Ok, so I am completely going to blog about Turkey OOO (that is, out-of-order) because I am dying to jump ahead to our day in Ephesus. I think that I speak for Nick when I say that this probably ranks as one of our top 10 days that we have spent in our marriage.
Originally we had booked 5 days in Istanbul. I had always wanted to visit Ephesus. In the bible Paul served as missionary to Ephesus and preached the gospel there for over three years, and the book of Ephesians is a letter written to the Christians living in Ephesus. It is also one of the seven churches listed in Revelations. For some reason, I had assumed we would catch Ephesus on another trip because it would take about 2 or 3 days.
Upon meeting with our new friends, we learned that Ephesus was at most a day and half trip and could easily be done in one day. We also learned a seasoned traveler could see the old city in Istanbul in two days, and we had four days left to on our trip, so we definitely had time to do both. Our friends also recommended that we book the tour of Ephesus through our hotel.
So when we returned to our hotel, we checked into booking a day trip to Ephesus and we learned that it was going to set us back a whopping $1000+ FOR ONE DAY! Needless to say, we couldn’t justify it. So the next day, Saturday as we were walking around the old town, we stopped at every single tourism company we could find to price how much a day trip to Ephesus would cost, and the best quote that we could find was about $800. We were a little dejected and frustrated and considered paying the $800 since if we had to return just to see Ephesus, we would have to pay a lot more than that since we would be starting from scratch.
However, Nick had a light bulb moment and suggested that we just book airplane tickets to the town near Ephesus and go on our own! This idea totally freaked me out for several reasons, not the least of which because we have had so many bad experiences on our travels to date, and I had also been a little bit afraid that God would curse this vacation because unlike our other vacations, which are generally covered in part or in full by Nick’s company, this was a purely selfish vacation that we were paying for out of our own pockets and going on just because I had always wanted to go! (I know God doesn’t work like that… but sometimes I am stupid). This might have been our first ever vacation like that.
Anyway, I agreed to just hop on the plane without a plan, mostly in part because I love it when we can find bargains and I really, really wanted to see Ephesus, but I was nervous. We went into a travel agent there on the street in the Old City and booked tickets to Izmir for the next morning ($250).
So the next morning we got up and took a taxi (~$40) to the national airport on the Asian side, and hopped on the early flight to Izmir. Our original plan had been to hire to a taxi to take us to Selcuk, which is the nearest town to Ephesus, about 55 km from the airport, but we got there and found that they cost either $100 one way or maybe even 100 euro, I’m not sure. Either way, more than we bargain hunters wanted to spend. I had done like a 5 minute search on getting to Selcuk from Izmir and hadn’t found anything about a train, so I didn’t think we would be able to get one. However, upon walking out of the airport, we saw that there was a train station directly outside the airport! SCORE.
We walked over to it, and found that there was a train leaving for Selcuk in less than 40 minutes! And BONUS, it was only going to cost us less than $10!!!!
Italian Trains need to take note! (And maybe even British Trains… and most definitely Russian Trains) You could learn a thing or two from the Turks. First of all, the conductor was so polite and said to us, “I will watch out for you because I don’t want you to miss your train.” WHAT?!? We have had in general bad train experiences since we started traveling parts of Europe and this one was by far the most pleasant that we have had. Once I swore I was ruined for trains forever, but now that I have finally had a good experience on one, I may be more open to them in the future!
Anyway, we arrived in Selcuk, which is about 4 km away from Ephesus, and we planned to just walk. It was a nice little town and we stopped at a little café and ate something cheap and delicious and continued on our way. We were in high spirits that we had managed to successfully get this far without a plan and at the last minute and no drama!
The road to Ephesus from the town is really nice, and with the trees and the path and Isla slung in the backpack, we felt like we were on a pilgrimage .
As we got closer to Ephesus, we had to turn off the main road, and there were horse and buggy rides offered. We decided to splurge and take one ($25) because it meant that we would also have time to see the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, where the legend goes 7 Christians went to hide from persecution. They fell asleep and when they woke up it was 100 or more years later and they returned to the town to find that everyone was Christian. I admit that that’s a whopper of a tale, and while I believe in modern day miracles and unexplainable events… that one is a little far fetched even for me!
This was something I would like to visit another time! We saw this on our way to the Cave.
Here we are at the Cave of the 7 Sleepers! I am glad that we went, just to say that we went.
After that, the horse and buggy dropped us off at Ephesus… also, that was right when our good camera died, which meant all Ephesus photos had to be on Nick’s iPhone .
We finally let Miss Isla out of the back pack so she could explore the ruins with us! I had bought a guide book so I sort of narrated our tour… much cheaper than paying for an English speaking guide (plus we all know how much I love to be a know-it-all!).
Sometimes I can’t decide which one I like more so I just publish both!
Walking down the main street Ephesus!
I think we found our Christmas Card photo!
Here we are in front of the Library of Celcsus.
And something for my structural engineer! It went into all of the detail about how the buildings façade was designed to make the library look much bigger than it actually was… quite fascinating. No seriously, Nick and I took an art and architectural history class in college together, and we really enjoy things like this…
And finally, what we came to see! The spot where Paul preached to thousands of Greek pagans. It was so cool and humbling… we are sooooo blessed to be able to visit the places we do!
On our way out the back gate!
After that we walked back to Selcuk, and I cannot believe that we didn’t get pictures, but there was literally a gypsy festival on the path back. They were singing and celebrating, and the whole thing really added to the “pilgrimage feel” of our trip!
We stopped and had a very nice dinner in Selcuk, and we caught the train back to Izmir, and then our plane back to Istanbul! We then took a cab ride back to our hotel ($40)! We got back pretty late, I think around midnight, but we didn’t have any place to be the next day so we were able to just sleep in.
All in all, it was one of the best days I have ever had! We saw amazing historical Christian sites, saved a boatload of money, and successfully completed a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants last minute trip! It’s a day we will always look back on and remember with great joy and thanksgiving .
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19