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Istanbul - Galata and the Golden Horn

Istanbul – Turkey

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The City on Seven Hills

Istanbul, one of the greatest cities in the world since antiquity to current date, is always a treat to come and repeat. That’s the third time in my case, and will certainly be more to come. It is way too big, the largest city in Europe, and fascinating everywhere offering the visitor a great and vast amount of sights, monuments, museums and historical places. Once named Byzantium, the capital city of the great Byzantine Empire founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC; then Constantinople after the Roman emperor Constantine the Great made it his imperial capital in 330 AD, it continued capital during the even greater Ottoman Empire. Buildings from every era are still standing in great fusion with the modern and elegant architecture, where broad avenues where laid out on top of the ancient city, Roman basilicas turned into churches, then into mosques; impressive royal residences and palaces built.

The Romans made of Constantinople the second capital of the empire only after Rome, and transformed it into one of the most beautiful and luxurious city the world has ever seen in antiquity. Embellished with monuments created in situ and others taken here from all over the empire, notably the Obelisk of Thutmose III from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor or the Serpent Column from Delphi in Greece to be placed in the great hippodrome, thankfully there still today. Other one of such stunning monuments created were the bronze horses decorating the main entrance of the hippodrome, thereafter taken by the Venetians to Venice and ever since located at Saint Mark’s Basilica; of the Column of Constantine still in its original site at the former Imperial Forum.

With many civilizations and different empires eager to take the strategic city, there’s been rise and fall periods, sieges, war, destruction and reconstruction. Too many layers of history below current ground level where every hole you dig and the history comes back to live. Noteworthy the Basilica Cistern. A spectacular water cistern described as the “sunken palace” located few meters away from the Blue Mosque itself, however, not the only cistern in Istanbul. Plenty more, however not all opened to the public.

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Read more about the article Pergamon – Turkey
Pergamon - Turkey

Pergamon – Turkey

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One of the greatest cities of Antiquity

Yet again the turn for another of the great ancient cities in the world. Pergamon. Of Greek origin, then Roman as it’s the case for this entire region of Turkey, was of great strategical, knowledge and arts importance. With the steepest theater from the ancient times and once home to the 2nd largest library from the ancient world just after Alexandria, it flourished even further after the Pergamese people discovered a new way of creating paper-like since the administration of papyrus was cut off from Egypt. They named this newly created product pergamenum after the name of the city. This event was a complete success across the entire Roman empire as it meant breaking the dependency from Egypt’s papyrus.

But visiting this place did not come as a simple task on our agenda. Squeezing the time to probably a new limit that we have not done before, while changing upside down the original plans for this entire long weekend trip; we managed to get some room to visit this great ancient city. At only 100 kilometers to the north from Izmir, it was in our heads the days before flying to Turkey yet we preferred to stop thinking and letting it go with the flow. Still… the rush for doing everything possible to get to this place was too high to miss.

As commented on the previous travel guides for Izmir (Smyrna) and Ephesus, Pergamon is also one of the Seven Churches of Asia, known also as the Seven Churches of Revelation or the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. Mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation, it is where Jesus Christ from the Greek island of Patmos instructs his servant Jon of Patmost saying: “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”

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Read more about the article Ephesus -Turkey
Ephesus - Turkey

Ephesus -Turkey

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Best preserved library from the ancient world

Finally achieving one of my lifetime travel dreams; reaching the ancient city of Ephesus. Yet the truth is that I have way too many further travel wishes in the agenda, of course. Coming here was, after all, the main purpose of this entire trip, involving having to fly to Istanbul with an overnight stay at a hotel there, continuing the following morning with a flight to Izmir, and if following the original plan, today we would have been only visiting Izmir while the next day Ephesus. But since our dramatic change of plans on the go, this was brought forward to the very same day after a quick visit of Izmir. And the reason for such change? Well, quite a temptation being that near to Pergamon and not going! Check Pergamon travel guide for more information.

The city traces its roots to the 10th century BC, occupying the place of the former capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa, Apasa, that extended along the western areas of Anatolia. It became one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during Greek times, becoming a great power when the Romans took control over it after 129 BC.

Once home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis, one can imagine how important and powerful the city might have been. Second in population and importance only after Rome, with glorious buildings and large public bath houses, something the Romans mastered at; coupled with one of the most advanced aqueduct system of the ancient world.

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Read more about the article Izmir – Turkey
Izmir - Turkey

Izmir – Turkey

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Ancient Smyrna

With what is called in the UK the Spring Bank Holiday of May, what was best than using this chance for a long weekend trip abroad in Izmir without the need to take any extra holiday at work from the yearly allowance, which is already getting to an end almost entirely used spread across the whole of the year. It is quite incredible having to reach the point where I can only rely in the few weekends left this year where I have no trips booked yet to go anywhere abroad! This is the narrow barrier I am between being a “full time employee and part time traveller”, although my friends and colleagues at work prefer to joke in saying it’s the opposite way around, “full time traveller, part time job”.

This trip was anyway, planned a while ago in November last year, and the fact that the main flights were a return with BA to Istanbul was on purpose especially bearing in mind these were in Business Class. So what made the difference for us to get those flights and not any cheaper option?. Easy answer in this case: retaining the Silver membership status (Zephyr) with the One World Alliance. And the trick is this: there are still 3 destinations having sort of a loophole in the amount of tier points and air miles you would collect, being Helsinki, Athens and Istanbul. So a flight to Istanbul in Business Class will give you the same miles and tier points as if it would be a long haul flight, this is, double.

Since we’ve already been to Istanbul before, then we though this could be a great occasion to get to Izmir with the main idea of reaching the ancient city of Ephesus, and Pergamon too as our original plans changed and we managed to squeeze it in too. The good side of it, the internal flight between Istanbul and Izmir with Pegasus Airlines was really cheap, balancing the total cost for all flights after all. And with so many frequencies between both cities and many competitors, flying is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to reach Izmir, unless you are in an overland tour or other cities nearby while in Turkey.

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