J and I found Antakya, the principal city of Hatay, SE Turkey, to be an astonishingly cosmopolitan place. Laid back, Istanbul fashions everywhere, and barely a headscarf to be seen. The old parts of the town are not extensive but are a delight to explore – the people, as everywhere in Turkey, are open and warm-hearted. If that is not enough for you then there is always the local specialty dessert, Künefe.
Künefe can be found all over Turkey, but the stuff that masquerades under that name elsewhere pales into mediocrity when compared with the real thing that is served in Antakya. Although künefe shops are very common throughout Hatay, Kilis, Adana, Mersin and Gaziantep provinces, Antakya is known for the best künefe in Turkey. What distinguishes Antakya’s künefe from others is the freshly made, elastic cheese that only comes from Hatay region. The kadayıf (shredded phyllo dough) is also made from scratch at small künefe shops on almost every corner in Antakya. Watching it being made is a form of street entertainment in its own right!
Sitting at a künefe shop, observing the world walk by whilst savouring a plate of this wondrous stuff, topped off with ice cream, should be high on your ‘bucket list’ – in fact, it is almost worth dying for! Almost!
Anyway, enough of that! This post is about feeding the mind, not the belly; and just across the river from where J and I were stuffing ourselves lies the rather sad looking Museum of Archaeology. Had we not had an inkling of what lay inside we might well have given it a miss and that would have been a mistake. There are the usual marble tombs, busts and statues of long departed emperors, governors and their ladies – gods and goddesses, nymphs and shepherds (coming away), etc. There is also one of the most remarkable collections of Roman wall and floor mosaics to be found outside Ankara or Rome.
Here are just some of them together with a bit of information about what you are looking at. The pictures are not the greatest as there was a ‘no photography’ policy at the time and trying to be discreet with an SLR is not easy! I have ‘enhanced’ some to bring out the colours more, otherwise they are ‘as is’.
Oceanus & Thetis – 4th cent. ME – Daphne one of the most photographed mosaics ever
Iphigleneia in Aulis (detail) – 3rd cent. ME – Antioc
Iphigleneia, daughter of Agamemnon with her mother
Hercules Strangling Serpents – 2nd cent. ME – Antioc
Personification of Soteria (Salvation) – 5th cent. ME – Narlıca, Antakya
this is an astonishing mosaic in the Escher-esque effect of the geometric shapes
Narcissus & Echo – 3rd cent. ME – Daphne
Narcissus & Echo (detail bottom left corner)
Boat of the Pysches (with Eros) – 3rd cent. ME – Daphne
Orpheus and the Beasts – 3rd cent ME – Tarsus
. . and so many more! To finish off, here’s a couple of general shots around town.
. . not to mention one of those marble tomb things!
. . and finally, a pair of basalt lions from the Temple at Tainat – 8th cent. BME
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü