Taking the Long Way travel blog

Multi coloured baby chickens for sale; i think the RSPCA might have...

My first Turkish meal, I can't remember what it was called but...

I left Aleppo around midday today, caught a cab to the public bus station and piled into a public mini-van to drive from there to Antakya in Turkey; a journey that shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.

The bus driver was really rude (which was evident despite the fact he wasn't speaking English) and seemed realy agitated. When I got on the bus he threw a plastic bag at my feet that was tied up and I assumed it was rubbish and indicated for him to put it somewhere else, he seemed to be throwing these bags under alot of the seats.

When we got to the Syria exit point I was speaking to the tour guide, Chris about him and was informed that the packages were cigarettes that the driver was smuggling into Turkey. He went on to say that the driver had asked him to put some in his own bag and also if Chris could ask all of us to hide some in our bags too. Chris said he agreed to do it but wouldn't ask us to do it as well. I was flabbergasted! Not really the 'responsible tourism' that Intrepid prides themselves on.

Anyway I got stamped out of Syria and got a visa into Turkey but when I returned to the van at the Turkey border I saw chaos! The entire contents of the van had been pulled out and Police were going through everything, and everyone's bags, inside and outside the van.

And there at the side was a pile of hundred and hundreds of cigarette cartons that had been hidden all through the minivan.

Needless to say this put a great spanner in the works and we were delayed for hours at the border while the driver had to sort out what ever he had to regarding customs there. It obviously wasn't a chargeable offence as eventually he got back on the bus and drove like a bat out off hell all the way to Antakya in half the time it usually takes. I am only here overnight then leaving for Nigre in the morning. I am liking Turkey already, I don't have to cover my head and shoulders any more :)

Founded in 300 BC, Antakya was once the third-largest city of the Roman Empire and capital of the Roman province of Syria, as well as being notorious for its wealth and decadent luxury. It turned out to be one of the wealthiest cities under the Roman Empire. Antakya was once part of French-ruled Syria and, as a result, the city has a distinct character and remains culturally diverse.

Antakya, the biblical Antioch, occupies an important place in the history of Christianity. Antioch was the centre of Christendom outside Palestine. The apostles preached here before starting out on their missionary journeys, and this city was where the term 'Christian' first came into use, a term designating converts of St Paul. In 260 AD Antioch fell to the Persians. Over the next 13 centuries it was conquered by Arabs, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, Frankish Crusaders and Egyptians.

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