Day 03 ANTAKYA  April 19, 2010 Monday
We left the hotel at 08:30. This is a very punctual group. We have taken the road south via Islahiye. We could see the free way and the impressive viaduct from a distance but we were driving on a back road with green fields around us. We saw the sprinkling systems being laid in the pepper fields. The sheep looked well fed and the people happy with the generosity of nature.
The blue color of the dam lake in the distance was creating a wonderful transition from the green fields to the spotless blue sky.
Our first stop was a tiny village with only 25 houses. the houses were at the foot of a hill surrounded with the Hittite statues scattered all over the hillside. Yesemek was where the Cobalt used for the Hittite statues were quarried 4000 years ago. The sculptors of the time outlined the statues ordered from this quarry to make them lighter. The whole group could have a group picture around the ten-ton ,one piece lion. The statues were architectural pieces, images of Gods and the imperial family. We finished our visit to Yesemek with a baklava and tea.



As we entered the tiny village of Yolcati in the middle of the fertile Amik Valley, we noticed that there were white tents placed on either side of the main road. this meant the weekly market was being set up. We immediately sent the bus to the other end of the "pazar" - the market and started exploring this very colorful set up. the first stand was selling the red scarves that the brides would wear a day before their wedding when they have the henna ceremony. Few ladies in the group purchased the red scarves while the others carefully inspected the "oyas" - edging of the scarves . We all had fun seeing that it is not just the women who get dressed up but the tractors get dressed up as well. In fact in this village there is a tailor who saws only for the tractors. the villagers used to dress their horses and donkeys. when they no longer use the animals on their fields, they now treat their tractors like they did their animals!

We arrived in Antakya soon after noon. We had our lunch at the restaurant of Mehmet Ali and his wife Emine. the restaurant was a hundred year old house. The food was excellent. the white pumpkin soup was the favorite of the group. As usual before we left the restaurant, every one was talking about not to have dinner. But that decision was certainly changed when it was time for dinner.

Along the way to Samandag, we saw a woman making a tandir - tandour. 15 people jumped out of the bus to take her picture. She was so involved with what she was doing,  she did not mind having all these cameras capturing her experienced hands building up the clay .
We have seen tens of wind mills on the top of a mountain. The solar panels and the wind mills all along the road stood like a monument to good news about sustainable energy.
Driving through little villages, the group almost lost confidence that we would get to the beach on the Mediterranean. We finally saw the beach. Meli had warned us about how the pollution of the Mediterranean was all washing on to the beach. The 14 Km fine sand beach was completely covered with plastic bags that was being washed on to the beach with the waves coming from western part of the Mediterranean.

Selevkos Pierra was built b one of the Generals of Alexander the great. This was the capital of  the Selevkos kingdom that expanded as far as the western coast of Anatolia. To protect the city from the floods that flushed down from the mountain , 2300 years ago they had built a huge water channel which is known as the Titus tunnel.
We walked through a jungle like vegetation. The bay leaf trees, citrus trees, pomegranate trees and many others looked like they were all hugging each other. you could not tell where one branch is finished and the other one had started. The path ended at the huge, ancient  rock dwellings. The nice walk felt very good after being on the bus for most of the day. Just before we got on the bus, Meli noticed a bill board advertising a silk weaving center. We quickly made a phone call. the shop keeper happily accepted to open his shop. We took a 6 mile detour. We loved what we found. the photographers in the group had great time taking the pictures of the old men in the village while the ladies bought one of every thing they had in the silk shop.

We finally returned to Antakya. checked into our hotel . by this time every one was ready for a other wonderful dinner experience. We walked through the narrow streets of the old city to our Restaurant.

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