Friday, 3 July 2015

Antakya - Day 1

2 July 2015 - Today was designated as the group's official 'castle day'. The day was spent on the road between Tarsus and Antakya, namely between the historical regions of Cilicia and Syria, and proved to be physically taxing due to the amount of scrambling involved! The first challenge was climbing up the famous castle of Yilan Kale, a beautifully-preserved Armenian stronghold which has yet to divulge its secrets to scholars. The 'fifteen-minute' climb up the steep slope resulted in a fairly brief visit due to ongoing restoration works. Nevertheless, the participants were afforded an arresting view of the surrounding plain and a clear idea of the intervisibility principle on which the localization of Armenian fortresses was predicated on.

Above: A splendid view of Yilan Kale.

Right: Maria Georgopoulou and Eva Hoffman following the 'fifteen-minute' climb up to Yilan Kale.

Ayas, also known as Lajazzo (present-day Yumurtalik) was a major entrepot for east-west trade in the region during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Of this once bustling port very little remains apart from sections of the walls, which are now much restored, and a castle on the small island off the port.

Above: The port of Ayas.

Right: Learning about the fascinating history of one of the great medieval Mediterranean ports.

Driving around the gulf of Iskenderun, the group passed by the site of Kinet, currently located in a heavily industrialized area. Further to the south lies Bagras Castle, once guarding the entrance to Syria. In another 'fifteen minutes', the programme participants scurried up the side of the fortress to take a closer look at various shakily-identified and dated structures (chapel, hall etc.).

Above: Bagras Castle.

Right: Wandering through the ruins.

Late in the afternoon, the group arrived in Antakya, which will serve as base of operations over the following days.


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