Kids, there was a lot to see during the week our team spent in Istanbul. Of course, we didn’t get a chance to see everything there was to see, but we did see and do a lot. And there’s enough to possibly convince me to come back some day. No promises, but we’ll see.
On our first full day in Istanbul, we took a drive over to the district that is home to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), the Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar.
The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia were a short walk away from each other and both rank among the most beautiful examples of architecture I’ve ever seen. We got a chance to go inside the mosque and I was just blown away by how gorgeous the design was. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go into the Hagia Sophia, which I was pretty disappointed about. Maybe next time.
The Grand Bazaar was quite the experience. The folks running the shops have got to be trained to spot an American from a mile away. I mean, I was walking with two other guys, who are also Americans, and they kept coming after me. Dude selling the hats, looks right at me and tells me he has great deals. A guy selling lamps shoves one right into my face. What was it about me, of the three of us, that made all the sales clerks come after me? “Here’s Aaron, clearly an American who wants to spend money!” Like it was the cool thing to do… “Let’s remind this guy that he doesn’t actually have any money!”
Though, I did purchase a fez. And a scarf for my mom (which I still haven’t given to her… really need to get on that). The guy that sold us his scarves (Jeff bought two for his wife and daughter) was trying to sell them to us for $100 apiece. Uh… that’s a lot of money for a scarf. Good thing haggling is a thing. We talked him way down. But only after we threatened to walk. I still say we got took.
We didn’t really do any other sightseeing in Istanbul as the week went on. I mean, we drove and walked around a lot of different places, but nowhere that could be considered real tourist spots. Though we did get a morning on our own, away from our host, to hang out at a beach area on the Marmara Sea. Like I said, not too touristy, but it was a neat place to walk around and people watch.
That’s not to say we didn’t do anymore touristy things.
On Thursday, we hopped a plane to Izmir, where we hopped a bus to Ephesus. This day was probably my favorite of the entire trip. This is where the church history geek in me came out to play.
Ephesus is the site of one of the churches that Paul planted. This is one of the churches that John wrote to in the book of Revelation. And I’m pretty sure it’s where John would have written the gospel with his name on it. I’m not 100% about that last one, I’d have to do some research. But I think that’s the tradition that church history holds to.
Anyway, in the ancient site, we got to see where the marketplace would have stood, where Paul would have preached to the people and pissed off the silversmiths. See, as Paul converted people to Christianity, the silversmiths were unable to sell as many tiny Artemis idols. This was bad for business. So they wanted to have Paul killed. And we got to walk down the stone pathway where Paul would have been dragged.
It kind of blew my mind to think about how old this place was. The city was established in the 10th century BC. That means I was standing in a place that was 3,000 years old. You can’t see ancient architecture like that when you spend all your time in the New World.
While in Ephesus, we were able to visit the site of the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Of course, today, all that’s left standing is one column. Well, one and a half. It’s claimed that a crazy person burned the joint down at some point. Then the majority of the stone that remained was repurposed. In fact, several of the columns that once made up the temple now reside inside the Hagia Sophia. Fun fact!
I guess I will have to go back someday. Just so I can see the Artemis columns inside the Hagia Sophia.