Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Around Antakya

On Day 3, we headed west towards the sea and toured some sights in the countryside.

Our first stop was Vakifli, Turkey's sole surviving Armenian village. During the Turkish deportations of the Armenians in the early 1900s, the inhabitants of this village held out against Turkish forces until evacuated to Port Said by the French and British. Most of the villagers returned in 1919 when the Hatay became part of the French-mandated Syria. When the Hatay joined the Turkish Republic in 1939, the Armenians excepting those of this village, left, ending up mostly in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

The village is set among Cyprus trees and orange groves, and consists of only 100 or so residents, about 30 families. They subsist on organic farming (mostly citrus fruit export), and selling handicrafts and embroidery.
At the center of the village is the Surp Asdvadzadzin Kilisesi (The Church of the Virgin Mary), built in 1895. The church attendants unlocked the church for us, but we were not permitted to take photos. Inside the church courtyard, a village woman's homemade jams and liqueurs were for sale, of which we partook.

Next, we visited the coastal town of Cevlik, which was the port of Seleucia ad Piera. From here, St. Paul and Barnabas were said to have departed for their first evangelical mission to Cyprus.

We hiked through the Roman ruins of Titus ve Vespasiyanus Tuneli (or Titus Tunnel): a 130-meter long tunnel carved into the hillside to prevent flooding and silting of the harbor. The construction of the tunnel began in the first century, and took 10 years to finish.

After our hike, we ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the sea and Kel Mountain.

Our last stop was the town of Harbiye (Daphne). Many of the mosaics from the museum had been unearthed from this town. Harbiye is also famous for its waterfalls, and is the supposed site of the story of Daphne and Apollo.

The story goes that when Apollo saw Daphne he fell in love with her and wanted to speak with her. But Daphne, knowing that mortals who had relations with gods ended up in a bad state started to run from him. Apollo pursued her, and right at the moment he was to catch her, she prayed to Mother Earth to protect her. At that moment, Mother Earth turned her into a tree: her hair to leaves, her arms to branches, her legs to a trunk. And there emerges the Daphne (laurel) tree. Apollo said to her, "From now on, you shall be the holy tree of Apollo. Your leaves that do not turn yellow and do not fall to the ground will make the wreath on my head. Heroes will always wear laurel wreaths on their heads. And in song, our names will be uttered as one: Daphne and Apollo."

The waterfalls were pretty, but the walk to them a bit disappointing due to the amount of merchants selling cheesy made-in-China items along the pathway. However, the legend remains in the laurel soap I purchased.

Driving back to Ankara the next day was a bluebird day. The snow-covered Hasan Dag, our beacon of home, and the Salt Lake, our companion for the tail end of our journey.

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