April 9, 2010 (Friday)

Tarsus. Up at 6:00 am and downstairs for breakfast at the Hilton Adana where we finally crashed after yesterday’s hard travel with so many miscues. Very large, good breakfast buffet. Now, we’re off to Tarsus. We get directions from the desk to get to the main highway D400 out of Adana, and off we go north to Tarsus, birthplace of the apostle Paul, to find the Tarsus Museum. Getting to the highway is pretty easy, and, lo and behold, the Garmin is working! Maybe things are looking up. But when we get to Tarsus, the Garmin becomes useless again. So frustrating . . . the streets are unmarked, small, and confusing, but we finally find our sabbatical target: the Tarsus archeological museum, rarely visited by any tour groups to Turkey.


Tarsus Museum. The museum is small, no admission fee, and the hours are Monday–Friday 8:30–12:00 and 1:00–5:00 pm. Holdings are few, but some are first century AD, including some pottery, vases, jewelry, statuary, and coins. The coins are not marked well, and the cabinets are dark. The museum clearly has little budget. We have an almost comical routine with the museum’s motion lights. Since the exhibits are lighted by motion lights, we have to keep moving around in constant motion like the sharks in the Gulf of Mexico tank at the Aquarium of the Americas so the lights will stay on for Jerry to take pics. After we finish, the young lady at the desk has observed our keen interest in their little museum and is very nice and gives us lots of brochures about various places in Turkey and a poster of the 1000-year anniversary the celebration of Paul.

Antakya. We plan to come back though Tarsus to do more touring, but we staged ourselves in Adana to be within striking distance of a day trip down to ancient Antioch of Syria (today part of Turkey, but the modern Syrian border is only 12 miles away). OK, the Garmin is as worthless as a brick, interminably unable to get a satellite fix, and the streets are unmarked, so now how do we get back to the highway so we can get on our way for the long push down to Antioch? After many wrong turns, we finally see a sign back to Adana and find our main D400 highway. Out on the main highway, the Garmin finally awakens out of its comatose state, gets its bearings, and becomes functional again. The Garmin provides us directions down to Antakya, the modern name for ancient Antioch of Syria.

After about a 2 ½ hour drive, we get to Antakya about 12:30 pm and have similar issues with finding our sabbatical target: the archeological museum. The Garmin is useless in the city, not because the unit does not have a satellite fix, but because Turkey has yet to discover labeling their street names with signs big enough actually to read sitting in a car. So, round and round we go. Very frustrating. We have the sinking feeling we have traveled for hours only to have wasted our time having reached our destination but completely clueless where we are or how to get to a specific location in this bustling, crowded, very Muslim and very foreign city. We finally see a policeman, stop, and ask directions. The English exchange is quite labored, but we find out we think we are close. We finally see the museum down the way, but now, where do we put this car? No on street parking, and no parking lots are apparent. We go round and round looking for a solution, but being careful not to stray too far from the museum to get lost on these twisting, turning streets up and down hills. Finally we do find a car park (a little gravel area behind a rock wall—that’s city parking in Antakya!).

Hatay Archeological Museum. The museum is wonderful. Filled with mosaics, one of world’s best and most extensive collection, and a major surprise, a beautiful sarcophagus with the contents still in tact (very, very rare; almost always they are disturbed over the centuries, or robbed). The bones and jewelry found inside are on display. The occupants were an adult male and female and a young female of Alpine nationality. We spent two hours in the museum (2:04 pm to 4:07 pm). Took a few pictures outside of the museum entrance and the city round-about traffic circle in front to give others trying to find the place visual “location” information.

We spent a little time trying to decide if we should try do anything else in Antioch before hitting the road again for the long ride back to Adana. The day is late, and very few ancient remains are left from first-century Antioch, one of the earliest ancient centers of the Christian movement. We have a sense of such stark contrast between then and now, a completely Muslim city with minarets rising on every other corner. Having no good guides, maps, or schematics to how to get to anything of interest left, we felt we just would be wasting our time and decide to head back to Adana.

Adana. We are able to navigate back out to the main highway out of Antakya. The Garmin is working and leading us home to the Adana Hilton hotel. We did have one heart-stopping moment on the drive back. Tooling down the highway on cruise control at highway speeds, an 18 wheeler in front of us blew a tire! Jerry reacted with the reflexes of a cat, safely steering us away and around all the flying rubber at high speed! Whew! What a feat of driving skill. After several hours, we are back at the Adana Hilton and have a wonderful dinner in the hotel restaurant. I had salmon, and Jerry had mixed grill. So delicious!

Back in our room, we review tomorrow’s schedule and try to figure out how we will find our hardest target of the day, the ancient tel (mound) of Derbe, the termination point of Paul’s first missionary journey. We decide we’ll try the GPS in the morning to see if she gets a satellite fix. As a backup plan, before we leave the hotel, we will go to the hotel’s business center and print additional Google map information. (Jerry already had located what he was pretty sure was the tel through research before the trip and studying Google maps.) In addition, we will go to Tarsus again, but this time to take in a few sights around town. We then plan to make our way through the Cilician Gates, the ancient pass through the Taurus Mountains, and on to Derbe. We then will finish the day’s adventure on to our hotel in Karaman, the modern city near the tel of Derbe. We have quite the ambitious itinerary for tomorrow! I hope we can make our destination. Finally, to bed.

For a video of the Tarsus and Antakya action today:

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