Day 11, 12 & 13 – Istanbul We reached Istanbul around 10 am and took a minibus to go to our BNB house that we had booked just two days ago. This time we booked a Bed and Breakfast near Taksim square so as to enjoy the nightlife of Istanbul. From the bus stand we took a metro to the area and were received by our host’s friend. We were disgusted at reaching our house. It was pathetic and dingy. There were alcohol bottles all over the place and it was like a small prison cell. We felt stuck and didn’t know what to do. Our host was not present there and we sort of got into an argument with him over messaging. He said we could leave his house and that he would refund our money by cash. We were relieved and looked for the best place we could find immediately. Luckily, we found a place which said it was situated near Taksim and contacted the host. The host informed us that the room was available but he would only be able to receive us after 7 in the evening. We booked and went to Taksim to first get rid of our baggage. We found a baggage locker and deposited our stuff there for the day. Then we wandered on the streets of Istanbul, enjoying the pleasant weather. We even visited one of the many sex shops on the street out of curiosity. We were scandalized after going in and ran out blushing at once. Next, we took a tram to the Spice Market and tasted some heavenly Turkish delights from different shops. We felt the day was well-spent after having those Turkish delights. Our host picked us up from Taksim in a cab and we went to his house. Our host, Mehmet, was as young as we were and his house was located in a posh area of Istanbul. Though, it was nowhere close to Taksim. Anyhow, the house was pretty but unkempt. We laughed it off as we know how careless guys can be. Next day we took a cruise to the prince’s islands and got down at the last island. It was a beautiful little island, with nice, small restaurants, cafes and shops, and pretty little houses. Motor vehicles were not allowed there so, Tongas and bicycles were the only mode of transport. We rented a bicycle and moved around the island. In the evening, we went club hopping with Mehmet to Taksim square after drinking a couple of beers at the house. After dancing for hours at stretch, we finally asked our host to take us back home at 3 in the morning. He was surprised to know we wanted to leave so early. We were surprised he called it early. We were further surprised when we came out of the club at 3 and saw that amount of crowd on the street and vendors and hawkers sitting on the roadside. Some shops and restaurants were also open. Mehmet told us the city only goes to sleep after 6 in the morning. Belonging to Delhi, we weren’t used to that kind of lifestyle so we came back and dozed off immediately. We were quite upset the next morning as it was our only full day in Turkey left. We were amazed as to how quickly time had passed. We had kept our last day primarily for shopping but the main markets of Grand Bazaar and Spice Market were closed that day due to Eid. So, we boarded the tram and evaluated which were the markets that were open and went shopping wherever we could find an open shop. That was the only day we saw some Indians in Turkey due to the Gandhi Jayanti holidays back home. We also saw some Indian restaurants. We shopped for some really amazing stuff. If you ever go to Turkey, do not forget to buy the Turkish flavoured teas and tea cups. We also bought some souvenirs, scented soaps, and other exquisite stuff. So, our day finally came to an end and with a heavy heart, we were all set to leave for Dubai the following day.
Day 8: Pamukkale Laodicea Philadelphia - Sardis Izmir. Wake up to the sounds of birds and don't miss a morning swim in the hotel's thermal pool before visiting the ancient city of Hierapolis, an ancient Roman city, where St. Philip was martyred during the persecutions ordered by Domitian. Hierapolis is located on the top of a hill where you can see the famous natural wonder, the White Cotton Fortress. Your next stop is Laodicea, one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor [Rev. 1:11; 3:14; Col. 2:1; 4:13-16]. When you see the city of Hierapolis from a distance, you may have an idea why the Laodicians were "neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm" as it reads in the Bible. Following this nice little isolated old town, visit Philadelphia and Sardis. Philadelphia "the perfect church," was the only church which John had no real criticism (Rev. 3: 7-13). After a short drive, we reach Sardis-the dead church. Remember 'you seem alive, but you are actually dead'. Overnight in Izmir. Includes: (Breakfast, Dinner. Day 9: Izmir - Ephesus - Izmir. St Polycarp Church will be the first to host you this morning. In an hour's time you will be ready, after a short visit to traditional house of the Virgin Mary, to visit the ancient city of Ephesus where St. Paul lived and preached for more than two and a half years and to where he subsequently sent his letter to the Ephesians. We see the Baths of Scholastica, the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian, the theater, the Double Church (The Church of Mary) where the third ecumenical council was convened in A. D. 431. Then, we visit the Basilica of St. John where St. John was buried, the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, which was once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Overnight in Izmir. Includes: (Breakfast, Dinner).