Let’s be upfront about this.
Unlike the Camino,I did not walk every km of St Paul’s Trail.
There was that horrible business when I got lost on the first day.
Then being picked up by the fish farm owner as night closed in.
And getting the lift from the three lads into Egirdir
And a few other short cuts.
But I was out on my feet at times, low on water and the weather in recent days had not been great.
So I reckon I’ve walked around 80 per cent of the trail. And I’ve walked at least some stretches on almost all of the route.
The trail finishes at Antioch in Pisidia ,perched above the modern town of Yalvac.
About 1km from the ancient city the trail takes you past all that remains of the aqueduct which brought sparkling waters from the mountains 10 km away.
It was a better writer than me who remarked that all it took was one barbarian with a pick axe to reduce your glorious city to a parched ruin.
I spent the afternoon wandering among the (relatively) recently discovered remains of Antioch
I stood alone among the tumbled stones of St Paul’s Church, thought to have been built on the site of the original synagogue
It’s believed that it was here that Paul and Barnabas preached on successive Sabbaths
And it was here that ,after bring rejected by the Orthodox community, they made what is said to be probably the most important Christian announcement ever made.
They would take the word of Jesus to the Gentiles.
Christianity had begun
So it was with some surprise to learn that a professor from Isparta University showing his students round the site showed little enthusiasm for the story
“In Turkey now this is not relevant,” he told me
Paul came here at least 3 times in his journeys You can wander the two main roads here, climb the steps to the ruins of Hadrian’s Temple or sit on the seats of the amphitheatre where Thecla was saved from death (more of whom later)
So what I have learned over the last two weeks on the trail?
Well I’ve just learned I’ve been spelling chai wrongly. It’s cay
I’ve learned it’s shorter than the Camino but much MUCH harder.
I met only one fellow trekker on the trail in 2 weeks.
And because that trekker was the superhuman Markus he didnt even have time for a beer…
I’ve learned Turkish villagers are kind, friendly and generous. Even if they can’t speak my language they ask questions and , unlike some people I could name, they actually try and listen to your answers and are genuinely interested.
I don’t want to get all hippy here but I’ve also learned that some of the best things in life cost bugger all.
A mouthful of cold water, a bit of bread and olives at the end of the day, a conversation with someone after 2 days of silence.
A handshake with an ancient shepherd in the hills after seeing no-one for 10 hours.
A bed of the floor of a stranger’s home for the night.
And knowing that you can get to the next village even if your legs are screaming for you to stop.
And thinking:”that St. Paul bloke- he was one tough dude.”