Sunday, December 16, 2012

Taurus for Thanksgiving

Did you know that Tarsus, as in Paul the Apostle's hometown, is only about an hour from where I live? Yep, its the truth. So the day after a quiet Thanksgiving here on base, we set out with our crew and a GPS to visit Tarsus.

I drove.  You are surprised, yes?  Well, I have told you about my troubles navigating with Turkish maps but perhaps I haven't mentioned how much anxiety it causes me when Geoffrey gives up on my horrid navigating and attempts to read the maps AND drive at the same time. So I drove. We didn't even get through Adana before a badly marked detour caused us about a twenty minute delay so maybe the new system wasn't perfect.

The rest of the drive to Tarsus went smoothly until the GPS coordinates for St. Paul's well put us smack in the middle of an auto repair shop district with no well in site. And if you think that Americans driving a 3/4 ton Ford Excursion with a brushguard on the front and a steel bumper on the back through an auto repair district can be inconspicuous then you haven't been abroad much.  The Turkish people just fell out of their shops to gape at the monstrosity that is our vehicle. I felt like we should have just gone ahead and gotten a neon green and black paint job with flames and the words, "The Soul Crusher" or something equally intimidating on the sides. The boys seemed especially thrilled and would run along the truck yelling, "Cool Car! Cool Car!" as we squeezed down the narrow roads.

After giving the local mechanics several slow drive-bys in our search, we finally gave up on the well and set out for our next set of coordinates, St. Paul's Church. This we found but it was a bit of a disappointment as the church was only named for St. Paul and had only been around since the 1850's. (See how your perspective of history and age changes?)  But we paid the fee and poked around the old, dilapidated church.  Next time,  I would have skipped it.
Our third planned destination was the waterfall. My older kids had been there this past summer on one of their youth center trips. But as we drove through town (Geoffrey was driving now as the failed well attempt and resulting attention had completely flumoxed me) I happened to see a sign that said St. Paul's Well. We followed a couple such signs and found ourselves in a touristy shopping center. We had planned to eat lunch at the waterfall but as it was now past noon, the troops began to request sustenance. Geoffrey ordered some cheese bread at a small cafe. We were expecting the flat puffy bread with gooey melted white cheese that we get here in Incirlik or Adana. What we got was two slices of white bread with a piece of melted cheese in between. Hmmm . . . but the kids said it was all right and it filled their stomachs.

The well turned out to be just beyond the shopping area.  I can't uncover anything that supports the assumption that this was in fact Paul's well or that the excavations you can see through glass flooring are in fact Paul's house. But has long been accepted that the well and the house did belong to the great apostle.  The water is considered holy water.
You can see in this picture that there is a cover on the well. But when asked, the man in the fee booth gladly came out and lowered the bucket into the well to draw us up some fresh water. He dipped in a metal cup and allowed each of us to drink some of the cool water. (Delaney thought this was unsanitary but the rest of it chanced it.)
Just behind Geoffrey you can see the glassed excavation. It goes down 10-15 feet and has artifacts from several different periods. On the other side of the well there is a lovely garden to walk through. We met another American couple there who are also stationed here at Incirlik.

I can't say that I felt anything special at the well or that I believe that Paul really did live in that exact spot and drink from that well. But he did live in that city, and you never know.

As we walked back to the car we crossed under this canopy of green. It was so lovely I had Brannick take a picure.
The left side of the vines connects to the garden around Paul's well. 

Near the well we found another piece of Tarsus's ancient history - the Cleopatra gate.  Not built by the Egyptian Queen herself but rather it was the city gate at which Marc Antony came out to greet her and was instantly charmed by her beauty.  It probably didn't hurt that she was dressed like Aphrodite. That woman knew how to make an entrance. Antony had invited her to Tarsus to see if she would join him against Octavian. She did.

The gate now sits in the center of the city in the middle of a round-about. It has been restored and seems to have very little original stones in it - but still. That's pretty cool!
Here you can see the difference between the restored and the un-restored.

The last item on our itinerary was the Tarsus waterfall. Once again our GPS failed us miserably, telling us to exit on a freeway which had no exits. So we switched drivers and Geoffrey attempted to navigate us around and under the freeway to the coordinates. We succeeded, sort of.  We ended up at a nice park with a dam and a waterfall and a restaurant. But our teens informed us that although we had found a waterfall, it was not the waterfall. By this time it was 3:30 and we were all starving so we ate some good standard Turkish fare at the restaurant. Sunset is at about 4:15 this time of year so it was dusk when we started for home. We were heading out of the city (I was driving again) when Carson hollered that we were passing the waterfall. Sure enough, there it was. So we pulled over and had a gander. It was too dark for photos by then but the falls were nice. There were tables and chairs and little food booths around. I could see it being a nice place to visit in the summer. Or in daylight at least.

We arrived home well after full dark but without major incident. Overall the trip might have gone smoother had we gone with someone who had been there before and knew more where the sites were located. But where is the adventure in that?


  1. Hello,

    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?

    I look forward to hearing from you,


    1. I'm not sure how to email you, Emily. You come up as a no-reply blogger. Would you like to email me at

  2. What an interesting part of the world you are in. History can be very exciting to uncover. Glad you eventually stumbled upon the waterfall!