“I’m singing in the rain…” in Perge

Monday, 3rd November, 2012
Antalya and Perge

The photos for 3rd December are in two sets for you to view on my dropbox site: click here to view the first and “>here to view the second. If you don’t have Dropbox, and want to get it, use this link to sign up and you and I will both get a bonus amount of free storage space.

Today’s entry in this travelogue should be quite short, as today was meant to be a “rest day” with only a few events, starting at 10am in the morning and ending about 3:30pm.

Fewer events than expected, it turned out. We were supposed to be visiting the site of the ancient city of Perge, where St Paul landed from Cyprus and spent a little time on his first missionary journey. After that we would go to the local Archaeological Museum – winner recently of Europe’s “best museum” award. I was looking forward to this especially, as I am reading “In the Steps of Paul” by Peter Walker and he had highly recommended it as well. Then we were to have some rest at the hotel. (A little note about one “exhibition” at the museum: they have some bone fragments of St Nicholas of Myra – Santa Claus – on display! Apparently these were stolen from the tomb in Bari by some Italians and brought to Turkey, and they found their way into the Museum. I was a bit disturbed by this – although one could say that what is good for Mohammed is good for St Nicholas. Hakan said there had been a number of protests from the Vatican and the Greek Patriarchate asking for them to be returned, and he believes that the negotiations are reaching a conclusion for this to happen. Bloody good thing too.)

Hakan had told us last night to expect rain today, and I checked the detailed weather report on my iPhone weather app when I woke: 100% chance of heavy rain all morning and then sunshine and 20 degrees from noon onwards. I determined to ask Hakan if we could reverse our program for the day, so that we could explore Perge in the sunshine rather than in the rain, but when I requested this change in our itinerary, he made it clear that a change was impossible. He assured me it could rain all day and there could be the chance of flooding at the Perge site which would make a visit later in the day impossible. As we rode the bus out to the site, the rain was pelting down. “This is nothing; it can really rain here”, he assured us.

So arriving at Perge in the pouring rain, we donned our wet weather gear and headed out. They were selling umbrellas at the kiosk, so in addition to my wet weather poncho, I bought one of these as well. Note to self: next time bring a pair of waterproof trousers and gumboots too… A few of the group elected not to venture out into the rain, but the more intrepid would not be deterred, myself among them. My shoes and lower trousers were soaked through by the time we had entered the site. The hardest thing was taking photos in the rain (another note to self: bring a waterproof camera), so I contented myself with hiding in the shelter of the arches to take pictures.

My deepest interest was in the ruined basilicas, from the 6th century, but there was much else to see: a splendid agora and street ways, Roman baths (which Rosemary was delighted to find with water in them, thanks to the rain!), two gates (one Roman and one Hellenistic – the latter currently being reconstructed to show the towers doing what they do best, ie. towering). Aside from the two basilicas, I discovered another small chapel (on the East side of the main street just before the cross roads), which was easy to identify, but not marked on the map I had. While clambering about on the rocks, I slipped and cut both my hands, not too deeply, but the blood was now mixing with the water running down my poncho.

The acropolis of the city loomed high above the whole site, and I determined to see what I could of it, but there seemed no way up (the sides were steep and the covered with thick reeds). I walked around onto the road going around the city, leaving the enclosure via a narrow path and rickety wooden bridge over a raging channel. I was on the farther side when the rain stopped and the sun came out, and still no sign of an ascent. Then my phone rang with a text message and I looked at my watch – it was already 12noon, the time when we were supposed to be back at the bus. Not wanting to incur the wrath of the venerable tour guide, nor wanting to miss out on the museum, I rushed back in the now steamy warm sunshine – a distance of about 1500m. I was puffed out and very sweaty by the time I made it back to the bus.

Only to be given the news that it was now the winter season and in winter the museum was closed on Mondays… Not happy, Jan.

We were then taken to view the ancient harbour in Antalya, the very same one that Paul and Barnabas and Mark arrived at in about 46AD, and still being used as a marina. Some of the group wanted to stay to explore the old city a little more and to share taxis back to the hotel. I chose to go with them, and we made a short toilet stop first. When I came out of the toilet before the others, I started to look in a souvenir shop. I was particularly interested in a number of barrels of the granular instant “tea” that he was selling. Everyone knows about “apple tea” in Turkey, but this guy had a couple of other kinds, including a pomegranate tea and one he called “sultan tea”. He made up a cup and brought it to me to taste. When I came out of the shop and returned to our meeting place, the others were gone. Well. Okay. I can handle this, I thought, I will just see what there is to see of the harbour and then I will walk back, a distance of about 10km. (I found out later that the group thought I had stopped to buy a cup of tea and wanted to go off on my own.) I thought that the distance was only 6kms, so I decided to have a look around the old harbour and then start off on my way. It would have been a very enjoyable walk, if I hadn’t had my full back pack with me. Ah well, I thought, if the Romans could do it in their forced marches, and if Paul and Barnabas could do it (even after being stoned) I could do it.

The walk was indeed a pleasant one, as there is a paved walkway all the way along the beachfront. This also made finding my hotel easy – all I had to do was keep walking west until I came to it. The beach was impossible for walking – a kind of loose gravel and pebbles. The tide was coming in anyway, and the water was very rough with the strong breeze blowing in over the Mediterranean (or, as the locals aptly call it, the Turquoise Sea). Obviously in the height of holiday season there is a roaring trade done here, as the walk was lined with bars and restaurants, now mainly closed up for the winter. There were a few people about, but it was fairly quiet. The real highlight of the walk was watching the sun setting in the storm clouds above the truly majestic mountains on the horizon. I took many photos, as you will see if you take a look at the Dropbox link above, just to try to catch the character of this wild beauty. I saw a McDonalds sign on one side of the road, and decided to stop for a cheap lunch. When I entered the area where the McDonalds were housed, I noticed that there was also a pizza shop and a kebab shop. Here I had a meat roll and a bottle of water for about $4.50. The thing about the Turkish lira is that all prices here are about what you would expect to find in Australian dollars – and when I first travelled to Turkey the dollar and the lira were about the same. But now of course, the dollar is almost double in value so food and beverages are quite cheap. A cup of tea, for instance, is 1 lira, about 50c. A McHappy meal is about 7 lira, so about half the price that it is in Australia (my kids would be in heaven here).

I walked up the drive into the hotel, a little footsore, but still going strong, just as the rest of the party from whom I was split earlier arrived by taxi (they paid 30 lira for the trip, so that was quite cheap too). Feeling hot and a bit steamy in my still wet trousers and shoes, I went up to the bar and asked for a beer. “Big or small?”, they asked. Big, I decided, and was poured a litre mug! I took this out onto the terrace and began uploading my photos from the day and writing this story up. I packed it in with just enough time to have a nice hot bath, get into some fresh clothes, and go down to join the group for our debriefing session before mass. We are just over half of the way into our trip, and today was a little wearing, so we had a long talk about how we were travelling. For most, today has been a relaxing day, but there were some wishes that it could have been a bit different. Rosemary stressed that we had to stay according to schedule and couldn’t ask for last minute changes to the itinerary. We have to trust that our tour leaders and guides know what is best.

It will be another early leave in the morning, so I am glad that I have not had a lot to write about and can get a relatively early night to rest my feet. I hope my shoes are dry by morning….

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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One Response to “I’m singing in the rain…” in Perge

  1. Matthias says:

    i was at a Catholic Social services of Victoria breakfast this morning and sat next to mary long and a colleague of hers from Central Catholic Bookshop. We all wondered if you would be turing this travelogue into hard copy??!
    Safe journey David

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