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We will send regular newsletters to our members who have signed up for receiving it during the registration. In 'mymerhaba' newsletter, our editorial staff provides updates, with regard to any information related to places worth visiting, viewing, or otherwise worth knowing, for those who care to know more....

Fred's Tarsus

St. Paul's Church
by Fred Moore - November 2005

This will be an archaeology trip through this region (Cilicia) of the country. We're on a bus trip to Tarsus (the home of St. Paul) this weekend, 11/12. We catch our bus just off the base, a Mercedes 40 passenger. The driver (Cabbar) is the owner of the bus and our guide (Vahit - nick named "Rocky") is the chief translator base. With us as well is Yusef the owner of the tour agency responsible for the trip. We begin the morning waiting for all to gather at the bus. I decide to get some breakfast and a man has come by with simit, the sesame seed bread rounds I've discussed before. All have arrived and attendance is confirmed and we're off. On our drive into Adana we see this fellow in a suit on a bicycle carrying a stepladder crossing the four lane highway in front of us; it's not a large ladder, maybe five foot but when you have some free time try that little task, haha.

Our first stop is the new Sabanci Merkez mosque in Adana, (we've been here before), as you should know a mosque is a Moslem Church. This is a landmark facility in Middle Eastern culture and they are as plentiful here as churches in the south of the United States, on about every other street corner. Standing on the front steps one can see the Roman bridge crossing the river Ceyhan from 1700 years ago and still fully in use; this bridge was even in use during the floods of a couple decades ago when the modern bridge was under water. The mosque was constructed over ten years, beginning in 1988 and opened in December of 1998. It has a 20,000 person capacity and is said to be the largest mosque complex in this part of the Middle East. Most of the mosques are simply designed for 500 to 1,000 people. Very much like our neighborhood churches back in the states.

To enter, woman must have a head cover and no shorts. Unfortunately this was not listed as a site to see on this tour, so a number of people were not properly prepared for entry. Our tour guide is plenty prepared though and arrangements are made to get everyone in without incident. Several women in our group were given a scarf so they could get inside. ALL must remove their shoes. Everyone is given a plastic grocery bag for their shoes, this we've not seen before on our mosque visits, we simply left our shoes at the door in a massive heap before, but this is great. There are two shelve racks around the interior walls of this mosque for putting the bags of shoes if you wish to place them there. You can also keep your shoes with you; it's no problem. The interior is quite striking with its massive open auditorium; there are eight columns holding the central roof dome aloft, some 105 feet overhead. The stained glass windows are numerous and indescribable (the adjectives needed fail me) suffice it to say they are beautiful. The interior walls are adorned with ceramic tiles of brilliant color and design, reaching from floor to ceiling. These titles are made in central Turkey (Anatolia) right here in country. Many of these tiles are inscriptions from the Moslem Holy Book, the Koran, around the upper reaches of the walls; the lower titles are simply beautiful floral designs. The central dome and the half domes that encompass it are meticulously hand painted with more writings from the Koran. Most are done in gold leaf at the very apex of the larger dome. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful these facilities are or how massive they seem on the inside. There are small marble columns at the right and left of the prayer nitch or mirob; if you turn them they appear to chime, the sound is just beautiful.

The mosque sits right on the banks of the Ceyhan River that flows through the city of Adana and affronts the four-lane highway. Extensive landscaping and a marble courtyard patio surround the exterior. The entire complex has a footprint probably the size of a football field, maybe two. There are six minarets (the missile looking structures that all mosques have), four are 300 feet in the air and two are 200 feet. One of the minarets even has an elevator, capacity, two-people! The majority of mosques have only one minaret but those making a statement have several, none more than six, however.

We're told the prayers from this mosque are broadcast to 275 other mosques within a 36-mile radius - just to give you an idea of the influence of this mosque in this area.

Now we're back to the bus and heading toward Tarsus our designated site for the day. We travel the four-lane through Adana: past the airport, past the horse track and out of the city to catch the expressway. We pass through the suburbs into the agricultural area. Farmland and orchards surround Adana. This is delta land and very fertile. We're about an hour out of Adana now and at the turn off to the autobahn.

Since I've described the autobahn experience before we'll dispense with that except to say the bus ride on it was another hour. We continue to travel through farm country and rolling hills as we travel west along the coast but not on the waters edge. The haze made the air heavy and hard to see anything at very long distance. Had it been a clear day the brilliance of the color would have been postcard perfect.

OK, we're pulling into Tarsus and make a left turn off the main road and there beside the street is the Roman bridge of centuries past. No longer in use but still standing as a tribute to those who came before us and their awesome architectural prowess. The river that passes through Tarsus had a course change and left the bridge high and dry. In a very short time we're moving through the narrow streets of the city making our way to Cleopatra's gate. This is simply an ancient arch in the city square; climate and age have taken their toll on the structure but it's still a view of antiquity. Not a place to linger, we circle around and move deeper into the city past the European style Boarding School that has been in Tarsus form the late nineteenth century.

We're now sitting in front of an old Christian church (St. Paul's church in name only, nothing to do with the apostle) built by the Armenians in the 8th or 9th century. It's a small chapel with seating room for maybe 50 people. There are frescoes painted with great care on the central arch, Christ and the prophet St Paul (it's assumed). The building is in restoration and has a good deal of work yet to be done. Like numerous other ruins of centuries past in this country, money is always a challenge. I find the front portico entry stones most curious; the evidence of a thousand years of footsteps is obvious, the wear on each rock surface makes them shine in the early morning sun. After a short stay we again loaded up the bus and ride to another part of Tarsus where we are told a new discovery had been made; that is relatively new.

The city fathers had decided to remove the open-air market and build a shopping center in its place. Well, low and behold, just four or five feet of earth were moved and Roman ruins began to surface. All construction was immediately halted and an excavation was begun. Found beneath the old open-air market is a Roman market facility and a stretch of Roman road. As is the norm for Turkey, once this kind of discovery is made, no further construction will be authorized unless the government clears the site. As of today the site is simply fenced off and open only to more excavation and tourists. It appears very obvious that the road was paved with a dark almost black volcanic rock in the center and lighter stone to the outside. Gazing across the site it appears this roadway is paved with asphalt.

Just a short distance away by bus is the purported birthplace of St. Paul. The site is simply marked by a fenced garden with a well to one end and a structure with a glass floor for viewing a foundation said to be (maybe) from the home site of the apostle. A number of folks on the tour pulled water from the well and made some use of it in the form of tribute. The area surrounding the garden and well is Ottoman in architecture; I would guess probably most of the homes are well over a hundred years old. Interestingly, much commerce was going on about us as we lingered near the site even for the short time we were there.

On a hillside just out of Tarsus is "Heaven and Hell". These are two geological anomalies that are referred to as sinkholes, one mostly large oval the other nearly round. Millenniums ago this part of Turkey experienced a great deal of volcanic activity; these sinkholes resulted from some cataclysmic activity. Heaven is a larger chasm than Hell; it's an oval approximately 270 yards long, 100 yards across and 320 feet deep while hell is almost round 70 yards across and 390 feet deep. One can descend a stairway into the hole referred to as the Chasm of Heaven and in a cave near the bottom is a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary built in the 5th or 6th century AD. There is also a stream flowing in the very back of the cave. On occasion the water can be heard from the chapel. Descent into the 'Pit of Hell' as it's called is not possible or should I say not this Hell anyway, you understand. I'm ashamed to say, neither Carol nor I took the stairway into (the earth) Heaven. We just were not up to coming back from below and simply chose not to go down; it was obvious for those who did, the climb out was very tiring. There are a number of ruins located at the rim of Heaven dating from Roman times. There's a bath complex dated from the 4th century in a state of ruin, a Temple of Zeus and a Christian Basilica dated in that same time frame.

After our stop here we were off to lunch. Our restaurant "Lagos Lokantasa" is on a beautiful little cove beside the turquoise water of the Mediterranean. Most of our group had chicken but Carol and I both had fish. When at the seaside one just doesn't eat chicken! We had the namesake fish, "lagos"; it's a white fish that is served in chunks with a light batter, baked or fried. The usual Lagos is 3 to 4 feet in length and you buy it by the kilo. With the meal was pickled seaweed (I didn't care for that at all, Carol thought it was good), fries, two types of salad and plenty of bread. We savored our time here as it was right at the water's edge.

With lunch taken care of, we again load up and ride down the coast a short way to the castle by the sea. We stopped at a Hotel Kilikya and walked the beach in front of it to the water's edge and out onto a narrow pier. Actually, there are two castles, one by the sea and one in the sea. These used to be connected by a sea wall that has mostly disintegrated and fallen into the water. As there is little to see other than the structures themselves we spend little time walking the sand beach and the small pier out into the water. It is too, beginning to rain a little so we are quickly diverted to the bus so our trip can continue.

We ride down the coast a bit further and turn left from the coast road to begin a climb into the hills above the city and the castles below. We're on our way to visit another site that in centered on an oval sinkhole called the Holy Chasm. This one again is accessible from one side but there is no stairway to descend. The opening is probably 300 feet long, 100 feet across and the hole is maybe 200 feet deep. There are some rock carvings on the wall face of this sinkhole, one of a family of six (said to be Mother, Dad and Children) and another of a Roman Soldier in full regalia. Like the others we saw earlier in the day, there are numerous ruins located around the rim of this hole. Two ruins, a Byzantine Church and a Tower of Zeus Olbios, are so close to the rim that it leads one to question who would possibly have transported and laid the stone work for these structures. These two ruins and many other structures are in various stages of collapse. Numerous tombs are scattered about the property as well and as we were walking amongst these ruins there were goats wandering about. This whole area is pretty much a field of ruins. The whole of Turkey in this region of "Cilician" is strewn with antiquities. These too, are the types of sites where it is very difficult to walk very far in any direction without stepping on a piece of ancient history!

That does it for this go, our light has fast moved away and we must now make our way back down the hillside to the coast road. The day has been full and the tour has been more than worth the cost. We return home in the darkness.




Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya
Birsen's Horizons
Fred's Trip Logs
Bahar's Views on...
Business World
From Members' Pen
Interviews with Members
Moms & Kids Corner
Pets with Dr. Demirel
The archives of The Guide
The Archives of Turkishtime
Teen's world

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Fred's Trip Logs
Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya

Focus On
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