After a somewhat rough landing (the crowded dolmus toting us over the mountains from Iskenderun to Antakya pulled over somewhere in the city limits, summarily dumped us out, and left us standing in the middle of a bewildering industrial area nowhere on our guidebook map, after which we had to drag our luggage through pedestrian and traffic congested streets for a fair bit before collapsing into a wheeled- duffle-bag dogpile while deciding to send Byron off to suss out hotels, all of which reported in as crazily more expensive than anyone had led us to expect…and while all of the aforementioned is actually beginning to feel like a predictable drill, we had today the added live wire of a seven-year-old with a 103 degree fever being asked to hesh up, carry the camera bag, and wait, MORE, YES, EVEN LONGER, for Daddy to come back),
we’re spending two nights in Antakya, known in Roman times as Antioch–but more importantly known as the first place on the planet where followers of Christ were called Christians and where I proved guilty of taking that lord’s name in vain at least ten times before Byron returned with news of jaw-dropping hotel rates and “only five more blocks walk,” at which point Names in Vain morphed into outright trucker talk.
Once we got settled into an overpriced “suite” that has a ceiling made of styrofoam, and once we had a restorative meal of my new favorite food, yogurt-rice-mint soup (here it’s served with bulghur dumplings stuffed with lamb and walnuts swimming in the mix), I was able to concentrate on the particulars of this town’s history. For example, a major destination here is St. Peter’s Church. The Wikipoodle describes it thusly:
“The Church of Saint Peter (St. Peter’s Cave Church, Cave-Church of St. Peter) near Antakya (Antioch), Turkey, is composed of a cave carved into the mountainside on Mount Starius with a depth of 13 m, a width of 9.5 m and a height of 7 m. This cave, which was used by the first Christians in the Antakya region, is one of Christianity’s oldest churches.
The founding of the church in Antioch can be traced to the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles (11:25-27) where it is related that Barnabas travelled to Tarsus to bring Paul the Apostle there. They worked for one year with the nascent Christian community, and there the converts were called Christians for the first time in history. Christian tradition considers Peter, the first Apostle, as the founder of the church of Antioch, and the first priest of the Christian population that was established there; the Church of St. Peter is on the spot where he first preached the Gospel in Antioch.
Only some pieces of floor mosaics, and traces of frescoes on the right side of the altar have been preserved that date from the early period of the church. It is thought that the tunnel inside which opens to the mountain side served the Christians to evacuate the church in case of sudden raids and attacks. Water that seeps from the nearby rocks was gathered inside for drinking purposes, and was also used for baptisms. The collection of water, which visitors drank and collected to give to those who were ill (with the belief that it was healing and curative), has lessened as a result of recent earthquakes.
On top of the stone altar located in the middle of the church is a stonework platform that was placed there in memory of the Saint Peter’s Platform Holiday which was celebrated every 21 February in Antakya. The marble statue of Saint Peter on top of the altar was placed there in 1932. Crusaders who captured Antakya in 1098 lengthened the church by a few metres and connected it with two arches to the facade. This facade was rebuilt in 1863 by the Capuchin Friars who were doing restoration work on the orders of Pope Pius IX. French Emperor Napoleon III also contributed to the restoration.”
So, yea, you know, we might see that.
But speaking of mosaics, and I believe Wikipedia was, today we made the rocky trip to Antakya worthwhile by spending some time in the famed Antakya Mozaik Müzesi, which is regarded as one of the best mosaic museums in the world.
Or at least in cities where followers of Jesus were first called Christians, those devout people who had children who had children who had children who had children who grew up to be Muslims that put bulghur dumplings into soup.
The great thing about a mosaics museum is that everyone in our family enjoys it–at least for a bit, which is all we can reasonably ask.
So we gaped at all the tiny tiles made into art, and then we had coffee and cheesecake, and then we wandered around the bazaar and watched nice men make bready foods, and then we went to a grocery store to find jam to complement our dinner peanut butter (and beer to soothe Mommy’s nerves),
and then, an hour later, back in the hotel room,
Paco barfed all over the rug and bedspread.