We spent Christmas weekend in Antakya and Gaziantep, assisted by Eric's able planning and guidance. We flew in to Antep early on the morning of the 24th and drove a rental car to Antakya, following the backroads that hug the Syrian border. Once we got to Antakya, we explored the Arab-style old city, found its hidden churches, and marvelled at the French colonial buildings. Due to a particularly late night before we flew, we didn't make it to Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter's church, instead sleeping for about 13 hours. Whoops! When we woke up well-rested on Christmas Day, we moved on to the Mediterranean coast about 40 kilometers away, where we visited the only remaining Armenian village in Turkey and hiked through a Roman tunnel at sunset by iPhone light - perhaps not the smartest thing we've ever done, but hey, we're resourceful!
I won't lie, one of the primary reasons we went to Antep was to visit Imam Cagdas, a famous restaurant that may be Eric's favorite place in Turkey. I can't say that I blame him, either; we picked our hotel based on its proximity to the restaurant, and we ate every meal there. Many of the city's attractions were closed on our Sunday in town, but we did get to visit the castle in the center of town, which houses a museum of the city's resistance to British and French forces during Turkey's war of independence. We happened to be in town over the anniversary of the city's liberation in 1922, which meant the museum had an extra-special dose of local hagiography, we'll call it. Still, it was a lot of fun - and Eric and I enjoyed using the museum's exhibits and panels as a lens for explaining modern Turkish history to Jon. (Yes, we're nerds. Leave us alone.)
There are too many stories from Jon's visit and our trip to list here, but let me give you a few ideas.
- A tasting menu at one of the city's top restaurants, when we were the only ones there
- Wine tastings in the cellar of a Greek restaurant
- Initiating hostilities against Syria
- Getting thrown out of an Orthodox church - twice
- Discussing the geology of terrorism
- Explaining the finer points of Turkish fashion
- Discussing ruminant molar morphology while other tourists looked on in horror
- Dipping our toes in the Mediterranean
- Hatay's Anal Market
- Getting powerfully confused (not getting lost)
- Ridiculous photos (selection here)
- Squat toilets
- Confusing the hell out of small-town shopkeepers when three obvious foreigners walk in speaking Turkish (Jon faked it well)
- The food. Oh my God, the food in this country is inescapably delicious.