong and committed relationship?”  We are convinced that it is.  It’s not selfish.  Strong relationships take time and effort to keep healthy.  We promise that what follows is not a “preachy sermon” just a few of the many benefits of finding time to travel as a couple.

I can’t leave my kids!

crying boyI am sure you are wondering, do you guys love your kids?  Don’t you want them to get out and see the world too?  Of course.  PBS Kids is great, but we want our kids to get out and see the world.  We love to take our kids on vacation.  Each year we plan an annual family vacation, sometimes near,  sometimes far.  We always involve the kids in the planning and try our best to include some education points of interest along the way.  Our kids are required to compose a power point presentation on their assigned topics, and must present to family prior to the trip.  Yeah… we are those kind of parents.

For some parents, leaving the kids with grandparents or friends is very difficult.  With very young children, a weekend away might be all that you are able to muster.  Some parents find it difficult to be away from kids for a week at a time.  Then when the kiddos leave the nest, they find that you have lost their relationship with their spouse.  Taking time away is good for both the adults and the children.  Trust us, a week with grandma is going to be a blast!  We were a little shocked, when we started leaving for a week each year to travel, our kids wouldn’t even call us, they were having too much fun.  Kids need a vacation from their parents sometimes as well!

couple travelAdult things

Adults need to do adult things.  On our recent trip to Turkey, we had a chance to have an extended stay in Selcuk, Turkey home of the famed biblical city of Ephesus.   The entire area is dripping in history.  We had a chance to visit one of the more interesting landmarks, the Celsius Library.  Whilst there, waiting for the crowds to wander off, we witness a harried couple with three kids.  We could tell that the mom was trying to read the guide book and figure out what they were looking at and why.  Frustrating her concentration was a 5-6 year old tugging on her sleeve.  The father was negotiating who knows what, with a teenager.   In the end, the mother was pulled away down the path toward the food stands.  Luci and I smiled at each other.  We missed our kids, but we were grateful to have a few moments to contemplate what we were seeing.  We would never trade our adult holidays to Turkey.  You need that time together.

Let’s be honest, many adult outdoor activities are just no fun for kids.  Hiking over temples in Cambodia in the heat of the day is a major bummer for teenagers.  Wandering around a cemetery in upstate New York can be pretty pointless to a 4 year old.  Yet both of these adult activities have been highlights of our couples trips.    You also need time to do other adult things (ah hum)…but we wont go into detail on that, we will leave it up to you.

Talk

One of our favorite pastimes on vacation besides fighting of course is talking.  Like many of you, both Luci and I have demanding jobs.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on us in our careers.  Both of our occupations are the 24/7 and 365.  We rarely get the chance to just sit down and talk.  Our conversations are usually the sort :  who is going to take the kids where on what day.  In the harried everyday life, we just don’t get many opportunities to discuss what’s going on in our lives.  Traveling is the perfect time to have those important conversations.

The Sound of Silence

One of the more underrated gifts of couple travel is a little peace and quiet.  Kids can be loud.  (Again, we are not kid haters, just being honest here.)  Kid’s activities are usually high energy, active, and exhausting.  We have done the Disney’s.  Parents should be awarded a medal for spending a week in the parks!   I can’t tell you what it has meant to us to sit on a make shift bench aside the Amazon river and watch the sunset over the jungle together.  Or what it was like enjoying a makeshift dinner at our hut on the savanna in South Africa, while listening to the elephants in the distance.  You need quiet time together.

Set Goals and Priorities

The final and perhaps most important part of traveling as a couple is setting goals and discussing priorities.  We talk a lot about our kids when traveling.  We talk about what they need from us, what they need help with and how we best can meet their individual needs.  We talk about what our individual goals are.  Both of us have a set of lifetime goals.  We bring those out on our couple trips and mark our progress.  By setting goals and priorities together will actually make you better parents, better lovers, better friends if you only leave the kids with grandma.

We highly encourage couples to make time to travel together.  Leave the kids home with grandparents of friends.  Your kids will love it.   Do you need to spend loads of money on a couple vaykay?  No.  A perfectly timed weekender can work magic on you marriage.

We know that this might be controversial   We want to hear your point of view.  Do you travel alone?  Never leave home without the kids?  What works for you?  Leave us a comment below and give us your take.

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6

Open Love Letter to Istanbul

I Love Istanbul. Let me count the ways.

The People

Istanbul hagia SofiaOur love Fighting couple love letter to Istanbul must begin with the people. But before we start our overture, let’s say we accidentally fell in love. It was Luci’s year to pick our location for the annual big trip. We went back and forth on various spots around the world. Luci wanted a place with history, culture and food. I showed her a video of Turkey. In the next 24 hours, we booked a trip to Turkey. It happened so fast, she says I “Jedi-Mind Tricked Her.” She spent the next six months trying to get to Greece! But it turns out our “accident” in selecting Turkey was a dream come true. We fell in love.

Like most Norte Americanos, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of “Turkey” is the poor foul that gets placed in the center of the table in November. But Turkey is one of the most hospitable countries to visit.

We found Turks to be the epitome of kindness and generosity. On several occasions, Turks went the extra mile to show off their country and culture. As an example, once my subway card won’t work, and a man came up and swiped his. Whether we were buying a rug or a kabob, we were greeted with a smile and a “Welcome, my friend.”

The Shopping

Istanbul TurkeyShopping is one of our favorite pastimes. Shopping in Istanbul is a contact sport! If you can buy it, you can find it in Istanbul. Of course, you cannot visit Istanbul without a trip to the famous Grand Bazaar. It literally takes days to explore it from top to bottom. There is so much to take in, so many little dark alleyways leading to hidden treasures.

A friend recently asked if an hour would be sufficient, we laughed. An hour is sufficient to have lunch before even going in. The main attractions at the Bazaar are rugs. Prices range from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands. Part of the game is agreeing on the price. Turkey also sports some beautiful hand painted pottery and delicately designed ceramics.

 

Istanbul, Turkey

The Spice Market

 

The Spirit

Call to prayerOur exposure to Islam has been very limited. In preparation for our visit, we invested some time to learn more about the world’s second largest religion with 1.5 billion followers or over 22% of the earth population. A few of the keys to understand about Islam: Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims and Islam are not different (common misunderstanding).

Muslims take their teachings from the Qur’an. They believe that the religion was revealed universally through prophets including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the last prophet Muhammad.

With a basic primer in Islam, we took in many of the famous holy places in Istanbul. Many of the historic mosques are now open to the general public to enter and explore. Again, we found the people of Istanbul more than willing to help us interpret what we were seeing. The artwork, carpets, stonework and the parishioners make visiting these places something special. Hearing the call to prayer at diverse times of the day added to the mystic of the city. We found the “quality” of the prayer caller to be dependent on the size of the city. Istanbul hosted the most beautiful prayer callers.

 

islamic call to prayer

Regardless of your religious bent, take the time to understand what you are seeing, what it means to the people and why. Most of all please be respectful of the buildings. Most mosques require conservative clothing, women’s heads to be covered and shoes removed.

The Water

IstanbulOne of the defining features of Istanbul is the water. It is magical. The city itself is dived in half by the Bosporus River. It is not like the wimpy canals of Venice. The mighty Bosporus is a powerful, choppy and colorful symbol of the city. The bridges that link the city and two continents are works of art in both day and night time. Also, check out the Basilica cistern with discarded columns underground that held the city’s drinking water. It’s another monument’s to the city’s dramatic water.

Istanbul….(or is it Constantinople?), we love you. We love your intense waterscape, spirited markets, your warm people, and your heart. We can’t wait to go back!

If you are looking for help booking your holidays to Turkey, look no further!

 

 

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3

The Magic Carpet Fight

One of the greatest pastimes in Istanbul is shopping.  Pastime is not the right word.  Experiencing the grand Bazaar it is one part contact sport, one part human psychology 101 and one part exhilaration. Shopping in Istanbul is truly a timeless art form.  Yes there are the chinsy tourist items, the fake Rolexes, carpets made in China.  But it also has some of the best handcrafts and jewelry we have ever seen.  The Grand Bazaar has it all.

English: Lanterns in a shop in the Kapalıçarşı...

Glass of the Grand Bazaar.

How to do the Bazaar

We don’t have an answer for this.  It is funny to watch other couples enter and say to one another…”I will meet you over by the one carpet dealer.  See you in an hour.”  Good luck with that!  LOST!  The size of the bazaar is so difficult to describe.  Where does the Bazaar end and the city begin?  Is the Bazaar just one story?  Is there better shops in one are over another?  We don’t have an answer.  The Bazaar is best enjoyed with a lot of time and money.

 

The Art of the Deal

I have seen some incredible salesman in our travels.  None rival the talent on display in the Grand Bazaar.  Some of the hawkers in the bazaar are three, four and we even found one five generation salesman!  These men, we didn’t come across a saleswoman, so yes they are almost all men, are tuned and trained to evaluate you and devise a plan to separate you from your cash.  It is almost a science for them.  Language barrier?  Not in the bazaar.  Everyone speaks the language  of sales.  I was able to chat up a young salesman that let his guard down a little.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “When did you start selling?”

Him: “Sold my first thing when I was only 5”

Me: “Impressive.”

Me: “Whats your secret to making sales?”

Him:  “Reading customers.  And keep them talking to you.”

Me: “How do read a person?”

Him:  “Shoes and eyes.”  (Enter big smile aka end of sales training)

Him:  “Would you like to see some of my best stuff?  I keep it back here…come my friend” (Enter sales pitch)

Put this to the test.  Walk past the best salesmen in the bazaar.  They will check your shoes in as you approach and then they will focus on your eyes.  Eyes tell everything.  They point to the things you find most precious.  They reveal your love for an object.  Very telling.

Heart of Darkness

Go get lost in the Bazaar.  Go deep.  The bazaar cannot be “done” in an hour.  We are not sure that it can be “done” in a day.  Enjoy the experience for what it is, you are a part of history.  Breathe in the experience.  Take in the mosaics at every turn.  Drink some tea with some salesmen.  Play with the shop owners kids.  Most importantly, buy stuff in the Bazaar!  Don’t let the salesmen intimidate you.  You will never forgive yourself if you don’t buy that silver bracelet you found.  First off, you will never find it again in the melee of the bazaar.  Candidly, we found our best deals when we were completely lost in dark alleys deep in the beast of the bazaar.  Find your own path.

 

Check our our Facebook page for more pics of the Grand Bazaar.  While you are there…give us a “Like”.

 

The Carpet Fight

Add the Grand Bazaar to the list of 1000 places to fight before you die.  Mike wanted to buy a rug.  Of course we agreed to a price ceiling before we even set foot in the market.   Of course Mike paid no heed to that agreement.  He boldly walked into carpet shops and looked at stuff we couldn’t afford.  (Don’t do this.)  We ended up meeting the George Clooney of carpet sales.  Mike the great white salesman himself had met his match.  We went round and round on the price.  In the end, we paid way too much.  With that said it was a great experience.  Today, the rug welcomes everyone that comes into our home.

The Grand Bazaar is not to be missed.  Turkey and Istanbul especially is a wonderful couple travel destination.  It offer so much.  Experience the bazaar.  Spend some money!

Have you been to the Grand Bazaar?   What did you find?  We would love to hear from you.oo much for our little rug.  But it was great fun!  Our little piece of Istanbul greets everyone that walks into our door.

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5

Mistletoe Moments Celebrity Judges!

Responses to our Mistletoe Moments have been amazing!  So many great stories.    If you haven’t submitted yours, we want to hear from you!

We are proud to announce our “Celebrity Judges” for our contest!   So why do we need judges?  First of all, we would have to change the name of our blog if we tried to pick one! (www.100000fights).  In addition, we really wanted to highlight some great blogs out there to you our loyal readers.  Enjoy.

 

The Traveling Canucks

www.travelingcanucks.com

@travelcanucks

Cam and Nicole are couple travel bloggers based in beautiful Vancouver BC, Canada.  Their blog highlights some of the best travel locations on the planet.  Cam and Nicloe have great features on Turkey and are world renowned Beer aficionados!

The Naked Redhead

www.thenakedredhead.com

@sarahjstorer

The Naked Redhead-now we have you attention!  Sarah aka The Naked Redhead is a professional “Wing Woman.”  Her site (sorry no porn)  offers the tricks, tips and truths that will help you find that certain someone and get the most from love and life.  (Mike may or may not have a tiny crush on Sarah.)  Check out her site!

 

Vagabond Quest

www.vagabondquest.com

@VagabondQuest

Dina and Ryan of Vagabond Quest are “living the dream”.  They Left their hometown in 2009 and have been living on the road since!  Crazy huh?  Their blog highlights their adventures.  They include some amazing pictues and video.  They even captures a possum attacking Dina!  Yikees!

 

Confused Julia

www.homelessandconfused.com

@confusedjulia

Julia from Homeless and Confused is a kick!  Are you looking for a pithy blog with a side of fun?  Bingo!  You found it.  This English lassie has had exciting and crazy travels.  She is headed out on a whirl wind adventure this spring.  Give her blog a looksee.

We want to give a hearty thanks to each of our Celebrity Judges!

Ok, this $150 bucks is burning a hole in our pocket!

Please submit your Mistletoe Moment right now! 

 

Happy Holidays from 1000Fights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1

The most opulent royal palace in Europe…is in Turkey?

Dolmabahçe Palace

The Crown Jewel of the Aegean

It’s not a secret that one of our favorite couple travel destinations is Turkey. She offers so much in the way of culture, history, and hospitality. Perhaps what we love most about Turkey is that it is a thinking person’s country. Short of a stopover in Istanbul on some cruise circuits, most couple travelers don’t put Turkey on their must see list. This is a huge mistake. Turkey has so much to offer couple travelers.  One of the many architectural highlights of Turkey is Dolmabahçe Palace. Come with us as we explore this palace of privilege and power.

Location

The country of Turkey and the city of Istanbul straddles two continents, Asia and Europe. The city is devided by the Bosporus Strait which connects the Black Sea with the Med. The Palace is situated on the north side right on the water level. The Palace is three stories tall including a basement. There are 45,000 square meter of “livable” space including 285 rooms, 46 hallways, 6 Turkish baths, 1500 windows and 68 toilets.

History

The Dolmabahce Palace was built by Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid I. Construction stared in the early 1840s and was completed roughly ten years later. A father and son team of Garabet and Nigogayos Baylon were the principle architects. Ottoman Sultans and their Harems historically resided in the expansive yet Asian and Middle eastern designed Topkapi Palace. Six generations of Sultans called the palace home. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first President of modern day Turkey, was the final full time tenant of the home. Atatürk passed away in the palace on November 10, 1938. All of the clocks in the palace are stopped at the time of his passing 9:05. This caused us a little panic during our visit as we kept thinking we were making great time on our tour.

Interior

Abdulmecid admired the grand palaces of Europe, and wanted a more Western, more ornaite, more modern residence. Enter one of the major flaws of the palace. Instead of picking from the tastes of other royal residences the contained Baroque, Rococo and Greek influences, Abdulmecid said, “I will take them all!” The collection of all of these styles crammed into one area leaves the viewer a little overwhelmed.

The interior of the palace is simply “over the top”. The world’s largest crystal chandelier hangs prominently in the entry hall from the sea. It was a house warming gift from Queen Victoria. It weighs in at four and a half tons! It is exquisite. To match this addition to the home, the sultan had a solid Baccarat crystal bannister leading up the stairway. Words cannot, and pictures even cant describle how beautiful this stairway is. Mike just kept starring at it. The guide finally asked us to keep moving.

The Rugs

This wouldn’t be Turkey if they didn’t have great rugs. It does. The royal carpet makers were located in seaside town of Hereke, located just up the Bosporus. Master rug makers from this hamlet used the finest silks, cotton and virgin wool in making some of the finest carpets on the planet. The rugs look like they were made yesterday. They are impeccably made for sure. Interestingly enough, not all the carpets in the palace are Turkish, a 150-year-old bearskin rug was presented to the Sultan as a gift by the Tsar of Russia.

Special Interest

So what does Dolmabahce mean? In the Turkish dolma meaning “filled” and bahçe meaning “garden.”

The Palace was divided into two areas, the formal government administrative areas and the Harem-Humayun or private section. The entry to the private living quarters of the Sultan were heavily guarded. No man was allowed to enter except for the sultan and his eunuch servants. The private Harem included bedrooms and baths for the queen mother, favorite wives, wives, and of course concubines. Talk about a 1000 Fights!

The construction cost of the palace was five million Ottoman mecidiye gold coins, the equivalent of 5 tons of gold.  Fourteen tons of gold in the form of gold leaf were used to gild the ceilings. Wikipedia.com

Visiting the Palace

The Palace is closed on Mondays and Thursdays. It is open between 09:00 to 17:00. Get there early, as this is a very popular site.  Entry fee is 20 Lira or $12usd.   Istanbul is an amazing city to visit, and it is super easy to get to.  There are a ton of great flights to Turkey.  For the best deals try going in Oct. or May.

 

 

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1

Turkish Take-aways from the Seven Churches

The Celsius Library, Ephesus

One of the beauties of travel is the insight gained on so many levels.  Visiting Turkey opened our eyes in so many ways.  We loved our stay in beautiful Istanbul.  The city on two continents.  Booking luxury accommodation in Istanbul is simple and plentiful.  We spent quality time there, but our favorite part of our Turkish experience was our visit to the Seven Churches of Revelation.  You certainly do not need to be a scripture historian or be an extremely religious person to enjoy following the path of these important cities.  Although so much more can be gained by looking to these with a secular and a sectarian view.

  1. Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – the church that had forsaken its first love.

Far and away the most widely known and visited location of all of the Seven Churches.  Located on the outskirts of modern day Selcuk, Turkey.  The location’s vicinity to both international airports and cruise boat moorings make this one the popular stops for those taking in the western Mediterranean.  Ephesus used to be located on the harbor, but now silt and natural sediment has made the area landlocked.

Ephesus today is a collection of finely preserved ruins including a coliseum, extensive and finely preserved living quarters, a communal commode and of course the most recognizable feature, the Library.  Our advice is to visit Ephesus during the shoulder tourist season May or Sept.  This place can become cram packed with sightseers, especially those right off of a cruise.  Get there as early in the morning as possible, to avoid the throngs of people, and the light is so much better for your pictures.   Start at the top of the hill and work your way down.  The entire city is the shape of a giant L.

The two highlights for us were reading the story of Paul whilst sitting in the very coliseum that he plead to the idol worshiping throng.  Acoustics in the stadium are perfect.  Seats and stage are really well preserved.  The view from every seat was perfect, and sound really carries.  It is so easy to envision what it would have been like to listen to Paul, and the intimidating scene facing the thousands that were gathered there.

The other highlight was definitely visiting the Celsius Library. The façade has been restored and statues seen in the niches between the doors, are copies of the originals which were taken to Vienna during the years when the library was being excavated. As the inscriptions on the bases indicate, the statues symbolized the WISDOM (SOPHIA), KNOWLEDGE (EPISTEME), INTELLIGENCE (ENNOIA) and VIRTUE (ARETE) of Celsus.

Take Away-The biggest take-away are twofold.  First, the value of learning.  The center of this remarkable town was the Library.  A location to share knowledge and acquire the same.  Maybe there were some couple fights there?  The other thing that we took away was the courage of Paul.  He stood for his beliefs in the face of stiff opposition.

We spent a half day in Ephesus with our tour guide and then came the next day to get some more pictures. If you are there as a couple wait for the cruisys (our nickname for people who take cruises) to go by then continue to marvel while they are onto the next ruin.

2. Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – the church that would suffer persecution.

Can’t finding Synrna on a map?  It’s because there is not much there.  Today, the bustling port city of Izmir was built over the historical location of the city.  We really didn’t get a chance to see any ruins at this location.  We stayed our first night in Izmir when we flew in.  The Hilton in Izmir has a commanding view of the ocean and city.  We highly recommend.

Of note in marking Smyna, one of its most famous citiziens, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

We learn of Polycarp:  Writing to Polycarp’s flock, Ignatius another bishop in Asia at the time, had called him a “godly bishop.” (Smyrnaeans 12:2.) In his letters Ignatius shared spiritual and practical advice, encouraging him to pray, be diligent, and individualize his attention for each member: “Not all wounds are healed by the same plaster.” (Polycarp 2:1.) Moreover, Polycarp was not to allow those who “teach strange doctrine [to] overthrow you; stand firm as a hammered anvil.” (Polycarp 3:1.) Polycarp’s life fits the metaphor. Martyred in the middle of the second century, he had borne testimony of youthful contact “with John and with the others who had seen the Lord,” thus sharing his personal knowledge of the apostles’ preaching and witnessing “about their miracles.”Learn more

Take Away- In the secular realm: Development happens.  The progress for the sake of progress. What was once a great city, with wise and progressive citizenry…now is  a completely  new great city with wise and progressive citizenry.  Spiritually, we take strength in the Bishop’s dedication and courage to face opposition and hold fast to our faith.

3. Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the church that needed to repent.

Truth in advertising…we didn’t get to visit Pergamum.  It was simply too far, and our time was too limited. But our tour guide says it’s a must visit.

Things were hear with visiting in Pergamum: the Temple of Trajan

Some impressive remains of this 2nd c. A.D. marble temple dedicated to the emperor have been restored.  It sits next to the library which housed 200,000 volumes and was the second largest in the ancient world after Alexandria.  Parchment was invented in Pergamum after relations with Egypt soured and papyrus became difficult to obtain.

Noteable cisizens include: Galen of Pergamon a prominent sceientist  and physician.

Galen was also a highly skilled surgeon, and he performed surgical operations on human patients. Many of the procedures and techniques that he utilized would not be used again for centuries. Of particular note are procedures that Galen performed on patients’ brains and eyes. In order to correct cataracts in patients, Galen performed an operation that was similar to what is performed by contemporary ophthalmologists. Using a needle-shaped instrument, Galen attempted to remove the cataract from behind the lens of the eye. -Wikipedia

Take away-We need to make another trip to Turkey!  Take away number two…we hate needles…just thought you should know.

4. Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – the church that had a false prophetess.

Ok…this is the other church that we didn’t get too.  Again, sorry.  A few interesting facts and a little history about Thyatira.

Arch Bishop Gegorios

The city was known as “Pelopia” but it was named Thyateira by king Seleucus I Nicator in 290 BC because being at war with Lysimachus and hearing that he had a daughter born, called this city “thuateira”, from Greek “θυγατήρ”, “θυγατέρα” (thugaterthugatera), meaning “daughter”. In classical times, Thyatira stood on the border between Lydia and Mysia. It was famous for its dyeing and was a center of the indigo trade. Among the ancient ruins of the city, inscriptions have been found relating to the guild of dyers in the city. Indeed, more guilds are known in Thyatira than any other contemporary city in the Roman province of Asia (inscriptions mention the following: wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers and bronze-smiths)-Wikipedia

In 1922 the Patriarch of Constantinople appointed an Exarch for Western and Central Europe with the title Archbishop of Thyateira. The current Archbishop of Thyateira since 1988 is Gregorios Theocharous. The Archbishop of Thyateira resides in London and has pastoral responsibility for the Greek Orthodox Church in all of the United Kingdom. Cool huh?

Take away—Again, we need to visit Turkey again to see this location.  So another take away might be…we need to hear from you if you have been.  Tell us about it.

5. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – the church that had fallen asleep.

Fallen asleep? How can that be?!  The center of any visit to Sardis will revolve around the awe inspiring Gymnasium.  The Greeks and Romans strongly believed in the development of both the body and mind.  They would devote equal time to the development of both.  The folks from Sardis must have taken this a bit more one sided…with the construction of a two story temple to building the body! It is no wonder that they became great warriors.

Since 1958, Harvard University has sponsored annual archeological expeditions to Sardis. These excavations unearthed perhaps the most impressive synagogue in the western Diaspora yet discovered from antiquity, yielding over eighty Greek and seven Hebrew inscriptions as well as numerous mosaic floors.  These floors are simply amazing.  During our visit, we pretty much had the entire place to our self.  This is one of those sites that doesn’t make it on the mainstream tour agenda.  It is a must see.

They Gym at Sardis

Take away-our first tongue in cheek take away, is don’t leave your camera on a stone while climbing around on the rocks.  (It  can cause a fight and it did for us).  Ok serious again…the great gymnasium reminds us of the importance of developing both a strong body and a strong mind. Sardis was by far our favorite “church.” It’s literally in the middle of a field. It’s a stunning site and we were the only people there. Access to ruins in Turkey is far less guarded than in Europe. We climbed on columns and jumped off rocks.

The Arch at Philadelphia

6. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the church that had endured patiently.

Prior to our trip, we invested a lot of time learning more about Islam.  As practicing Christians, living in the rural western US, we have had limited exposure to the Islamic faith.   Turkey is an incredible mix of religions.  We took a tour in Istanbul that began at a Muslim Mosque, went through the Jewish Quarter, and ended at the mighty seminary of the Orthodox Christian Church.  Our tour was led by a guide that was Protestant who was married to a Muslim!  How is that for a melting pot?  Nowhere in our travels with the contrast in beliefs as great as in Philadelphia.  All that remands of the huge church that once was located here are huge arches and a very interesting cemetery.  The entire church complex is surrounded by mosques.  While we were visiting, there was a call to prayer. The entire area was ringing with the chant.  Here we were, at the onetime capital of Christianity in the religion and the strength and dominance of another religious perspective.

Warning:  Getting this can take some time.  This is the furthest afield of all the 7 locations.

Take Aways- You don’t have to agree to get along.  You can disagree without being disagreeable.

7.  Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the church with the lukewarm faith.

One of our favorite sites out of all the churches was Laodicea.  The ancient city…now just a collection of stones is across the valley from the white cliffs of the hot springs of pamukkale.  Anciently the city received some of its water supply piped across the valley from these springs.  By the time the water arrived, it has lost some of it’s steam.  It was now lukewarm.  John in Revelations plays on this analogy, comparing the lukewarm faith of the believers in the city to the water that was made available for their use. You can see the hot springs from the ruins of site. Be aware that pamukkale doensn’t look like the brochures. It’s amazing to see but if you are expecting cascading water rushing over the hill, it’s just not there. Most of the thermal water has been piped away for local hotels.

Take Away- Don’t be mediocre!  Be someone great.  Live your life to the fullest.  Take pride in your work. Focus on what is important and do big and great things.

Take a visit to the Seven Churches.  So much is to be gain and “taken away.”

Our favorite quote from the Book of Revalations:

Revelation 22:17

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.  And let him that heareth say, Come.  And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

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