Webmaster's Note: Because the BikeAbout team is traveling in smaller groups for a little while, we have changed the format of the journal slightly. The dispatches for Turkey will be presented in geographical rather than chronological order. To view the chronological order, go to the itinerary.

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While Corinne and andrEa are cycling from Mugla to Milas, Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic are traveling along Turkey's Mediterranean coast:

topics: Adana kebab (food), Antioch, Saint Peter; jump to dispatch

Rider Notes: February 13, 1998

Food of the Day: Adana kebab

Everyone knows what a kebab is, right? A bunch of stuff — usually meat and some vegetables — stuck onto a skewer and then cooked over an open flame. Delicious. Well, kebabs are a Turkish specialty. And the Adana kebab is a kebab specialty that took its name from the city in which we will spend the night tonight. An all-meat kebab, it is highly spiced. Well, it has many spices, but it is not too hot to handle.

Person of the Day: Saint Peter

Saint Peter, the foremost of Christ's disciples, is known for a number of things: vainly trying to protect Christ against the soldiers who came to arrest him, betraying him by claiming not to have known him, and being the first person Christ is said to have visited after the Resurrection.

But Peter is really also a bit of a shadowy figure in the early Christian world. All that is concretely known about him is what has been learned in several letters written by Paul (as in, the disciple Paul, not Paul of Tarsus), two letters written by someone who called himself Peter (but was not Saint Peter), a reference by a Roman presbyter to the tomb of Peter on a Vatican hill, and, perhaps most importantly, the four canonical Gospels and Acts of the Apostles.

So what do we know? Peter was called by Jesus to be among the 12 original disciples, of which he is considered to be the most prominent, often serving as their spokesperson. Despite denying his association with Jesus (after the latter's arrest), it was before Peter that Jesus first appeared after rising from the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:3; Luke 24:34). Peter played a particularly important part in the early days of the church, especially in Jerusalem where he undertook the task of preaching the gospel to his fellow Jews. Eventually, Peter also came to speak on the behalf of all the Gentiles, and strongly defended their right to worship without having to obey the legal and ritual beliefs of Judaism at that time.

It is not surprising then that Peter is viewed as the rock upon which the church was founded (Matthew 16:16-19 — "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church"), in this sense endowing him with the authority of the leadership of the church. Actually this brings up another aspect of Peter's story: His name is not really Peter, it is Simon. Seriously. This is where historians have some trouble extracting the historical Peter from the legend. In the Gospels, Peter is actually known as Simon. In fact, the name "Peter" did not even exist until Simon took it. (Are you confused yet?) "Peter" is derived from the Greek word petros, meaning "rock." While petros was in common use (after all, Greece is full of rocks), it was not used as a personal name until Peter came along. It seems that the symbolic name came about because the resurrected Jesus, by first appearing to Simon (that is to say, Peter), appointed him as the foundation stone of the church.

Regardless of the stories told, most people agree that Peter was a great teacher and missionary for the church in its earliest days. He is known to have traveled widely, usually with his wife. He became its first bishop at Antioch (see the Place of the Day) and then, as Roman Catholics believe, the first bishop — and therefore Pope (despite the fact that he was married) — of Rome. Peter's martyr's death in Rome sometime around 64 AD gave strength to the "foundation stone" concept and resulted in the theory of "apostolic succession," by which the bishop of Rome came to be regarded as the leader of the most prominent church in the Christian world. In St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, there is a bronze statue of Peter, and the pope's altar rises above the spot where Peter is believed to have been buried.

Place of the Day: Ancient Antioch (Antakya)

Today's Antakya is the famous Antioch of antiquity. Located in the Hatay province of southern Turkey, it lies along the Orontes River (today called the Asi River click to view a photograph) about 30 km (19 mi) from the shores of the Mediterranean.

The ancient city of Antioch was much bigger than the present-day city, very impressive considering the size of today's Antakya. click to view a photograph We are just not in the habit of imagining an ancient city of such size. But Antioch was big . . . and important.

Steven Runciman describes it in the following way in his The First Crusade (p. 128):

The houses and bazaars of Antioch covered a plain nearly three miles long and a mile deep between the Orontes and Mount Silpius; and the villas and palaces of the wealthy dotted the hillside. Round it all rose the huge fortifications constructed by Justinian and repaired only a century ago by the Byzantines with the latest devices of their technical skills. To the north the walls rose out of the low marshy ground along the river, but to the east and west they climbed steeply up the slopes of the mountain, and to the south they ran along the summit of the ridge . . . , and culminated in the superb citadel a thousand feet above the town. Four hundred towers rose from them . . . .

Antioch was founded in 300 BC by Seleucus I after the death of Alexander the Great and the division of the Mediterranean portion of his great empire into two parts under the rule of two of his former generals — Ptolemy who created the Ptolemic Empire to the south, and Seleucus who created the Seleucid Empire to the north. Antioch, located at a caravan route crossroads, became a center of commerce and boasted magnificent architecture. It grew to be one of the three capital cities of the Seleucid Empire and the chief city of Asia. Under the Roman Empire, it was actually the third city in the world, after Rome and Alexandria! Before Constantinople (today's Istanbul), Antioch was the eastern capital of the Roman Empire and developed accordingly.

In 260 AD, Antioch fell to the Persians. Over the next 13 centuries it was conquered by Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, Frankish Crusaders, and Egyptians. War and persistent earthquakes then reduced the once great city to relative unimportance from which it has never recovered. And, unfortunately, other than portions of the city's walls (once perhaps 30,000 meters [19 miles] long), catacombs, and aqueducts, little remains of the once-spectacular metropolis.

Antioch was of particular importance to Christians. Saint Peter (see the Person of the Day), first of Christ's apostles, came to Antioch, preached, and became the very first bishop. The grotto in which he preached had a church built within it by the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. Thus, Antioch became the greatest Christian center outside of then Palestine. All of the Apostles began their missionary journeys after preaching at Antioch.

Group Dispatch, February 13

picture of Ethan

At 6:30 a.m., Ethan and Padraic staggered off their bus in Adana, thus completing their 14-hour travel odyssey. Both the rising sun and the warmer air heralded a welcome change in climate from the chills of Istanbul. Still, it was early, nippy, and they had no idea where they were. Nevertheless, after the usual bit of confusion, they succeeded in getting to the center (s(h)ehir merkezi in Turkish) of Adana click to view a photograph and settled in a small restaurant for some good wake-up food.

They sat for a moment and appreciated the early-morning feel of the twelfth country they have visited since September when this all began. After such a long time in the Middle East, Turkey, with its distinctly more European atmosphere, was a nice change. Adana, as Turkey's fourth largest city, had a comfortable feel to it.

However, the moment of appreciation did not last too long since the duo had some planning to do. First order of business was to leave a note for Anthony at the tourist information office. The plans they had hastily made with Anthony when they split at the Syrian border had him spending last night in Iskenderun and then all day today cycling to Adana. Ethan and Padraic intended to find a hotel, leave their stuff, and make the round-trip by bus to Antakya (the site of ancient Antioch, see the Place of the Day). Perhaps they would see Anthony on the road from the bus and then let him know where he could find them!

Second, Ethan and Padraic had to plan the route ahead. Since delays in the Middle East and unforeseen hindrances on Cyprus had cost the group a great deal of time and left them in two teams, it had been decided that Corinne and andrEa should begin their Turkish leg alone from where their ferry from Rhodes took them — Marmaris, located on the southern edge of the Turkish Aegean coast — and travel north to Istanbul. Ethan, Padraic and Anthony, meanwhile, would simultaneously cover the whole of the southern Turkish Mediterranean coast from Adana to near Marmaris (and then speed north to Istanbul via on public transportation). While the prospect intrigued the guys, it had its challenges as well: almost 1000 km of notoriously hilly coast that would have to be finished in about 10 days! Unfortunately, this would not leave a lot of time for site or school visits.

Just after 9 a.m., Ethan headed off to the tourist information office to check there just in case (before finding a hotel) and leave a message for Anthony. When whom should he find wandering through the apparently unmanned offices but, yes, good ol' Mr. Anthony Ziehmke himself, a day ahead of schedule! He looked a bit haggard and unshaven, and very relieved to see Ethan, who was equally glad to learn that Anthony had made it through Syria all in one piece. The developing threat of war in Iraq has been in the back of all of our minds and a solo American cyclist in Syria was not necessarily something any of us would want to have to be forever. Now that all three of us were "safely" gathered in Turkey, we could turn west and put distance between us and the brewing conflict in the Gulf.

Ethan led Anthony to the restaurant in which Padraic was waiting, where Anthony also enjoyed a yummy and oily egg. Anthony then brought us all to his hotel, which was only a few doors down. If Anthony had only looked left when he walked into the street, he might actually have seen our bikes!

With all the precious BikeAbout equipment carefully stowed, Anthony gladly joined his two rediscovered friends for the round-trip bus ride to Antakya. Even though he had already spent the night there two nights ago, he had not had time to see any of the sights and jumped at the chance. Especially since it would be by bus. (He was a bit weary of cycling. Yes, even macho man, long-legged, Syria-boasting, spoke-breaking, flat-making Anthony could use a day off his bike!)

The bus ride to Antakya was fascinating. A trip through the flat stretches of the coastal area surrounding the Gulf of Iskenderun and peppered by sudden and isolated rock outcroppings or short but rough chains of mountains. Ethan, nose pressed to the glass, tried to imagine how this all must have looked to travelers a thousand or two thousand years ago, without the asphalt and industry, without the railroad tracks and electric wires, without most of the people. This particular plot of land had been tramped upon by the Hittites, the armies of Alexander the Great, the traders of the Silk Route, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, and many others. Ethan pondered the forces of Alexander the Great amassed on the Plain of Issos before the troops of Darius III of Persia in 333 BC. Campfires burning, soldiers preparing food, the sounds of horses and of metal smiths pounding armor into shape. It must have been incredible . . . and terrifying. Ethan created imaginary ranks and files of thousands of travel-weary, war-torn Crusaders in 1098 marching south to Antioch to partake in the siege there. His thoughts couldn't help but turn to the planes that would roar overhead if the U.S. carried out its plans for bombing Iraq.

Today, though, there are only the stone remains of Hittite settlements, Roman cities, and Byzantine and Crusader fortresses. The latter were often seen atop nearby hills, guarding this heavily traveled road toward the Middle East and the Holy Land.

When the threesome arrived in Antakya, they immediately struck out for Saint Peter's Church. A stroll through the modern and industrial city click to view a photograph (that really reveals none of its ancient splendor) brought them to the foot of nearby mountains click to view a photograph, a short climb up which led to a simple façade click to view a photograph — built by Crusaders in the 12th–13th centuries — marking the grotto where Saint Peter preached and was established as Christendom's first bishop (see the Person of the Day). Behind the façade, there is only a rough-hewn cavern with a few vestiges of its more illustrious past (the faint colors of a few faded frescoes, the few tiles of a worn floor mosaic). Still, as one of the few pieces of this city's past that remain, it gives some credence to Antioch's history.

On the way down from the church, the guys were besieged by a group of school boys that insisted on leading them to something sign-posted as the "Boatman of Hell." They were skeptical, but followed along. Like billy goats, they scampered after the kids until the whole group stood before two heavily eroded and unfinished figures carved into the mountainside. click to view a photograph Legend has it that during the reign of Seleucid leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes, in the 2nd century BC, Antioch was hit by a terrible plague. A soothsayer informed the leader that in order to end the plague, a statue would have to be carved to Charon (the boatman who carries souls to the underworld). So the figure was carved, as well as that of a woman's bust, which may be of Hierapolis, a Syrian goddess. One can only assume the plague ended.

From that elevation the guys also enjoyed an outstanding view over the modern city click to view a photograph, a city which is apparently not as extensive as ancient Antioch was. What an incredible place the old city must have been, complete with villas, monuments, and wide, colonnaded streets.

Back in town, the trio strolled through the bazaar and into the center click to view a photograph, where Anthony bumped into someone he had met during his earlier passage through Antakya. He and Anthony led Ethan and Padraic back to a street-side vendor who made some excellent spicy köfte.

While they were standing around chewing on their snacks, they beheld what they learned is a regular Friday afternoon occurrence. First a small group of soldiers and an army band marched in formation through the streets up to the monument in the middle of the town's central square, or, actually a circle. click to view a photograph Then another band arrived from what was probably the municipal building. When both groups were assembled, one of the band leaders made a gesture and everything came to a stop. Everything! The traffic stopped where it was, the people stopped walking and talking. Everyone faced the center where the soldiers were standing at attention. Even all radios and other noise-making machines were turned off. For a moment, it was completely silent. And then the bands played the Turkish national anthem. Following that, everything resumed as normal.

With the setting sun, the guys returned to the bus station and hopped a ride back to Adana. Ethan and Padraic, exhausted from the previous night's fitful sleep, snoozed like babies. Back in Adana, all three enjoyed a full meal and then returned to their hotel for well-deserved rest. This was particularly important since starting tomorrow, they will have a tough schedule of many long and hilly rides without much room for rest days.

Meanwhile, the ladies have cycled from Mugla to Milas. You can read about their journey in their February 13-14 dispatch.

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