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Whirling Dervishes Istanbul, Turkey
We took a cruise that went to a number of countries, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Italy, starting in Istanbul. At first, it was confusing to try and set a theme that would encompass all we were seeing, because the cultures and histories of the countries through which we traveled were so different.
As we continued the trip, it became clear to us the one common denominator was religion, although the religious influences themselves involved paganism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, sometimes all in the same city. Sometimes, there were overlapping religions, sometimes no religion at all, and all gradations in-between.
The Whirling Dervish in the picture above are members of a 13th century spiritual offshoot of Islam, drawing their influence from the Ottoman Empire.
The Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
The Hagia Sophia is a 6th century masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, built on top of a Roman church constructed several centuries earlier. It was converted another time into a mosque in the 15th century, and finally into a museum in the middle of the 20th century.
Unlike so many other instances, the Hagia was not "cleansed" of the ritualistic paintings and icons of preceding religions. Thus you will see a Catholic altar as well as Arabic scrollings inside the building. And it is hard to miss the Islamic minarets outside.
Front of Library of Celcus Ephesus, Turkey
We went to Ephesus, originally a Greek city, once the trading center of the known world. The city was the site of the great pagan Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was second only to Rome during the great Roman Empire, but now is a part of Turkey. It has been meticulously restored, and the centerpiece of its reconstruction is the beautiful Library of Celcus, in its day, the third largest library in the world.
A WORD OF CAUTION to those with physical limitations:
In Ephesus you start at the top of the town and descend over a walkway perhaps 3/4ths mile long, traveling over a few well spaced steps. There are some parts of the walk where there are several steps together, and rocks strewn around to boot. You could hire a taxi to take you to the top, walk down as far as you can, then turn around and re-board your taxi. Then the driver could take you to the bottom of the town and you could explore most of it that way, but you really don't know how far you can get in either direction- or what you are going to miss in between. It is worth the effort, but it is extremely difficult
Small Jewish menorah on the steps of Library of Celcius, Ephesus, Turkey
In Ephesus, which contains one of the greatest pagan monuments as well as some of the greatest works of Christianity, we discovered a very small carving of a Jewish menorah on the second step leading into the Celcus Library.
The carving is no larger than perhaps a foot square. Located on the second step of the entrance to the Library. I thought it too coincidental not to be related to the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Was the artisan a Diaspora Jew, relocated to the Roman Empire's next-to-top city sometime after the Romans conquered the Jews? And if so, how did he dare to make this carving, as being caught would surely have meant a painful death? I shall have to be content to forever wonder, as the truth will never be known.
Have you checked the most important parts of our website? We urge you to go to the Chapter on Essential Plans. Then, whether they apply to you or not, read the Chapters Airlines, Cruises, Hotels, Taxis, Tours. Finally, be sure you read the Chapter Items to Take. The information in these chapters will make all the difference in the success of your trip.