Archive for April, 2011

Turning point

April 30, 2011

April 20, 2011

As we were walking in the Turkish mountains for an entire day, we felt so completely confident. Wrongly so, as we were soon to find out. At least four people had confirmed that the hotel 31 kilometres away and touted by a road sign was definitely open. Still we fall for taking something at face value just because it’s been written. And hadn’t it only been in Greece that we heard someone say: „Surely you don’t believe everything you read online?!” Having arrived at our destination, there was a hotel alright, though it was at least partly of the ramshackle sort. So we enquired whether there was some sheltered spot we could pitch our tent in. This started a discussion, in the course of which we threw in a variety of creative suggestions which, however, kept being turned down eventually. Finally, we were allowed to spend the night in the garden under the roof of the hotel bar. Even though a tree right in the middle of the allotted space prevented us from setting up our tent, we hoped our warm sleeping bags would help us get through the night OK despite the cold and rain. It seemed the best solution. Since we intended to get an early start the following morning and our food supplies were too scarce for the mountain stretch, we decided to have a bite to eat in the still-open restaurant. As the only customers, we were the focus of attention of the entire staff that kept discussing something – as were we.

Generally, we seem to be discussing a great deal of things on our trip. Presently, we talk about the life of the Apostle Paul. Initially a top-notch persecutor of Christians, an encounter with Jesus at Damascus turned his life around (Acts 9). From then on he kept spreading the word that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah wherever he went. In Antalya we hired a car and followed in the footsteps of Paul’s first journey. When he arrived in Perge (see video) at the time, he had to overcome his disappointment about the fact that John Mark was no longer willing to continue his journey with him and headed back to Jerusalem. In Antioch (see video) we realized that Paul and Barnabas, though first asked by the crowds to speak to them, were then driven away and persecuted. The reasons for this were not of a theological nature but sheer envy. Even in Ikonion (see video), they had to flee again to escape stoning. And in Lystra (see video), the incredible happened: Those envious people from Antioch and Ikonion followed them as far as Lystra, stirred up the crowds against Paul and stoned him. Shortly before, Paul had healed a paralyzed man, and Paul and Barnabas had to fight tooth and nail not to be worshipped as gods. How fast the tide can turn. Now the stones were cast, and everyone thought Paul was dead. But he got up again, and left for Derbe with Barnabas the following morning (see video). Even if you’re fairly fit, hiking in the Turkish mountains is quite an energetic endeavour. But to tackle such a trail after having been stoned is nothing short of a miracle. In Derbe, it was not the verdant hill without any excavations nor the rather chilly temperatures of around 4 degrees Celsius that impressed us, but Paul’s decision. How easy it would have been for him to head straight for Tarsus. Quite understandable too, after all the persecution and suffering he had been through. “Turning point Derbe” is what we called his decision to think the encouragement of the believers more important than his personal safety. Putting up with the possibility of facing yet more persecution, he returned.

From Derbe we drove a little further into Central Turkey to visit Cappadocia (see video) and its truly fantastic rock formations, a unique wonder of nature. We marveled what works of art man chiselled out of tufa rock over time: apartments, churches(see video) as well as the up to more than 10-storey-deep underground towns (see video). Many times we have marvelled at God’s ingenuity reflected in His creation and the way it is used by man. We were also impressed by the large number of well-preserved churches and chapels. Not only did the persecuted Christians find refuge in those underground towns, but they also played a crucial role in extending them. It is nothing short of amazing that the Good News of Jesus has withstood countless times of persecutions. Our little travelling companion of eight months, the cuddly sheep, keeps reminding us that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus also had to undergo lots of suffering. And even after His resurrection, lies were spread by some who had been bribed into it about why the tomb was empty (Matthew 28: 12-13). Now it’s Easter again, and we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, even if we have to do without our traditional Easter lamb cake this year.

But back to the Turkish mountains. As we were having our dinner under the watchful eye of the staff who were constantly discussing away, and in expectation of a night more or less under the stars in wintery temperatures, suddenly our situation took an unexpected turn. They offered us a room where we could spend the night – for free. We were so grateful that we gave them a pocket knife we had been carrying with us since Greece in exchange. A day later then, Annemarie somewhat involuntarily ‘gave away‘ her green blouse in a moment of inattentiveness. But even a loss can add new colour to your life. In the evening then we met the first Turkish person to grasp straight away that we wanted no more and no less than some protected place to pitch our tent. That was at a petrol station located at a height of 1,500 metres and again at very low temperatures. Both in Greece and Turkey, the term ‘walk’ seems to be almost unknown. When going to the shops, for instance, some people park their car in the street directly in front of the store, possibly since it seems impossible to walk the distance from the car park. This may be the reason for their difficulties to understand what it is we’re doing. But Mustafa did. He served us warm tea at the petrol station and showed us a soon-to-be and structurally complete restaurant and told us we could camp there. On the following day, despite a breakfast à la petrol station and the drizzle, we made good progress. Having tackled 240 kilometres across the mountains in seven days seems to us a bit of a miracle.

Now the next challenge awaits. The coastal road towards the south sadly doesn’t lead straight ahead. The curvy road reaching considerable heights at several points will definitely save us a visit to the sauna. After our little car trip, we need to pluck up all our courage to face a stretch of this sort come Monday. A definite highlight, though, is that we can now finally get rid of our winter clothes which will lighten our load. While staying at Lea and Paul’s in Antalya, we were immensely grateful that we were able to spread out our entire possessions on five beds, do some sorting as well as a thorough laundry using their washing machine. Isn’t it amazing what one can be happy about in different circumstances?!

Happy Easter holidays!

Hanspeter and Annemarie




In the German magazine „family“ (03/11) you can find an article about our hiking to Jerusalem.


A Visit to Patmos

April 7, 2011

March 28, 2011

A couple of days ago, we received this email from an elderly lady: “I thought you might like to know that it’s mostly thanks to you that I started using the computer in my ripe old age. I’ve just finished beginners’ class, and will continue with the Internet course in May. I’d never have thought computing could be such fun! And as a fantastic side effect, I’m increasingly finding my way around your website!” This is not the only lady of advanced years who amazes us. Before we set off on our hike, a 100-year-old woman whom Annemarie visited regularly asked a special favour of her: “Would you do something for me? I’d love you to read the last book of the Bible to me, the Book of Revelation.” Annemarie was delighted to comply with her wish, and from then on, every time she visited the lady, read a few verses to her. Chapters 4 and 5 of this special book of the Bible had already grown dear to her own heart as a great source of encouragement before.

And now we’re in the actual spot where the Apostle John wrote this passage (see video). One tourist leaflet describes this historic spot as follows: “In 95 A.D., John, the favourite disciple of Jesus, was exiled to the Island of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian. While there, John receives several visions from God showing him the world’s last days. This divine word, the ‘Revelation’, is part of the New Testament today. Though difficult to understand, the Book of Revelation contains a message of hope foretelling Christians the victory of Jesus Christ over evil and heralding a new world.” How very inspiring it is that on our journey to Jerusalem, we are now in the very place where John wrote about the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22).

The great many places and people we had encountered on our way before were also a vast source of inspiration to us. One time, a car turned around only to pull over to our side of the road. The driver enquired whether we were also on our way to Philadelphia (see video). We replied: “Yes, we are. We visit the places mentioned in the Bible.“ Holding half a loaf of bread out towards us, he told us he came from Brazil and also visited the towns mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation.” We took out our card and showed him our route from Basel to Jerusalem on the map printed on it. “Are you Christians?“ he asked. After we had said „yes“, he gave us an apple and wished us a good trip. Then he turned his car around and was on his way again.

Laodicea (see video) was an inspiration of a different kind. We watched as the ancient giant stones were stacked up again by crane to show the town’s face in the old days. From there, we had a direct view of the extraordinary sight of huge lime deposits of the former town of Hierapolis, today’s Pamukkale (see video). In ancient times, water from the hot springs was conducted from Hierapolis to Laodicea. When a special kind of root was added to the water, black cloth could be dyed purple in the mixture. Hierapolis is also mentioned in Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. Colossae was among the places we visited (see video), but sadly pretty much everything of the ancient town is still buried underground.

In the town of Ephesus (see video) we were met with the complete opposite: magnificent excavations all around. The remains of the Church of Mary were quite memorable owing to the fact that the Council of Ephesus was held there in 431 A.D. Issue of debate during that assembly was Jesus’ statement “I and the Father are one.” Not far off this excavation site, you can find John’s grave in Selcuk. Just a few hundred metres away, we went to see Doris and Mihail at their café (see video) and were treated to delicious rösti, a Swiss potato dish similar to hash browns. On Sunday, we went for a drive to Izmir (see video) together. In what was formerly known as Smyrna, we attended a worship service. In Milet then, on our way to Patmos, we were treated to a rather unique frog concert which we almost couldn’t tear ourselves away from (see video).

These past few weeks we couldn’t complain about the lack of change. Refreshed and strengthened, we feel ready to face the second highest point of our trip (1,460 metres) – after the Gotthard back in Switzerland. But before heading to Antalya, we need to cross over to Bodrum by ferry, then get to Ephesus and finally to Denizli where our side trip to the islands began.

Greetings from the island of Patmos

Hanspeter & Annemarie