To round out my 2012 travels and push my Delta miles beyond the Diamond threshold, I dashed off on a quick weekend mistake fare trip to Madrid (where I stayed in the hotel nearly the entire time ordering room service while I was bogged down with work and studying), enjoyed another weekend spa getaway to Las Vegas (lounged by the pool most of the time and sampled some of the high end restaurants on the strip), and then ventured into Turkey for a long weekend.
This was my second trip to Turkey and so on the first day, I set about revisiting all the spots in Istanbul I'd fallen in love with on the last trip. That meant, of course, a visit to Cemberlitas Hamami on the European side of Istanbul (not far from the Blue Mosque) for a relaxing scrub and massage. This little slice of heaven is, hands down, my favorite place in Istanbul to recharge after a long flight from the Americas. I also spent some quality time in the spice market, picking up more Turkish Delight than is probably necessary as well as apple tea and other goodies.
Having found a stay in the historic section of old Istanbul a bit inconvenient (not many good restaurants nearby and no nightlife) and overpriced on my last visit, I opted to stay at the Doubletree Modena in Kadikoy this time around. It's on the Asian side of Istanbul and very modern. It boasts a fantastic breakfast spread, affordable hotel pricing, and a dozen or more tasty restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood. It's become my go-to place to stay whenever I'm in the city. To get to the hotel you just take the tram from the airport down to the Sirkeci stop and then cross the street and take the ferry (1 Turkish Lira) from Eminonu to Kadikoy. It's an easy 15 minute ferry ride.
I popped in and out a handful or gourmet shops in Kadikoy (picked up some rose petal jam!) before I took a flight into Izmir. Izmir is a bustling, touristy seaside town but it's relatively quiet in the winter. I was only in the city to pick up a rental car and transfer to Ephesus so I didn't do much exploring beyond grabbing a bite to eat.
I was so excited to take in the ruins of Ephesus. It's a city of key importance in Christian history and its first inhabitants date back to the Bronze Age. It's location has moved around within the region a few times (due to geographical/weather troubles, disease, and politics) but it's always been a notable community. The city rose to become one of the wealthiest Greek communities and the Temple of Artemis (Greek goddess) was constructed within it during that time of prosperity. The city passed to Persian rule, then was liberated and ruled by Alexander the Great's men, before coming under Roman rule through a bequest of a will. As we know from biblical accounts, Ephesus was visited by Christian missionaries many many times in its last chapter of vibrancy. What you may not know from those accounts is that the strong and successful campaign to convert the community to Christianity is what ultimately led to its descent into ruin. Prior to conversion, the city's educated townspeople (both men and women enjoyed freedom to learn) made a handsome living off the sale of worship paraphernalia associated with Artemis. Once Christianity took hold (and took hold in a big way as Paul spent three years here, Ephesus was designated the head of the seven churches in Asia minor, the city hosted Christian councils in the 5th century, and the gospel of John is thought to have been written here), the making of craven images was banned, the beautiful temple of Artemis was destroyed by Christian activists, and the revenue from the Artemis worship tourism industry dried up. At the same time, the advances in women's rights the city could previously boast of were rolled back as women were barred from working independently or teaching men. The city's only saving grace toward maintaining its prominence outside of Christian theology was its role as a sea port and when the river silted up in the 14th century that came to an end as well. Thus is the history of the spectacular city brought to its knees by Christianity.
Here's a visual tour of my favorite buildings.
The stadium where the silversmiths were led into a near riot over the potential loss of idol making revenue as described in Acts 19:23-41.
The Library of Celsus