Mezopotamya Bike Tours
The presentation of the The World’s First Temple, Gobeklitepe … a pre-historic site, about 15 km away from the city of Sanliurfa, Southeastern Turkiye. What makes Gobeklitepe unique in its class is the date it was built, which is roughly twelve thousand years ago, circa 10,000 BC.
All pillars are T-shaped with heights changing from 3 to 6 meters. Archeologists interpret those T-shapes as stylized human beings, mainly because of the depiction of human extremities that appear on some of the pillars. What also appears on these mystical rock statues, are carvings of animals as well as abstract symbols, sometimes picturing a combination of scenes.
Each T-shaped pillar varies between 40 to 60 tonnes, leaving us scratching our heads as to how on earth they accomplished such a monumental feat. In a time when even simple hand tools were hard to come by, how did they get these stone blocks there, and how did they erect them? With no settlement or society to speak of, with farming still a far cry away, in a world of only roaming hunter-gatherers, the complexity and developed blueprints of these temples represented another enigma for archeologists. Do we have to change our vision of how and when civilized human history began?
Mount Nemrut (2552m) is located in southeastern Turkey, 87 km from Adıyaman, and is part of the Taurus Mountain range, above the Euphrates River valley. It is the site of extensive ruins of the tomb of Antiochos I (69-36 BC) of the Commagene Kingdom (163 BC – 72 AD).
The sanctuary at the top of Mount Nemrut was built by Antiochos I for himself as a funerary monument. It is a conical shaped tumulus with a height of 50m and 150m diameter and made up of 50,000 cubic meters of gravel. There were three terraces in the sanctuary on the East, North and West sides. The remains of the sculptures, which once decorated all three, give some idea of the size and grandeur of Antiochus' magnificent structure. Colossal heads of Apollo, Zeus, Hercules, and Antiochos I and several Greek and Persian gods surround the structure. The complex also includes a cave cistern, some reliefs and ruins of columns. The Commagene have been described as a semi-Iranian people that practiced the Zoroastrian faith and worshiped gods with combined Eastern and Western names like Zeus-Orimasdes and Apollo-Mithras.
ST PAUL ROAD / ANTALYA
St Paul was responsible for the spread of Christianity to Western Europe. Jesus’ message, aimed at amending the Jewish religion, was preached exclusively to the Jews of Judea and Jerusalem. But Paul took this message to both the Jewish diaspora (those living outside Israel) and also to the worshippers of the traditional gods of the Greeks or Roman Empire, or of other cults. In the process he changed the religion of Christianity, partly by adding many instructions about forms of worship, partly by changing the message (especially regarding women). Paul had no standard text; he also had never met Jesus personally. Thus he was able to interpret Jesus’ message quite freely. If St Paul had not preached, Christianity would probably have died out when the Jewish rebellion of 66 AD was crushed and Jerusalem burned.
MERSİN / TARSUS
Mersin is one of the most modern provinces of the palm lined avenues, city park and modern hotels and a good base for visiting the nearby historical sites and beaches. Mersin is the largest port on the Turkish Mediterranean region. Although Mersin dates only from the 19th century, it occupies an extremely ancient site. At Mount Yumuktepe the excavations proved that there had been twelve successive settlements beginning from the Neolithic Period.
Tarsus is the birthplace of St. Paul. Situated on the edge of the fertile Cukurova plain in the city is middle of cedar groves. The city is also the meeting place of legendary loves Antony and Cleopatra, and there is the commemorative Cleopatra Gate. To reach St. Paul’s Cistern you pass through narrow streets of the city; the old houses on the sides will prepare for the things you will see . Then you may head for a rest to the Tarsus waterfalls and shady trees. The tombs of Prophet Daniel, Lokman Hekim, a famous legendary medical doctor, are here. There are also many historical places to visit such as Cleopatra’s Gate, the Gozlukule, Justinians Bridge, and the Tarsus Museum
Two hours west of Mersin, Anamur is a lovely town situated in the mountains and surrounded by banana plantations thanks to its climate. There are the ruins of ancient Anemorium, 10 kms to the west of the town on a fine beach. Anamur Castle is well preserved and provides a fascinating views of the landscape. The road between Anamur and Silifke passes through the pine clad mountains which descend to the sea offering splendid views of cliffs, coves and the brilliant turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.
Aydincik is a cute village with pleasant beaches. After Aydincik, to the east, is the most beautiful coastline in Turkey.
Silifke, 90 kms from Mersin, is a little bit inland, on the site of the acropolis of ancient Seleucia and Colycadnos. The old bridge crossing the Göksu River, the theatre and the temple from Roman times are of interest.
The road up to the magnificent ancient site of Olba – Diocaeserela is lined with large tombs. In the ancient city there are the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, Olbius and the Temple of Tychaion, and numerous arches, theater, Byzantine church and tower. Outside Silifke, on the road to Tasucu is the archaeological museum, while further on AyaTekla is the tomb and church of St. Thecla who was the first female martyr.
Tasucu is a pleasant resort town with good accommodations and fine sandy beaches, especially the Aphrodite Beach.
Around Narlikuyu an exciting excursion is to Cennet – Cehennem (Heaven and Hell), and the Astim Dilek Caves which are deep chasms, one of which has a chapel. They are really fascinating and you will understand why they carry these names once you visit.
60 kms from Mersin, to the west, is the ancient city Korykos, which is now the resort town of Kizkalesi, with sandy beaches and camping sites. There are important remains which are symbols of that region like The Castle of Korykos on the beach faces the Kizkalesi (Maiden’s Castle) which stands on an islet 200 m offshore.
HATAY / ANTAKYA
Antakya is the seat of the Hatay Province in southern Turkey, near the border with Syria. In ancient times the city was known as Antioch and has historical significance for Christianity, being the place where the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians for the very first time. The city and its massive walls also played an important role during the Crusades.
Antakya Archaeological Museum has the second largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world, found when excavating Roman villas on the hillside at Harbiye.
the rock-carved Church of St Peter, with its network of refuges and tunnels carved out of the rock, a site of Christian pilgrimage. There are also tombs cut into the rock face at various places along the Orontes valley.
The seedy Gündüz cinema in the city centre was once used as parliament building of the Republic of Hatay.
the waterfall and restaurants at Harbiye.
The Ottoman Habib-i Neccar Camii is the oldest mosque in Antakya.
The labyrinth of narrow streets in the old market area
The views of the city from the hillsides above
With its rich architectural heritage, Antakya is a member of the Norwich-based European Association of Historic Towns and Regions. Sadly the Roman bridge (thought to date from the era of Diocletian was destroyed in 1972 during the widening and channelling of the Orontes
HASANKEYF / BATMAN
Hasankeyf is an ancient city, located on the shores of the Tigris River in the Batman province of southeastern Turkey. It was a strategic spot on the route from Upper Mesopotamia to Anatolia and a staging point on the Silk Road. The history of the old town goes back 10,000 years. In 363, the Romans built two fortresses in the area. The city became the Byzantine bishopric of Cephe in the fifth century. After the Arabs incursions in c. 640, the city was called as “Hisn Kayfa” (rock fortress), which later changed to “Hasankeyf.”