117 miles, 13 mph average27
Feb 09Day 1
Izmir, Ephesus & the Menderes Valley
To travel though Aegean Turkey is to travel through
time to explore 5000 years of Greek, Roman and Ottoman history,
and I arrived early at Ephesus,
one of the greatest cities of ruins in the world, on the old Roman
Road and I had the place to myself. This to me is the true definition
of luxury travel, to be able to soak in the world of columns
totally at peace. Built by the Greeks
a thousand years before Christ then revitalised by Alexander the
Great's successor Lysinachus, it became one of the Roman's most
before the harbour silted up (today its 5km
from the sea), and the resultant marshes created a home for malarial
mosquitoes. However, it retained its status as a centre of learning
and nowadays what remains of the Library
of Celsus is an iconic image of ancient Turkish culture.
Whilst the buildings are in remarkable condition, only 15% of the
site has been thoroughly excavated, but all that remains of the
Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) is a
This column I found highly symbolic. Why? Well, if you're not into
a history lesson, skip this section! You'll remember back
in Milan we met Constantine the Roman emperor who found God?
Until this time Christians were being thrown to the lions on a regular
basis, but their bravery in the face of death was winning converts
all over the empire. One of these new converts was Constantine's
mother, and the emperor could hardly permit her persecution, could
he? Now, a state sponsored religion that threatened the populace
with an afterlife in Hell if they didn't behave themselves, and
one that could brand enemies of the state as enemies of God, could
be a very handy political tool indeed. St Paul used Ephesus
as a base from which to spread the word of God, and was known to
have made himself somewhat unpopular with the local craftsmen who
made and sold statuettes of Artemis in the temple. The temple was
the focal point of pagan rituals, sacrifices and all that flew in
the face of the new religious order, so its destruction was condoned
and Constantine's successors even carted off some of the marble
to build a new centre of worship - The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
(or Constantinople as it was then known). This new eastern Roman
Empire was to become known as Byzantinium, and this official takeover
of the fledgling faith is sometimes regarded as one of the worst
things to have ever happened to Christianity.
Time to head for the hills!
I followed the green and fertile Menderes River valley
east and inland where the river nourishes fields of fruit trees
and cotton along its broad alluvial plain, whilst its twists and
turns gives us the modern word 'meander'. The road surface was hellishly
(like most in Turkey), being comprised of large loose chippings
that the bike simply refused to maintain momentum on. It was 100
miles of gradual gradient gaining only 300m
but with a head wind that fairly knocked the stuffing out of me.
As the day drew to a close I was down to about one mouse-power but
my spirits were lifted when I passed steaming streams
flowing down from hot springs in the mountains and felt the sun
on my back casting a long shadow
on the road ahead. I underestimated the distance left to ride and
it was pitch dark for two hours by the time I reached Pamukkale
for the night.
A couple of helpful lads that had been loitering in the street sorted
me out with accommodation. A small flat with under-floor heating
and a giant tub fed by free hot water from the thermal springs.
All for the princely sum of £10.
92 miles, 11 mph average28
Hierapolis, Pamukkale & The Mountains
I rolled into the remains of the Hellenistic spa
town of Hierapolis before dawn and, as I was the only visitor,
the ticket office guard nodded approval at my request to ride through
I was laughing out loud as I pedalled along thinking that I was
probably the only cyclist ever to be so privileged, even though
tombs lining the road were a bit spooky.
Hierapolis built its wealth on the wool and textile industry (cotton
is still Turkey's biggest export) but was destroyed by an earthquake
in AD60. Twenty years later the city was rebuilt, and soon after
visited by the apostle St.Philip
who met a rather grizzly end here being first crucified then taken
down and pelted with rocks just in case.
The ancient town sits above the startlingly white travertine terraces
at Pamukkale (meaning 'cotton castle' in Turkish) and the terraces
are formed when hot spring water loses carbon dioxide as it flows
down the slopes, and deposits steps
of brilliant white calcium carbonate (limestone).
I'd like to tell you what Denizli looked like but the whole city
was enveloped in smog. It's a harsh winter in the mountains and
the people burn wood, coal and any rubbish they can find to keep
warm. The roads are lined with all sorts of litter but discarded
plastic bottles seems to make up the most of it, and these bottles
make excellent fuel even though their incineration results in a
toxic brown fug. Denizli is a major producer of Turkey's famous
carpets woven of wool from the shaggy mountain sheep, but there
were sadly no flying carpets available to take me up over the snowy
passes of the Golgeli, where the winds build up layers of ice
on the trees. First came Kazikbeli
Gecidi at 1155m, then Comaklibeli
which at 1460m is higher than Ben Nevis, between which the road
dropped away to the windswept high plains
of the Burdur.
A light sprinkle of snow dusted over me, and the frozen ground slid
under my tyres. As the evening drew in, my legs were becoming weary
from all the climbing and I stopped at the welcome sight of a traditional
Mutton was being roasted on a spit outside and a plate was placed
on top of a metal bowl of embers to keep the meat hot.
100 miles, 17 mph average1
Lycia & Antalya to Side
The landscape stood frozen in time
when I left the Korkuteli hotel in Lycia as I was still over 1000
meters above the sea. The sun sparkled off the snow and even though
I was only 50km from the holiday
city of Antalya
it was -5 degrees centigrade and almost cold enough to freeze the
Ancient Lycia was an independent federation of 19 cities in the
mountains of southwest Turkey. The Lycian League was the first federation
in the world to be based on democratic principles, some of which
later inspired the American Constitution.
I descended through sleepy villages but still had one more pass
to climb before the drop towards the coast.
Guarding the mountain pass is Termessos in the Gulluk Dag national
park. So formidable were the city's defences that when Alexander
the Great came to conquer he decided it would be safer to by-pass
the city altogether and probably took the route through the steep
gorge that the main road now follows.
The ruins at Termessos were cut off due to the snow but the beautiful
are the last refuge of the Anatolian lynx, and are renowned for
wild goats, deer and butterflies. I didn't see any deer or lynx
but a solitary eagle scowled at me as I passed and swept off indignantly
as soon as I went for my camera.
I'd become used to dealing with the aggressively territorial sheep
dogs in the mountains. These are not your eager to please collies
by the way; the mountain sheep dogs are savage monsters of volatile
temperament. Flashing my headlight, blowing my whistle or even throwing
stones usually gave me enough time to clear off out of their space,
but the locals had also warned me about packs of hungry wolves
that might cause a spot of bother.
the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, greeted me into the
sea-level warmth of Antalya. He launched a programme of revolutionary
social and political reform to modernise Turkey succeeding the Ottoman
Empire that had crumbled following WW1. These reforms included the
emancipation of women, the abolition of Islamic institutions and
the introduction of Western legal codes, dress, calendar and alphabet,
replacing the Arabic script with a Latin one. Since WW2 Turkey has
been the only predominantly Muslim country to embrace democracy
and as my visit coincided with their general election I could see
first hand just how highly prized the Turks treat their political
freedom. Even in the smallest villages party vans prowl the streets
blaring out music that seems to bear no particular political message,
and rallies are held at weekends.
There is heated debate about the wearing of the traditional Muslim
headscarf in Turkey. Amazingly women cannot cover their heads if
they wish to attend university or work in any public office. Younger
women and those in the cities tended to wear western dress but in
the countryside it was almost exclusively the headscarf and baggy
pantaloons that were worn.
At one point I found myself riding along a road lined with flag
waving supporters, flanked by armed police. A couple of rooftop
army snipers completed the scene. However, the road was empty and
as the people had been stood around for hours they took the opportunity
to cheer on my progress. I'd become used to an almost celebrity
status throughout Turkey as visiting European cyclists do seem to
be something of a novelty, but this was like riding up the Champs
Elysés on the final stage of the Tour de France. The mystery
was solved when the cavalcade
of the visiting parliamentary minister roared down the hill toward
Just to the north of Antalya I popped into the remains of the Hellenistic
city of Perge that has been uninhabited since the 7th century. I
propped the bike up against the walls of the stadium
and had a sunny picnic of boiled eggs and mixed nuts. Another 30
miles down the road I crossed
the Euromedion River on the restored 7th century bridge
and was standing in the Roman amphitheatre
It has astonishing acoustics and is still used for concerts and
operas today, although I'm not too sure how well my croaky rendition
of 'Jerusalem' went down.
I rounded the day off in Side where I was met by Mike
& Barbara, old friends from Cornwall who now spend most
of their retirement in Turkey.
93 miles, 12 mph average2
Mike & Barbara looked after me royally and we spent a lovely
evening in a local restaurant, whilst they told me everything I'd
need to know about the road ahead and how to survive in rural Turkey.
So great is their local knowledge and the grip they have on the
means of getting by as ex-pats, that we joked they should write
a book on the subject. As they had found an amusing way of getting
pork into the pig-free country we agreed the book should be entitled
'The Bacon Smugglers'.
That morning Barbara fixed me up with a feast of a full English
breakfast (with bacon) and Mike set an amazing pace (for a man who
will be 70 later this year) along the scenic route out of Side.
Side - translated from olde worlde Turkish as 'pomegranate' - has
a fine set of Roman remains and we left via the Vespasian
Arch and seafront temple
Prior to the order imposed by Roman rule the town was the haunt
of slave traders and was the last refuge of Mediterranean pirates
chased here by Pompey's fleets. Once he had destroyed the pirate's
ships and strongholds, he spared their lives and set them up as
farmers and tradesmen.
The Romans prized this coast for its shipbuilding timber but thirty
years later Anthony gave away this hard won province and its pine
forests to Cleopatra (there weren't too many trees in Egypt).
Naturally the loss was unpopular back in Rome and only went to compound
his fall from grace.
The first 50 miles of the day heading east was one homogenised urbanisation
of holiday hotels of the all-inclusive genre that suck the life
out of the local economy and whose guests only see the outside of
the resort to be coached out to the nearest tourist attraction.
At Gazipasa the countryside won over and I was back in a land of
banana plantations and broad fields
planted with sweetcorn, strawberries and spuds.
Then I started to climb. The road seemed to ascend forever and I began
to wonder if I'd turned inland by accident as I was surely climbing
a mountain. Its illegal to posses a map of closer scale than 1:500,000
in Turkey - years of turbulence and invasion have left them a little
paranoid - so I was never quite sure if I was on the right road. An
hour later I emerged at the top, 410m above the sea. To put that in
perspective that's as high as Cornwall's highest mountain Brown Willy,
and yet I was within just 3 miles of the sea as along this coast the
Taurus Mountains plunge straight down into the sea from peaks to rival
the Alps. Amongst the usual gadgets a mobile phone carries these days
mine even has an altimeter, so I put my techno-geek anorak on and
recorded all of these climbs.
The climb had almost done for me, so I rode down a steep track to
what looked like a perfect hotel. Square and modern, perched right
on the cliff. It turned out to be a boarding school and my sudden
appearance led to a gaggle of curious boys surrounding me in moments.
The teacher gave me directions to a 'pansayon' a few miles away,
but of course my pride wouldn't let me push the bike back up that
track and as soon I was out of sight I fell into a gasping heap.
The guesthouse wasn't hard to find and I was shown to a room with
twin beds adorned in pink 'Barbie' bedspreads. Nice. Straight to
the shower room across the corridor and no worries about forgetting
to pick up a towel, as there were no cars parked outside so I must
have place to myself. The shower itself had a interesting wiring
consisting of an open plug socket that had the base chipped away
to allow the 3kW cable to run to the shower's heater. The open socket
had been stuffed with toilet paper in lieu of insulation and the
lights flickered as soon as I turned the water on. I was out of
there after a very rudimentary swill and on emerging from the bathroom
my naked form was greeted with a shriek from the lady of the house.
I hadn't figured out that 'staying with the family' meant just that.
This was their bathroom too and my bedroom was in between the two
older brother's rooms. Dinner that night was a quite delicious lamb
casserole but conducted in abject silence.
93 miles, 12 mph average3
The Eastern Mediterranean
During the 11th century the crusader armies marched along this coast
on their way to wrest the Holy Land from Muslim control. They built
all along the coast, including that at the southerly point of Anamur.
When the Arabs took Cyprus the castle became vulnerable, was abandoned
and never resettled so remains in such good condition that it is
often used as a film
set. Some of the Arab victories can be attributed to the way
in which they had refined Chinese saltpetre (used until that time
only in fireworks) to make the first military explosives, not powerful
enough to blow up castle walls but enough to put the fear of Allah
into a visiting Crusader.
The further east I travelled the more remote and sparsely populated
the land became. The region took on a Middle Eastern flavour and
strong spices laced the air in the colourful bazaars.
The hills came one after another, with climbs regularly topping
500m before plunging back down to a fishing cove at sea level. Living
in Cornwall, I'm used to hills, but I've never before encountered
climbs of such steep incline and duration, but the views were staggeringly
beautiful and more than compensated for the exhaustion. What goes
must come down and the scintillating descents had me laughing out
loud as I swept into each plunging valley. I'll let the pictures
speak for themselves ... (slide
show opens in new window)
By the time I reached the village of Buyukiceli, the magic century
i.e. 100 miles had eluded me yet again, but I'd had enough and was
lucky to find a little resort of chalets
still closed for the winter. The two caretakers took care of me
and invited me into the kitchen to see what they had left over in
their pots. Four dishes of mixed, spiced meat and vegetables along
with some rice and macaroni were served up and we had one of the
those sign language conversations before I made my excuses and retired
to my hut for the night.
I'd tried to learn some Turkish before my arrival but it just seems
to be one of those languages that escapes me. It's a phonetic language
and some written words have familiar European roots, such as otogar
meaning bus station i.e. oto, like auto and gar like the French
gare. Even my garbled attempt at thank-you - 'teh shek kewr eh deh
reem' - was just too long and met with blank looks. The only thing
that met with any comprehension was my Borat-esque 'Yak-shee mesh'
which doesn't quite mean good evening, but seemed to pass.
110 miles, 15 mph average4
That morning the hills kept on coming, and the road wasn't without
Whilst I queued for the road to be cleared, the driver next to me
slurped back his Coke and casually cast the can out of his window.
In my shock at his attitude I shouted "hey" pointing at
the can. He looked back at me totally bewildered at why anyone should
give a toss about one more piece of detritus marring such a fabulously
aesthetic land. If the Turks don't change their attitude soon they
will bury themselves in crap. Either that or I'll start a company
to collect the millions of pounds worth of aluminium that line the
roads and make my fortune. So there!
One overzealous overloaded lorry driver decided to adopt a unique
method of inspecting his tyres. He was unharmed and seemed quite
cool about the whole thing, being more concerned about getting his
cargo stacked in a neat pile beside the road.
At Silifke I crossed the well-guarded
Goksu River. Not far from here whilst attempting to cross the river
at a gorge further upstream the crusading emperor Barbarossa was
This whole coast was punctuated with ruins and castles and at Kanlidvane
I came across the 'Place of Blood'. It was into this 60ft chasm
, with its undated carvings
that prisoners of war and criminals used to be thrown to their deaths.
At Kizkalesi the road finally flattened towards the coastal plain
that was once guarded by twin castles
on the mainland and one on an offshore island.
At the base of the onshore castle walls you can still see the original
Byzantine amphibious attack-pedaloes.
The road through Mersin and beyond was singularly unpleasant, as
although the name of the town refers to the myrtle
shrub that is so prevalent in this region, its now part of the
industrial heartland of the country. Pollution, litter and overcrowding
are the norm. Much of the town's population is a rag-tag mixture
of Kurds and Armenians housed here after being displaced by ethnic
fighting in their homes further east. This was the entry to PKK
territory - the Kurds that have resorted to terrorism due to frustration
at their lack of political representation.
I did battle with the heavy traffic for a further 20 miles before
calling it a day at Tarsus.
Tarsus is best known as birthplace of St Paul and he returned following
his conversion to spread the Gospel throughout the eastern Med.
The theoretical remains of his house can be visited
and is seen as a place of Christian pilgrimage, as is the church
that bears his name but this is in fact 18th century Armenian and
nothing directly to do with St Paul.
is also nothing to do with the Egyptian queen - its just a gate
in the city's old walls, but a romantic notion nonetheless. After
Julius Caesar's assassination, the Roman Empire was split into three
and ruled by Mark Anthony, Octavian and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.
Anthony ruled the eastern empire including Macedonia, Asia Minor
(Turkey & Syria) and Egypt. The three leaders formed a pact
to hunt down the armies of Caesar's assassins, but Egypt refused
to take part. Thus Cleopatra was summoned to meet Anthony at Tarsus,
making a grand entrance dressed up like Aphrodite in her golden
boat with silver oars and purple sails. She must have made quite
an impression as the bewitched Anthony followed her back to Egypt,
ultimately costing himself an empire in the name of love.
Its not possible to find the exact point of Anthony and Cleopatra's
meeting today as the river was prone to flood the town when the
winter snows melted, so emperor Justinian ordered the diversion
of its course around the city, through a graveyard that now forms
and constructed a new bridge
that would be the only possible eastern entry point to the city
and an ideal point at which to collect taxes. Nice work you'd think,
but the resultant marshes from the diverted river turned malarial
and wiped out half the town within two years. You can almost hear
the ghosts of the locals declare, "What did the Romans ever
do for us!"
73 miles, 17 mph average5
Into the Holy Land
Adana's wealth has been built on the fertile silts washed down from
the Taurus mountains and at the very heart of the city (Turkey's
fourth largest) is Hadrian's second century bridge
crossing the Seyhan River, and even though it spans more than 300
metres it is still in use today. The locals will tell you its 400
Facing the bridge is what I'd regard as the most impressive building
I have ever seen. The Albert Hall would easily fit inside the Sabanci
Mosque. It has six minarets (two more than the permitted norm),
is finished in the most immaculate sand coloured marble, and the
craftsmanship inside is nothing short
You don't have to be Kevin McCloud, or a subscriber to any particular
faith to be moved by this kind of architecture.
My cycling shoes were getting a bit worn and the recessed metal
cleats that fit the pedals were now standing proud so whenever I
walked in them I'd slip and slide all over the place. I stood out
in a crowd as it was, standing a good foot taller than the average
Turk and wearing funky coloured cycling clothes I really didn't
need the extra attention my awkward gait was attracting, so I headed
down to the market where I found the world's most highly qualified
cobbler. Professor Doctor Usta was a man
of great skill (if somewhat dubious qualifications) and he soon
spotted the problem and rebuilt the soles whilst I sipped a hot
There seemed little point rejoining the trucks on the highway and
as there was no alternative road through 30 miles of industrial
wasteland, I hopped on a bus
to Osimanye. The Turks rely on their buses, as private car ownership
is rare (a family might have a pick-up or a motorbike)
and the land too mountainous for trains, so they enjoy an excellent
service. The local dolmus mini busses ply their trade in the towns
and immaculate intercity coaches will waft you along for miles in
air-conditioned comfort with complimentary drinks for just a few
quid. My celebrity status returned at the otogar and the two drivers
made sure I was well catered for with the bike taking pride of place
in the luggage compartment. I thought I'd use an idle moment on
board to apply some cream to various insect bites that were itching
like mad. The tube had become blocked and after I moaned and struggled
with it a while, the tube suddenly ruptured, splattering me and
my fellow passengers two seats away. Two women scurried off to sit
further away from me. It didn't look good. I had become the anti-celeb.
Some miles to the east of Osimanye, in what used to be known as
Mesopotamia, is the birthplace of Al Battani. Never heard of him?
Probably so, but this ancient astronomer and mathematician, was
the first to develop trigonometry, accurately calculating one solar
year to within 22 seconds and figuring out the inclination of the
earth's axis (he already knew the earth was spherical). All this
in the 9th century, paving the way for Copernicus to introduce the
concept that the earth was not the centre of the solar system more
than 600 years later. He was one of many Arabic scholars to work
in the great Islamic centres of learning in Damascus and Baghdad,
but whose works were destroyed or forgotten in ensuing wars and
conquests. Algebra, is of course an Arabic word, so now you know
why the west is often at loggerheads with Arabic nations, its not
religion or oil, its just revenge for double maths every Wednesday
afternoon. The modern version of chess, parachutes, distillation,
crankshafts, surgical instruments and inoculations can all trace
their origins to Islamic roots. The handwritten works of these scholars
and the messages of the Qur'an itself could not compete with the
printed Latin books and bibles being produced in Europe - it would
be like pigeon post trying to compete with e-mail today. The classic
Latin alphabet has just 23 characters, whilst Arabic has 28, but
each letter can have up to four forms and a myriad of ligatures,
accents and dots that must be accurately copied to make sense, hence
the great technical difficulty in its mechanical reproduction.
At Toprakkale's castle
I turned south through endless orange groves in search of the aqueduct
that marks the site of the village of Issus. It was here in November
333 BC, that Alexander defeated the Persian emperor Darius the Third.
Although outnumbered by more than double, Alexander's military genius
allowed him to trick the 600,000 Persians into thinking he was attacking
from the seaward side, but in fact he led an elite cavalry unit
upstream to a surprise attack on Darius' bodyguards, leading to
panic as the emperor took flight. The Battle of Issus was a decisive
Macedonian victory and it marked the beginning of the end for Persian
power in the region.
At Yakacik there is the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha complex,
partly built for Muslims heading for Mecca on the Haj. It's complete
with Mosque, accommodation, hammam (baths) and a large castle signifying
just how real the threat of attack must have been. I had a free,
guided tour from Mustafa who had popped in to use the loo. Mustafa
was home on holiday from Berlin where he runs a kebab shop, and
he spoke the kind of German that I find easier to understand than
that of someone for whom it is the mother tongue.
On the way out of Yakacik, Khan yelled 'Hello my friend', from his
family's riverside restaurant. Khan's greeting wasn't the usual
sales pitch; he just wanted to practice his English and adamantly
refused any money as he insisted I stay whilst he prepared fresh
orange juice (such a treat in a land of abundant oranges
yet where an orange drink usually means sickly cordial or fizzy
chemical pop), a salad dressed in the best olive oil and lemon juice
and chicken kebabs cooked over open charcoal.
He'd had to leave school at 12 to work with his family and now,
as the head, needed to learn English in order to secure a job in
a tourist restaurant in Bodrum this season.
A more earnest and eager pupil there cannot be, but he faces a real
uphill struggle as he cannot afford a computer (nor has he had the
opportunity to learn how to use one) or any of the multi media aids
we would take for granted when learning a foreign tongue. He has
just a few books and a dictionary. I stayed until it was almost
dark and wished him all the good luck in the world. He'll need it.
Back on the highway, I hit Iskenderun at rush
hour, using my whistle and flashing LEDs to part the
traffic like Moses parting the Red Sea. Turkey is a land of genuine
fake watches and funny names, like the obsequious air conditioning
company Arselic. But one burger
joint seemed to embrace all of these qualities. The Turkish
people have a great sense of humour but one thing I cant get to
grips with is the arbitrary sense of pricing. The first hotel I
came to was a bit grotty and never worth the 50 lira price tag (about
£20) even though he'd already discounted it from 70. When
I said the room wasn't to my liking the price fell again to 35,
by the time I was out on the street the guy was chasing me down
the road offering 20. I'm sure it's just their way of doing things
and not rank dishonesty.
Iskenderun wasn't being kind to me as the next hotel claimed to
be full. It was quite posh but clearly empty and maybe the receptionist
didn't fancy a weary biker sullying his immaculate lobby. The next
had a porter ousting me and the bike from the foyer as if we had
the plague. They just don't like bikes in hotels here. Finally I
found a place with a cellar lockup for the wheels and a shower that
was more than the tepid trickle that had been the norm throughout
63 miles, 17 mph average6
Further into the Holy Land
I thought it was going to be easy today so I started late, rode
along the prom admiring the Ataturk statue
and flags that grace every town in Turkey and started to climb the
Amanus mountains. Just a short nip over the hills and I'm done.
A fierce wind had blown up over night and wouldn't it be my luck
for it to be full in my face. As the road wound its way upward the
blasts came from the side with such ferocity that on more than one
occasion I found myself in the gutter. Back into the headwind actually
seemed like a better option than being blown clear off the mountain!
By about halfway I dropped to a new all time record pace of 2 mph.
At this rate it was going to take all day to make the 20-mile climb.
I swear I saw a pair of geriatric snails overtake me. Finally the
Pass known also as the Gates of Syria came into view, I turned
south out of the wind and descended along the Orontes river valley
is better known under its ancient name of Antioch. Once the third
largest city in the Roman Empire, it was devastated by earthquakes
in the 6th century and subsequently conquered by the Arabs. 400
years later the Crusaders lay siege for seven months, after which
they stormed the walled city massacring men, women and children
alike. Contrary to what you might have been told in Sunday School,
the knights were not at all a gentlemanly bunch, widespread torture
and even cannibalism has been recorded by both sides, and attacks
like these still leave a deep rooted suspicion of western powers.
One reason for the Crusaders' calling by was that the city is regarded
as one of the birthplaces of Christianity. St Peter used a grotto
in the cliffs above the city as his 'mission control' - the reward
for his efforts would be to be promoted to the position of Heaven's
Bouncer at the pearly gates. The cave is now a church and is regarded
as the oldest Christian church in the world. It seemed remarkable
to me that although the city has been Islamic for many centuries
now, Christian relics have been preserved
alongside those of the Muslims.
As it was my last night in Turkey I treated myself to a night in
a traditional hotel
dating back to the time when this area was a part of French Syria.
The town is still culturally and linguistically a blend of Arabic
and Turkish. Its just 20 or so miles from the Syrian border, yet
amongst the hustle
and bustle there are still oases of calm
to be found.
My last day also coincided with the Islamic holiday of Milad un
Nabi. This is the birth date of the Prophet Muhammad who was born
in 570 AD and since the Islamic calendar is 354 days long, the date
is pushed back 11 days each year. Muslims celebrate this occasion
by holding functions and gatherings to remember and celebrate the
advent of the birth and teachings of Muhammad.