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ORTAKOY MOSQUE AND THE FIRST BOSPHORUS BRIDGE, ISTANBUL

SULTAN AHMET MOSQUE – THE BLUE MOSQUE

THE LIBRARY OF CELSUS AT EPHEUSUS

 

 

Jewish Heritage Tour of Turkey - Weekly Departures

Visit Notable Jewish Sites in Istanbul, Izmir and Sardis.
See the 15th Century Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul
and Havra Sokak, the Street of Synagogues in Izmir.
Tour the Excavated Great Synagogue of Sardis,
As Well As Major Byzantine and Ottoman Sites.

MONDAY (DAY ONE): ISTANBUL, 15TH C. AHRIDA SYNAGOGUE
Arrive in Istanbul where you will be met and transferred to the Four Seasons Hotel in Sultan Ahmet, or the Four Seasons Bosphorus. These are extremely popular hotels, but there are other fine hotels such as the Swissotel and the Ritz that can be reserved if neither of the Four Seasons Hotels is available.

After checking in and a short rest, your guide will take you to nearby Balat, to visit the most famous of Istanbul's old synagogues, the 15th Century Ahrida Synagogue. This is the largest and most famous of Istanbul's Synagogues and its bema (or tebáh) is said to resemble a ship's bow. According to legend, this is said to symbolize Noah's Ark, but according to another, this is a likeness of the galleys that carried the Sephardic Jews from Spain to Ottoman lands. Overnight at your hotel.

TUESDAY (DAY TWO): GALATA, NEVE SHALOM SYNAGOGUE, MUSEUM OF JEWISH LIFE IN TURKEY, CAMONDO STEPS
After breakfast, your private guide will take you to the Galata quarter of Istanbul. This is where the history of Jewish life began in Byzantine times when this was a walled city separated from Constantinople. From the 1500's Galata was mostly Jewish and your first visit is to Galata Tower, which was a Genoese fortification, protecting the town of Galata during Byzantine and early Ottoman times.

From Galata Tower, your guide will walk with you to the Neve Shalom Synagogue. One of the largest synagogues in the city, this was originally a primary School and was converted to a Synagogue in 1938. Neve Shalom is where many important religious ceremonies of the Turkish Jews have been held.

After the Neve Shalom, you will see the Italian Synagogue and the graceful curved double staircase, known as Camondo Staircase. The staircase was built in the 19th century by the Camondos, the Jewish community's most prosperous family. Called by some "the Rothschilds of the East", the family amassed a fortune in Turkey before moving to Paris in 1869. There they established an exquisite collection of 18th century French art, which was bequeathed to France in the 1930s. Today that museum in Paris is all that survives of this magnificent but short-lived dynasty.

After visiting the lovely steps, your guide will take you to the in the Karaköy district, which has become a museum of Jewish life in Turkey.

Here, visitors learn how the Sephardic Jews came to Turkey in the fascinating story that began in 1492 when Beyazid II sent the Ottoman navy to Spain to save the Arabs and Sephardic Jews who were expelled during the Spanish Inquisition. He granted the refugees permission to settle in the Ottoman Empire and become Ottoman citizens. He ridiculed the conduct of Ferdinand II and Isabella I for expelling a class of people so useful to their subjects. "You venture to call Ferdinand a wise ruler," he said to his courtiers, "he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine!" Beyazid then ordered all the governors of his provinces not only to refrain from repelling the Spanish refugees, but to give them a friendly and welcome reception. He threatened with death all those who treated the Jews harshly or refused them admission into the empire.

After viewing exhibits at the Zulfaris you will be returned to your hotel. Overnight at your hotel.
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L)

WEDNESDAY (DAY THREE): ETZ AHAYIM SYNAGOGUE, ITALIAN JEWISH CEMETARY, LUNCH ON THE BOSPHORUS
After breakfast this morning, your guide will take you to Ortakoy, which was the first disembarkation point of the Sepharads and where they were welcomed by the Ottoman Sultan. Here you will see the remains of the Etz Ahayim Synagogue. Originally constructed in 1660, it was destroyed by fire in 1941. Somehow the marble ark survived the fire and remains in place as a historic monument in what is now the garden. After the fire the Midrash was converted for worship and is now the synagogue.

After lunch overlooking the Bosphorus, you and your guide will board a ferry for a cruise on waters of the famous straits, giving you a chance to see the beautiful homes lining the shore.

Later in the afternoon, you will see the Italian Jewish Cemetery in Sisli. Here there are tombstones engraved with names and epitaphs in Italian, English, French, German, Russian, and Latin. Return to your hotel for overnight.
Meals: (B, L)

THURSDAY (DAY FOUR): TOPKAPI, HAGIA SOFIA, HIPPODROME, TURKISH AND ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM
Today you will have a full day of private sightseeing in Istanbul, which will begin with captivating Topkapi Palace. This enormous complex, dating from 1478, is famous for its superb collection of ceramics and jewels as well as for its famous Harem with its walls of exquisite tiles.

You will next visit Haigia Sofia, the original having been built on this site in the fourth century by Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor and the founder of the city of Constantinople, which he called "the New Rome." It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture in the world, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.

Walking on, you pass the Roman Hippodrome which was the scene of chariot races and political riots in Byzantine times and was the place for horseback riding games and archery contests during the Ottoman era. Overlooking the Hippodrome is the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, where you will see fine examples of Ottoman calligraphy in gold and intricate miniatures and illuminated manuscripts set in an historic 16th century palace. The museum also houses a stunning collection of antique Turkish carpets. Overnight at your hotel.
Meals: (B, L)

FRIDAY (DAY FIVE): KARIYE MUSEUM, SÜLEYMANIYE MOSQUE, GRAND BAZAAR
This morning you will have a tour to the Kariye Museum, rated among the top 30 must-see museums in the world. It is noted for its mosaics, considered among the best in the world. After Hagia Sophia, it is the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul.

Lunch will be at the Asitane Restaurant, famous for its Ottoman Cuisine. After lunch your guide will take you to Istanbul's largest and grandest mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque. Built by Sinan, one of the greatest builders of all time, the Süleymaniye, like the other imperial mosques in Istanbul, was designed with adjacent structures to service both religious and cultural needs. The original complex consisted of the mosque itself, a hospital, public baths, a Caravanserai, four Koran schools, a medical college, and a public kitchen which served food to the poor.

After the visit to the Süleymaniye, your guide will take you to the fabled Covered Bazaar, helping you to understand the labyrinth of fascinating streets and shops. Overnight at your hotel.
Meals: (B, L)

SATURDAY (DAY SIX): IZMIR, STREET OF SYNAGOGUES, BETH ISRAEL SYNAGOGUE
Your driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to the Istanbul Airport for your morning flight to Izmir, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel, the Swissotel Grand Efes. After checking in, you will have lunch, and then proceed with your private guide on a tour of the Jewish neighborhoods of Izmir.

Your first stop is in Izmir's bazaar, where you will visit the Synagogues of La Judiera, the area of the bazaar where the synagogues are located and where Jewish merchants still work. This is the historical heart of Izmir's Jewish life. Then proceed to Havra Sokak, the Street of Synagogues, which is named for its nine small, active synagogues, which served the Jewish Merchants and artisans who worked close by. Today three of these historic synagogues are still in use.

The Seniyora is the most active of the remaining synagogues on Havra Sokak, open every morning. It's a simple but pleasant and interesting building, almost two centuries old, with obvious historic value.

Next you will take a panoramic drive through the Alsancak quarter, and then continue on to the Karatas quarter. Here you will see Beth Israel Synagogue, a handsome Ottoman Victorian-style building dating from the turn of the century. Overnight at your hotel.
Meals: (B, L)

SUNDAY (DAY SEVEN): EPHESUS, SELCUK MUSEUM
After breakfast, your guide will take you on a tour of the ruins of Ephesus, considered to be the best-preserved classical city on the Mediterranean, and the best place to understand what life was like in Roman times. This Ionian refuge became the second largest city in the Roman Empire, the site of a Christian shrine, and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Your guide will take you through the entire city, explaining its history as you stroll. You will also visit the small museum in nearby Selcuk, which holds fine archeological objects excavated at Ephesus, as well as from the many ancient Hellenic, Hellenistic and Roman cities in the region. Overnight in Izmir. Overnight at your hotel.
Meals: (B, L)

MONDAY (DAY EIGHT): SARDIS, ANCIENT SYNAGOGUE, RUINS OF TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS
Today's tour will take you through the country to Sardis, once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and one of the more important cities of the Persian Empire, once the home to wealthy King Croesus.

The remains of the great synagogue in Sardis, thought to have been built as early as the 4th Century, A.D., are one of the best-preserved and largest of the ancient synagogues in Asia Minor. It is in the center of the urban area instead of on the outskirts, as synagogues usually were, which tells us the strength and wealth of the Jewish community.

Harvard and Cornell Universities have sponsored annual archeological expeditions to Sardis for over fifty years. Unearthed was perhaps the most impressive synagogue in the western Diaspora, revealing over eighty Greek and seven Hebrew inscriptions. The synagogue floors were paved with ornate mosaics and its walls were covered with panels of multicolored marble.

Also, here is the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven largest Greek temples in the world, more than double the size of the Parthenon. Return to your hotel in Izmir in the afternoon. Overnight at your hotel.
Meals: (B, L)

TUESDAY (DAY NINE): IZMIR AND RETURN
In the morning, you will be transferred to the Izmir Airport for your flight to Istanbul, where you will connect to your return or ongoing flight.
Meals: (B)

PRICE

On the DELUXE TOUR you will be staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul and in an Executive Sea View Room at the Swissotel Grand Efes in Izmir.

USD $6,292.00 per person, based on two people sharing a room.
Single supplement: USD $1,895.


On the FIRST CLASS TOUR you will be staying at the First Class, Boutique Hotel Sultanhan and in a Classic City View Room at the Swissotel Grand Efes in Izmir.

USD $4,839.00 per person, based on two people sharing a room.
Single supplement: USD $970.

THE PRICE INCLUDES:

  • Round trip airline tickets between Istanbul and Izmir on Turkish Airlines in economy class
  • Five nights' accommodation in Istanbul, including breakfast
  • Three nights' accommodation in Izmir, including breakfast
  • Two private airport transfers in Istanbul
  • Two private airport transfers in Izmir
  • All tours in Istanbul and Izmir, including transportation, guiding, lunch and entrance fees (transportation is excluded only on the walking tour on Day 4)
  • Taxes
  • Pre-trip information including a recommended reading list, restaurant recommendations, maps and general information.

NOT INCLUDED:
Your international flights to and from Turkey, fuel surcharges, items of a personal nature such as tips, entry visa, entry or exit taxes, phone calls, laundry, beverages with meals or at any time, any items not specifically covered in the included items.

VISAS ARE REQUIRED FOR TRAVEL TO TURKEY BY US CITIZENS AND MAY BE PURCHASED UPON ARRIVAL IN ISTANBUL. IF YOU ARE NOT A US CITIZEN PLEASE ADVISE US SO THAT WE CAN CHECK ON WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR YOU.

THE GREAT BYZANTINE CHURCH OF HAGIA SOFIA, ISTANBUL

SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE, BUILT BY SINAN THE MASTER BUILDER, ISTANBUL

CURETES STREET EPHESUS

 

 

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