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Tarsus - Turkey

Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul can easily be reached from Mersin. There are several buses and the ride takes only about half an hour. Tarsus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world with a history reaching back to at least 3000 BC. Surprisingly Tarsus has managed to keep the same name from antiquity to the present. Unfortunately, the ravages of war and time have destroyed most vestiges of the past. Moreover, since Tarsus was never abandoned the ancient city lies about 15-20 meters below the modern one. The modern city is mostly a sprawl of concrete apartment blocks.

Tarsus was once the meeting place of the legendary lovers Mark Antony and Cleopatra. In 41 BC Marcus Antonius, while ruling the eastern part of the Roman Empire, had a residence in Tarsus and had called Cleopatra to Tarsus in order to extract money from Egypt. Dressed like Aphrodite, the goddess of love, she arrived at Tarsus and seduced Marc Antony. The Roman gate that carries the official name Cleopatra's Gate, but more commonly is called Gate of the Bitch, has actually nothing to do with Cleopatra.

Tarsus was also an important east-west trading center and had gathered a flourishing colony of Jews. At 10 AD, Saul of Tarsus, the later Saint Paul (Paulus) was born here. A well of Roman construction is said to stand on the site of Saint Paul's family home and is accordingly called Saint Paul's well. Actually, the Byzantines or Crusaders, both of which were very inventive in creating relics and places of pilgrimage, probably named the well but there is no evidence that it had anything to do with St. Paul the Apostle. Despite that, Tarsus is an essential part of Christian heritage and one of the highlights of cultural Biblical Tours.

At the edge of the town, there are the waterfalls on the Nehri river (former Cydnus River), the Tarsus Şelalesi, which can be reached easily by dolmuş or taxi. The waterfalls surrounded by tea gardens and restaurants provide a cool and charming place for a drink or lunch. In the waterfall park is also a statue that honors the 17thcentury poet Karacaoğlan who belonged to the Turkmen-Turks of the Tarsus mountains. From his poems, we learn that he made long travels abroad. His poems have elements like love, nature, and heroism. Playing on the saz, the long-necked Turkish lute, it's said this minstrel won many women's hearts. From this point of view, Karacaoglan was one of the first describing the passionate devotions between men and women.


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