Touring Turkey – Ephesus, Part 2

Thursday, August 4th, 2011 | Posted under Turkey, Video, Vlogging

I hope you enjoyed the first post about our visit to Ephesus. Our time at Ephesus was not over, and we still had a few major sites to see amongst the ruins.

Behold, the Grand Theater……


This theater can hold up to 25,000 people. It’s huge!! This isn’t just any old theater, either. For those of you who are a little familiar with the Bible, this theater was the scene of an early incident mentioned in the Bible between early Christians and the residents of Ephesus. I’ll tell you a little more about it in this video.
By the way, I’m squinting a lot because I had to look straight into the sun to film this. I just bought real sunglasses last month. I kid you not. I also say “Um” too much. 🙁

EphesusTheater from TAOTerri on Vimeo.

If you want to look up this story in the Bible, check out Acts 19. It starts to get good at Verse 23.
Here’s the lady I mentioned in the video. The Grand Theater has some pretty great acoustics.

If you wanna check out the acoustics, watch this.
You can hear me and Husband J cheering at the end. I was saying “Merci!” because our songstress was part of a group of French tourists.
After passing by some more evidence of Ephesus’ former glory, we knew we had to see one last thing.
Arcadian Street. Imagine a really nice open-air mall. Perhaps Ephesus’ Rodeo Drive?

On the very edge of the Ephesus site is the Church of Mary. It was built as a church to commemorate the Council of Ephesus, a religious conference to discuss Christian doctrine. The organizers built a basilica in Mary’s honor. Many believe that Mary, Jesus’ mother, spent many of her last years here in the Ephesus area under the care of John the Apostle. (Remember him?) You can actually visit a house right outside of Ephesus that many think was her actual home.
Church of Mary

If you are thinking about going to Turkey, you must include Ephesus on your trip.
So THAT’S ALL, FOLKS! That was our trip to Turkey. I’ll write a hotel review or two more, but this will be the last Turkey post for awhile. I hope you enjoyed learning about this fascinating and beautiful country.

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Ramadan Mubarak

Monday, August 1st, 2011 | Posted under Faith, Personal, Turkey, Video

According to the Islamic lunar calendar, today is the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim month of all-day fasting and reflection. During Ramadan many Muslims read the through the Qur’an, refocus on charitable gifts and volunteering and increase their time of prayer. My neighborhood will be busy as I live very close to a mosque, and my neighborhood has traditionally had a large Muslim population. As a matter of fact, it’s been called Little Mecca.

Although Ramadan happens for one month per year, an integral part of the daily life in a Muslim country is the call to prayer. One of my favorite travel memories actually involves the call to prayer. I was in downtown Durban, South Africa’s predominantly Muslim area. It was sunset and the light streaming through old colonial looking buildings. The next thing I know, a beautiful voice part singing, part chanting with so much soul and feeling emanated through the streets. It was the sundown call to prayer, and I was taken in completely. I remember feeling very at peace at that moment. Even though I’m not Muslim, I was deeply affected.
In honor of the beginning of Ramadan, I thought I would share with you with the call to evening prayer near our hotel in Cappadocia. I liked this one better than the one at 4:30am (that’s not even a typo). 🙂

Cappadocia Prayer Call from TAOTerri on Vimeo.

For any of you celebrating Ramadan, I wish you a healthy month of fasting, reflection and greater peace.

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Touring Turkey – Ephesus, Part 1

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 | Posted under Turkey

While planning our trip to Turkey, I wasn’t sure whether we should even go to Ephesus. It’s one of the best preserved former Roman cities on the Mediterranean outside of Italy (pretty much other than Rome actually), but I wasn’t clear if we should take a full day to see it. The Latin Geek in me felt like I had to though. In case you’re interested in eventually seeing Ephesus, you can definitely see the ruins and St. John’s Basilica in a day as many tourists often see the area as a port of call on a cruise (Kusadasi is the nearest major port) or fly in for the day from Istanbul.

When we finally got to Ephesus I could see why its founders planted the city here. The scenery is beautiful.
Agora

The marketplace (and hotspot for political discussions)

Me at the Agora (I think..so many ruins it’s so hard to identify them all!!)

One thing you should know is that Ephesus was THE place to be back in the day. It was at certain points a major trading center with lots of wealthy residents. Ephesus was also a center for early Christianity, but I’ll get to that in a separate post.

Odeon
Part theater, part political gathering place for the Bouleia, a local council made up of the descendants of the Ephesian aristocracy


Tomb of Memius
Memius was the grandson of Sulla, a Roman general and politician who restored Ephesus as a Roman city after it was conquered by Mithridates, ruler of a kingdom bordering the Black Sea.


Before the Romans came through and ruled this part of Turkey, the Greeks were running the show. This tablet below has a Greek inscription. I wish I could tell you what it says.

By the way, I was shocked at how little supervision there was at the ruins. In some respects, it was nice to just wander wherever you wanted, but I feel like some people (i.e., some annoying teens) were not being responsible and respectful of it as a historical space. I think perhaps in other places there would be multiple guards making sure you don’t go in certain areas. I’m sure the Turkish government knows what a treasure it has here in Ephesus. I just hope they do what is necessary to preserve this for future generations to explore. Anyhoo…


Temple of Hadrian
Built in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian. Inside the walls showed the early history of Ephesus. If you want to see those walls now, you must go to the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk.


At this point, we were making our way down Curetes Street, one of Ephesus’ main thoroughfares. Think of it as its Broadway or Champs Elysees. We were inching our way closer to one of the areas of the ruins that I had been waiting to see for our entire trip to Turkey.


We had lots of time in Ephesus (a solid 2 1/2 hours) not necessarily by our choice (I’ll explain later), so we (respectfully) played around quite a bit in the ruins.
Mugging for the camera


Finally, there it was…the Celsus Library.


At one point, this was the third richest library in the ancient world with supposedly over 12,000 scrolls. It was constructed by the high-ranking government official, Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaenus, who oversaw the Roman empire in Asia (Turkey was considered Asia to the Romans even back then). Anyone building a library for your parents any time soon? Take note.
Each of these statues in the niches of the columns depicts a female representation of a virtue of Celsus (e.g. Sophia = wisdom).

Ennoia = Intelligence



We made sure to go behind the library’s facade.

It’s in Turkish, but I think this describes the excavation and restoration of the library.

At this point, I was definitely happy that Ephesus was included in our trip. I’m really glad that we didn’t miss seeing this in person.


If you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far of Ephesus, there’s more to come. 🙂

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Touring Turkey – St. John’s Basilica

Monday, July 11th, 2011 | Posted under Turkey

***Before I go any further, I should say that this is St. John the Apostle and not the Baptist. Ya know, just in case you were wondering. 🙂 ***

We had finally left Cappadocia extremely early in the morning, and took a short flight from the city Kayseri in Cappadocia to Izmir (aka ancient Smyrna) with a drive to the small town of Selcuk. Selcuk is about 3 miles from the Ephesus ruins.
One of the main sights to see in Selcuk proper is St. John’s Basilica, a church that was built on the believed site of John’s grave. Construction was started in 536 by the Emperor Justinian and took almost 20 years to complete. Historians and others think that John lived in Ephesus where he wrote the Gospel of John and possibly the book of Revelation in the Bible (some scholars dispute the latter). John lived to a nice ripe old age and died in Ephesus. Apparently, he may have also taken care of Jesus’ mother, Mary, as well while they both lived in the Ephesus area (more on her later).
Walking towards the site, you can already see that it used to be a pretty grand church.

One of the main reasons to even stop here is to see John’s grave, and here it is below. A mausoleum was first built over the grave, and then the church built above that.
Grave site


There are still reminders that this used to be a large, expansive indoor space.





If you’re curious about what the church actually looked like back then, take a look.

Husband J and I were just pretty happy to see the beauty of this part of western Turkey close to the Mediterranean Sea, which has a much different feel and climate to Cappadocia in the center of the country. Do you notice anything different about all of these pictures? THERE’S SUN!!! We finally saw the sun on our sixth day in Turkey! It felt soooo good.

The Ephesus area is gorgeous!

St. John’s Basilica was just a prep for the Ephesus site, which I loved and will write about soon.

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Touring Turkey – Argos Hotel in Cappadocia

Monday, June 20th, 2011 | Posted under Hotels, Turkey

Okay, I lied. I’ve got one last Cappadocia mention, and that goes to our hotel, Argos Hotel. Be forewarned that there is actually another hotel in Turkey called Argos, but it’s on the Mediterranean side. I really enjoyed our stay there, and I would definitely go back just to experience it in much warmer weather. Like many of the hotels in the Cappadoccia region, Argos is built into rock and incorporates stone into the architecture of the room.

I chose the deluxe style room, which was one step above the standard. I think that the main difference between the standard and deluxe was perhaps a little extra room? Argos is about simple, rustic design yet everything felt really luxurious and comfortable.
Bed and desk in our room. Do you see the stone walls?

The bathroom was pretty awesome and has double sinks and a huge shower (I’d say four people could fit in there…really). For some reason, I didn’t get a pic of it. I guess I was too busy enjoying it.


Even with the simple modern theme, there was still Turkish elements like the fireplace below. Be forewarned. To light it, you’ll need to fork over 20 Euro to the hotel.


I wish it had been a bit warmer, so that I could enjoy the hotel’s grounds a bit more.

Courtyard




I personally thought the hotel’s restaurant was quite good. We ate dinner here two out of the three nights we were in Cappadocia, and I really enjoyed the meals (a few reminders of what we ate there). There isn’t much going on in Uchisar, and Goreme is about a ten minute cab ride away. I think in warmer weather, Goreme is much more happenin’, so there are more dinner options there that are less expensive.

After experiencing cold weather all day, it was nice to settle in with a warm fire, meet and chat with other guests and catch a little TV at the lounge. There are no TVs in the rooms. I was fine with that, but I know some people might not be.
Fireplace at the Argos lounge area



Some things you should know (they’re not bad things, just things you should know):

1. Ladies, keep your heels at homeSince the hotel (and most of the town of Uchisar) is built into rock, the grounds of the hotel have stairs and in a few places you need to walk on a cobbled stoned street uphill. For our room, we had to walk on this very road for a very short time, but I was glad that I brought a pair of cute flats. You should too.

2. The joys of being in a place with a prayer call – Husband J and I live very close to a mosque in New York City that sends out a prayer call. It’s a part of our daily life, so we are actually pretty used it. What we are NOT used to is that fact that the prayer call includes the one VERY EARLY in the morning (we have a noise ordinance in NYC that prevents projected noise during certain hours). For us during our March stay, that meant the prayer call started at 4:30am.
I think the minaret was about 200 feet from our room. It felt like it was IN our room.

Okay, overall review?
Pros
1. Rooms – very comfortable, modern with great amenities. Definitely up my alley. The rooms include spacious bathrooms and no TVs as mentioned above. Some of the rooms required a short walk up the road from reception. If you have physical challenges, you might want to request one that doesn’t have you walking very much, if at all. The grounds were beautiful, and everything was tastefully decorated.
2. Location – I did really like being in Uchisar even if it’s one of the sleepier towns in the Cappadocia region. It also seems to have some of the nicer hotels in the area. I think things would have been livelier in warmer months, but with such long days touring the Cappadocian countryside, I was pretty fine with a quieter hotel experience. If you want more action, get a taxi into Goreme, or rent a car and check out Urgup. Uchisar suited us fine. Plus, we loved the views from our room.


3. Great breakfast and dinner with wonderful service at the restaurant.
Cons ( I may be reaching a bit here)
1. Iffy wi fi – I’m being pretty picky here, but if you advertise wifi, it should work. We found that the closer you were to reception, the better the wi fi worked. Since we weren’t close to reception, the wifi in our room was practically non-existent. Luckily, we had a small easily portable laptop with us, and it worked fine in the hotel lounge.
2. Make sure to get a room on an upper level. In some cases there are rooms on top of each other. I didn’t necessarily work out for us to be a on a lower level room. At one point, it sounded like the guests above us were dragging chairs from one end of the room to the next for what seemed like forever. It was definitely loud and slightly annoying. If you can, try to be at the top level.
3. Front desk staff – Everyone at the hotel was very nice and helpful. There were a few times that we asked for advice or assistance, and I think they forgot about us. That’s fine. I have the internet and my guidebook, but I think it’s important to follow-up with informational requests made by guests.
As you can see, I’m nitpicking here. We really liked Argos and would definitely go back, if staying in Cappadocia again.
If you’re interested in other hotels with a similar vibe, check out the Museum Hotel or the Cappadocia Cave Resort & Spa.

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