Yesterday, we ventured beyond the Incirlik Air Base gates to the nearby city of Tarsus, hometown of Saint Paul. This was our first adventure on our own; just the three of us! Armed with a phrase book, some Turkish Lira, an adventurous spirit, and a roll of toilet paper-just in case- we set off on our way!
Dan was a natural at driving in Turkey. It was his first time, but he quickly caught on to the unpredictable craziness and was even liberally honking his horn like a Turk in no time! Thank You, God, for keeping us safe! It was the Feast Day of the Guardian Angels, so we felt like we were in good hands.
Dan downloaded maps of Turkey into our GPS, which was a lifesaver! We arrived in Tarsus, safe and sound, and found a parking lot. As we stepped out of the car, we heard the sounds of roosters crowing and a carpenter tapping a hammer. We saw several Turkish old men relaxing around a card table near the road playing a traditional Turkish dice game and eating pomegranates. It was not hard to picture Saint Paul walking through the streets of this quaint little town.
Our first stop, Saint Paul's Well. This well was around during the time of Saint Paul, so you can bet that Saint Paul stopped to drink water here often! After roaming up and down several cobblestone roads we found our way to this holy landmark. As we approached, I reminded myself over and over...Saint Paul walked here. It was incredible.
When we first arrived, we were the only ones there so we eagerly raced to the well, said some prayers, and started snapping photos. The well had a bucket full of water perched on top of it. Saint Paul's Well water.
Peter joyfully splashed his hand in the bucket while we debated whether or not we should take some of this holy water with us. We concluded that Saint Paul would approve and we eagerly dipped our empty water bottle into the bucket. The very next moment, we heard a man yelling in Turkish. He raced toward us, grabbed the water bottle from Dan, and dumped it out. Gulp. "Sorry, sorry!" we pleaded as we sheepishly backed away. The man gestured toward the well, lifted the metal lid, and cranked the handle to lower the bucket into the well. Moments later, the bucket returned, full of fresh water from the well. He motioned to Dan to lower his water bottle into the bucket to retrieve fresh water from the well.
"Tesekkur ederim!" we enthusiastically thanked him for his kindness as we left with a full bottle of water- straight from Saint Paul's well!
I love the little cobblestone streets near Saint Paul's well. It is so peaceful and quaint. We saw children giggling and playing, a man selling his paintings, and a couple enjoying lunch at a little cafe. We pictured young Saint Paul running and playing on these same streets as a boy. We pictured the same fiery Paul walking these streets years later after his conversion. Incredible.
After our stroll through Saint Paul's neighborhood, we walked several more blocks to a busier part of town. Our next stop was Cleopatra's Gate. Here, Marc Antony first met Cleopatra so he could determine if she would support him over Octavius (Ceasar Augustus). Cleopatra's arrival into Tarsus was so spectacular and her beauty was so striking that Marc Antony fell head-over-heels for her instantly.
Our last stop was to see the beautiful waterfalls of Tarsus. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day. We ate dinner at a restarant overlooking the waterfalls and enjoyed a cool, misty breeze and a beautiful view as we ate. After dinner, we tasted our first Turkish coffee! It was thick and rich and delicious!
And the cherry on top of the meal: we asked for the bill...in Turkish!