As we look into the areas of Galatia and Cappadocia , one cannot escape the thrust of Biblical history upon these places. Refer to the map and notice the relationship of Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) to Greece, Syria, and Israel. Asia Minor is the hub.
Alexander the Great spread the Greek culture, western reasoning, and language (Koine or common Greek) to the then known world around 330 BC. The Romans provided wonderful roads and an ability to travel unimpeded throughout the then known world at the time of Jesus Christ. Then Saul of Tarsus (renamed Paul) became the apostle to the Gentiles and spearheaded the trust of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the West.
Asia Minor was a major player in this expansion. Paul grew up in Tarsus and was born a Roman citizen. He had intelligence, boundless zeal, and a ferrous commitment. Once he took up the torch of faith in Christ, he literally set the west on fire with his passion to share truth. He believed what he wrote in 2nd Thessalonians 1:8-9. Paul was expert in speaking different dialects and communicating the message. He was also so controversial that he was driven from place to place. Usually everywhere that he traveled he had such an effect that he caused a riot. He was not welcome long. Therefore he reached an even broader audience.
Paul wrote approximately two thirds of the New Testament. He used his familiarity with Asia Minor to effectively travel all over planting, encouraging, and guiding individuals to the truth. Beth and I were privileged to literally walk in the footsteps of Paul and visit most of his travel destinations. As time allows we will make our way to Rome, but first let us turn our attention to this wonderful land of diverse scenery and inexhaustible history.
Present Day Turkey
Asia Minor (Turkey) in Paul's Day
My what the passing of time does to our memories. With the help of the trip itinerarys and looking through our pictures; the cobwebs and haze are passing away. The memories are beginning to snap into focus again.
What a wonderful age to live in! With the computer and search engines we can pull up amazing information. In years past there was too little information. In this era there seems to be too much. Beth and I had no idea that the pictures that we took in the seventies could be looked at anywhere in the world in this decade. No wonder knowledge is increasing exponentially.
Beth and I made two trips to Galatia/Cappadocia in 1974, one in the summer and the other in winter. The winter trip included a stop near cities that St. Paul visited on his first missionary journey.
Usually our tour bus carried a sign in the front window that stated ACT TOURS. The buses used were a blue and a red Mercedes Benz. The drivers were good mechanics on the whole. They had to be when we broke down out in the middle of nowhere.
The Internet is loaded with information about Asia Minor ( Modern Turkey). Turkey is the stepping stone of the region. Many giant players that effected history came and went through this area. What a place to be in!
We will begin with the Summer Trip because it came first. As I look at the itinerary the summer trip began Friday June 28, 1974 and completed Monday July 1, 1974. The title declares "Ihlara and Göreme Valleys". One book that must be read to get more of a feel of this area is the "Apostle", by John Pollock. This writer drove around this area in a Volkswagen and does a wonderful job describing the surroundings and the times. I can remember looking out at the horizon and landscape and wondering, did Alexander, Darius, Paul, Barnabus, Timothy, or Silas look at what we were observing. Awesome!
Look again at the present and past maps to refresh you memory as we start this journey.
1st Day Friday
We began to gather at the front of the base Rec Center for the scheduled departure at 4:30 P.M. We have lots of sandwiches, snacks, and drinks because it will be a long drive. The Cokes in Turkey did not taste like the Cokes in America. The taste was hard to describe, you would have to taste one to understand. That is part of the adventure of a journey; just how different would it be?
Above is the Hotel Koru we did not spend the night here but we did stop to walk around and refresh ourselves. The surrounding landscape was just beautiful in this area.
The bus drove through to Ankara and arrived at around midnight at our hotel (The Dedeman - below left). Ankara, is the Capital city of Turkey. In that region you here this song everywhere. "Ankara, Ankara, Guzel Ankara". The song is translated "Ankara, Ankara, Beautiful Ankara". It is a real catchy song.
2nd Day Saturday
The breakfasts in every country are different. Turkey is no exception. No other country seems to have as big a breakfast as we eat in America. I was usually still hungry after breakfast so we usually hit our snacks pretty hard,
One of the interesting sites on the way is the salt lake(see map). At Noon we arrived at the Crossroads which was a very interesting place. It is kind of like an oasis in the middle of a barren land. The architecture of the Motel Agacli reminded us of the Flintstones. We could just imagine Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Jane walking in front of the place. At the souvenir shop here I bought a straw hat to wear. I still use it when working outside, it is well made and tough.
As we began our drive towards the Ihlara valley we began to notice the distinctive rock formations of that region. The locals call them "fairy chimneys". To me they look more like an upside down ice-cream cone with caves carved in them. This rock is very porous and easily worked.
Finally we arrived at the Ihlara Valley. As we drove up to the entrance of the valley a group of local women were walking up the road. There must be village nearby.
Ihlara Valley is a 10 mile long gorge in the southern part of Cappadocia. This is not that far north of Tarsus where Saul grew up. Tarsus in the lush plain of Cilicia was 12 miles from the coast. The Taurus mountains curved in a great arc some twenty-five miles inland, coming nearly to the sea on the west and marked to the north by gorges and cliffs. Through these mountains a Roman road ran through the Cilician Gates pass. "Cleopatra had stepped ashore some forty years before Paul's birth to meet Mark Antony, while all Tarsus marveled at the silver oars, a poop of beaten gold, and purple sails so perfumed that the winds were love sick with them".
Through the Ihlara gorge flows a mountain stream. This valley has a unique history pertaining to the inhabitants who lived here. The canyon is honeycombed with rock cut underground dwellings and churches from the Byzantine period. Due to the availability of plentiful water and its being hidden it was the one of the first settlement places of Christians escaping from the Roman solders. In the valley are hundreds of antique churches carved in the volcanic rocks. There is some cultivation and planting down in parts of it today.
We had fun going through the canyon. There were caves to go into to explore with frescos and paintings on the walls. There were streams to cross and steep trails to climb up and down. While we were down in the canyon we came upon a donkey. We wondered just how he walked in down here, the trails seemed too steep. Here is the bus driver with him. This was a fun adventure!
When we arrived back uptop at the bus we had quite a suprise. There were Turkish children all around our bus. Just like children everwhere they loved our candy. Looking around this seemed to be a desolate place, yet here are the children. There must be a village close.
After leaving the valley we stopped for a few minutes at a Turkish Wedding Ceremony. The girls on the trip were allowed to see and talk with the bride. Outside everyone was having fun. Many were laughing, musicians were playing Turkish folk music. Children were everywhere. The bride was richly arrayed with gold coins and bright colors according to the girls.
Returning to the Motel that night we were hungry, thirsty, and tired. One of our favorite memories was to be taking our time, unrushed relaxing around the dinner table with our friends, in an exotic corner of the world wondering what we would see next. Those were exciting times for anyone.
3rd Day Sunday
The next day we stopped at an ancient Caravan Serai. Here the travelers of old would bring their animals inside and rest for the night, protected from the robbers and the elements. There was much more room and the walls seemed much higher than one imagined from the outside.
The characteristic rock formations this part of the world is famous for began to come into view.
The Goreme valley was made into a National Park in 1985. That day we visited Nevşehir, the Göreme Valley, Uchsaır and Avcilar Villages, the Zelve Valley, Avanos and Ürgüp.
This was one of those days packed full of sites to see. This day was full of walking, climbing, exploring and looking at the rooms of homes cut into rock.
As you can see in the pictures we came across this lady selling scarves. It was fun to watch the girls get wound up in those. Who is that girl in the scarf?
The last stop that day was to buy our own rock carved in the shape of local scenery.
Then it was back to the Motel Agacli.
4th Day Monday
This was a day of riding,just about all day. We ate lunch in Ankara and arrived back at the base around 7 that evening.
The next trip took place in December.
One attraction of that trip was to see the Whirling Dervishes located in the city of Konya. Konya turns out to be very close to the ancient towns where Paul planted churchs on his first missionary journey. These were the towns of Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.
We would like to speak of a few memories that come to mind from our trip in the winter. The pictures for this trip are in the Photo Gallery Page.
The Broshure for this trip says: ACT TOURS, ÖZCÍVELEK Travel and Tourism Agency.
"This tour that ACT TOURS is offering are very special tours, Because:
1. You will be traveling by sleeping car train to Ankara, thus you avoid the hazardous Bolu Moluntain Highway in winter time.
2. You will get the best available reserved seats to the 'ONCE-A-YEAR' Whirlig Dervishes Ceremonies in KONYA.
3: You will get a chance to visit the famous Mevlana Museum in KONYA.
4: You will be guest at the only and the best motel in Asia Minor: Orhan Ağnçli Touristic Establishments at the Aksnray crossroads.
5. You will have a chance to visit the fantastic Gröeme Valley in winter when it is simply gorgeous for the eye and the camera. (It was!)"
We departed KCDI and road by bus to the IZMIT Rail Road Station. Here we jumped on boad the train with the sleeping car and headed toward Ankara. The accomadations on the train were wonderful, very nice. One thing that sticks in my mind was this incident. Just about the time when we were ready to go to bed, out side the door we heard this ching, ching a ling; ching, ching a ling. It turned out that we had a belly dancer just outside the door of our sweet. When it seemed like that she would not move, Beth stuck her head out of the door muttered a few choice words and the sound faded into the next car. Finally we knodded off to sleep.
The next morninging we headed by bus to KONYA. The bus broke down as you will see in the pictures. A big truck towed us to a place where repairs could be made. We finally arrived in Konya but with not enough time to go to the museum. We were able to make it on time to see the Dervishes. Never has one seen so many flashes from camera strobes and flashbulbs.
The next day We had a great time going though the caves and formations even with the snow. An unusual but beautiful place. Then it was back to the Hotel, then Ankara, the train and then the base. We had fun!
We must touch on some of the Biblical truths that are mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. When we have a picture of the landscape and terrain of the area, these facts stick in our minds longer. We can associate facts with places to help us remember, as we advance in age that aid is appreciated!
THERE ARE NO SECOND-CLASS CHRISTIANS!
Paul is mad! Normally when Paul begins his letter to different churches he begins with his introduction and then moves to praise and encourage them. This time is different. After his introduction he strikes out against those who are upsetting the believers causing a crisis in their churches.
What is the Problem? The Jewish believers are unduly stressing that the new converts to Christ must obey their customs as well. They were devaluing the work of Christ on the Cross and shifting the weight of value to human self-effort to obey laws.
If this was left unchecked, the Cross of Christ and His suffering to die to pay for the penalty of our sins would become just one of the paths to becoming a Christian, and would result in the foundation of Christianity crumbling.
Paul also stands up and opposes Peter face to face and shows him that he is wrong. Because Jewish tradition would not allow them to eat with an uncircumcised person, Peter himself begins to separate himself from Gentile believers at the dinner table. Paul reprimands him.
Paul tells Peter in Galatians 2:15 –16 "We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified."
Paul continues in Galatians 3:1 – 5 "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you. Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?(1) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing- if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you hear?"
Then we jump down to verse 26 & 27 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Paul wraps it up in verses 9&10 of Chapter 6. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
Remember that Paul planted these churches on his first missionary journey. They were precious to him, Paul was protecting his children in the faith. Look up Iconium, Lystra, and Derby in a Bible dictionary, and then read the entire letter to the Galatians.
Our FAITH in Christ is precious to God. Paul knew this fact! God puts a very high value on believing truth with steadfast hope and trust.
(1) Ephesians 1:13 & 14