ArcImaging Turkey & Seven Churches of Revelation Letter and Itinerary

There are several hundred photos available from my trip to Turkey (Turkiye in Turkish) where East meets West at the following website. Of course, one should remember that each photo has much history and many stories behind it which are difficult to communicate within simply the photo.

Turkey & Seven Churches Tour
Turkey & Seven Churches Photo Album

Coming from America, it was interesting to note a few differences in Turkey:

Turkish hospitality is incredible! People are much more friendly in Turkey than in the U.S. and most of them really do care about you rather than just acting like they care. If you need help with directions, they will many times walk or ride with you the entire distance to make sure you get to your destination, showing a wonderful Turkish hospitality while an American would just point in the general direction. It is very easy to talk with the people (if you speak Turkish). Every town and villages has tons of markets and cafe's where the people sit outside and talk while drinking Turkish tea (Chai). Every shop you go in, they serve you Chai. Every appointment we had with Turkish officials, they served Chai. Even many Turkish Military checkpoints where they checked our passports and car, they wanted to talk and serve us Chai. I was offered and drank more tea in those two weeks than I've drank in my entire life!

There are no minimum speed limits. People drive 60 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour since everything is metric) past tractors that are going 5 miles per hour on the same road. And don't even think about driving at night in Eastern Turkey because you can't see cars or people, many of which do not have lights or reflectors, along with security concerns. There are no traffic rules on the roads. Lanes mean nothing as there is a lane wherever a car will fit. Speed limits are normally only posted at the border crossings so if you didn't come across the border, forget about speed limits. And there are sheep with shepherds, donkeys, cows, turkeys, chickens, and ducks all over the place on the roads and off because there are few fences. There are no pigs because of Moslem laws.

The electricity goes off occasionally which is apparently expected by most Turks.

No one wears sunglasses. I counted two people in all of eastern and southeastern Turkey wearing sunglasses. Black appears to be the favorite Turkish color as most coats are black and since my coat was stolen on a flight last year, I decided to join the crowd. Turks dress nicer than Americans are most men wear a suit coat. In fact, we were driving through the hills near Siirt when we were suddenly stopped by large herd of sheep in the road. I took a photo of the Kurdish shepherd with a smile on his face and a ram in his arms. What was the shepherd wearing? A three-piece suit!

There is very little cereal for breakfast. The normal Turkish breakfast consists of cucumbers, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, white cheese, and Chai. There is plenty of meat including lamb and beef for other meals.

Teachers slap kids on the head, etc. when they are unruly.

Many restrooms do not have toilets but simply a little whole in the floor where you squat with no toilet paper and just a jug of water to wash with. The toilets in the nicer hotels have a little water valve right where you sit down on the toilet.

Good friends (both men with men and women with women) will give kisses on both cheeks while greeting each other or hold hands or link arms consistently while walking. Before seeing or knowing this custom, an acquaintance of mine in Istanbul who I had only emailed in the past surprised me by greeting me with kisses on both cheeks!

Light switches are on the outside of the rooms instead of the inside of the rooms. I can't tell you how many times I went into a dark room fumbling around for the light switch and could not find it because it was on the outside of the room. My example illustrates the reason why this system actually makes a lot more sense than the American system!

The phrase "Smokes like a Turk" is true for good reason. I have never inhaled so much second-hand smoke in my life!

Elevators in the east and south don't have a door to shut so you can literally touch the walls as they are passing! Reminded me of incidents in horror movies as I stayed as far away as possible from the open walls.

Turkey is 99.9% Sunni Moslems. A number of women are covered head to toe in black with traditional Moslem dress and you can literally only see a small sliver of their face. From the mosques and minarets, the singers sing the Moslem prayers five times a day, beginning at dawn. The Moslem special Mosque day is the weekday of Friday at noon when there is a special lesson. However, Ataturk set up the Turkish government and military to be secular and if a politician gets too conservative or radical religiously, he can and will be removed by the Military who are the protectors and guardians of the constitution. The Military presence is everywhere throughout Turkey, but especially in the east. Compared again with America, it is interesting to note the contrast that the Turkish Military is everywhere inside of Turkey and the American Military is never seen in America and is always outside of America. The expense to protect Turkey must be very large.

Kids are only required to stay in school until 8th grade. Many children help with farm work starting early in life as Turkey's economy is 50% agricultural. Eighteen-month service in the Turkish Military is required for citizens.

Although the younger people are now taught English as a second language and enjoy practicing it with tourists, many middle age and older people do not know English, making a translator/guide almost invaluable. There is a substantial influence of Arabic language in the South and Kurdish in the Southeast. But never refer to Turks as Arabs as their descent is from central Asia and they seem annoyed by grouping Turkey into the Middle East Arab nations, especially being a NATO nation allied with the United States. My tour guide Peter was a godsend to me and I will never underestimate his value in our travels, especially meeting with Turkish officials.

Turkey is an amazing country with so much history and so many civilizations that it boggles the mind. If you ever get the chance to go, it is a must see nation and is much larger than Israel with many more historic sites, being the size of Texas and the state of Washington put together. Here is just a partial list of the biblical and historical locations in Turkey:

Ani Assos Attalia (Antalya) Bythinia Cappodocia Carchemish Caria Cilicia Cnidus Cos Cudi Dagi (At least two of them and possibly more) Cyprus Derbe Ephesus Euphrates River Galatia Garden of Eden Haran (Harran) Iconium (Konya) Istanbul (Byantium, Constantiople) Kars Laodicea Lycaonian Cities Lycia Lystra Miletus Mountains of Ararat (Urartu) Myra Mysia Pamphylia Paphos Patmos Island Perga Pergamum Philadelphia Phrygia Pisidian Antioch Pontus Provinces of Asia Rhodes Samos Sardis Seleucia Smyrna (Izmir) Syrian Antioch Tarsus Thrace Thyatira Tigris River Troas Troy

From a Bible perspective, it is amazing and faith building to actually see the historic locations discussed through the Bible. Selections of Genesis and Acts along with the entirety of Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy, Philemon, 1 Peter, John's letters, and Revelation were written to or about people living in modern-day Turkey. People and places that had influences and history in Turkey include possibly the Noah, Abraham, Isaac's wife, Jacob, Jacob's wives, Laban, Job, all the way down to the Hittites, Urartians, Gordians, Assyrians, Phrygians, Lydians, Greeks, Romans, Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, many Roman emperors, New Testament Christians, the apostles Paul, Peter, and John, many New Testament and early Christian churches, Seljuk Muslims, the Ottoman Empire, and Ataturk.

Here is a summary of the trip to Turkey. Peter was my guide for nine days through Western and Eastern Turkey. Then he arranged for another guide to drive me around Southeastern and South Central Turkey next to the borders of Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

We followed the order that the letter of Revelation from the apostle John probably took along the existing roads of the first century.

October 21 - I arrived in Istanbul, toured the Blue Mosque, saw the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and then transferred to Izmir by plane. Peter picked me up at the airport with a rental car, having driven there from Ankara early in the morning. We started our touring immediately with the city of Ephesus and its surrounding attractions. Ephesus is one of the most amazing and largest ancient cities I have seen, even going through Israel. Ephesus and Pergamum are "must see" locations.

October 22 - After breakfast we were forced to stay in the Ephesus hotel as Turkiye declared a National Census day where no one could leave their homes. After the curfew at 5PM, we drove to the heart of Izmir, the ancient Smyrna and saw the ruins there. Several of the seven church cities are now covered by buildings in today's cities so there are only a block or two of the ancient city left to see since the excavations under other buildings have never taken place.

October 23 - We continued our drive to Bergama. Here, the ruins of ancient Pergamum are impressive and extensive. It is an amazing ancient city on a hilltop with temples to mythological gods and Roman emperors which may have been referred to by Jesus as the place "where Satan has his throne." Then we traveled to the remains of Thyatira, located right in the middle of the town of Akhisar. From there we proceeded to Sardis which has a rich history and a good amount of structures left from its prime. After lunch we saw the ruins that are left of Philadelphia, right in the small town of Alasehir, where the people gave us a wonderful batch of grapes as there are vineyards all over western Turkiye. For dinner and our overnight stay we drove on to Pamukkale.

October 24 - We started our touring with the ancient town of Hierapolis mentioned in the Bible (another church city which we visited), sitting right on top of the mineral springs of Pamukkale which seems larger and somewhat more impressive than Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. This town is mentioned in 1st Peter and boasts the Byzantine martyrium (memorial structure) of Phillip. Close to there is the site of Laodicea with its vast, but unexcavated ruins. As we leave the area after lunch, we stopped by the almost non-existing remains of Colossae before we continued our drive to Ankara. On the way to Ankara, we saw some of the hills and caves that appear similar to the Fairy Chimneys of Cappodocia. We also toured the tomb and capital of the Phrygian King Midas. We enjoyed a wonderful American dinner and overnight at Hotel Aletter with Peter's wife Lori and their five daughters. Ertugrul, a professional climber, met with Peter and I. We had a great three-hour chat until late in the night.

October 25-26 - In the early morning, we picked up Jim Hall and John Bradley (BJ's first research contact and 25-year President of SEARCH Foundation) and drove to the airport and caught our flight to Erzurum. Interestingly, the Turkish ticket agent looked at me and was surprised by my visit, stating that no Americans go to the eastern side of Turkey. Another interesting thing is that the checked luggage is set next to the plane. Unless you re-identify your luggage on the tarmac, it will not be placed on the plane. When we arrived in Erzurum, Michael Holt picked up Jim and John at the Erzurum airport while Peter and I rented a car (Ford compact) for the long drives later in the week across Eastern, Southeastern and Southern Turkey.

We went to the Oral Hotel, had lunch walking around an old Armenian looking building which had Ottoman lettering added to it, and then met Turkish officials about possible archaeological imaging research in Turkey. We had a wonderful time with the Turkish officials and ArcImaging and ARP signed and notarized agreements to cooperate in future research with the Ataturk University Science & Arts Faculty and Archaeology Department.

October 27 - Peter and I drove to Mount Ararat, which is the highest mountain in the biblical "mountains of rrt (Urartu)" that includes thousands of square miles and hundreds of mountains. When you are looking up at this humongous mountain from the plain 12-15,000 feet below the 17,000-foot summit, it is simply dominating and awe-inspiring. Check the photos which do not do it justice. Some people have claimed that it may be the largest single mass mountain on Earth since it is not part of a big mountain chain like the Himalayas, etc. Peter and I drove around Big and Little Ararat several times from the border of Iran and the meteor hole to one source of the Euphrates River to Dogubayazit to Ishak Pasha and the Urartian Ruins to Kazan and the church and grave stones (only one of the hundreds of which has a hole in it and is probably an astronomical or alignment stone just like others in Armenia) to Igdir along the Armenian border to Aralik and to the border of Nachivan which is the furthest point east in Turkey.

October 28 - We drove to Kars, saw the salt mine in Tuzluca on the way, and toured Kars Museum and Ani (City of a Thousand Churches), which was a leading city in many kingdoms and capital city of Armenia for a number of years.

October 29 - We drove around Ararat again and witnessed the Military Parade with many army tanks for the nation of Turkey's birth. Since both Big Ararat (Buyuk Agri Dagi) and Little Ararat (Kucuk Agri Dagi) are in a Turkish Military Zone because of terrorist activity near the Iranian and Iraqi borders, foreign researchers and foreign climbers are illegal so we could not go up any part of the mountain. Terrorists like to hide in the mountains thus the reason why the mountains are off limits although you can drive all around them.

October 30 - We drove past Tendurek Mountain to a beautiful waterfall and on to Lake Van and the city of Van, which was the capital of the Urartian empire for several hundred years. The Van Museum has many interesting exhibits and the ancient city and fortress on a hill overlooking Lake Van (Tushpa) are amazing. Reference the photos on the website again! Peter caught a plane at the Van airport back to Ankara for another tour while another guide (Tugrul) took me from there.

October 31 - We drove along Lake Van to see the amazing Armenian church on Ahtamar Island. Then we went on through Tatvan, Bitlis, Baykan, Siirt, and many canyons, mountain curves, and Military checkpoints later, were only four miles from Sirnak when the Military commander told us we could go no further because three terrorists were just killed so we had to drive back all the way we had come through the mountains since there are no other roads, after Chai of course in office with a sharp shooter sitting next to us! So we wound our way all the way back through the mountains (with no guard rails) to Siirt. Overall, southeastern Turkey is really desolate with abandoned villages, mountains and canyons, but beautiful in its own way.

November 1 - We drove from Siirt to Batman to Hasankeyf cliff caves on the Tigris River, many of which will be gone soon because of the building of a new dam to support more agriculture, to Romanus Campus which are some old Roman ruins near Cizre. We popped a tire on the car, then went to Cizre and had some nice views of Cudi Dagi on the border of Iraq. We turned back west and made our way along the Syrian border to Mardin where there is an old Syrian Orthodox Monastery. After a tour of the monastery and their old Bibles (one is 300 years old and another one in Mardin is 900+ years old), we took some photos of the Mesopotamian Plain and drove to Sanli Urfa, which just might be Abraham's Ur of the Chaldeans rather than Urartu or the Mesopotamian Ur.

November 2 - We toured Harran, 50 miles south of Urfa (possibly near Paddan-Aram), where Abraham lived until his father died and where Abraham, Sarah, and Lot continued on their way to Canaan/Israel. The alleged well where Isaac's servant found his wife and Jacob watered Laban's flocks was also cited. Harran boasted the first Islamic University, which was destroyed by Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Harran is also the location where Roman Emperor Caracalla who was renamed "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus" was murdered after worshiping a sun god. Then we drove back to Urfa where we saw Abraham's supposed birthplace which is also near Job's alleged tomb. We then drove on to the area of Carchemish crossing the Euphrates River which contained the oldest documents in Anatolia and possibly near where Jacob and his wives crossed the Euphrates before being caught by Laban in Gilead. Then we drove across the Euphrates and on to Syrian Antioch (which is now in Turkey) and renamed Antakya or modern Hatay. Antioch is where the disciples of Jesus (many of them Gentiles) were first named Christians. In Antioch, we visited the largest mosaic museum in the world. There were dozens and dozens of Roman mosaics up to 40 feet x 40 feet in size. The amazing art in the mosaics rivals the detail of paintings.

November 3 - We toured the cave where the New Testament church in Antioch (Gentile Jerusalem) supposedly met and where Paul challenged Peter on eating with the Jews instead of with the Gentiles also. Antioch is also where Paul began several of his missionary journeys around Turkey and Greece. Then we drove to Paul's hometown of Tarsus where he was sent by the apostles after being persecuted in Damascus and Jerusalem.

As in every town, village and office, there was another large statue of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. There might be more photos, paintings, statues and impressions of Ataturk than any other human being in history (with the exception of Jesus Christ and perhaps Mary due to the Catholic church) as Ataturk's portrayal is in practically every town, village, office and store. In Tarsus, we saw Cleopatra's Gate which was erected in honor of Marc Anthony's love for the Egyptian leader. Then we returned from Tarsus to the Adana Museum.

November 4 - I flew from Adana back to Istanbul then to Vienna, Austria to Washington, DC and back home to Denver, CO.

I created a PowerPoint slide show and had a group of people over two evenings ago which is available for those who would like to pay for the cost of a CD and shipping. Of course, Julie cooked turkey for Turkey night!

I am slightly worn out but just amazed by all the history in the country of Turkey! If you ever get the chance, you must visit it and the other ancient countries nearby. The link to the photos are below as well as at the top.

Feel free to forward this to friends and family if you like.

Best Regards, Rex Geissler

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