Our first stop was Ephesus and the Celsus Library. We learned about the powerful Greek and Roman influences in Anatolia, as we explored sites dedicated and celebrating gods I'd studied in school, or taught about while exploring older literature. During long bus rides, we entertained Belle with the stories we recalled, so that she would understand the relevance of Dionysus and why everywhere we went had beautiful theaters still standing in his honor.
We also were able to visit some historic sites that are important to our Christian faith, the Basilica of St. John, with his tomb, and the Home of the Virgin Mary, where she is said to have resided after being placed in John's care. Within Virgin Mary's home, there were gifts from the last three Popes. Everywhere we went it was amazing to think about the people who had come before us.
Our last two major stops before returning to our home overseas were the City of Troy's ruins - the site of the Trojan war, and the Gallipoli memorials from more recent history. Belle climbed to the top of the Trojan horse replica after we toured the remains of the many incarnations of Troy - it was continually rebuilt and enlarged.
The Gallipoli memorials were the first time that I had learned about these battles, and ANZAC day (April 25). Our Turkish guide was full of pride in speaking of the role that both Turkey and Australia have played in remembering and honoring a generation of soldiers that never returned home, falling on foreign soil. As my former students can attest, I have a special place in my heart for war memorials, because how we remember those who have fought for us, I believe, speaks loudly about who a nation is. The memorials on the Gallipoli peninsula spoke poignantly of the place these soldiers continue to hold on both their foreign resting places, and their far away home.
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace after having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well." Ataturk, 1934
It made me cry.
We finished our trip by spending our final night in Istanbul, staying near the Hague Sofia, and enjoyed dinner on one of the cobblestone streets.
It was a good holiday.