We left Adana on Monday, travelling to Antioch by bus. It was a nice trip, the bus was air conditioned and almost empty. The bus had two drivers, who switched half way through. They also gave out free Pepsi, fizzy orange and tea.
Once we got to Antioch it became clear that the onward bus to Aleppo would be a problem – it wasn’t leaving until the next day. There was another bus to Damascus but it was full. So we stayed the night in Antioch and had a look round. It’s not exactly a tourist city but we did walk a kilometre or two to St Peter’s grotto, arguably the first church in the world.
I took a few pictures inside the grotto, and the view of Antioch from the grotto:
We actually stayed in the bus station, but in a room that cost us 15 quid, and as it turned out was actually fine for our purposes. We also ended up going out in Antioch for some beers, chatting to some locals in broken English, and getting back to the bus station to smoke shish with the lads there. Interesting conversations all round.
The following morning it was off to Aleppo by bus, through the mountains, across the Syrian border (no issues, and all very friendly and professional). Very few people on our bus either, so the half Turkish half Syrian guide chatted to us for 30 mins about Turkey joining the European Union and helping us with our currency conversions.
Once we got to Aleppo we were dropped at the bus station and had to navigate the rather complex streets to get to our hotel (crossing the street is a bit like playing frogger, no one stops unless they have to). The hotel is lovely, inexpensive, and they have two pet terapins in the lobby, who wander around as you drink your tea.
Aleppo is a bustling city and we walked some of the enormous maze of Souks, up to the citadel, taking some pictures, and having more tea and coffee. On our way back through the souq we stopped at a bath, getting the full washdown and massage (no sniggering!).
We then strolled up the the famous Baron Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express, and had some beer and Lebanese wine.
All in all Aleppo feels safe, people are friendly and helpful, and everything is very very cheap. A meal today at a nice Syrian restaurant, away from the tourist traps, came to about €20 – with two beers, three main courses, starters and dessert.
Some pics from Aleppo: