BootsnAll Travel Network

100km to a Different World

What a difference a border makes. It is only 100km from Aleppo to Antakya, but once you cross the (very disorganised) border, all of a sudden, you enter Europe.

While we are technically still in Asia, it is a much more european atmosphere. The streets are wide, traffic is a bit calmer. Headscarves have gone from being worn by a moderately sized majority, to being worn only by a tiny minority of women, mostly older women, at that. Western brand names, which were almost non-existent in Syria, have reappeared. The stores are better stocked than anywhere we’ve been since Malta (excepting the Amman Safeway).

There are still a few things to remind us that this isn’t Europe yet. The call to prayer is still heard 5 times a day, though still soundly ignored by most people, there are still people wandering the streets to shine shoes, sell tea, and, in a new addition, weigh people.

Antakya itself is a beautiful town almost devoid of foreigners. It is located in a wonderful spot in the mountains and is very well-kept. Litter quantities are lower, getting close to what we are used to at home. There’s also a higher prevalence of ice cream here, something we encountered only a few times in the Arabic countries, and mostly soft serve when we saw it. Here it is sold by street stands everywhere.

We’re still trying to decide what to do from here. Our Middle East guide is woefully inadequate for anything off the tourist route, so we’re at a loss for how to get to nearby attractions. We’re in the market for a proper Turkey guide, but the lack of tourists here means none of the book stores stock guide books.

So we’re considering heading straight to Göreme, which is Turkey’s second largest backpacker destination, after İstanbul, where we figure it will be easy to find a guidebook to help us around a bit. The downside is that once we leave here, we’re unlikely to return to the Hatay province.

I wrote this in my journal in Antakya, but didn’t have a chance to get it online until now. We’re in Göreme now, and not only were we able to find the guidebook, but we also had dinner tonight with the coordinating author, who lives here and is a friend of the owners of our guesthouse. We’ll probably hang around here at least a few more days, as it’s unforgettable scenery, and we haven’t even gotten to the real attractions yet. After that, everything’s still up in the air. We’ll write more about Cappadocia, and our further plans, later.

– Neil

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