Sunday, May 26, 2013


This week has been really awesome!  (And this post is really long because of it.) We left for Turkey on Sunday morning, and we arrived there later in the morning.  Flying out of the Tel Aviv airport took forever!  We had to stand in one line for them to x-ray our checked bags.  Then we had to stand in line to check our x-rayed suitcases.  And we had to stand in another line to get our carry-on bags checked and go through security.  Then we had to stand in line to get our passports checked out.  And then we had to stand in line to get on the plane.  There was so much time spent standing in line!  (Probably like three and a half hours.) And it was only for a two-hour flight to Istanbul.   But that’s okay because it was all worth it once we got there.  When we got to Istanbul the first day, we just checked into our hotel, had a little free time to walk around the city, and then went to a restaurant for dinner. 

I’m going to take a minute to explain what the food was like.  It isn’t very hard to explain because all the meals were the same.  So first of all, we couldn’t drink the water, so we always had bottled water.  For breakfast everyday, we ate at the hotels.  They always served a salad bar at breakfast with bread, warm milk, stale cereal, warm yogurt, different kinds of fruit syrups to dip your bread in, and maybe some fruit if we were lucky.  Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day at our cafeteria in Jerusalem, but in Turkey it was definitely the worst meal of the day because nothing felt was really anything that you would want to eat for breakfast.  Then for lunch and dinner, the food was pretty much the same everywhere we went.  The meals were always in courses at the restaurants they took us to.  First they would bring out salad that had wilty lettuce and pickled cabbage.  So I hardly ever ate it because it always tasted gross.  Then they would bring us bread which was usually pretty good.  After the bread, we were served lentil soup at every restaurant.  I loved the lentil soup!  It was so yummy!  After the soup, we were served the main course of some kind of meatball and rice or potatoes.  The meatballs were not in the shape of balls though.  They were just flat pieces of meat with a meatball-like texture.  These varied in goodness depending on where we went.  After the main course, we were served either fruit or baklava.  The baklava was my favorite thing we ate in Turkey!  It was SO good!  I wish I could eat that stuff everyday.  We were usually only served a little bit because it was always so rich.  And every meal was like that.  Except for the last night.  We went to a restaurant where they served us a whole cooked fish.  And I usually hate fish, but it actually wasn’t too bad.  I ate the whole thing.  I did get really sick one day in the middle of the trip though, and I think it was from the meatballs we had had the night before.  I woke up and threw up a few times and had bad diarrhea.  I felt sick the whole day even though I didn’t throw up after we left the hotel.  I know it was something I ate because I was totally fine the next day and for the rest of the trip.
Here’s what we did each day of the trip:

Monday – We spent the day in Istanbul.  (Previously named Constinople before the Ottoman Turks took over.)  It’s an interesting city because it straddles the European continent and the Asian continent.  The Bosphorus Strait runs between the two halves of the city.  The first day, we saw the Hippodrome.  That used to be a large track where the Romans would have horse races.  It is now just a big open paved space, and the seating has all been totally dismantled.  There are some cool monuments in the middle of it though.  There is one from Egypt that the Romans took that dates back to about 3000 BC, which is about when the pyramids were built.  After that, we went to the Blue Mosque.  The real name of it is the Sultanhamet Mosque, but tourists call it the Blue Mosque because of all the blue tiles inside.  Then we visited the Topkapi Palace.  This was the palace of the Ottomans beginning in about 1500.  It was so large and elaborate!  Imagine the Turkish version of the Biltmore Estate, and that’s what we saw.  There were rooms just full of gifts that the family had been given by royalty of other countries and a large room full of weaponry and armor.  We actually couldn’t take pictures of most of it, but it was just gorgeous.  After that, we visited the Basilica Cistern.  This was a huge underground cistern that can store up to 14 million gallons of water!  It was built by Justinian during the Byzantine period in about 530 AD.  It is held up by columns all the way through.  After that, we visited the Grand Bazaar in the heart of tourist Istanbul.  It is a HUGE market with about 4000 shops where you could spend millions of dollars I’m sure.  It was really fun to shop in there and see all the neat things you could buy.  After the Grand Bazaar, we took a little cruise on the Bosphorus Strait beginning at the south end and ending up towards the north end near the Black Sea. 

Tuesday – We visited the Gallipoli Peninsula (the piece of land sticking out where it says Dardenelles on the map) and saw the memorial to the ANZAC soldiers that fought there for the Allied forces during World War I.  ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  They were soldiers that fought along side the British.  Unfortunately, they did not win the battle at Gallipoli, and many of them lost their lives, so they decided to commemorate them there after the war.  The reason we took the time to see this is because we watched the movie Gallipoli before we came to Turkey so we could learn more about what was going on in Turkey during the first World War.  After this we crossed the Dardanelles Strait on a ferry and visited the ruins of…TROY!!  The ruins of Troy are just a little north of the city Troas on the map.  This was definitely one of my favorite things we saw during the trip.  To see where the Trojan war might have taken place was so neat.  I’m so glad that I took a literature class about a year ago where we read the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid that all talk about the Trojan War.  It was also cool to visit there having had the Trojan as my mascot in high school.  They had the Trojan horse from the movie Troy there before the entrance, so everyone went up inside of it and took pictures.  Troy actually dates all the way back to 3000 BC.  There are nine levels of city that archaeologists have uncovered.  They think the Trojan War happened at level six or seven in about the 12th century BC.  One of the funniest moments of the trip happened here.  When we pulled up to Troy after having driven for a long time, one of the guys named Cameron said, "Does anybody need to use the Troylets?"  Haha! 

Wednesday – This was the day that I was really sick.  But it’s all right because we spent a lot of time on the bus.  First we visited Assos, where there was once a large Temple to Athena, built in about the 7th century BC.  Paul traveled here from Troas (a twenty-five mile walk) in order to continue traveling by boat to Mitylene on one of his missions.  After this we traveled to Pergamum to see the Temple of Trajan.  He was a Roman emperor (100 AD), and there was also an altar here that was built to Zeus.  Pergamum was addressed in Revelation chapter 2 and told that it was the “seat of Satan.”  This was one of the coolest temples that we saw.  Pergamum also housed the second largest library in the ancient world, second to the one in Alexandria. 

Thursday – The first thing we visited was the Basilica to St. John near Ephesus, author of the Gospel of John, the Book of Revelation, and the epistles of John in the New Testament.  This was a beautiful church that had a tomb dedicated to John, even though we know through modern-day revelation that he was translated.  We could see the place where a temple of Artemis once stood.  Most of the stones were taken from the temple to build the church of St. John.  And then right next to the church is a modern-day mosque.  Most of the building material for the mosque came from the church of St. John, so a lot of the same stones were used in all three buildings.  After this, then we visited Ephesus.  Ephesus was a huge city!  They think it had a population of about 250,000 people at its height.  The earliest settlement there is thought to be at 1400 BC, and then it was at its height in about the 4th century BC.  The city eventually declined because the river that runs next to it caused the harbor at Ephesus to silt up, so the city lost its importance when there was no harbor to bring trade to the city.  It had the third largest library in the ancient world.  There was also a temple built to Artemis (or Diana) there and a huge theater where we know that the apostle Paul preached.  He was there in about 50 AD, and what he said there can be found in Acts 19.  He preached against false gods (probably in reference to the worship of Artemis there.)  This is also the city where Timothy was the bishop when he received the epistles from Paul of 1 and 2 Timothy.  Later on that day, we visited Priene, where there is also a theater and ruins left from the temple of Athena.  There were pieces of the temple all over the place.  Paul also probably passed through here on his way to Miletus on one of his mission trips. 

Friday – First we visited Sardis, which is where a large temple to Artemis once stood.  (It’s hard to keep straight which temples were where.)  It was built in about 300 BC.  This was another one of my favorite places we visited.  Also at Sardis was a large gymnasium complex where athletes would train.  There was also a synagogue that stood at Sardis, which is a good reminder that Judaism was still being practiced into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD under Roman rule.  After this, we visited Thyatira where the story of Lydia in the New Testament happened.  She was a “seller of purple,” which meant that she was in the cloth dying industry, which is neat because there are records of a large dye industry in Thyatira.  There wasn’t anything really special at these ruins because they have just been very dismantled over time.  After Thyatira, we traveled to Bursa, which is the 3rd largest city in Turkey today.  (After Istanbul and Ankara, the capital.)  We saw the Grand Mosque there, which was really neat because it had 20 domes on the top of it!  When entering a mosque, women have to cover their heads and everyone has to take off their shoes.  I thought that was kind of gross because that means everyone is walking where everyone else’s gross feet have been, so I was grateful to be wearing socks.  But it’s to represent walking on holy ground.  The mosque was built in about 1400.  Mosques are extremely ornate, and they are really interesting in terms of decoration and architecture.  And there are mosques on every corner in Turkey because 98% of the population is Muslim.   But it is a very secular country, and most people there are not extremely religious like they are in Jerusalem. 
Saturday – We visited the site of ancient Nicea (near Iznik on the map above) where Constantine the Great had a palace.  This is where the Nicene Creed was signed.  This was a document that tried to unify the Christian sects that had begun to form within the Catholic Church in the 4th century.  Three hundred bishops came to sign the creed that stated that God and Christ are “of one substance,” whatever that means.  I’m so thankful for the First Vision and modern-day revelation that teaches us that God and Jesus Christ are two separate beings that have bodies of flesh and bones.  After this we visited a church called the Hagia Sophia.  (Not the famous one in Istanbul.)  It was a Christian church that was later converted to a mosque.  It was a site of some of the ecumenical councils where the Catholic Church had to again discuss the nature of God and Jesus Christ. Then we took a ferry back to the European part of Istanbul, and we visited the Hagia Sophia that is famous.  Hagia Sophia means “Holy Wisdom” in Greek.  It was SO beautiful!  It was probably the highlight of the trip for me because it is one of the best preserved examples of Byzantine art in the whole world.  It was turned into a mosque by the Ottomans, but they preserved most of the Christian art luckily.  The mosaics there are really beautiful.  It was the largest Christian church in the world for 1000 years, and it is still one of the biggest churches in the world.  It is now a museum, and no one worships there even though both religions would like it back as a place of worship.  After that, we went to a restaurant and had our fish meal.  Then we went to the airport and took a red-eye flight back to Tel Aviv at 1am.  We got back to the Jerusalem Center at almost 5 am this morning, and everyone is exhausted after having seen all of those sights and having spent over thirty hours on the bus together this week.  We had a sacrament meeting that lasted about forty minutes at 12:30 this afternoon.  We had a great time on the trip though.  I also forgot to mention that we had the chance to go to the beach three times on this trip in the evenings when we got back to our hotels because some of our hotels were on the beach.  So that was really fun.  And in order to imagine what our bus rides were like, just imagine one long dance party with breaks for sleeping every once in a while.  We had a party on the bus and sang and danced a lot together.  It was so fun.  The theme song of our trip was "Istanbul, not Constantinople" by They Might Be Giants.  I would post the link from youtube, but youtube is blocked at the JC.  

This is from our first night out in the city.  Behind us are aqueducts built by the Romans.

This is the monument stolen from Egypt by the Romans that stands in the center of the Hippodrome in Istanbul.

The inside of the dome in the Blue Mosque.  This is all made out of tile.

Me inside the Blue Mosque.  Behind me are beautiful stained glass windows.  They are kind of hard to see in the pictures I took.
Left to right: me, Amy Fillmore, Rose Kiernan, Luiza, and Julie Kelson in the courtyard of the Blue Mosque.
The outside of the Blue Mosque.  Notice that there are six minarets (the towers on the outside.)  The number of minarets denotes how great the building is in Islam.  Only the Grand Mosque in Mecca has more with seven.
The underground cistern built by the Emperor Justinian in 530 AD. They told us that part of the James Bond movie called From Russia with Love was filmed in this cistern.

Some of the columns were made from older pieces of stone from the earlier Roman period.  This one happened to have Medusa's head on it.  There was another one like this also, but the head was on its side.

This is the famous "Tower of Justice" in the Topkapi Palace.  It was where the Sultan would meet with his Viziers to discuss the problems of the country.
Inside the meeting room of the Tower of Justice.  Everything in the palace was just as ornate as this or more.

A view of the Topkapi palace from the our cruise on the Bosphorus Strait.  Notice the Tower of Justice on the right hand side.

This is what most of the Turkish countryside looked like that we drove past.  Lots of beautiful green farmland.

Me at the ANZAC Memorial.

This is in front of the model Trojan horse at the entrance to the ruins of Troy.

This is a ramp that dates to the time of the Trojan War that would have been the entrance to the city.  If there was a real Trojan horse, this is where they would have brought it into the city.

This is at the ruins of the Temple to Artemis at Assos.  I am facing the Aegean Sea in this picture.

This is what the rest of the Turkish countryside looks like.  There are TONS of olive orchards everywhere!  They grow a lot of olives in Turkey!

This is at the the Temple of Trajan at Pergamum.  So beautiful!

This is the theater at Pergamum.  Look how steep it is!  It could seat just as many people as the Marriott Center.  (About 20,000 people.)
This was probably a statue of Trajan at his temple.  We all took pictures of us posing behind it.  

 This was at St. John's Basilica near Ephesus.  Behind me are the ruins of the church, and in the background you can also see the mosque with its domes.

 This is the library at Ephesus.  There were tons of tourists there that day because there is a cruise ship port near there that had three cruise ships docked at it.  Our professors said this was the busiest they had ever seen it.

 Me in the theater at Ephesus.  This was also huge and could seat several thousand people.

 Left to right: Morgan, Jasmine, Luiza, and me at the temple to Athena at Priene.

 Me sitting on the ruins of the Temple of Athena at Priene.

 This is at the theater at Priene.  Everyone started dancing in there.  It was pretty funny, and it looked like the set for a music video.

 The temple of Artemis at Sardis.  Most of these columns were reconstructed.

 This is at the gymnasium at Sardis.  Almost this entire structure was reconstructed.  Behind this building, there is a big hole in the ground where they think a swimming pool used to be.

 This is an attempt to show what the twenty domes at the Grand Mosque in Bursa look like.  This mosque was also very ornate, but not as much so as the Blue Mosque.

 Me inside of the Grand Mosque in Bursa by a painting of some columns.

 Inside the Grand Mosque.  That gold thing behind me is to show which direction Mecca is so that people know which direction to face when they pray in there.

 Me at the ruins of Constantine's palace at Nicea where the Nicene Creed was signed.

 Inside of the small Hagia Sophia church where some of the ecumenical councils were held.  The roof is totally reconstructed since there was a fire in there in the twentieth century.  This is facing the back of the church where the apse is.  (The rounded part at the back where an altar once stood.)

 On the shore of Nicea near Constantine's palace.  Behind me is the Sea of Marmara.

 Inside the large Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Unfortunately there was a bunch of scaffolding on the left because they are restoring something on that side of the church.  Just look how big it is!

 One of the famous mosaics from the Hagia Sophia.  It's supposed to be Christ in the middle with the virgin Mary on His left and John the Baptist on the right.  It's missing a lot of it because people would take a piece of the mosaic as a souvenir a long time ago.

 Me inside the Hagia Sophia.  This is on the second story of the church.

 This is a column inside the Hagia Sophia that has been nicknamed the "wishing column."  The legend behind it is that an angel appeared here on this column to a small boy while the church was being constructed to tell the boy that he needed to go tell the workers to come back from their lunch break and hurry up and finish the church.  The angel promised the boy that he would be there when the boy got back.  But the boy never came back, so the angel hid inside the column and wept because the boy did not return.  People think the angel is still inside the column and that if you can touch the column and get one of the angel's tears, your wishes will come true.  The truth is that because there is a hole somewhere at the top of the column, sometimes, condensation builds up inside and you can get some water on your hand by sticking it in the hole of the column  There is a hole in the column where everyone puts their thumb and then runs their hand around in a circle to try and catch one of the angel's tears.

 Me outside of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  It was part of the Christian tradition to have ornate churches on the inside and very plain on the outside.  So it doesn't look that fancy from the outside, even though you can tell it was very large.  It has minarets because it was later turned into a mosque.  There are four minarets.

 This is what we had for dinner the last night of our trip.  I wasn't very excited about eating something that had an eyeball still in it to look at me while I ate it.

And I actually ate it all, and it wasn't too bad.  (Would you like a nice cold fish head?  It comes with a turnip and a spork!  Haha!! Perfect Brian Regan reference moment!)

I took about 200 pictures on this trip, so if there is something anyone reading this would like to see in more detail, feel free to email me or leave a comment, and I can load more pictures on here.  I just picked the ones that I thought best captured what the main things I saw and did on this trip.

1 comment:

  1. Would like to see more of Constantine's palace, Troy and Hagai Sophia. Enjoyed them all, but that and the countryside were really what I wanted to see more of.