Tarsus to Canterbury – 26th. March 668

Can I introduce you to Theodore of Tarsus?

Having arrived in Tarsus (more of that later) from Canterbury, I feel a great affinity with this native of Tarsus who ended up at the very start of my journey but 1300 years earlier in 668 BCE.  He  was an interesting man.

To quote Aidan Hart,

“He was a Greek from Tarsus of Cilicia, almost certainly studied in Antioch and Constantinople, later lived as a monk in Rome where he was probably involved with Saint Maximos the Confessor in the Lateran Council, became one of the most important Archbishops of Canterbury in Britain assisted by an African called Hadrian, and worked among the English and Celtic people for twenty-one years, dying at the age of about eighty-eight.   But  Saint Theodore is not only remarkable in his own personal history, but also for his lasting imprint on the administration of the English Church, particularly in his restructuring of its diocesan system and in the canon laws which he established. He gave unity to a Church in tension between its British, English and Roman members, established a flourishing school in Canterbury, through local synods linked his British Church to the Church of Byzantium, and, as Bede says, was the first Archbishop of Canterbury willingly obeyed by all Anglo-Saxon England.”


St Theodore by Adrian Hart

St Theodore by Adrian Hart

This beautiful Ikon also by Aidan Hart Icons.

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Losing it….

It’s no secret that I have always regarded the baseball cap as a poor and unreliable replacement for the cricket style hat worn by most long distance walkers!

Well I am wearing the same old faded hat that started on the Camino from London and is now 7,000km old!

On the other hand, the roads of Turkey are strewn with thousands of lost “caps”, which did less for their owners than my trusty green top!

Here is a selection of 24 hours of lost hats!  (OK, I know this is very silly!)

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Ulukişla to Çiftehan. Into the Cilician Gates

From Ulukişla we begin to leave the Anatolian Plateau to the Cilician Coast, a journey of around 100km, or five days along the old and now defunct winding mule track.

We are taking a route which has been an artery of history – the Cilician Gates.  It is just a pass in the gorge of the Gokoluk River, but cuts dramatically through the rugged and already snow-capped Taurus Mountains.  Alexander the Great and the army of ten thousand came this way before the battle of Issus, then Romans and Crusaders of the First Crusade.  For Christians or derivatives, Paul of Tarsus came this way on the first and second Missionary Journeys  – to the Galatians.

While walking the new E90 Tarsus-Ankara Highway,  we can see the old serpentine mule track in places – 6-8 feet wide.  It is the same that the Hittites and Alexander would have known.

The start of the Cilician Gates

More noticeable is a miraculous narrow-gauge railway built by Germans during WW1  between Istanbul on the Sea of Marmara and Baghdad.  The viaducts and tunnels are still remarkable – and still in constant use by freight and some passenger trains.  Vorsprung…… the line respects an ancient tradition.

We are aimed at Tarsus and Mersin, the latter being Yumuktepe with a renown as one of  the oldest fortified settlements in the world with origins at 4500BC. The City has guarded the South Eastern end of the Cilician Gates ever since.

The substrate for all of this human history  – is a geological history of violence and vulcanism.


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1300m and the heating’s off!

Well, dear readers. In 44 C shade temperature in Italy,  I never believed I would complain about the cold, ever again.  What inconsistent beings are humans…

So, I can say that in this less than 5 star hotel in, Ulusomething, (Ulukışla, insists Regula!) – it’s cold.

Wikipedia, that font of all accurate information states  “The climate is dry and the vegetation typical of the dry steppes of central Anatolia, summers are hot and dry, winters are cold and it snows.”  The latter seems imminent…

There is one Hotel – the Emrah and a “humid room” – the hammam.  It is not flashy here, in fact it is very much lacking flashiness!  There are some decrepit railway sidings, and a poor concrete town of no merit that I can immediately identify!

But friends,  Cleopatra one came here! Yes, to this less-than-nice town  – I’m serious! There are tumuli (presumably bronze age and prestigious), and signs of Phrygian and Roman occupation – and the wife of Marcus Aurelius is buried close by!  If you ever want to be certain, as the Northern Buddhists say, that everything is impermanent – and that everything changes –  then this is your place!

So, let me then turn to Mount Hasan at 3240m, which has been ever present companion for two days, and although also impermanent, has been a feature in this landscape and for the inhabitants for a much longer period.  The steppe here has few settlements, but many subsidiary cones and volcanic features whose nature is beyond my superficial examination.  The lack of settlement and the volcanic history are however, clearly  related.

Hasan today

Mount Hasan today

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Although it is to the surprise to our great Cappadocian host, Hasan,  the area now full of waddling Western coach parties was one of the first areas of Christianity.  Paul of Tarsus passed this way several times.

The Cappadocian Fathers of the 4th century were to give to early Christian much of its philosophy including the Doctrine of the Trinity. It is remarkable how much of this fragile fabric has survived – over 1600 years.

Thanks to Hasan – we would have seen none of it without him.

4th Century rock-cut church

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Şereflikoçhisar to Aksaray

From uninspiring but friendly Şereflikoçhisar we headed off today along the 4 lane highway across the high, dry Anatolian plane –  with the intention of closing the 67km  distance to Aksaray – a cross-road town from Silk Road days.  There is little in between, but the route to Ankara is ancient indeed.

To the left we can often see the intriguing bank of an older road,  now expunged and unusable.  It is single track but banked-up in Roman style in places.

Shortly and to the right we find the enormous Tuz Golu – Turkey’s great salt lake.  It opens and expands to look like the thin end of a inland see – of Salt.  Tuz Golu has been around a long while too!

…and in the distance the twin-peaked volcano Hasan Dağı at 3,250 ft. This great hill was known to the people of Çatalhöyük the famous Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement dated around 7500 BC to 5700 BC.

However, Regula was not well on the road today, so we have gone straight ahead to Aksaray by accepting one of the many lifts which are offered every day!  We will do some tourism in Kapadokya or Konya  – and then go back an inconvenient 40km when all is well.

I have put together one of the panoramas I have taken here –  of sunset over the Salt Lake.

Sunset Toz Gulu

Sunset Toz Golu

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Şereflikoçhisar – Central Anatolia

We are just before Şereflikoçhisar on the high, dry plain of Central Anatolia.  The Countryside reminds of Tibet, but only for moments – it is at around 1000m and has much more air than the lofty Tibetan Plateau.


The town has apparently a history that goes back to Hittite times, but with a Seljuk Castle.  Our attention remains with the 70km without significant settlement that separates us from the place.


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43 km of highlands from Beypazari to Ayas…at 600 or 700m is a tough enough day. Then just a short hop off the main road to awful new Sincan and though a modernist nightmare high-rise landscape to old Ankara at Ulu, and then a brisk walk through the shopping areas to our refuge.  We have seen the lovely old houses of Ottoman Mudurnu – does everything have to be concrete towers? Does fast development inevitable mean bad design and huge poor suburbs.?  China, yes, India, yes – Turkey – let’s see!

It seems that the route we have chosen to Ankara is likely to be the best one.  We have now met Father Stanislas, a very fast French Priest, on a very old bike, on his way to Jerusalem, as well as the Paris to Shanghai runners.  I believe some better research will indicate this to be the Roman and later route of choice through Anatolia.

Ankara is high – most of it is at about 950m.  The nights are pretty cold for us. Today we are off to be shown round the remains of the ancient town.  It is the city of King Midas, and has been Phrygian, Celtic and of course Roman. It was a capital of the Roman region of Galatia.

Anchyra was a centre of early Christianity – and suffered under the persecutions of Diocletian.  Nonetheless one of the most important Synods of the early Church was here in 314, with several others to follow with some role in the Aryan “Heresies”.  It became a cool Summer refuge for the government of Constantinople and vital cross-roads for the Byzantines until 1071, and the Seljuk period.

I have a lot to say about Istanbul, Ankara and national identity – more of that later!

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Into the the Volcanic Uplands

From Nallihan, and a truly awful hotel – we leave without much expectation towards Beypazari.  We have found the town of Nallihan less satisfactory, if friendly.

Our pessimism is misplaced.  We climb into a Volcanic landscape of interest, grandeur and beauty.  My brief efforts to understand the landscape indicate that we more or less climb the side of a massive cinder cone, seeing bright red lava exposed in old grey ash layers in the caldera.  It seems this explosive volcano erupted in several phases. Indeed, we see a geologist poking around in the layers, but he doesn’t want to talk.

Near to the end of the day we find a river, feeding a new reservoir which is curiously incongruent in the dry landscape.

Into Beypazari, we see the tough Japanese running in the heat.  The town has some genuinely old market buildings and traditional Pansiyons, complete with bench beds.   It is a tourist destination from Ankara, and we meet some bright Students speaking fine English – one the nearest to a vegetarian we have met in Turkey!

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Mudurnu to Nalihan

We are now considerably closer to Ankara that Istanbul. Starting the day in the dark, leaving the remnants of Ottoman Mudurnu – we bumped into a local who wanted us to visit him for tea. Not ideal at that moment, but we found out why. He has a mother with advanced heart disease, and near death. He wanted us there.

We talked with this lovely woman for a while, which seemed to be of benefit to all of us, and then left to make as much progress as we could before the arrival of the Eurasia Marathion Team, from Japan.  We agreed to be picked along this high road and then run with them as far as Nalihan.  We covered the upland road distance pretty well, and duly met them for a 20 kilometer run into Nalihan.


The Japanese Eurasia Marathon Team are a very well organised, dedicated group making the most incredible run, and we have been very pleased to meet, dine and talk with them. The running was great – after the heavy morning mist cleared.

We are now in Naliham, which is a bit of a dusty concrete place, which nonetheless provides for our immediate needs. Tomorrow Çayirhan

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