Browsing Category:


    Benedicts in Turkey: Istanbul

    We’ve made it to the final installment of our two-week Turkey tour with David’s family! We had two and a half days in Istanbul and I think we were all happy to be in one spot for more than a couple of hours. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and David and Sam returned the rental car. (I was glad to have it off of our hands. Driving in Istanbul is nuts!)

    We stayed at Antique Hostel in the Sultanahmet area and recommend it. It was in a perfect location and had a yummy breakfast and a great price!

    Istanbul is one of my favorite cities. David and I visited many times while we lived in Turkey. (Check out our previous posts with more travel details here, herehere, here, and here.) It was always a great getaway and change of pace from Ankara. And with $30 flights from Ankara to Istanbul, what could be better? It was a place where we could explore and relax at the same time. We were glad to share our favorite spots with the family and explore a few new places, too.

    Blue Mosque:


    Blue mosque


    Blue mosque ceiling


    Hagia Sofia:


    Hagia Sofia ceiling


    Hagia Sofia from second floor


    View of Blue mosque from Hagia Sofia


    There was an awesome open-air bazaar while we were there with a long stretch of vendors from all over Turkey selling handmade goods and food:


    Art bazaar in Istanbul


    Art Bazaar locksmith


    Mom posing with Gaziantep tie sellers


    Basilica Cistern and the Medusa head:


    Istanbul cisterns


    Medusa head


    Medusa head and tourists


    Grand Bazaar and lunch at the Fes Cafe:


    Grand Bazaar Fez Cafe


    We were there during Ramazan. After the sun set, all of the Turks came out to the square with their picnics:


    Blue mosque during Ramazan


    Sultanahmet during Ramazan


    Whirling dervish performance


    Corn vendor in Istanbul


    Stack of Turkish Bakalava


    David holding Turkish Coffee Cup






    Taksim Tunel


    Fish sandwiches on Galata Bridge:


    Galata bridge fish sandwich boat


    Galata Tower:


    Galata tower


    We celebrated our fourth anniversary along with the family’s final send off meal. It was a huge spread of döner, kebap, hummus, prizola, meze, and more. We left stuffed and happy.


    Anniversary dinner in Istanbul


    After a few fun and shopping filled days, the family’s time in Turkey came to an end. They took the Friday 6:00 am flight. We sent them off on their shuttle bus, went back to bed for a few hours, then left for the airport ourselves to head back to Ankara to pack up our lives and close our time in Turkey.

    We were thrilled to share Turkey with David’s family. These two weeks were also a farewell tour for David and me. I never could have imagined how deeply I would fall in love with this country… how quickly the people and culture would work their way into my heart. Turkey challenged and grew and changed me for the better, and I count my time there as one of God’s greatest gifts in my life. I pray we’ll be able to go back again one day! Until then, I’ll look forward to that next glass of çay.

    Teşekkür ederim, Türkiye. Türkiyem çok seviyorum.



    Benedicts in Turkey: Troy and Çanakkale

    After spending the night in Bergama, we drove 3.5 hours north to Troia and the ruins of Troy. (Did you know Troy is in Turkey? I thought it was in Greece!) For a time it was believed the city mentioned in Homer’s Iliad was fictional, but a British man discovered the ruins in 1863.

    It was raining that morning, so it was rather miserable to be outside. We sat inside of the “replica” Trojan horse for a while to avoid the rain. Had we had a tour guide and if the weather had been clear, I might have enjoyed this stop more. We hurried through the site and I didn’t read many signs.


    Troy fake horse




    Ruins of Troy theater


    Ruins of Troy


    This area was significant because it showed four layers of civilization:


    Ruins of Troy layers


    The view from Hisarlık across the plain of Ilium to the Aegean Sea:


    Ruins of Troy


    After Troy, we took a ferry boat across the straights to the European side of Turkey. The car ferry cost only 30TL! I was impressed by that. We saved a significant amount of travel time by taking the ferry. (We were on our way to Istanbul.)


    Map of Troy to Çanakkale to Gallipoli


    It was nearing dark and the weather was still rainy. David really wanted to see the site of the Battle of Gallipoli (aka the Battle of Çanakkale). We drove along the water in Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park to the Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial.

    The battle took place April 1915 – January 2016. The Ottoman victory was a defining moment for the country. Eight years later, the Republic of Turkey was established.

    The Water Diviner movie starring Russell Crowe came out last year and gives an interesting perspective of and shortly after the war. I recently finished reading Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières. The novel is another great period piece.


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial statue


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial freize


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial freize


    The memorial structure stands 41.7 meters tall. Here’s Ben standing at the base of it for scale:


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial scale


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial ceiling view


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial sculpture


    It was sobering to see the graves and names of fallen soldiers. It is estimated over 100,000 men died during the Gallipoli Campaign including Turkish, British, French, New Zealander, and Australian soldiers.


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial graves


    Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial graves


    Turkish flag sunset


    After the sun set, we made our way to Gallipoli Konukevi. We were very impressed by this guesthouse! The small apartments were modern and spacious. Their breakfast was wonderful as well.



    Benedicts in Turkey: Pergamum

    After Ephesus, we drove to ancient ruins of Pergamum (aka Pergamon) set in modern day Bergama. We considered taking the cable car up to the acropolis, but instead drove up the hill. Pergamum is one of the Seven Churches of Revelation and is mentioned in Revelation 2:12–17. Today, the location is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    It was David’s and my first time visiting the hilltop fortress. The extent of the ruins are not nearly as impressive as Ephesus or Laodicea, but I’m glad we got to see the theater. The theater of Pergamum was built in the 3rd century BC directly into the side of a hill. It could seat 10,000 people and was the steepest theater in the ancient world.


    Pergamum entrance


    Pergamum was a prosperous city. It was a political center and had the second largest library in the ancient world. It also had the Asklepion hospital and health spa. The city was especially known for its pagan worship with temples dedicated to the Roman Emperor Trajan, Athena, Dionysus, Demeter, and Zeus. Christians here faced a lot of persecution. Antipas was martyred for his faithfulness to Christ.


    Pergamum map


    Dad overlooking Pergamum


    The foundation of a temple:


    Pergamum temple foundation


    Ruins arch


    Pergamum steps


    Pergamum theater steps


    Ben in Pergamum


    I didn’t walk down to the bottom of the theater, but the boys and Mom did:


    Pergamum steps


    Pergamum theater


    Pergamum theater


    Pergamum from below


    Turkish poppy


    Ruins in Pergamum


    Man overlooking Bergama


    Pergamum ruins


    After we finished exploring the site, we headed to Efsane Hotel for the night. Bergama was a smaller city and it felt more conservative than others we’ve visited. Dad was still on the mend from his stomach bug and turned in early, but the rest of us had dinner at a Domino’s Pizza.



    Benedicts in Turkey: Ephesus

    I’m nearing the end of recapping our two week tour of Turkey! Looking through all of these photos is making me homesick. I want to drop everything and head to the Turkish coast.

    After Pamukkale and Hierapolis, we drove to Kuşadası and spent the night at Sergent Hotel. It was a great hotel with a fantastic view of the beach. They were so helpful and accommodating.

    Unfortunately, Dad had been battling a stomach bug for a few days, and ended up going to the hospital the next morning for antibiotics and fluids. David and Mom took him while the boys and I walked the boardwalk, peeked into the shops, and stuck our feet in the Aegean. The Turkish coast is paradise. I mean, look at all these blues:


    Kuşadası beach


    After a few hours, they came back from the hospital. Dad was feeling a little better and we drove 18km north to Ephesus.

    Ephesus was a major port of commerce in the ancient Roman world. Over the years, the waters receded so it no longer sits directly on the coast. The city was famed for its Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders. The apostle Paul spent time in Ephesus and had a heart for the believers there (Acts 18, 19, 20). It is also one of the seven churches of Revelation (Revelation 2).

    Ephesus was one the first places David and I visited when we first moved to Turkey. We enjoyed showing the family the ruins, library, terrace houses (completely worth the extra entrance fee!), and theater. I can’t believe how blue the skies were this day!


    Exploring Ephesus


    Ephesus ruins


    Dad with Caduceus


    Ephesus main road


    Ephesus kitty with Nike Athena:


    Nike Athena and Ephesus kitty


    Hercules Gate:


    Ephesus Hercules Gate




    Family photo inside the Theater of Ephesus. It can hold 25,000 people and has perfect acoustics.


    Theater of Ephesus - family photo


    David and Leah with Ephesus Library


    Library of Ephesus


    Mom and Dad on steps of Library of Ephesus


    Pomegranate plant


    Ephesus Mosaic tiles


    Terrace houses at Ephesus


    Sam headstand in Ephesus


    Ephesus mountains


    After a few more Magnum bars, we drove three hours north to see our third of the Seven Churches of Revelation.



    Benedicts in Turkey: Pamukkale & Hierapolis

    We changed into our swimsuits at Laodicea and drove 12km north to Pamukkale. (David and I walked up the limestone travertines back in October not once, but twice!)

    Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance costs 25TL or is free with the Müzekart. The boys loved sitting in the hot springs, damming up the canal with their bodies, then letting the mineral water rush down to the boy at the bottom.


    Pools of Pamukkale


    Sitting in Pamukkale travertines


    Limestone texture


    Family in Pamukkale travertines


    Limestone travertines


    At the top of the hill were the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13). We got to the site a little later in the day and didn’t have a lot of time to walk around before the sun started to set.


    Hierapolis field


    We did walk up to the theater. Hierapolis suffered several earthquakes, but this theater was reconstructed with 98% of the original pieces!


    Hierapolis theater


    Hierapolis theater


    Hierapolis theater


    Family at Hierapolis


    Hierapolis field


    Pamukkale pool


    Walking down Pamukkale


    We had two more of the seven churches of Revelation on the schedule for the next day. After gözleme for dinner, we drove 180km west to the coast and stayed the night at Sergent Hotel in Kuşadası.


    Benedicts in Turkey: Laodicea

    After a final breakfast in Çıralı, we piled the bags and everyone back into the car and drove four hours north to the ruins of Laodicea, one of the seven churches of Revelation. (Rev 3:14–22.)

    This was David’s and my second time at Laodicea; we first visited last October. It was exciting to see how much excavation had been completed in just eight months. And there’s so much more to be done! Rocks and columns peek out of the untouched fields surrounding the site.

    Entrance cost 10 TL or was free with the Müzekart. Laodicea is a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.


    Laodicea road


    This was the Christian church in Laodicea. The archaeologists were working while we were there:


    Laodicea church excavations


    The Temple of Athena:


    Laodicea temple


    Benedicts on the steps of the temple


    Laodicea was the lukewarm church. They did not have a water source, so they piped in water from two nearby cities. One source was hot and the other cold. By the time the water arrived in their city, it was lukewarm and smelly with minerals. The ancient pipes are around the site. You can even hear the hollow underneath the stones of the main street.


    Laodicea pipes


    Laodicea agora columns


    Dad and David at Laodicea


    Dad is checking out Pamukkale in the distance here. (It’s that white spot.) We visited the limestone hill shortly after we finished at Laodicea:




    Laodicea carved face


    Sam at the Laodicea theater


    Laodicea theater


    Laodicea excavations in Turkey


    The weather was anything but lukewarm. The sun can be brutal in the summer! While the boys walked to the newly excavated stadium, I sought shade and a Magnum ice cream bar in the small shop.

    The family loved exploring this Biblical site! Next up… Pamukkale!



    Benedicts in Turkey: Çıralı

    After David’s family booked their plane tickets, we knew we had to squeeze in some beach time. We wanted to avoid the hustle and bustle of Antalya, and our friends told us about their favorite beach town.

    It was David’s and my first time in Çıralı! It’s a tiny Lycian village on the Mediterranean with just over two miles of beachfront. It took us over eight hours to get there from Göreme. For the last few miles, we exited the main highway and drove on dirt roads. It was just before dark by the time we arrived.


    Çıralı sunset


    We stayed at İkiz Pansiyon in two of their bungalows. It was a great spot just a short walk from the beach. We were there an evening, a day, and a morning and ate at their İkiz Restaurant on the beach for our meals. (Breakfast was included at the Pansiyon.)

    The next morning, we put on our swimsuits and walked down to the beach. At the far end of the beach in the river valley sits the ancient ruins of Olympos. (Entrance was 5TL or free with the Müzekart.) Olympos is dated to the 4th century during the Hellenistic period.


    Sign for Olympos


    It amazes me how accessible ruins are in Turkey. You can walk up to and around and on top of most of them!


    Olympos mosaics


    Olympos river


    Olympos gate


    Çıralı Beach rocks


    We explored for about two hours and could have stayed for many more, but we had lots more ruins ahead of us and it was time for the beach. We dodged a storm or two, but had a few hours of clear skies for swimming!

    Our stay at İkiz included free beach chairs! We bought some goggles and the boys had fun checking out the fish – even a few tropical ones!


    Beach chairs at Çıralı


    Çıralı beach


    Swimming at Çıralı


    Swimming at Çıralı


    This man speared an octopus!


    Speared octopus


    Multicolored flower


    At Ikiz Restaurant for dinner


    Our last stop of the day was a surprise for the family. We didn’t tell them we were going to see Mount Chimaera (aka Yanartaş) and its eternal flames. After dinner, we headed north. We asked a few people for directions and kept walking and walking. And walking.

    After an hour, we finally made it! (It’d be better to take a car or bus there from the beach, especially at night. Once you get to the base of the mountain, you also have to hike two miles up a very steep incline with lots of stairs. And then back down and a long way back to town.) We paid the entrance fee and rented a flashlight. It was pitch black dark outside aside from a few glowing spots on the mountain.

    Yanartaş produces eternal flames. There are vents in the rock where a mixture of gas – mostly methane – escapes. The fires burn constantly and do not need ignition. They date back thousands of years; Pliny the Elder (AD 29 — AD 79) mentioned the phenomenon in his writings. Sailors used the flames to navigate their ships.


    Leah at Chimaera Mountain


    Even though we were all tired by the time we got to the mountain, it was well worth the hike. Can you believe how bizarre it is? They looked like a bunch of logless campfires. The boys had fun kicking dirt at some of the smaller ones. They put a couple of the flames out, but I think they come back. Otherwise… way to ruin a national treasure, kids. It was a bummer we didn’t have marshmallows for s’mores. (Muslim country = no pork products).


    Chimaera flames


    Chimaera flames


    See the big dipper?


    Night sky at Chimaera


    Coming down the mountain was a little easier than walking up it. David jogged back to the hotel and brought the car to us. He is one good man.

    After breakfast the next morning, we were off to see one of the Seven Churches of Revelation and another crazy Turkish landscape!