Rain was smacking versus the window. It had been icy cold. Sitting in the dark depths of your British University’s library in 1994, I was gazing out dreaming of somewhere warm and exotic. Turkey was the spot that lit up my imagination.
Three great things embody this country. Just four hours flight from international London, it features a culture which happens to be profoundly different, distinctly unfamilar. A land on the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism of your orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for years and years the middlemen on the planet, famed merchants uniting three continents – Europe, Africa, and Asia, as far east as China. Today, its folks are famed for his or her warmth and hospitality, a great gift in their nomadic ancestry and Islam’s code of respect for strangers in a strange land.
The 2nd wonderful thing about Turkey is its age. The place is steeped in history. It’s the internet site of several of the very earliest cities, like Çatal Hoyuk, stretching back 10,000 years. Ever after it was a veritable crossroads of civilisations. When archaeologists dig in Turkey these are confronted by layers upon layers of peoples and cultures, from Hittite fortifications to Byzantine churches. Before I’d even set foot there, Turkey conjured up images of the items that I longed to see, great sun-burnt plains on what ancient battles were fought, theatres where Greek philosophers declaimed, and also the marble clad ruins of Rome’s imperial ambitions.
It’s widely stated that Turkey has more and better preserved Greek and Roman archaeological sites than Greece and Italy combined. The landscape is just riddled with ruins, many of which are virtually untouched. You can literally stroll using an olive grove and come across a Greek temple still standing proud, and also have the place all to yourself. A lot of people say component of Turkey’s charm is that it is similar to Greece was thirty yrs ago.
Your third fantastic thing about blue cruise turkey may be the landscape. Around three as well as a half times the actual size of Britain, it has almost the identical population, leaving vast areas wide, empty, and just about as nature intended. Add to that soaring mountain ranges, brilliant white sunlight, along with a vast coastline stretching along three seas, the Black Sea, the Aegean, along with the Mediterranean, and you have a truly marvellous holiday destination.
I first went along to Turkey eleven years ago, on a 2,000 mile walking adventure, to retrace Alexander the Great’s footsteps from Troy for the battlefield of Issus, the location where the epic warrior defeated the Persians for any second time. A five month journey took me on the western Aegean coast past a few of the giant cities of classical history, like Ephesus, Priene, and Miletus; deep to the interior through tiny farming villages where I used to be feted being an honoured guest; and south from the peaks and valleys of the Taurus mountains, where donkeys are still a favoured mode of transport.
10 years later and my love affair with Turkey still beats strong. Although it was walking that brought me to Turkey, today I like a really different way of travelling: sailing. With a few 5,178 miles of coastline, Turkey is a paradise for cruising. Its south and west coasts offer maybe the most spectacular sailing in the Mediterranean, full of devjpky02 coves and sleepy fishing villages, bustling harbours and deserted bays the same shape as giant theatres with breathtaking vistas. Littered with antiquities, protected by law, large parts of it have remained undeveloped, still lapped with the clear waters on what the giants of ancient history sailed: Achilles, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar…
In places, mountains of limestone drop sheer in the sea, elsewhere pine forested peninsulas extend like sinuous fingers hiding a cornucopia of golden beaches, deep gulfs, and tiny offshore islands. By using these a stunning everchanging backdrop, I can’t visualize a better way to see Turkey, to explore its culture, discover such rich ruins, and drink within the landscape, rather than to set sail on the gulet. Spared the desire to constantly pack, unpack, and change hotels, instead one travels in luxurious style. Possibly the key thing to me is that it’s travel just how the ancients usually did. It makes considering the past altogether easier. Out on the waves, time can literally dissolve inside the water, two millennia can disappear through the mind.
A mad keen sailor, Peter Ustinov once wrote: “The water not merely sharpens a feeling of beauty and of alarm, and also feelings of history. You are confronted with precisely the sight which met Caesar’s eyes, and Hannibal’s, without needing to strain the imagination by subtracting television aerials through the skyline and filling in the gaps within the Collosseum… off of the magical coast of Turkey you rediscover just what the world was like if it was empty… so when pleasures were as basic as getting out of bed each day… and each day is a journey of discovery.”
Gulets are very the vessel preferred by going through the Turkish coast. Handbuilt from wood, usually pine from local forests, they’re often as much as 80 feet long and sleep between six and 16 guests in attractive double or twin cabins. They normally have 3 or 4 capable and helpful crew members, captain, cook, and one or two mates, who do all the work allowing passengers to relax. Most gulets have a spacious main saloon, a huge rear deck where meals are served, and sun loungers about the roof in front. The majority operate typically under motor, however some are also designed for proper sailing. As soon as the sails increase, as well as the engine turns silent, you have the same soundtrack as Odysseus on Homer’s “wine dark sea”, the slapping of water along the side of the ship, and the wind rushing from the canopy.
Aboard a gulet, one travels inside the footsteps of ancient Greek pilgrims en way to an oracular temple like Didyma, or in the wake of Byzantine merchants carrying a cargo of glass, much like the Serce Limani shipwreck now in Bodrum museum, or like Roman tourists on his or her approach to begin to see the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one in the seven ancient wonders on the planet.
I remember the very first time I visited the ancient city of Knidos, a sensational site for maritime trade perched on the very tip in the Datca peninsula, between Bodrum and Marmaris. We sailed and moored up within the city’s old commercial harbour, just like merchants from Athens, Rhodes, and cities right over the Mediterranean would have done over 2,000 years ago. My fellow travellers and that i gawped in wonder, since we eased in to the ancient port, and its particular monuments took shape: the tiny theatre, the rows of houses, the miles of fortifications climbing up a steep ridge. We anchored where countless vessels had previously – large cargo ships, local fishing boats, perhaps even some fighting triremes. Even today the ancient mooring stones where they tied up continue to be visible, projecting out from the harbour walls.
One of the defining characteristics of your gulet trip will be the back to nature appreciation of the simple things: the clean outdoors, the canopy of stars through the night, some time to lounge about and browse. Swimming inside the crystal waters in the celebrated turquoise coast is needless to say one of your frequent highlights, where there are generally windsurfers, kayaks, and snorkelling gear readily available for the slightly more adventurous.
Alongside the archaeology along with the relaxed atmosphere, one of your greatest delights is definitely the food. Turkish food is justly famed, often ranked as one in the three pre-eminent cuisines in the world alongside French and Chinese. The main focus is about simple but incredibly fresh local ingredients, often grown organically or raised free range. You simply have to taste a tomato in Turkey to view the real difference. It’s surprising how even about the smallest gulets, out of your tiniest of galleys, the boat’s cook can produce such many different fresh local delicacies.
A Turkish breakfast typically consists of bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and honey. Lunch and dinner tend to be one or two main courses, combined with salads and mezes, Turkey’s speciality starters, including cacik (a garlic and cucumber yoghurt), biber dolma (stuffed peppers), and sigara borek (white cheese and herbs in a cigarette shaped filo pastry wrap). Fruit is a mainstay item, and ranges throughout the seasons from cherries and strawberries, to melon and figs.
But with so many miles of coast where do you opt to sail? Three areas are particular favourites of mine. First is the ancient region of Lycia, a huge bulge in to the Mediterranean on Turkey’s underbelly. Situated between Fethiye and Antalya, it’s a region oozing with myths and filled with archaeology. Here, behind the soaring Taurus mountains, an extraordinary culture along with a fiercely independent people developed. Their funerary architecture, unlike anything else worldwide, still litters their once prosperous ports.
This is the fabled land of the Chimaera, a dreaded monster from Greek mythology, described around Homer: “She was of divine race, not of males, in the fore part a lion, in the rear a serpent, and in between a goat, breathing forth in terrible manner the force of blazing fire.”
The legend probably owes its origins with an extraordinary site up high inside the hills. Sacred since time immemorial, it was the main sanctuary in the port city of Olympus. Here flames leap out of the ground, a phenomenon as a result of a subterranean pocket of gas which spontaneously ignites on contact with the outside air.
Not only is gulet charter turkey the easiest way to explore such an essentially maritime civilisation, sometimes it’s the only method. Even now, there are actually tiny coastal villages which are accessible only by sea. One favourite will be the sleepy hamlet of Kale, around the southern tip of Lycia. Above a number of piers where small fishing boats jostle, rises a ramshackle group of houses made out of ancient stones. Dominating the entire scene is actually a mighty Ottoman fortress built 550 years back to overpower the Christian knights of Rhodes and secure the all important sea lanes between Constantinople and Jerusalem. The castle, however, had been a latecomer. 1,800 years before, a small town called Simena was perched here. Its small Greek style theatre sits slap in the midst of the Ottoman castle, and throughout the village are tombs hewn into the rock, and sarcophagi standing ten feet tall.
A second great area for sailing is west of Lycia, the traditional region of Caria, between Bodrum and Fethiye. This became the traditional world of Mausolus, an effective dynast 2,400 in the past. A strategically vital region, densely pack in antiquity with rich cities, it had been jealously guarded and sought after. Alexander the excellent liberated it from Persia, Rhodes sought to annexe it into her empire, and the legacy of Crusader castles still talks about the epic battle that raged along this coast between rival religions, Christianity and Islam. Today, there remains an excellent blend of architectural and historic marvels. The exquisite temple tombs of Caunos, carved in a cliff face by masons dangling from ropes; the monumental city of Knidos, famed for Praxiteles’ infamous statue of Aphrodite, the very first female nude in the past; and Halicarnassus itself, site of the fabled mausoleum as well as the mighty fortress of St. Peter.
One third glorious area for cruising, is ancient Ionia, to the north of Bodrum. Along this stretch of coast created a civilisation of quite exceptional brilliance. Within the centuries before Alexander the fantastic, the dynamic cities of Ionia helped lay the foundations of Greek literature, science, and philosophy, nevermind architecture.
Under Rome, these cities became a lot more rich, prosperous, and delightful – packed with the best temples, theatres and markets those funds could buy. The highlights are readily available: from your pretty little harbour of Myndos, where Cassius fled after murdering Julius Caesar; on the marvellously preserved Hellenistic city of Priene, where houses, streets, and public buildings are outlined across a hillside inside a perfect grid; as well as, Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia. It was one of the initial cities in the world to have street lighting. The site is magnificent, a cornucopia of colonnaded streets, agoras, baths, private villas, a theatre for 28,000, as well as an extraordinary library.
When you fancy exploring a few of the world’s finest ancient wonders, spring or autumn is the greatest time and energy to go. April and early May sees Turkey decked by helping cover their an incredible display of wild flowers. In the end of May through the start of June the sea becomes swimmable just before the summer heat scorches, while September through October is good for leisurely bathing.