Over the Kurban Bayram holiday, we traveled with two of our colleagues and friends to Izmir and Ephesus.
It was so cool to walk around the ancient ruins. The library was built in 117 A.D. Paul visited Ephesus; you can read about it in Acts 19.
Last week, we had a few days off of school for Kurban Bayramı. Kurban Bayramı is an Islamic holiday celebrated in Turkey. According to wittistanbul.com, “The Feast of the Sacrifice commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faithfulness to Allah. You can find essentially the same story in the Old Testament where Abraham was willing to kill his son Isaac, until an angels stops him.”
Since our school is located in Turkey, we are closed during both Christian holidays and the Islamic holidays recognized by the Turkish government. It was a five day weekend, and we decided to travel to some historical and Biblical sites with two friends and colleagues.
We left Ankara Thursday morning by Pamukkale bus and headed to Izmir. The bus was fairly comfortable and had internet and built in entertainment, similar to a lot of airplanes. After a long 9 hour ride, we finally made it to our hostel. The first thing we wanted to do was see the water. We walked a few blocks and came upon the coast of the Aegean Sea. The sun was falling towards the horizon and we were greeted by a beautiful sunset.
As the sun dipped lower, we took a ferry to Karşıyaka, another part of the city, for dinner. It looked like a promising spot to find some grub, however, many of the businesses and restaurants were closed for the holiday. We found a quick bite to eat at a doner restaurant.
After taking the ferry back, we finished off the night by drinking coffee in a cafe next to the water. It was a very peaceful and relaxing night. Our hostel, Hotel Baylan, was very accommodating and affordable with a delicious breakfast buffet.
In the morning, we left Izmir via train for Selçuk. This small town lays about 2 km from the ancient city of Ephesus. Our hostel, Attila’s Getaway, was only 3 km from Izmir. Breakfast and dinner were relatively expensive, so we found more affordable options in Selçuk. Although it was a bit more rugged than our first hotel, we enjoyed our stay.
After checking in, we took a taxi to Ephesus. Visiting Ephesus is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. As we walked around the ruins of the city, I was overwhelmed to be standing next to such amazing pieces of history.
We walked through the ruins taking pictures for a couple hours. We saw the library and the theatre believed to be mentioned in Acts 19. One of the most amazing exhibits was the Terrace Houses. This excavation site featured several houses with beautiful artwork. There were mosaics and frescoes still surprisingly visible upon the walls, ceilings, and floors of these houses.
We grabbed dinner and coffee in Selçuk before heading back to the hostel, where we played games on the patio. The first two days of our break were amazing, and they were just the beginning!
Here’s a quick look at the money we use in Turkey. The currency is very colorful! All of the bills are slightly different sizes. Turks use a 1 lira coin instead of a 1 lira bill. Change smaller than 1 lira is called “kuruş.” There is a 50 kuruş, 25 kuruş, 10 kuruş, and 5 kuruş coin.
If your bill ends in a denomination less than 5 kuruş, the cashier will round it. Even if a bill ends in 5 kuruş, it usually gets rounded. The 10 and 5 kuruş coins are very small and somewhat cumbersome.
There is also a 200TL bill, not pictured here. Unless your purchase is close to that amount of money, we’ve found a lot of stores don’t like it and some won’t even take it.
We fill our change bowl rather quickly because of the 1 lira coins. But then again, it depletes just as quickly. The bus transportation costs 2TL per ride, and it’s easiest to use coins rather than try to get change.
We’ve been very pleased with the exchange rate since we’ve been here. For every $1 USD it’s approximately 1.80TL. We hope the rate stays there! People told us it dipped not too long ago to a rate of 1:1.5. It would still put us ahead, but we like where it’s at now.
The cost of living in Turkey is very reasonable; it’s another blessing we are thankful for!
Welcome to our apartment tour! We live in an 11-story building in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Ankara.
The picture below is our entryway. We usually pile our backpacks and shoes on the rug.
Also part of our entryway is this dolop. Dolop is a Turkish word for any kind of closet or wardrobe. It’s nice to have a place to set our keys, hang up our coats, and store extra shoes.
Connected to the entryway is the kitchen. We love the marble countertop! (There is a lot of marble used in the buildings in Turkey, especially on the outside.) The strangest thing about the kitchen is the cupboards. Giants must have built the kitchen (or very tall Turkish men who don’t ever work in the kitchen). I can reach the front of the bottom shelf, otherwise, I have to use a step stool. That was one of the top things on my shopping list after we first moved into the apartment! We have a gas stove, fridge, and microwave. You can see a blue water jug on the left hand side of the picture. We order water jugs for drinking water. It would be OK to use tap water, but excessive use over time can cause kidney stones. Across from the sink, there is access to a porch.
Next to the kitchen is the dining/living room. It was nice not to have to shop for furniture here in Turkey. Transportation can be a little complicated. As of now, we are renting comfortable furniture from the school. We have a good sized table with 8 chairs. There is also a china cabinet type thing. We’ve filled the drawers with office supplies and electronic cords.
Beyond the dining room table is the living room. This set is very comfortable. We don’t really use the loveseat or armchairs much, but we love the full sized couch.
Can you see why? Most couches in Turkey have this awesome pop up footrest. Super comfy!
We also have a nice entertainment center and bookcase set. We were just given a DVD player, so we hope we’ll get a cast off TV sometime eventually.
After entering the apartment, directly to the left is the hallway to the bedrooms and bathrooms. We have two bathrooms, one of which we never use. It is the Turkish bathroom – the squatty potty. We have a cover for it and store cleaning supplies in this tiny room. The door always remains shut! Sometimes it can smell a little weird. The ventilation system for all the apartments is connected to this toiletroom.
And then there is the regular bathroom (which I know you’re dying to see…). We have our washing machine in the bathroom.
Here is our bedroom. When we were shopping, David didn’t understand why we needed a comforter. Afterwards, he agreed it looks nice. The mattress lifts up for more storage.
This dolop is in the master bedroom. I so graciously allowed David to use it as his very own closet.
Because the next room’s dolop is all mine! Just kidding – I share. He uses one section and we store linens, towels, and extra bathroom supplies in it, too. There’s a small balcony off of this room.
The third bedroom is our guest bedroom slash laundry room. And by laundry room, I mean we hang dry our clothes in here. Hence the drying rack and clothesline.
God has blessed us with a roomy, comfortable place! We would love to paint some of the walls and get a couple rugs for the floors. However, right now we are okay living with just the essentials.
Last Saturday David, another teacher, and I took a dolmuş to explore Ulus, an old neighborhood of Ankara. Ulus is about 5 miles from our neighborhood. We were on the hunt for an electronics store, Turkish puzzle rings, antique stores (I really want an Ottoman Empire skeleton key), and a Turkish pottery store. We didn’t have a lot of luck finding those things, but explored other areas! It was a perfect, sunny day to be walking around the city.
Ulus is an older, more traditional area of Ankara. We walked around the busy market streets, got some lunch, and decided to walk up to the castle.
After we passed through the busy market streets, we made it to a quieter set of shops. There were some antique shops, though I didn’t find the skeleton key I wanted. We found two puzzle rings, but the sizes were too small. I did, however, have one great find! Over the past couple of years, I’ve collected letterpress and printing press letters. On our way out of one shop, I found a container that had several piece of of sheet music plates. There were several different sizes and I grabbed one of the smaller ones. I asked the store owner how much it cost. He replied it was 10 Turkish Lira and rattled off a price for the larger pieces. Now, I love to barter. It’s been difficult to barter here because I haven’t learned all of the numbers yet. I thought that 10 was too much and asked him if he would take 5. He shrugged and said ok. We just covered typography in the graphic design class I’m teaching, so I thought it was fun to show the students the printing press plate. It’s a bit difficult to read, but the song has something to do with water.
There was road construction and we had to take a few detours to make it up to the castle. We walked a lot of cobblestone and gravel streets. I liked the look of the bricks in this building. It’s ironic to see these old, old buildings with satellite dishes.
Before making it all the way to the top of the hill, we passed a pazar market. I love the bright colors of the different grains, spices, dried fruit and veggies. I got a half a kilo of dried cranberries. Yum!
We finally made it to the top! The citadel overlooks almost all of Ankara. We were amazed it was free to enter! According to tripadvisor.com: “The foundations of this structure were laid by Galatians and eventually completed by the Romans.” It was fun and scary to walk the ledges and walls of the castle. There were limited steps and no hand rails or guards.
What a view of Ankara!
A lot of the city is this gray-brown color. I think the texture of the rooftops are interesting.
This was the first time we went someplace where we didn’t have someone as our guide. We plan to go back to Ulus sometime with friends who can show us where certain shops are located.
This past Saturday we took a dolmuş into the old neighborhood in Ankara called Ulus. We walked up cobble stone roads to see the ruins of the citadel. We were amazed it was free to enter!
According to tripadvisor.com: “The foundations of this structure were laid by Galatians and eventually completed by the Romans.”
It’s the highest point in the area, and it was fun and scary to walk the ledges and walls of the castle. There were limited steps and no hand rails or guards. What a view of Ankara!