Friday, May 31, 2013

Marissa in Mosques

Turkey was a very packed week of sight-seeing. I didn’t quite fit everything in to my other posts, so here’s some random things and pictures that I wanted to remember.

This mosque was right across the street from our hotel in Istanbul. It wasn’t in a famous part of the city, and this wasn’t even an old or famous mosque. But it’s still really cool.

In that last picture, notice the little girl in a pink dress dancing around :)

There are mosques like this on almost every corner. It’s like seeing ward buildings in Utah. We heard that there are 3,000 mosques in Istanbul. Not all of them are quite this huge, but they are mostly all really big and really ornate. We did a lot of driving on this trip (over 30 hours on a bus, yay!!), so it was fun to look out the windows and see so many beautiful mosques.

Turkey is 98% Muslim. However, it’s pretty unique in the Muslim world because they actually have a secular government and a separation of church(mosque?) and state. Our guide told us a lot about how Turkey wants to have closer ties to the West. I know they’re lobbying to be part of the European Union. Even though the Muslim holy day is on Friday, they have a Saturday/Sunday weekend so business with the West is easier. Their language is Turkish, and they use the same alphabet as we do. Until the 1920s, they used the Arabic alphabet. They changed it to the Roman alphabet in order to be more Western. I know America tried to switch to the Metric system and that didn’t happen...imagine switching alphabets haha.

Since I’m sort of on the subject of Islam, here’s some more pictures of the Blue Mosque (which we went to on the first day of the trip).

Taken from our boat!:

 In the courtyard (with terrible lighting haha):

Ritual washing stations:

Before going into mosques, Muslims do ritual washings of their hands and feet. There are stations like this outside of every mosque. It’s to purify themselves before praying.

One last mosque picture...from the Grand Mosque in Bursa.

Also featured in the picture, my cool roommate Kelby! A burly Turkish man in a white tank top enthusiastically offered to take a picture for us, and he proceeded to take about 10. Whatever makes you happy, overly friendly Turkish man.

So another random fact about Turkey: they love their country! They are very nationalistic. You see flags EVERYWHERE. I think there were a few more than usual when we there because of a holiday, but still. Pretty much every building looked like this:

Besides flags, there are also huge pictures of this guy named Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (that’s a mouthful) everywhere. I think he kind of looks like a vampire.

Here’s some flags with a huge picture of Atatürk from our cruise down the Bosporus. 

He’s even on almost all of the money, so you can’t avoid those eyebrows wherever you go. He was the founder of the modern secular Turkish republic (that replaced the Ottoman Empire after WWI). He’s the founding father of Turkey, and obviously very popular! 

And finally, some last random pictures.

Inside the Grand Bazaar (for the second time):

Ancient aqueducts right outside of our hotel:

And my last glimpse of Istanbul...this was the street our restaurant was on right before we left for the airport. A glimpse of the Istanbul night life.

So that was Turkey. What more can I say. Such a cool trip!

Holy Sepulchre

On our first free day after the Turkey trip, we went inside of Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the first time. A few blog posts back, I talked a little about it. Like I said before, it’s one of the most famous churches in Christianity. Many varieties of Christians think of it as the holiest site in the world because they believe it was built on the site of Christ’s tomb. I think about six different churches own parts of the church.

It’s different than other famous churches I’ve been to (in Europe) because it’s in the middle of the city and closely surrounded by other buildings. There’s no big plaza in front of it where you can take pictures like you could at Notre Dame or something.

The inside is very different from other churches too. There’s no big open space. You turn a corner and you’re in a different small chapel, owned by a different church than the chapel you were in a minute ago. We weren’t always sure which parts were owned by which churches. I know there’s a lot of history in there that we didn’t catch onto just by walking around.

Some of the small chapels:

Something we did catch on to was where the supposed tomb of Jesus was- in the middle.

You wait in line and go inside a tiny room (about 3 people fit inside) where you can barely stand up. There’s a tomb that fills up the whole room. An Orthodox priest (that may or may not look exactly like Rasputin) tells you how much time you have in there. Most people kneel down and kiss the tomb. I saw some people crying. It’s obviously a very big deal to a lot of people to get to visit there.

What I’ve noticed about being in the Holy Land is that there is a site (or two or three) for every biblical event that claims to be the exact location where it happened. For example, in Jericho there was a sign that pointed out the exact tree that Zaccaeus climbed to get a glimpse of Jesus. Obviously, it’s a little hard to know where exactly something happened 2,000 years ago. I’m just a bit cynical about pretty much all of these claims. 

For people whose churches were actually involved in choosing these locations, I think it’s a lot more special. However, even if none of these sites are the correct locations, you know everything at least happened close by, in this city. I still think it’s special to be in the same place where people have come to worship Jesus for over a thousand years, even if I don’t think it’s the real, exact location of the tomb.

Anyways, the church is a huge place, even though there isn’t one main open space. There are multiple domes.

These columns are the originals from Constantine's church. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jericho and the West Bank

On Monday we went on a field trip..."down from Jerusalem to Jericho". It was only about 20 minutes away, but the landscape looked totally different. And it is definitely "down." Jericho is 3500 feet below Jerusalem. We saw a sign when we passed below sea level.

This is what I always pictured in my head when I thought of Israel. Desert! It turns out that the whole country definitely does not look like this, but some of it does.

We stopped here at this lookout before getting to the city of Jericho to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan, because the story takes place on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. So please feel free to picture this lovely barren landscape the next time you read that story.

Then we continued on to the city of Jericho, which is an ancient archeological site and a modern city. We visited the ruins of the ancient city. There wasn't a lot to see there, but one interesting thing was seeing the oldest man-made structure ever discovered in the world. There is a tower that was built in 9000 B.C. To me, it was surprising not only that you can still see ruins from that long ago; but that people were building things that long ago.

The tower: (it's the big round brick thing in the middle)

Side note, usually cities rise over time. To find ancient cities archeologists have to dig deep underground. I say that because it doesn't look like a tower since it's deep in the ground :)

Sadly, there aren't any ruins of the wall that came down. But don't worry: the relevant Veggie Tales song still popped into my head.

Besides being in the Bible, Jericho's two claims to fame are being both the oldest and the lowest city in the world.

This convenient sign points that out.

The most interesting thing about being in Jericho to me is that we went to the West Bank for the first time. The only other time we're allowed to go there is when we go to Bethlehem. 

Here's a map of where the West Bank is. You can find Jerusalem and Jericho on the map.

This and the Gaza Strip was the land allotted to the Arabs that lived in Palestine by the U.N. in 1948 (although it's gotten smaller through various wars). By the way, the term 'West Bank' refers to the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Israel technically has overriding control over the whole area, but the Palestinian Authority has full or partial control (depending on the area) over the West Bank. So in some ways it feels like you're in a different country there.

When you enter the West Bank, there's a big red sign that says "No entrance to Israelis. Your lives are in danger." That's not concerning at all, right? Because we all know that Americans are probably not that much more beloved here than Israelis. 

The West Bank seems pretty similar to East Jerusalem. It looks a little sad and neglected. 

One little difference is that signs are only in Arabic/English, and don't include Hebrew like they do in Jerusalem.

Well, that sums up my day in the lowest city on earth. Besides learning a lot more about Bible stories, I'm also enjoying learning more about the political situation here.

Last days in Turkey

We have returned to Jerusalem! It's back to classes and hanging out in the city. We flew overnight and got back past 5:00 in the morning on Sunday.

Here's the sites from the last two days of our vacation within a vacation:


We saw an ancient pagan temple:

An ancient synagogue:

And an ancient gymnasium:

Those were our last ruins of the trip! Then we headed to Bursa, which is the fourth biggest city in Turkey. We went to the Grand Mosque there, and then the Silk Bazaar. More shopping :) Bursa is famous for silk and other textiles. I added a bit to my growing scarf collection.

The next day, our last in Turkey, was mostly spent driving back to Istanbul. On the way back we stopped at Nicaea, where the Nicene Creed was written. There are no remains of the palace where it was written, but we went to the spot where it happened.

Back in the beautiful city of Istanbul, we finally got to go inside the Hagia Sophia, which I would definitely consider to be one of the most amazing places in the entire world. Here's a picture of the outside, which I actually took on our first day in Turkey. I obviously wouldn't repeat outfits that soon :)

The original Hagia Sophia was built by Emperor Constantine in 360. The current building was built by Emperor Justinian starting in 532. That's pretty old. More than 500 years older than Notre Dame, for example. The Hagia Sophia was the largest Christian church for 1,000 years. These pictures don't really do it justice.

Notice that combination of the Mary and Jesus mosaic in the dome with the big Arabic calligraphy. After the Hagia Sophia was a church for 1500 years, it became a mosque after the Muslim conquest. The Muslims covered up the Christian mosaics, but didn't get rid of them. When the Hagia Sophia was converted from a mosque into a museum in the 1920s, they uncovered the mosaics. Here's a close-up of the main one. I think it's really cool!

Look, I was there too!

We had a little more free time in the Grand Bazaar (just enough to buy awesome Turkish shoes), and had dinner at a restaurant before driving to the airport and heading back to Israel. At the restaurant they served fish- whole fish. With heads, eyeballs, scales, and fins. Obviously that did not happen for me. I ate a lot of bread in Turkey.

If you can't tell from the pictures, this was a great trip!!! I'm planning on eventually writing a post with some more random things and pictures from Turkey, so that's coming. Yesterday we went to Jericho, today we saw Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Every day is filled with adventures! And homework, unfortunately.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ancient Turkey

Get ready for lots of pictures of amazing ruins! Before this trip I had no idea that there are so many beautiful ancient ruins in Turkey, not to mention the natural beauty of the mountain surroundings.

Site 1: Assos

Fun facts:  
                 1. Aristotle lived here!
                 2. As we were leaving, I saw a real live Turkish turkey here.

Site 2: Pergamum

Fun facts:  
                 1. Pergamum is home to the steepest ancient theater in the world.
                 2. When little Turkish kids see Asian tourists in Pergamum, they do the Gangnam style dance and start following them around. True story.

Site 3: Ephesus

Fun facts:   
                   1. There are a LOT of stray cats here.
                   2. Paul lived here for a few years and taught in the theater I'm standing in. (check out the pictures in the back of your Bible)

Site 4: Priene/Miletus

This was at the end of a long day and I have NO idea what the historical significance of this site is. Tourist probs.

Tomorrow is our last day in Turkey! Then we head "home" to Israel, where there is still so much more to see.

My Turkish Birthday

That's right. I turned 24 in Turkey!

On the way to Troy, we stopped at the Gallipoli memorial. There was a huge WWI battle there between Australians/New Zealanders fighting against the Turks. Each side had about 60,000 casualties over a few months.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.

p.s. that scarf is from the Grand Bazaar!

Say hello to the Aegean Sea! Not in this particular spot, but I got to swim in in the next day.

It was a long drive to Troy, which is nowadays basically just an unimpressive pile of rocks. And we had the "opportunity" to listen to our Turkish tour guide Nejeb talk for 3 HOURS about said rocks in 90 degree weather. Lucky us.

It was fun to think about the stories that happened there, but there wasn't very much (=anything) to see. Except of course....

the Trojan Horse itself!!! Which we like to joke is an actual artifact from thousands of years ago :)    I wouldn't say it was worth the 8 hour drive, but at least I got a photo op out of it.

So those are the sites I saw on my birthday/ Day 2 of our Turkish adventure. Who would have thought this is where I would be hanging out here when I turned 24? 


The title of this means good morning. In Turkish. Because that’s right, I’m in TURKEY for the week!! It’s been a packed trip full of beautiful, ancient, and exotic sites. I never knew how modern and pretty this country is. I’m very impressed! It reminds me of other European countries I’ve been to. I wasn’t expecting it to be so modern since we can’t drink the water here, but go figure. 

Other people are impressed with Turkey too. A LOT of the sites we’ve been to have been packed with American, European, and Asian tourists. Our guide told us Turkey is the 7th most visited country in the world.

Day 1 of the trip was spent in Istanbul. And yes, we listened to that one song you’re thinking of right now about 50 times on this day. Our first stop was the Blue Mosque. It’s huge, and very beautiful. It’s from the 17th century. Early European tourists called it the Blue Mosque because they had never really seen other mosques. Apparently mosques usually have mostly blue tiles, so Muslims find it semi-idiotic that they started calling this one the Blue Mosque. Locals call it the Sultanahmet Mosque, because they are aware that other mosques also have blue tiles. Let's imagine someone only having seen one Mormon temple, and naming the 'White Temple.' See? Now the Blue Mosque thing sounds funnier.

Here’s the inside: 

(Side note- to go inside mosques, women have to cover their hair, and everyone has to take off their shoes).

Another interesting thing about this mosque is that it has 6 minarets (those are the towers outside of mosques that they do the call to prayer from). People got angry at Sultan Ahmet for building 6 minarets at his mosque, because then his mosque had as many minarets as the Grand Mosque in Mecca (the most sacred city in Islam). Instead of taking down one of his minarets, Sultan Ahmet sent his architects to build another minaret in Mecca. Such a crafty sultan.

Here’s the outside. Pretty amazing!

After that, we went to the Basilica Cistern (built in the 6th century). Cisterns are water holding tanks. This one is called the Basilica Cistern because it was built underneath a church. Some of the columns were reused from older structures, so they don’t all look the same. It was built to hold water and not to be pretty (but it is pretty!). Apparently a scene from an old James Bond movie was filmed here (From Russia with Love). Also, in Dan Brown's new book 'Inferno,' the climax of the book takes place here.

It’s a little dark to take pictures, but you can sort of get the feel for what it looks like.

Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman sultans lived for 400 years, was our third stop. The palace, now like a museum, has different rooms that showcase the royal treasures. For example, there’s an armor room, a gemstone room (with an 86 CARAT DIAMOND), and (the most entertaining) a holy relic room. They claim to have artifacts belonging to famous prophets. Here’s a list of my favorites:

-Moses’ staff
-David’s sword
-Joseph’s turban
-and....Muhammad’s beard hair!

That was my favorite part. I can die happy now that I’ve seen Muhammad’s beard in person. Because I ALWAYS believe in the authenticity of relics ;)

Entrance to the palace:

At the palace!

The next stop was by far my favorite. The Grand Bazaar! 

It was like a mall but bigger and more exotic (and sometimes weird men follow you around asking to be your Turkish boyfriend...).

Check it out!

It has 4,000 stores. I was in heaven. I got some really pretty scarves and jewelry, which are so awesome in the Middle East (those are some of the prettiest souvenirs you can buy in Jerusalem ,too).

Our day ended with a boat ride down the Bosporus Straits. We sailed between the continents of Europe and Asia. Lots of green, and lots of beautiful architecture.

Yeah, and this is just Day 1 of the trip. I have a lot of things to catch up on! We have a lot of early mornings and long days here, so usually I just want to sleep instead of uploading pictures or anything. Stay tuned for more info about Turkey!