Friday January 11, 2008


Our destination: Tarsus, the birthplace of Saint Paul the apostle.  On the way we experienced morning rush hour and learned that Turkish students must wear uniforms until they enter a University. Our journey along the mesmerizing Mediterranean offered endless photo ops. The bus plodded through a valley framed by snowy mountains on the left and green mountains on the right. The blue sky and sunny day lulled everyone to sleep save Yücel, our valiant bus driver. We passed a Turkish army base and through Adana where we saw the solar panels on top of the colorful apartments, harvesting energy from the sun and resulting in free hot water. We witnessed the Turks’ love for their flag, seeing it hung from nearly every building. Luxurious cotton has made Adana a wealthy city. There were mosques and the large towers used for singing the call to prayer every few hundred yards.
Finally we reached Tarsus, once a large Roman city sporting a useful harbor with a lake beside it for protecting the ships. Alas pirates too found out about this lake and would hide in it—don’t worry—the Romans took care of them. Tarsus’ prosperity exempted it from some Roman taxes and both Cleopatra and Marc Antony were visitors. We all took postcard worthy pictures of the Cleopatra’s Gate, a gate never destroyed despite the recurrent destruction of its attached wall. This gate has stood for approximately 1800 years. Modern Tarsus is in fact build on top of an ancient city. We caught brief snapshots of the well crafted black stone Roman road and a few columns.
Saint Paul’s well which still draws water was 30 meters (100 feet) deep. I am astounded that the same water that quenched Saint Paul’s childhood thirst could relieve a man in the twentieth century. The site of the well led to a quaint old city that had been restored by the government. We watched men make bread and tried sesame cookies.
Off to Cydnus or Tarsus River to see the river where Alexander the Great once swan and fell ill (though not with the illness that finally took his life). A natural waterfall feeds a pool of water in which boys were trying to catch fish with a trident looking stick. Admiring the waterfall and appreciating its age from iron brides surrounded by barbed wire, our fingers were sore from snapping photos.
On the road, Mehmet gave us three hints at being polite in Turkey: 1) do not beckon someone (eg a waiter) over with one finger---use all of your fingers, 2) do not put your feet up so as to show that soles of your shoes, 3) do not show people the middle finger.  Despite this, both Mehmet and our experiences tell us that the Turkish are very tolerant. He told us a story of one of his tours when he was guiding a group of Jewish people and they wanted to pray together but could not get a room at the hotel.  The group was welcomed at a mosque where the leader gave them a room saying that “we are all children of the God.”
Continuing out adventure of Cappadocia, we stared peacefully into the rocky valleys between the mountains and saw old stone walls separating crops. The Cilician Gates offered huge mountains covered with pine trees that we could almost smell from the bus. After a delicious lunch of various stewed vegetables and meats, we returned to the bus to learn the culprits of the distinctive terrain of Cappadocia: two volcanoes. Now extinct, the Hasan dagi (west of Cappadocia) and the Erciyes dagi (east of Cappadoica), stand 150 miles apart (dagi means mountain in Turkish). When alive, these volcanoes erupted and tuff or volcanic dust hardened. Over time, wind and rain chiseled this hardened dust into the shapely mountains and whimsical fairy chimneys that we are left with today. It is truly wonderful that such a beautiful place exists on Earth.
At one time, our bus was at an altitude of 5000 feet. Light icy snow crunched beneath out boots and we got out to take pictures of Hasan Dagi. Just as the sun was going to sleep and the crescent moon was coming out, we entered Cappadocia (Kapadokya in Turkish), also known as “land of the beautiful horses.” For a while the tips of the mountains mixed with the dusky sky and both looked periwinkle-ish. Suddenly curious mountains appeared. It seems as though hundreds of work people had carved the mountains into tall spirals and scooped out mountains. Noticing that there were holes in the extraterrestrial-like mountains, we were informed that people had carved their homes out of the wild mountains. We also passed the underground city that we plan to visit during our stay in Cappadocia. Finally landing at our hotel: Dinler Hotel, we showered and rested and are going down to eat dinner in an hour.
During the drive we learned a few Turkish words:

One----- bir (pronounced like beer)
Two----- iki
Three----- üç (prounced like huge)
Four----- dört (pronounced like dirt)
Five----- beş (pronounced like beige)
Yes----- Evet
NO----- Hayır
Thank you-----teşekkür ederim