So I know it has been a while since I last updated my blog but that does not mean I have not been up to some pretty amazing things. In fact it means I’ve been so busy doing amazing things [and studying =/] that I haven’t had time to update my blog. BUT now before I begin my next journey I thought it appropriate to first let you know what I’ve been up to.
I believe the last adventure was in Cappadocia. So to stay in a chronological order the next place our group journeyed to was Catalhoyuk. We traveled way back in time to 7,400 and 6,200 BC or at least in our imaginations we traveled. Catalhoyuk is a neolithic settlement spanning around 34 acres and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its incredible wall paintings depicting the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to sedentary life (unesco.org). Today all we have to see is the excavation sites and the remnants of walls and other parts of their village. From there we visited some of the 13th century Seljuk Madreses in Konya. The first one we visited Karatay was famous for its tile work and the other Ince Minareli is famous for its impressive portal and stone carving. After a good lunch we went on to the Museum of Mevlana, the spiritual leader of the ‘Whirling Dervishes.’ Konya the town we were in is famous for being the capital of Sufism where the ‘Whirling Dervishes’ was a critical part. The museum complex was built around the tomb of the Sufi mystic Rumi. It was one of the best and well kept complexes I had seen.
Our journey then took us to Pammukkale where we not only saw the famous white travertine terraces but also the remains of the ancient city of Hierapolis. Both the Greco-Roman City and the hot springs are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was built around the natural hot springs around 2nd Century BC. The Major remains that we saw were the Necropolis which is the most famous in Anatolia for holding around 1200 tombs, the Hadrian Bath, Triumphal Gate of Frontinus, Royal Road, the Theater, and Agora. The necropolis was incredible to walk through and truly was the largest necropolis I had seen. Then probably because it was our first true ruins site I was so impressed with the remains of the city and theater. But the highlight of this day was definitely walking down the travertine terraces. Over the years from the build up of calcium carbonate minerals on the terraces the whole area consists of white travertines. From a distance and in pictures it looks like the side of the hill has been covered in snow that just won’t melt but once you start walking in the water you find it is warm and the white travertine is a solid rock structure. We started walking as dusk started and the whole experience was very beautiful and very surreal.
The next day we visited Aphrodisias, the capital city of Lydia which was dedicated to Aphrodite. This was probably my favorite ruins site mainly because of how well it was preserved. They believe that only 1/10 of the ancient city has been excavated but it is already in the World Heritage list of UNESCO. We would find that this was a common theme of ancient cities and I find it incredible that only 1/10 of the sites have been excavated, I guess just the time and money that goes into excavations is so much that governments have found that it isn’t worth it. But in talking with our tour guides it is mainly the money and with the current economic position our world is in I don’t think governments are going to be focusing on excavating ancient cities for a while. Before we ended our day we stopped at the House of Virgin Mary in the Ephesus area. It was incredible to see how many people travel there and how populations from every religion/ethnicity/and cultural background have come to accept her as a major figure in history and spiritually. Up until this point the sites we had seen were pretty well off the beaten path so it was disappointing to see such an important spiritual site be turned in to such a tourist trap. But that definitely didn’t stop me from having a really meaningful experience.
The next day we are in Ephesus which was once the capital of Asia Minor. The major remains we saw here were the Great Theater, the Celsius Library, Fountains of Domitian and Trajan, the Roman Bath, the Terrace House, and the Odeon and Commercial market. What was most impressive about Ephesus is the size of it, and again only 1/10 of the site has been excavated so I can only imagine what the area must have looked like at the peak of its importance. I was really disappointed in the restoration process and I think it was because the site has been worked on since 1863 when archeologists were more interested in discoveries than restoring what they discovered. But the Terrace Houses and the work that they were doing on those was so impressive. That same day we went to the tomb of St. John in the Basilica and also the remains of the Artemission or the Temple of Artemis which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today all that remains of both sites is pretty sad at least compared with the work that has been done at the site of the city. But yet there are still columns and outlines of the places and we are able to say for certain they are what they are and that is pretty incredible when you start to realize these sites have been here since the 1st century BC.
On Sunday Oct. 28 we began our trip back up to Istanbul. We first stopped at Pergamum the ancient city that was first established by Lysimachus, a general under Alexander the Great. Parchment was invented under the patronage of Eumenes of Pergamum, as a substitute to papyrus which was not being exported from Alexandria and in an effort to make the library of Pergamum grander than the Library in Alexandria.
From here we traveled to Troy. We contemplated whether Herod was telling the truth about the city and whether the Trojan War really occurred. The site had been saved after a German archeologist came in digging for Gold and the Treasures of Troy (which he found and supposedly are now in Russia’s possession). It was a really incredible site but after seeing so many ruined ancient cities the past few days we were all exhausted and sadly the excited flame within all of us was waning.
The next day we made our way back to Istanbul. But before we could get to Istanbul our faithful bus broke down. Hey, it wouldn’t be Turkey or an real trip if there wasn’t a little mishap here and there. Anyways, at the end of this 10-day journey we had covered 3,000 km on the road (more than 1850 miles). We had visited 6 more sites inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list and visited or driven by the sites of 3 of the 7 Churches of Revelation. Over all we saw a lot of Turkey and truly were able to explain the amazing amount of history this country has.
It made me realize how young America really is especially when you compare our history to the ancient history of these countries. Of course with my constant thoughts of politics and state making it made me realize how stupid it is for us to try and group and make states of such ethnically diverse areas. The fact that when the Middle East and Africa were divided into nation states based on their ties to the European powers instead of their ethnic allegiance it makes me so angry. It is no wonder when you start to see the complex history and development of civilizations in this area that there are so many problems today. I think American politicians should be more mindful of the history that lies within these countries, and think backwards before trying to move them forward. Because more than likely the countries are either a. not ready or b. not willing to move forward yet and only when they want to change will they change. This thought process of mine continued as I traveled to Egypt the next weekend. But that will be in the next post SO stay tuned for more from me soon!