If you're my friend on Facebook, you might have seen some pictures me and my traveling friends (Ross Hoffman, Keith Drury, and Dave Ward) posted there each night of our trip to Turkey. But I did not take my lap top, so I didn't put any pictures or comments here.
Over the next few weeks, I want to capture reflections on the trip, upload pictures, and save material that anyone might use to plan a 7 or 10 day trip to Turkey to visit biblical or Christian sites in the future. Dave and I in particular think it might even be nice to lead a trip of a limited number of pastors or students in the summer of 2015.
Despite the conflict in Syria, despite the water canons on the news right now as the conservative government clashes with various protesters, we found Turkey to be a VERY, friendly place to us, MUCH friendlier than Greece. There was only one evening when we were a little nervous (near Lystra, in the country southeast of Konya) and it's not clear what was going on there.
We had many "trail angels" on this trip, people who went out of their way to help us. We had more than one person have us follow their car (or bike) to find a hotel. We had a farmer show us around the unearthed mound at Lystra and (have his wife ) serve us tea (chay) at his one room shack. (I think we initially made his wife nervous, as she was reading the Qur'an in Arabic when we got back from our walk around the site.
Even those with a frown on their face could melt into a smile with a friendly "Merhaba" (hello) and a wave. Because we tried to speak even a few words in Turkish, they assumed we couldn't be American (who usually don't even try). Germans and Austrians must be more frequent as restaurateurs might try German on us first.
As an FYI, the biblical Antioch is not in Syria today, even though it was in biblical times. Most of us (except for Keith) always assumed we wouldn't go there because we thought it was in Syria. It is actually in Turkey, maybe 20 miles from the Syrian border. Government personnel currently have to get permission to travel there.
I would recommend that, if a person is in the inland country, you have your hotel before dark. Big cities tend to be more secular friendly. I do believe there is an inner "clash of civilizations" going on in Turkey. It is between secular Turkey and fundamentalist influences. It was no surprise that a very modern mall in Adana (Tarsus) had security procedures at the entrances.
There are a number of ways to divide up Turkey in a trip. There are 1) the seven churches of Revelation, 2) Paul's missionary journeys, and 3) the seven ecumenical councils. The seven churches would make a nice 7 day trip. There is less and less to see of Paul after you go east of Pisidian Antioch, more driving than seeing. There's also the "Disney World" version that would focus on places like the hot baths of Hierapolis, the caves of Cappadocia, and the mosques and palaces of Istanbul.
In these posts, I'm simply going to follow the sequence of our trip, which did most of all of these in 10 days. A group of four men who were not obviously American was probably safer to go certain places that a larger group that would draw more attention.