Category Archives: Exploring

15 Great Expat Blogs About Turkey

Here are 15 great blogs to check out if you are curious about living in Turkey, want to try out more Mediterranean Cooking, or are just searching for some travel inspiration:

  1. Turkey’s For Life: Julie and Barry, two UK citizens, share advice, recipes, and plenty of personal adventures on this extensive blog.
  2. Ozlem’s Turkish Table: Photos, easy-to-follow recipes and interesting tales woven together by an award-winning chef who also happens to offer online cooking lessons.
  3. Turkey from the Inside: Pat, a UK-origined former Thomas Cook travel specialist, travel book author and writer for Today’s Zaman takes readers on a whirlwind tour through the culture and history of many different Turkish regions
  4. Back to Bodum: An Aussie expat and her Turkish husband re-adjust to life in the Turkish countryside
  5. Pul Biber – With Everything (Red Pepper with Everything) Two retired UK expats living in Selçuk adjust from their fast-paced London life to soaking up the small town sights, smells and occasional serenity
  6. Adventures in Ankara: A Pennsylvania native and lawyer by profession shares her adventures and observations after moving to Ankara with her Turkish husband. Plenty of travel tips, trip reviews, and a culinary corner as well.
  7. A Seasonal Cook in Turkey: A 30+ year expat resident of Istanbul share’s the years’ best fare with recipes fit for every season.
  8. Slowly By Slowly: “Roadtripping through one Turkish-American marriage with a troupe of backseat-driving Karagöz puppets”
  9. Almost Turkish Recipes: Simple and tasty meals you can make in your own kitchen, regardless of whether you have access to Turkey’s extensive outdoor bazaars.
  10. From the Seven Hills of Istanbul: A Wisconsin native who has lived almost continuously in Turkey since completing her MA in Turkish Studies in 2009 now shares restaurant reviews and travel tips covering Bursa and Istanbul.
  11. Binur’s Turkish Cookbook: Recipes, tantalizing photos.  What more could you want in a simple food blog?
  12. The Turkish Life: A SF native residing in Istanbul and writing about food, running, photography and the environment
  13. Far From the Sticks: An East Coaster residing in Ankara with her Turkish husband shares stories, photos and culinary adventures.
  14. Adana Adventures: Part travel /living guide, part blog written by an American expat living in Adana with his Turkish wife.
  15. Inside Out Istanbul: Lisa Morrow, author of  Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City and Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries shares book reviews, life tales, and plenty of photos.

+ 1 Best of Bursa: An expat family shares their favorite experiences in a city they’ve come to call home.

Looking for More Reading: the Daily Sabah has also collected an “Ultimate list of expat blogs on Turkey” to be found here.


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Filed under Community, Exploring, Family, Recipes, Retiring Abroad, Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture

Turkey’s City Street Food

If you’ve been around the beach, you know the basics (or can find them here: Turkey’s Best Beach Food): gözleme, ayran, stuffed mussles, melon ice cream bowls, steamed corn, fresh fish.  But what can you eat when you hit Turkey’s urban streets?  Here are some of the must-try simple street snacks (or full meals) you’ll find in almost every urban center:


Head to the nearest wheeled glass cart labeled “halk ekmek” (“people’s bread”) or the small shop by the bus stop and grab a few simit for a simple start to the day. At first glance a simit may look a bit like a bagel covered in sesame seeds.  Cracked open it can be eaten with soft spread cheese.

3077558355_04f058d2be_mTired of simit?  Ask for a poğaça instead.  At 2/1 lira they’re still quite cheap, and come with a variety of savory stuffings  like olive (zeytin), cheese (peynir), or spicy sausage (sucuk).

salepFinish off your breakfast with a glass of strong Turkish tea or salepa traditional drink made with powdered orchid root and flavoured with cinnamon.

Lunch/Quick Dinner/Midnight Snacks

Turkey’s most popular savory street food is the doner kebab (here known as durum) with long strips of lamp of chicken rolled in flatbread with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and the occasional french fry (curious about what defines a kebab? read our post here). But if you only know the doner… you’ve barely dabbled in Turkish street tastes!

7793420340_cf56c7e319_zOnly got 10 minutes for lunch? One of Turkey’s most popular “fast foods” is lahmacun, a flatbread topped and backed with minced meat and a garlic-tomato paste, almost always paired with a cool glass of ayran (salty yogurt).  Almost any neighborhood will have a lunch joint with 2 lahmacun + ayran lunch specials for about 5 lira.  Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon!


If you’re seriously on the run, grab a tantuni or “Turkish burrito”.  Tantuni are wraps composed of ground meat cooked on a wide metal plate with spices and oil then rolled up with slices of onion, tomato, cilantro and lettuce.  Take it with a hot green pepper if you can handle extra-spicy.

Hit by 3 am hunger pains? Head for a kokoreç stand.  While chopped sheep intestines might not sound appealing during the day, this savory, spicy and complex flavoured sandwich is sure to satisfy your midnight cravings.

19271026726_4d83c7aa55_zLooking for something a little more sophisticated?  Pideoften nicknamed “the Turkish pizza” is a boat-shaped oven-baked bread topped with everything from spinach and feta to chicken and tomatoes to ground beef and cheese. Expect fresh bread hot out of the oven, with the juices from the toppings just starting to sink into the dough. Ask for a side of tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with a sprinkling of lemon.


Vegetarian? No worries. bulgar-based Çiğ köfte is savory, sometimes spicey, and always delicious, whether eaten alone or in a wrap. Each region has it’s own recipe for Çiğ köfte though, as a rule, the ingredients include and bulgur, chopped cilantro, onion, tomato paste, spices, crushed garlic and salt.  Again, everything is better with a slice of lemon!


2037583738_eb5fcd9dfb_zIn winter warm your hands and your soul with a cup full of hot roasted chestnuts (kestane) and served in a paper cone for 2-5 lira per portion.

Don’t forget that Turkey has great regional varieties in cuisine – while in Kayseri you’ll have to try the kayseri mantisi; in Bursa, iskender kebab, and in testi kebab in Cappadocia.

Hungry for more? We know you are… Check out these pages extensively covering Istanbul’s street food scene, and share with us you favorite street foods from around the country.

World’s Best Street Food: Istanbul Edition

Beyond the Doner: Real Turkish Food

Culinary Back Streets: Istanbul’s Best Street Foods

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Beat the Heat: Kabak Koy

0139f6284770bcf33043df0b697cf36542a63c86bcBeat the heat (and the summer crowds) with a short jaunt to Kabak Koy.

Literally named “Pumpkin Cove”, this secluded beach-front valley is just forty-five minutes from downtown Fethiye.  Drive southeast of town and head over the hills, passing street-covering streams, cliff-hanging village houses and bickering bunches of goats to reach a cove you would never guess could be so close to Fethiye’s commercial resorts and crowded summer streets.  Park your car in the small village atop the cliffs and take a jeep-minibus down deep-rutted dirt roads to the cove below.

reflections camp kababk koy

Outdoor Seating at Reflections Camp

Local zoning laws and the long winding roads (which offer breathtaking views of Fethiye and the surrounding shores) ensure that, while Kabak Koy is no longer quite so hidden, the summer crowds are still minimal and residential development near non-existent.  Join university student hippies hiking across the forests between bays, seclusion-seekers, nature-lovers and a few vacationing families in relaxing for the weekend.  Splurge and indulge in a bungalow at Sea Valley Bungalows, or even bring your own tent and sleep on the beach.  Stay closer the nature with a rugged wooden bungalow at Natural Life, sleep half-outside in a purple-painted tent and relax on shaded cushions in a sculpture-filled garden in Reflections Camp or Kabak Valley Camp encompassed in colorful murals a few hundred yards back from the beach, perch yourselves up on the cliffs at Shambala, PureLife Village or Olive Garden.

Sunset at Kabak Koy

Sunset from Sea Valley Bungalow’s Infinity Pool

While the beach is superb, with aquamarine waters protected by the cove and shaded sands, the area is also connected to Butterfly Valley and other sites by a net of hiking trails along the Lycian way. If you’re feeling tight from your travels, at least once a year the area holds a yoga festival (video here, article here).  Or you could just lie back and enjoy a book.


How to get there:  Go south-east on the coastline road out of Fethiye, climbing up and over the hills by either private car or Fethiye-Kabak minibus. Park where the road ends at the small village atop the cliffs.  By the general store there should either be a waiting minivan or people waiting for the next minivan to bring them down to the cove.  Transport is 5-10 lira/person.

Prices: There is a small store by the cove and most guesthouses have restaurants.  Food prices are about 20-30% more than in Fethiye, due to difficulty of transportation.  Nightly accommodation prices range from 60 TL for a 2-3 person tent to 300+ lira for a deluxe bungalow.

Bring: Sunblock, a swimming suit, beach clothes, a good book and a bottle of wine.

The blogging couple at Turkey’s for Life make a yearly birthday jaunt to Kabak from their home in Fethiye.  For more great recommendations, reflections and travel inspiration, check out these posts on their page:

One Night in Kabak: It’s Not Enough

Falling for Kabak

To Kabak: What Goes Up Must Come Down

OluDeniz to Kabak in Photos

Chakra Beach at Kabak Koy – Stay in a yurt!

Glorious Summer Feasts at The Olive Garden

A Day at the Olive Garden

Staying at Sultan Camp

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Filed under Beaches, Day Trips, Exploring

What is the “Mediterranean Diet”?

The past few years popular magazines and science journals alike have been abuzz with articles about a new fad called the “Mediterranean Diet” (If you’ve been out of the loop, see the Mayo clinic or the New York Times: “The Island Where People Forget to Die“, “Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward Off Heart Attack and Stroke“, “When Diet Meets Delicious“, “Mediterranean Diet is Good for Your DNA“). But the Mefuterranean is a huge region encompassing a variety of culinary cultures – most of which we don’t often associate with “heart healthy”. So…

IMG_0570What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Simply put, the “Mediterranean Diet” is less a diet, per se, than a lifelong way of eating that emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean protein and healthy fats. There’s nothing very complicated about the diet: eat lots of foods high in fiber and other nutrients like local vegetables and legumes; consume healthy fats like olives, almonds and olive oil; substitute fruit for other sweets; emphasize low-cholesterol sources of protein like chicken and fish over red meat; avoid additives and preservatives; and enjoy the occasional glass of red wine. For more information delving into specifics, see this post on

Why Is It Good for Me?

fresh oranges dalyan

A fresh fruit stand on the highway outside Dalyan

The Mediterranean Diet probably isn’t (as some have claimed) a cure-all.  But it does promote overall well-being by providing your body with full nutrients and decreasing your intake of disease-causing foods such as refined sugar and artery-clogging saturated fats. Combined with regular exercise, studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease while promoting longer living.  Other studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to lead to a reduced risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease as well as the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. (References here, here, here and here)

Following the Mediterranean Diet in Turkey

Turkish fruit sellers

Village women selling figs and olives outside Didim

When we conjure images of Turkish cuisine, what do we see?  Probably heavy red meats like shish kebabs and doner, plenty of bread, a fair amount of full-fat dairy and tantalizing sweets like baklava and dondurma.  But how a tourist tastes a new country is not necessarily representative of the way most residents eat day-in-and-day-out or the ingredients readily available in the grocery store. Whether stocking up your own kitchen or eating out, nutrient-dense whole foods in Turkey abound. Turkey is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as locally sourced, GMO-free products at reasonable prices.  While you can pick up your groceries at the local Carrefoure, most Turks in both town and city do their shopping at the local bazaars.  Many Turkish people tend to eat seasonally, with an emphasis on in-season local produce.  Due to the mild coastal climate and long growing seasons, this translates into consuming a great variety of different foods. Unless you live in a small town in the Anatolian hinterlands, it’s easy to find fresh produce and staples of the Mediterranean diet year-round.  Turkey’s produce is officially GMO-free, and there are a growing number of organic and free-range farms.  Compared to the west, it’s much less expensive to stock your fridge with locally-grown, additive-free fresh food. Here’s what you’ll probably see families eating in Turkey

Turkish breakfast

Part of a typical Turkish breakfast: tea, olives, salad, local honeys and jams, fresh cheese, and eggs on their way!

Breakfast: A typical Turkish breakfast includes a complete spread: jams, cheeses, eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and bread.  Most restaurants will also have omelets and menemen, scrambled eggs with tomatoes and green peppers.

Lunch: A traditional lunch might include a bowl of hearty lentil soup coupled with salad, mezeler (cold vegetable dishes with olive oil), cucumber and tomatoe salad, and crusty bread.  For a little more protein, go for fresh grilled fish or menemen.

Dinner: Dinner is often the day’s biggest meal, shared with friends or family. Dinner will often start with a light soup, followed by salad, mezeler, a starch or grain, and a source of protein. Grains like bulgar and barley, often thought of as ‘health foods’ in the west, are here common fare (see more on grains used in Turkish cooking here).

Dessert and Tea: Every meal and almost every visit in Turkey will be accompanied by a cup of black tea.  If you are visiting someone’s house as a guest, your tea will be accompanied by small dishes of cakes, dried fruits, and nuts.  Instead of sweets after dinner, many Turkish people drink tea and nibble on nuts and dried fruit, or bring out a plate of cut fruit.

Drinks: While raki is the Turkish national drink, there are plenty of vineyards producing local vintages as well. Moderate amounts of red wine are supposed to be good for your heart and overall health.

Going for Healthier Options

Like most countries in the west, Turkey does have a high obesity rate (currently 16.5% for men 29.4% for women).  It’s obvious that being surrounded by an abundance of healthy food doesn’t automatically make one healthier.  So here are a few minor changes you can make to follow a healthy and whole diet in Turkey:

  • Skip the sugar in your tea. The average adult should consume less than 60 grams of sugar in a day.  One sugar cube has 12 grams of sugar.  If you drink as much tea as the average Turk, that’s a lot of extra sugar.  Ask for a slice of lemon instead.
  • Revel in the fresh fish! IMG_1323Fish is an integral part of almost every restaurant’s menu; for those traveling to Istanbul or the Aegean, fresh fish is a must.  Most restaurants have daily dinner specials for 12-25 lira including meze (appetizers), salad, and the catch of the day.  Our favorite fish is çupra (gilt head sea bream) for it’s tender and flavorful white flesh. Eat with a side salad and a slice of lemon to bring out the fish’s full flavors.
  • Go for low fat or fat-free dairy. Dairy forms a central staple of Turkish cuisine – spreads of soft and hard cheese at breakfast, salty ayran, handchurned yogurt, and the sweet cream kaymak.  Thankfully, most dairy products are also available in reduced fat or no-fat form.  Look for the pink cups of ayran, or dairy labels that read yarım yağlı (half fat), az yağlı (low-fat) or yağsız (fat free).
  • Pass on the Kofte and Adana Kebabs.  These are high in fatty meat and kofte are cooked in oil.  If you’re hankering after red meat, go for Simit kebab (cooked with bulgar), Şiş kebab with vegetables,  Buğu kebabı or Testi kebab. 
  • Switch out the white bread.  Most Turkish bakeries have options with higher fiber, like whole wheat (tam buğday ekmek) and cracked wheat/whole meal (kepekli ekmek).
  • Ask for servis.  This means your fish or kofte will come on a plate with salad, instead of sandwiched in half a loaf of bread.  At more causal joints you may have to pay an extra lira for servis 
  • Go for almonds and fresh and dried fruit at tea. We know those sweets piled on trays at tea look tempting; reach instead for something more sustaining, like almonds, dried apricots and dates.
  • Quench your thirst with fresh juice instead of coke. Fresh fruit stands abound in
    Juice in ankara

    A juice stand in downtown Ankara

    both metropolises and up and down the coasts (and at every town in between) Even in the dead of winter downtown Ankara has dozens of stalls making fresh pressed carrot, orange, grapefruit and pomegranate juice for as little as 1.5 lira a cup. Most malls have fresh fruit juice stands as well.  If you like the strong flavor, şalgam, a salty beet-red drink made from fermented purple carrots, turnip and bulgar, is a refreshing alternative to soft drinks.  If you over-indulge in raki, you may find a glass of şalgam being imposed upon you as a [supposed] cure for hangovers.

Little Bazaars; Fresh Produce

First, take a virtual walk through two of Turkey’s outdoor bazaars with this beatifully crafted and illustrated traveler’s post: Refueling at Fethiye Markets.  Check out these bazaars over the summer for some fresh, locally-grown and low-priced produce:

Bodrum: The food bazaar is held in a different location every day of the week; Thursday is market day in Yalikova; Friday the food market is held in the Bodrum Market (pazar); if you want a trip back in time, Monday is  market day at the little town of Guvercinlik, 20 km north of Bodrum. See here for a full schedule. IMG_0940

Didim/Altinkum: If you have a car, head out to Akkoy and scoop up produce sold by the roadside straight from the fields.  Figs, olives, and preserves are all produced locally and sold at rock-bottom prices.  The Saturday Market has produce (along with everything else from clothing to household items).  If you want to get away from the summer tourists, you can also drive to Söke for an authentic bazaar experience. 

Fethiye: Farmer’s markets take place in different locations on different days; Tuesdays and Fridays are in the town center. Turkey’s for Life has a great bunch of posts about the Friday Market, Patlangıç Market, Çalış Market, and more. Interested in learning more about the push to put local produce on hotel tables?  Read about the Taste of Fethiye project here!  Taste of Fethiye also prints a Fethiye Village Driving Route to take you and your taste buds on a self-guided local culinary tour (PDF: Turkey_driving_route_booklet_opt).

Want fresh fish? Head to the Fethiye Fresh Fish Market.  This Fethiye Times post includes market information as well as English-Turkish names for dozens of varieties of local seafood.

Kusadasi: Find the bazaar on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. Tuesday markets are located on the street by the cemetery; Wednesday and Friday markets are on the same street, but opposite the main dolmus (minibus) stop at the city center. Food is fresh from the sea and the farms.

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Filed under City Sights, Community, Exploring, Shopping, Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture, Turkish Riviera

Exploring Ephesus… And More Surprises in Turkey

Following our post last week, Matador Travel Network featured 17 surprising (and interesting) facts about Turkey this week.  Scroll down to number three!


1. It has one of the world’s oldest and biggest malls.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, or Kapalı Çarşı, dates to 1455 and was established shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Over the centuries it has grown into a warren of 61 streets lined by more than 3,000 shops and currently occupies a nearly incomprehensible 333,000 square feet. You’ll never possibly be able to explore it all, but that doesn’t keep people from trying — according to Travel + Leisure, the Grand Bazaar was the world’s #1 attraction in 2014, drawing over 91 million people.

2. You might find chicken in your dessert.

The signature Ottoman treat is tavuk göğsü, or chicken breast pudding. It’s a strange blend of boiled chicken, milk, and sugar, dusted with cinnamon. And it’s delicious. Look for it on menus across the country.

3. Turkey is packed with cultural heritage.

In fact, there are 13 spots in Turkey inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, and a whopping 62 on the tentative list. They range from a Mesolithic temple (Göbekli Tepe) to a Biblical city (Ephesus) to a World War One battlefield (Gallipoli), and help make Turkey the sixth most-visited tourist destination in the world.

 Read the full article here.

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Exploring Ephesus

A Brief History:Ephesus Turkey

Ephesus (“Efes” in Turkish – same as the popular beer brand) is an ancient Greek city famous for its  Temple of Artemis, recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The city itself is also renowned for its extensive and majestic ruins from the period of Roman rule and its role in biblical history.

The site became a Roman city in 133 BC and subsequently the capital of  Asia Minor under Augustus in 27 BC.  The population boomed to 250,000, attracting immigrants, merchants, scholars, and a great civil society.  Every year the capitol hosted the month-long spring festival of Artemis/Diana, which further drew thousands of visitors from across the empire. Jewish and Greek Christian settelers also flocked to the city, and St.Paul lived there tending his flock for several years in the AD 50’s.  According to tradition, St. John wrote his gospel here and the Virgin Mary also settled in the city until her death in the AD 30’s.

Ephesus TurkeyAt it’s peak, Ephesus was a major Roman port city second in importance and size only to the empire’s capital. By 100 AD Ephesus had an estimated population of 400,000.  Today you can still see the terraced homes of the nobles, grand stadiums and temples, and Library of Celcus (built in 123 AD) along the wide stone road that stretches across the city.

However, Ephesus slid into decline starting in 200 AD.  The once great harbor started to fill with silt and create malarial swamps, thus decreasing both population and trade; the Artemis/Diana cult diminished, shrinking the number of annual pilgrims and associated commerce; and finally the Germanic Goths sacked the city in 263 AD.

Ephesus lay largely forgotten on the hills above Kusadasi until European archaeologists rediscovered and began excavating the area in the 1860’s.  Excavation is still far from complete, as the ancient city is the largest excavation area in the world.

Basic Info: 

Open Times:
Summer (April-October): 08:30 – 19:00
Winter (November-March) 08:00 – 17:00
Admission: 30 TL
Car Park: 8 TL

Top Ten Spots:

Ephesus Archeological Museum Located at the entrance, the museum houses both the statue of Artemis retrieved from the temple and many other artifacts from the ancient settlements.

Temple of Artemis The Temple of Artemis (Turkish: Artemis Tapınağı), also known  as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The temple was the size of a modern-day soccer field and had columns 30 meters tall.  It was rebuilt three times before its destruction in 401 AD at the hands of the Germanic Goths.  Today only foundations and sculpture fragments remain.  During Greek and Roman times, the temple was the center of a yearly spring festival that attracted thousands of worshipers from near and abroad.

Ephesus Library of CelcusThe Library of Celsus: The third largest library in the ancient world, the library of Celcus was built in honor of Roman Senator and General Governor of the Province of Asia Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus by his son in 135 AD.  The library was built to hold 12,000 scrolls – and the mausoleum for Celsus, who is entombed in a crypt below the foundations. Though the library was destroyed by successive earthquakes over the centuries, the facade was re-erected by archaeologists in the 1970’s.  You can still see many of the book niches and fanciful sculptures extolling the four virtues.
church of  mary ephesusThe Church of St. Mary:
This ancient christian cathedral dedicated to the “Birth-Giver of God” dates back to the 5th century.  The church itself is built on the ruins of the temple of the muses, and may have been built specifically for the third Ecumenical council (431), which gives rise to it’s second name,  Church of the Councils.  Councils held at the Church of St. Mary were of great importance in deciding the uniform theological underpinnings of Christianity.

The House of St. Mary:  Some believe that Mary mother of Jesus followed St. John the Baptist to Ephesus and spent the last few years of her life at this abode.  The home is treated as a sacred site, as is the fountain outside, which some believe has the power the heal even incurable diseases.  The house, which is located on Mt. Koressos, was discovered by Pere Poulin and Young in 1892. Visitors can see the restored house, the fountain, and a functioning chapel.
0133529321578018cd555a3ad491be49d69cdd70bcThe Cave of the Seven Sleepers: 
Legend has is that seven young men (Christian in some stories, wrongly prosecuted civilians in others) hid themselves and their dog in these caves when fleeing the emperor’s wrath.  One story tells that they were  found and murdered during the reign of the Roman emperor Decius in the middle of the 3rd century, and resurrected 200 years later during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II.  A second tale tells that they went to the caves to pray and fell into a 200 year long slumber, during which time the caves were sealed off by the emperor’s latchkeys.  During the reign of Theodosius II (408 – 450) a local farmer decided to open the sealed cave and use it as a cattle pen.  Inside he found the seven sleepers, who awoke believing they had slept but one day. The bishop was summoned to interview the sleepers, who then recounted their miracle story and died praising God.  In the Muslim world this legend is known as “Eshab Ul-Kehf”, and tells of seven men and women who hid in the caves with their dog and fell into a deep God-given slumber.  Centuries later they awoke, again unaware of the passage of time.  Felling hungry, one of their members went down to the village to buy bread, and was discovered only when he took out a centuries-old coin.

ephesus basilicaThe Basilica of St. John The basilica was constructed by the Christian emperor Jusitian I in the 6th century as part of his drive to revive the Roman Empire.  The basilica encompassed a small chapel that originally stood on the site and was believed to stand over the burial site of John the Apostle, about 3.5 km from Ephesus proper.  The basilica was modeled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), in the shape of a cross covered by six domes, with the tomb of St John under the central dome. The basilica was re-appropriated as a mosque in the 14th century, but shortly after mostly destroyed by earthquake.

marble street ephesusThe Marble Street: The main avenue of the ancient city stretches up the hill for several kilometers.  It was once flanked by columns 8 meters high and sculpted with graceful friezes.  While most of the columns are now broken, the broad avenue is still an impressive site.

The Great Theater: 
The theater once had a capacity of 25,000 spectators – still less than 7% of Ephesus’s total population at it’s peak!  It was constructed during the reigns of  Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) and Emperor Trajanus (98-117 A.D.). ephesus ampitheaterUnfortunately, many of the stone seats were later carried away for use in other construction. For Early Christians, this theater held great symbolic importance, as it was the scene of the theological combat between followers of Artemis and followers of Christ that ultimately resulted in the expulsion of St.Paul from Ephesus.

The Church of St. John Many believe that St. John resided in Ephesus while writing the fourth book of the New Testament, which itself was compiled in this very church.  Excavations here have discovered five small graves around the tomb of St. John

Isa Bey Mosque The mosque was erected in 1375 by Isa Bey from the Aydinogullari (Seljuk) dynasty. It is situated just outside of the town of Selcuk were it dominates the Ayasluğ Hills.

Check out a longer review of Ephesus on Turkey Travel Planner here.

Summer 2013 3396Fun Facts:

  • Some of the columns in Hagia Sophia originally belonged to the temple of Artemis.
  • Two of the seven wonders of the ancient world are located in Turkey’s Aegean region: The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Bodrum, and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
  • Ephesus is site of one of the ancient world’s largest public toilets (still visible today).
  • Though once a seaport, Ephesus is now located 6 miles from the sea.
  • The house of the Virgin Mary has been visited by both Pope the 6th Paul and Pope Jean Paul.
  • The Church of the Virgin Mary hosted The Third Ecumenical Council and  is known as one of the seven churches of the Apocalypse.  In fact, all seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation are found in Turkey: Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
  • Ephesus wasn’t just a holy city; the first known advertisement of antiquity, which showed the way to a brothel, was found on Ephesus’ Marble Street.

Visiting Ephesus:

Ephesus is approximately 4 km from Selcuk, the nearest town.  Selcuk itself is situated on the road from Kusadasi, approximately 21 km from Kusadasi and 79 km from Izmir. From Kusadasi it is 72 km to Didim and 148 km to Bodrum. What this means is: if you have your own car, Ephesus is a very doable day trip from Didim or Izmir.  If you are residing further away, or plan to use public transportation, then consider the options below:kusadasi selcuk dolmus

  • Take the bus to Kusadasi, spend the day exploring the stone streets of the old quarters and enjoying the view of the harbor, stay the night (we highly recommend Villa Konak Hotel, which fully deserves it’s 9+ rating on Trip Advisor). The next morning, head to the Friday Market, and take the dolmus (R) to Selcuk.  Tell the driver to stop at the road to Efes, and walk 1 km to the gates.
  • Take the bus to Selcuk (direct bus from Bodrum is 3 hours, from Didim 1 1/2-2 hours; from Izmir 1 hour) and spend the night in either Selcuk or one of the surrounding villages.  The next morning walk, borrow a bike from the hotel, take a local bus, or take a ltaxi to Ephesus.
    • Selcuk: A small but bustling residential town of about 30,000 Selcuk is home to several guesthouses, winding old stone streets, a busy square, and lively farmer’s market.  Selcuk can be quite crowded in peak tourist season but, as an ancient Greek settlement and the 14th century capital of the Emirate of Aydin, has plenty of historic attractions of its own.
    • sirince ephesusŞirince: a quaint village nestled on the hills, famous for its wine and traditional Greek architecture.Sirince is 8km from Ephesus, and can be reached by dolmus (3TL).  Highly recommended is the traditional Gullu Konaklari B&B
  • Take the train from Izmir to Selcuk (4TL, train table here), visit Ephesus, and either head back on the train (last train leaves Selcuk at 20:44) or spend the night at Selcuk or in one of the surrounding villages.
  • Book a guided tour from Kusadasi.  These will generally pick you up at your hotel, drive you to Ephesus, and provide a half-day or full-day tour of Ephesus, House of the Virgin Mary, Cave of the Seven Sleepers, surrounding traditional villages or other sites before dropping you back off at your hotel.  Costs are usually 30-60/person.
  • From Istanbul: fly to Izmir, and take either the train or bus to Selcuk.  While you can make this a day-trip, you will probably enjoy yourself much more if you stay overnight in Selcuk, see Ephesus, and head back the next day.

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Time and Money Saving Travel Tips: Turkish Museum Passes

Summer 2013 3376Traveling to Turkey? What are you most excited to see? The underground cities and cave carved churches at Cappadocia? The intricate and immense ceilings of the Blue Mosque? The once grandesque Temple of Apollo? The library or the Church of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus, reached by a two-thousand year old stone street? Hittite relics at the Museum of Anatolian Civilization? Lycian ruins at Olympos where beach-goers in bikinis mingle with relics of lost cities?

With hundreds of historical sites to see museum entrance costs can certainly add up, and the summer lines at Hagia Sophia can deter even the most intrepid of travelers.

But, no worries! In 2008 the Turkish government launched the Müzekart For 40 lira anyone with Turkish citizenship or a Turkish residence permit can have unlimited free access to museums and archaeological sites run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism over a period of one year. This is a great deal for students, retirees with residence permits, and other expats.  Unfortunately, if you are not a Turkish citizen, or do not have a valid residence permit, you are not eligible to purchase the card.


However, if you are planning to visit the sites in Istanbul or Cappadocia, the government offers two regional museum passes.

In Istanbul you can purchase a Museum Pass Istanbul for 85 lira (3 days) or 115 lira (5 days).  The card is good for entrance to: Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapı Palace Museum and Harem Apartments, İstanbul Archaeological Museums, İstanbul Mosaic Museum, Museum of Turkish and İslamic Arts, Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam, Chora Museum, Galata Mevlevi House Museum, Yıldız Palace, Rumeli Hisar Museum, and the Fethiye Museum. You can also use it to get discounts at a number of shops and entertainmnet venues.  The pass can be purchased at any of the sites, or at certain hotels (listed on the website).  The pass provides only single entrance (meaning you’ll have to pay full admission price if you make a second trip to the same museum), and slower sight-savoring travelers may find that it doesn’t pay for itself.  If you don’t plan on seeing all  the Istanbul sites, then the card’s main advantage is that it saves you from the lines, which can be quite long in peak season.

There is also a 45 lira Museum Pass Cappadocia.  This pass is valid for three days (72 hours from the time of first use) and covers seven spots in the Cappadocia region: Ihlara Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City, Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme Karanlık Church, Kaymaklı Underground City, Özkonak Underground City, Nevşehir Museum, Cavusin Archaeological Site, Hacibektas Museum, and Zelve-Pasabaglari.

All passes (and individual tickets) are available for purchase on this government site.  Just make sure to print out your tickets for individual sites before heading to the museum!

Individual tickets cost from 5 lira (Olympos, Temple of Apollo) to 30 lira (Ephesus).  You can view a list of all museums here.

Other time-saving tips: Go early! Especially along the coast passengers from docking cruise ships create heavy museum traffic between 10 am and 3 pm.  Hit the museums when they open to avoid lines, or after 3pm to have a quieter and less crowded experience.

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