St. Paul Trail, Tur­key EX­PE­RI­ENCE S T. PAUL T R A I L

The best time to walk here is in the spring or au­tumn.

Asian Geographic - - Front Page -

One of the long­est foot­paths in Europe winds its way some 500 kilo­me­tres from An­talya to Lake Egirdir. This is said to be the route which St. Paul the Apos­tle took when he came to Ana­to­lia as a Chris­tian mis­sion­ary in the 1st cen­tury AD; it shad­ows Ro­man roads and an­cient trad­ing routes much of the way.

The St. Paul Trail has been de­vel­oped by the Cul­ture Routes So­ci­ety, and it is de­signed to be com­pleted in 27 days, al­though many walk­ers de­cide to un­der­take a shorter sec­tion of the route. Start­ing at sea level, you climb steadily to 2,200 me­tres through shady forests and open farm­lands. In places, it seems as though the land­scapes are un­changed since the time of St. Paul, al­though the vil­lages are un­doubt­edly now more de­vel­oped, and the in­flux of hik­ers, and the in­come they bring, is cer­tainly spear­head­ing change.

South­ern Tur­key bakes in the sum­mer months, so we be­gan our hike in late spring, when the coun­try­side was still green. Our start­ing point was Perga, his­tor­i­cally the cap­i­tal of Pam­phylia Se­cunda, though its acrop­o­lis dates back to the Bronze Age. The city was the home of the cel­e­brated Greek math­e­ma­ti­cian Apol­lo­nius, and as you wan­der amongst the well-pre­served ru­ins, it’s easy to see that this was a rich and cul­tured place with the­atres, baths, tem­ples, mighty city gates, and strik­ing mon­u­ments, all con­structed from creamy white stone. St. Paul wasn’t preach­ing to vil­lagers; he was spread­ing his mes­sage to cos­mopoli­tan pop­u­la­tions, many of whom would have had so­phis­ti­cated the­o­log­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal ideas of their own.

All along the way, you’ll see sim­i­lar ves­tiges of the past: aque­ducts and bridges, some of which still func­tion; long aban­doned cave dwellings; and beau­ti­fully carved stones by the side of the path, whose de­tails be­tray their orig­i­nal po­si­tion­ing in tem­ple walls, as way mark­ers, or as me­mo­rial stones.

Today, th­ese cities have long since van­ished, and only the stones re­main. The route feels an­cient, and it is re­mote and quiet: for long stretches you, un­like Paul, will have no fel­low trav­ellers. Un­like the more fa­mous Ly­cian Way, St. Paul Trail is still largely un­der de­vel­oped. You will need to carry your own food, and the ac­com­mo­da­tion is in vil­lage houses and small pen­sions. When those are in short sup­ply, it is nec­es­sary to camp out be­neath the stars.

But that, re­ally, is part of the ap­peal. When you walk the St. Paul Trail, you be­come a pil­grim, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of a man who changed the re­li­gious history of Europe. The sim­plic­ity of the jour­ney, and the ample op­por­tu­ni­ties for re­flec­tion, are a large part of its charm. AGP

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SO­PHIE IB­BOT­SON is an en­tre­pre­neur, writer, and ex­plorer with a pas­sion for Asia. With her com­pany Max­i­mum Ex­po­sure ( www.max­i­mum­ex­po­sure. co) she has worked in more than 50 coun­tries.

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