Antakya – undiscovered Turkey

Actually,  after  Cappadocia tour,  our major plan was to focus on : how , where and if we were able to cross Turkish-Syrian border, especially as approximately at the same time Turkish Military Jet was shot down  by Syrian Air Defences. We got scared that we would not beallowed to enter Syria as situation there had strengthened. We spent more or less a week driving around Turkish and Syrian Border doing research and thinking about our options.

We have never mentioned about this yet, but during our stay in Turkey most of the time we were doing urban camping and in our way it means – sleeping in Rusty on petrol stations!!! Yes I know it sounds crazy, but in Turkey, it worked perfectly – it was for free, safe as there was always someone to serve customers and watch what’s going around and we did have access to the bathroom, which were most of the time very clean. Turkish people, as we managed to already find out, are very nice and hospitable. And here in Antakya (called Hatay as well) while we were camping on one M-OIL petrol station we met Yusuf, his co-workers and his amazing family. Yusuf not only didn’t mind that we stayed for the night at “his” petrol station but also he invited us for a lovely Turkish Coffee and fed us with very juicy watermelon. Instead of going to sleep we had a proper petrol station party. Next morning, the first thing we heard was knocking to our Van. That was Yusuf with fresh & strong coffees for a proper wake-up.  It was special to us. He also taught us a new word in Turkish  – arkadaş (arkadash) – which means “a friend”. It was even more special to us.

After saying good bye to lovely people on M-Oil fuel station we went towards Syrian border, but we sort of got lost in Antakya. Surpassingly we met Yusuf again, who invited us home. We got introduced to the whole of his family and even neighbors and also we got invited for a lovely breakfast. Our communication was very creative – of course– sign language rocked, but apart from this, our conversation was based on looking for words in a Turkish-English dictionary – which turned out very handy and smart!

We spent an amazing day with Yusuf’s family. In the afternoon we were taken to Harbiye. You haven’t heard about this place? Neither did us, till that day as that place is not occupied by foreign tourists, which makes it unique and sort of local. Harbiye is located in the suburbs of Antakia and it is perched on a steep forested hillside looking towards the Mediterranean Sea. In Roman times it was called Daphne (laurel)…With reference to mythology that it was the place where a horny Zeus, pursuing the nymph Daphne, caught her and tuned into a laurel tree.  To the Romans, Daphne was a place of resort for the rich and powerful of Antioch-ad-Orontes (Today Antakya).

Harbiye is a modern cityscape, but your real reason for visiting is a steep forested valley with deep shadows, numerous waterfalls, water courses and plenty of restaurants, where tables and chairs are set by the water, or even right in the water. During the blazing heat this place would be your seventh heaven. Definitely recommended!!!

We are very grateful to the Yusuf and his family for hospitality, showing us amazing place and the whole experience. Thank you!

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