World Heritage Site

YAY for ephesus

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We don’t normally capitalise our headings but for this one, we had to! To be inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage List is no easy feat.

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Following a vote on July 5, Ephesus was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List and so this called for us to cheer!!

A visit to Turkey is usually bound to include a visit to Ephesus. And for us, UNESCO collectors, it was no different except the fact that back in 2013, Ephesus was NOT on the list yet. This came as a great surprise to us back then as to how it could not already be.

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Every year, it brings in about 2 million visitors and seriously on the day we were there, we were sure half of that number was there. There were apparently three cruise liners in for the day at Kusadasi, which explained the crowd numbers. Maybe it’s always like that but for us, it felt like we were at a theme park.

The sun was up and there was little shade so apart from the crowd and the heat, we had nothing to “truly” complaint about.

We were wow-ed from the start when we could see the ruins of the pillars and amphitheatres.

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Then to walk the old stone streets, see the mosaic art, admire the different sculptures and structures all the while weaving past the wandering local cats.

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The most famous structure and probably the epitome of Ephesus is the Library of Celsus. We could see it from the distance and we couldn’t wait to stand below and gawk at it!

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And gawk at it we did…

Congratulations to Turkey for getting Ephesus recognised as a UNESCO Heritage Site 🙂

Ephesus was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 2015.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list

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buddhist cave art in the yungang grottoes

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With Le back into full-time work, time has just been slipping away. It has been over six months since we returned from our last overseas trip and we just are getting edgy to plan our next one.

At the moment, we have a few short local getaways planned but we are hoping for an overseas trip at some point for 2-3 weeks at the end of the year. We’ll see how it pans out.

In the meantime, let’s go down memory lane for a little bit. We thought we would look back on a UNESCO site that we visited back in 2012….

It was April 2012, and we were in China. We were rather unaware that it was still going to be COLD…. So very very cold!

The day we went to Yungang Grottoes it was absolutely freezing and windy. We can recall so clearly how we had the hoods of our windbreakers pulled tightly over our “beanied” heads, our scarves wrapped around our necks and up around our faces… just enough to reveal our eyes.

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The cold air was slicing through us despite our multiple layers…

But walking around the grottoes in that cold air was worth it! It was worth every teeth chatter, it was worth every shiver, it was worth the sting on our cheeks from the wind.

Before arriving at the caves, we walk down a path with tall majestic carved columns, then over a bridge with the frozen lake below.

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We had no idea what we were in for…

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There are more than 250 caves and more than 50 000 carved statues of all shapes and sizes. Impossible to see them all in the time we had there.

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The sizes of the statues vary from tiny to massive – some are inside the caves while others are outside.

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The level of detail on the carvings was mindboggling. And to think this artwork dates back to the 5th and 6th Century, it had us in complete awe.

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The visit to these grottoes was definitely an experience to remember for many reasons. By the end of that day, our cheeks were frozen solid!

 

Yungang Grottoes was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 2001.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list

 

historical areas of istanbul: unesco world heritage site

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With a population of 14 million, the traffic in Istanbul was brutal. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and it took us almost 3 hours to get from the airport to our hotel. Amazingly though, the mood of the drivers were calm and cooperative. There were no horns blaring or road rage – everyone navigated the tight streets and occasionally the one-lane two-way streets with ease. We reversed several times down narrow roads to let oncoming traffic pass before we could proceed. It was all very civilised.

We were staying only a minute walk away from Taksim Square, which was heavily patrolled by riot police most evenings (following the protests back in June). Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Ave) is the main pedestrian street that people funnel down from Taksim Square. It is filled with shops and restaurants and dessert places…. YUM… teeming with people of an evening. It definitely is worth a visit even just to people watch!

One of our “things” when travelling is to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites when and where we can. Its kind of our unofficial bucket list. So a visit to the historical area of Istanbul was on the cards. We didn’t get to see everything considered to be part of the historical areas but we did see several very incredible things.

Istanbul, although is the largest city in Turkey, is not the capital. It is a city that is steeped in history. It once was the capital of Eastern Roman Empire (it was known then as Byzantium) and then subsequently the Ottoman Empire (to which it was then known as Constantinople). Ankara became the capital of Turkey, post World War I.

Topkapi Palace:

It is from the grounds of this palace that we saw Istanbul straddling Europe and Asia. Simply being in Turkey meant that we were going to be visiting two continents 🙂

Europe on the left and Asia on the right
Europe on the left and Asia on the right

The main entrance fee (approximately 25 Turkish Lira) to the palace allows you to visit the exhibits of the museum which are divided into the different buildings throughout. There are sections for the treasury, Sacred Relics, portraits, armoury and clocks. The collection of armoury and clocks were exceptionally fascinating. To visit the Harem was an additional fee which we didn’t care to visit.

One thing we can say we have seen is one of the largest diamonds in the world. The 86-carat pear-shaped Spoonmaker’s Diamond. The tale of its discovery was that a fisherman found the diamond amongst some rubbish and was traded 3 spoons for it. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a fair trade!

Hagia Sophia:

This is definitely an ancient wonder of the world although, maybe not one of the 7, it still is an amazing piece of architecture. Also known as St Sophia or Aya Sophia, it was built in 6th Century. It started as a Greek Orthodox church before later becoming an imperial mosque and now a museum. There are still representation of both religions throughout the building.

The dome is probably what is most impressive for something that was built so long ago. Words and photos cannot do this place justice, a case of you just got to see it to feel it and be wow-ed.

Entrance Fee: Yes – approximately 25 Turkish Lira

The HUGE dome being support by the other domes - an architectural feat for that era
The HUGE dome being support by the other domes – an architectural feat for that era

Blue Mosque:

Known to the locals as Sultanahmet Mosque, it was built in the mid 1500s. It is referred to as the Blue Mosque due to the blue tiles in its interior and around the dome.

Looking around and up once inside is simply magnificent. We could only look around in complete awe at the large pillars, arches and dome.

In the main dome, there is a triangular frame housing 3 ostrich eggs which is said to repel spiders. We thought this to be a very handy natural solution to the spiders in summer back home however didn’t think we would manage to track any down to bring back.

Look carefully for the three ostrich eggs
Look carefully for the three ostrich eggs

There is no fee to enter however dress appropriately. We know this sounds REALLY obvious but if not dressed appropriately, there are blue garments and shawls that they hand out at the entrance which is to be worn before you can proceed. This advice is directed at both men and women as anyone in shorts will be given the blue garment (worn like a sarong). Women need to ensure their head/hair is covered. Shoes will also need to be removed and plastic bags are provided to carry shoes through the mosque.

Hippodrome:

The Hippodrome was probably the least compelling of the ancient sites we saw in Istanbul and possibly in Turkey. There was not much to see except a couple of obelisks (without trying to downplay it) but probably because it had been a long day for us, we were also getting weary. Good ole jet-lag rearing its ugly head!

Where else could this be?
Where else could this be?

So our first day in Turkey was jam-packed and a few additional highlights that were not UNESCO related would have been that we ate our first kebab (in a shop called Pudding House that Bill Clinton also ate in) and visited the Spice Market where we got to try the real-deal Turkish Delight. Sadly the Grand Bazaar was closed on Sundays and we would not get an opportunity to visit it.

Our first ever Turkish kebab
Our first ever Turkish kebab

Due to our limited time in Turkey, we were moving on the following day, so we will one day have to go back to explore Istanbul some more!