As everyone has expressed how they enjoyed the new Behind the Scenes feature at the end of the Season 4 episodes, we thought we would expand it into the blog as well. This way we can give you specifics about the research and even travel tips and advice from our own experience.
We researched and wrote the scripts for Season 4 over about a seven month period. And this episode was one on the chopping block, as we weren't sure we would actually have the time to get there. So we began casually researching the topic and quickly found a few eureka moments in the research, to where we realized we needed to work it in somehow.
The premise for the research was simple: If Jesus wouldn't teach without an illustration, then what are the illustrations he used when giving counsel in the letters of Revelation and why were they effective?
Sardis was clearly one relating to purity, and it was fascinating to learn about Sardis' role, not only in metal purification, but also in how it affects our modern currency. Then jumping into the minds of these different ones sitting in the room when the letter is read. The mind of John, and how shocked and heart broken he must have been to hear these warnings. But then how encouraged he would have been by Philadelphia. While in Izmir, we heard some great research from a friend about the pillar aspect of the words to Philadelphia. But we wanted to leave that for you to dig into. And just keep it as a simple story of a gradually improving standard held by the congregation and the results. The whole episode we feel rounded out really nice, but also didn't openly infringe on what has already been published by others. A little bit of a different take on the history and reactions in the room.
This must be on your list when you visit Turkey. Nestled in the most scenic of mountain valleys, we were there in mid-November, and as you could see the lighting and colors were just spectacular. However, the high chance of rain and fog would leave us to think that a better time to travel may be October, as the leaves would just begin changing color and there is less chance of bad weather. The whole site is divided into three sections, and it is good to not skip any aspect. You'll start in the main area near the town, there you have the gymnasium and synagogue which are great for pictures and to wander through. You want to next head towards the Temple of Artemis, which is up the hill. In between the two sites, just off the road, you will see another set of ruins. This is the area that the actual metal smelting was done. Unfortunately, we were running out of lighting by the time we came across it. The town itself has some great little places to eat, they won't speak English, but that's good. It means it's authentic Turkish food.
Modern Akhisar is probably in the direction you are going anyways. Right in between Sardis and Pergamon, it is worth a quick stop. If you have the museum/parks pass, it will work here. Although, it is not expensive otherwise (about 20Lira/person). You will be able to walk the park in 5 minutes and the museum is right across the street which also has some interesting artifacts. It might not be the top of the list of places to visit by any means, but again, if you are going to Sardis and Pergamon, why not plan to have an extra hour and veer off the highway to see another Biblical city.
(you can see from our eyes in our Thyatira picture that we are exhausted. This was 25 days into non-stop work)
Found in the modern city of Alasehir, this is the land of grape production. We were tight for time so didn't spend as much time here. But it was quite scenic and the people were very friendly (as always). Most tour groups that do come here stop only at the Church of St John, which is right downtown. We didn't even bother to go there as it dates to about 550CE and has no connection to the first century city. For the real ruins you want to head up the hill. If you search Philadelphia Theater, it will get you in the right place. This is all that really remains of the original city. Perhaps one day more excavations will take place, but for now that's it. We recommend going, especially if it is a clear day. You get a great view of the region from the hill, and it is along the road connecting Sardis to the tourist hub of Denizli (Laodicea, Hierapolis, Pamukkale).
While in the bigger centers like Izmir or Istanbul, you will be able to find wine from Philadelphia. They have a few unique grapes to the region so if you are into wine, it's worth tracking down, although alcohol is very expensive in Turkey. A glass of wine will cost about as much as your whole meal. Otherwise, these places are great to visit if you want to eat local. Not many tourists come here, so you'll get excited smiles, hospitality and delicious local flavors in this area.
WHERE TO STAY
All three locations are about 1 to 1.5 hours away from Izmir, so that was our home base for a few nights. Izmir (Biblical Smyrna) is also about 1 hour from Ephesus and about 1.5 hours from Miletus. So it is a logical central location if you don't like unpacking every night. And Izmir is quite cheap to stay in as well.
You should be able to get a good quality hotel or bnb for about $50 (USD). Even for a top of the line hotel in Izmir (and we are talking rooftop swimming pool), it is only about $100. This is what makes Turkey really appealing for travelers with an interest in history and the Bible.
And don't focus too much on the "5 Star Hotel" tag. They get that rating off the services they offer (like valet parking, separate elevators for the staff, swimming pools, etc), it isn't really a reflection of the cleanliness or actual service you get. We've stayed in many many "3 Star" hotels that we wish we could have stayed in longer and will return to. The best bet, read the reviews...and leave your own as well.