Tour Day 1 & 2: Istanbul Day Tour, Smyrna & Pergamon’s Acropolis

Posted: December 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »


After a long sleepless train ride with a baby who could reach inhuman levels of crying for extended periods of time, getting ripped off by our cab driver in Ulaanbaatar, and a brief freak-out thinking our travel plans in Turkey had fallen through, we were picked up by a representative from TravelShop Turkey and ferried to our hotel in Istanbul at the beginning of our 7 Churches of Revelation tour. 

What you must understand is that the Book of Revelation is one of my favorite books in the Bible and I geeked out when I realized that the 7 churches mentioned by John were ALL in Turkey.  I KNEW I had to see the cities, especially Ephesus because not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also contains the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world (another of my must-see-before-I-die list).  At the beginning of the trip, I was confident in my ability to plan out a do-it-yourself route.  By now, lesson learned, sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more to save a LOT of work.  So, we booked a tour instead. 

Our first full day, however, we enjoyed a walking tour of Istanbul.  I won’t go into detail now because I’m planning on dedicating a TON of posts to the wonders Istanbul offers.  So, we’ll get right into the thick of things with Smyrna & Pergamon. 

We walked out the Izmir Airport after an hour-long flight from Istanbul to meet our tour guide, Oktay (aka Octavius the Great) and our driver, Omar (aka Handsome Driver).  Oktay is a few years older than us and vacillates between mischeviousness and seriousness.  He’s always eager to share Turkish culture with us and is super easy to talk with.   We headed straight to Smyrna. 


To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death."

~Revelation 2:8-11

There’s not a whole lot to see in Smyrna: scattered ruins in the midst of excavation, laid out on the lawn like the beginnings of a massive jigsaw puzzle.  Oktay said most of the sites we are going to see will be in a similar state.  Throughout centuries of use and disuse, earthquakes and mudslides, and the natural reconfiguration of the land, many of these Greco-Roman cities became buried underneath layers of mud and silt.  Then, new cities were built atop them, unknowing of the history lying just beneath.  So, what we’re currently able to see makes up about 5-15% of the true extent of each ancient city.  The rest are still waiting its turn, or lost for the near future under modern-day shops and apartment buildings. 


We made a quick stop to the nearby ruins of a basilica, but it was closed to renovation.  The thing about the Churches of Revelation that we need to keep in mind, however, is that none of the churches we see is the real CHURCH mentioned in the Bible.  At the time of John’s writing, Christian’s were still being persecuted with crazy intensity.  So, they met in houses and lived on the edges of society.  That’s the beauty of it.  When John mentions a church, he means it in the truest sense, that the people are the church rather than any man-made building.  Even though we’re travelling on the Seven Churches of Revelation tour, what we’re visiting aren’t the actual churches.  We’re visiting the ancient ruins of the cities early Christians lived, loved, and worked within. 


It started to drizzle a bit, but it didn’t deter us from driving on to Bergama, the site of the ancient city of Pergamon. 

"“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it."

~Revelation 2:12-17

The site of Pergamon is quite a bit larger made up of 2 major sections: Acropolis, the upper city, and Asklepion, the medical section found in the lower city.  The middle city is currently still buried in the middle of a hill.  We visited the Acropolis first.  The Acropolis boasts of the steepest theater cut into the rock. 


Pergamon’s library was second only to Alexandria in the Ancient world.  Egypt took offense to that, so they stopped shipping papyrus to Pergamon.  In response, the people of Pergamon invented a writing surface created from calfskin, Pergamena, or Parchment.  It was said to contain 200,000 volumes and was one of the gifts Mark Antony gave to Cleopatra as a wedding present. 


Unfortunately, many of the best artifacts of Pergamon including the Great Zeus Altar were taken to Germany by the German archaeologists who started the digs and can be found at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin (which I hope to visit if we make it there). 


All that’s left of the the Great Zeus Altar in Turkey is its foundation. 

However, there are still a ton of interesting things to explore, including an underground section used to make space for the Temple of Trajan. 



**All bible verses are the NIV version from Bible Gateway. 

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