Monday, October 6, 2008

The Turkey Travel Bug

I've noticed a pattern developing over the last few years: By the time April comes around and courses are done for the year, leaving a mountain of marking in their wake, I come down with the travel bug.

Two years ago, we responded by taking a two-week trip to Turkey with our friends D&D. The trip fulfilled one of my long-standing dreams, and the resulting Turkey Travelogue jump-started this blog. Next year I will be going with a team from Briercrest on a tour of Israel. This spring--when I conceived this post--I found myself dreaming about returning to Turkey and the Middle East for a more extensive, more rugged, Greco-Roman/Early Christian archaeological extravaganza.

One can, of course, go on a guided tour. These handle a lot of the logistical details and minimize down-time between sites. Assuming you like the itinerary, they take you where you want to go. But they are expensive, they tend to restrict the amount of time you can spend at any given site, and most tours "In the footsteps of Saint Paul"--including this one that looks decent--don't actually follow Paul's itinerary through what is now Eastern Turkey. Instead, they focus on the popular sites along the Aegean that we visited, plus a dip down to Antalya on the Mediterranean. (These two tour options look more promising.)

If you are fortunate enough to travel with someone who knows how to get around in Turkey (as we were), you can do a trip on your own time for a lot less money, replacing the guide with a guidebook or two, such as the excellent Blue Guide, or one more focused on early Christianity such as Every Pilgrim's Guide to the Journeys of the Apostles or A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey. (I haven't seen the latter two.) For those interested in hiking, there is actually a 500km St. Paul Trail that follows parts of Paul's first missionary journey, and another 509km hiking trail that ends near ancient Perga in Pamphylia (modern day Antalya). The only down-side to this option is that you are limited by public transport, and end up spending many hours waiting for bus connections to major centers.

A more efficient alternative would be to rent a vehicle (and probably hire a Turkish driver). My dream itinerary would follow Paul's travels fairly closely, with stops at other ancient Greco-Roman sites, some of which are more valuable for understanding the ancient context of early Christianity. Since I'm dreaming, I'll include ancient Damascus and Antioch in Syria, as well as sites in Lebanon.

My dream tour would include a small group of people who share my enthusiasm for ancient ruins...and a good source of funding.

Want to come along?

1 comment:

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