Rain was smacking from the window. It was actually icy cold. Sitting in the dark depths of a British University’s library in 1994, I had been gazing out dreaming of somewhere warm and exotic. Turkey was the location that lit up my imagination.
Three great things embody this country. Just four hours flight from international London, it has a culture that is profoundly different, distinctly unfamilar. A land in the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism in the orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for years and years the middlemen of the world, 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 gift in their nomadic ancestry and Islam’s code of respect for strangers within a strange land.
The second great advantage of Turkey is its age. The place is steeped in history. It’s the site of some of the very earliest cities, like Çatal Hoyuk, stretching back 10,000 years. Ever after it was actually a veritable crossroads of civilisations. When archaeologists dig in Turkey they 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 all the things which I longed to view, great sun-burnt plains on what ancient battles were fought, theatres where Greek philosophers declaimed, as well as the marble clad ruins of Rome’s imperial ambitions.
It’s widely claimed that Turkey has more and better preserved Greek and Roman archaeological sites than Greece and Italy combined. The landscape is actually riddled with ruins, a few of which are virtually untouched. You are able to literally stroll via an olive grove and come across a Greek temple still standing proud, and possess the place all to yourself. Many individuals say part of Turkey’s charm is that it is like Greece was thirty years back.
Your third fantastic thing about yacht charter turkey will be the landscape. Around three plus a half times the size of Britain, it provides almost the same population, leaving vast areas wide, empty, and basically as nature intended. Additionally soaring mountain ranges, brilliant white sunlight, along with a vast coastline stretching along three seas, the Black Sea, the Aegean, as well as the Mediterranean, and you will have a really marvellous holiday destination.
I first went along to Turkey eleven years back, with a 2,000 mile walking adventure, to retrace Alexander the Great’s footsteps from Troy for the battlefield of Issus, where epic warrior defeated the Persians to get a second time. A five month journey took me across the western Aegean coast past a few of the giant cities of classical history, like Ephesus, Priene, and Miletus; deep in to the interior through tiny farming villages where I had been feted as being an honoured guest; and south through the peaks and valleys of your Taurus mountains, where donkeys are still a favoured mode of transport.
A decade later and my love affair with Turkey still beats strong. While it was walking that brought me to Turkey, today I favor a really different strategy for travelling: sailing. With some 5,178 miles of coastline, Turkey can be a paradise for cruising. Its south and west coasts offer maybe the most spectacular sailing within the Mediterranean, filled with devjpky02 coves and sleepy fishing villages, bustling harbours and deserted bays in the shape of giant theatres with breathtaking vistas. Littered with antiquities, protected legally, large sections of it have remained undeveloped, still lapped from 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 consider a better way to see Turkey, to learn its culture, discover such rich ruins, and drink in the landscape, than to set sail on a gulet. Spared the requirement to constantly pack, unpack, and change hotels, instead one travels in luxurious style. Maybe the key thing to me is the fact that it’s travel just how the ancients usually did. This makes considering the past altogether easier. Out on the waves, time can literally dissolve in the water, two millennia can disappear from your mind.
A mad keen sailor, Peter Ustinov once wrote: “The ocean not only sharpens a sense of beauty and also alarm, but in addition a sense of history. You might be confronted with precisely the sight which met Caesar’s eyes, and Hannibal’s, and never have to strain the imagination by subtracting television aerials through the skyline and filling within the gaps inside the Collosseum… off the magical coast of Turkey you rediscover precisely what the world was like whenever it was empty… and whenever pleasures were as simple as getting out of bed in the morning… and every 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 just 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 possess a spacious main saloon, a huge rear deck where foods are served, and sun loungers around the roof at the front. Most operate for the most part under motor, however some will also be made for proper sailing. When the sails climb, and also the engine turns silent, you will find the same soundtrack as Odysseus on Homer’s “wine dark sea”, the slapping of water along the side of the ship, and also the wind rushing through the canopy.
Aboard a gulet, one travels from the footsteps of ancient Greek pilgrims en path 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 their own strategy to begin to see the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one from the seven ancient wonders of the world.
I remember the first time I visited the traditional city of Knidos, a sensational site for maritime trade perched with the very tip of the Datca peninsula, between Bodrum and Marmaris. We sailed and moored up from the city’s old commercial harbour, just like merchants from Athens, Rhodes, and cities right all over the Mediterranean might have done over 2,000 yrs ago. My fellow travellers and I gawped in wonder, while we eased in to the ancient port, as well as its monuments took shape: the small 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, maybe even some fighting triremes. To this day the original mooring stones where they tied up remain visible, projecting right out of the harbour walls.
One from the defining characteristics of any gulet trip is the straight back to nature appreciation of your simple things: the clean fresh air, the canopy of stars during the night, time to lounge about and study. Swimming inside the crystal waters of your celebrated turquoise coast is naturally one in the frequent highlights, there tend to be windsurfers, kayaks, and snorkelling gear accessible for the slightly more adventurous.
Alongside the archaeology as well as the relaxed atmosphere, one in the greatest delights is definitely the food. Turkish meals are justly famed, often ranked as one in the three pre-eminent cuisines on earth alongside French and Chinese. The main objective 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 discover the visible difference. It’s surprising how even in the smallest gulets, out from the tiniest of galleys, the boat’s cook can produce such a variety of fresh local delicacies.
A Turkish breakfast typically consists of bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and honey. Lunch and dinner are usually 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 the cigarette shaped filo pastry wrap). Fruit is a mainstay item, and ranges with the seasons from cherries and strawberries, to melon and figs.
But with so many miles of coast where do you want to sail? Three areas are particular favourites of mine. First may be the ancient region of Lycia, a huge bulge to the Mediterranean on Turkey’s underbelly. Situated between Fethiye and Antalya, it’s a region oozing with myths and brimming with archaeology. Here, behind the soaring Taurus mountains, an extraordinary culture plus a fiercely independent people developed. Their funerary architecture, unlike other things in the world, still litters their once prosperous ports.
This was the fabled land of the Chimaera, a dreaded monster from Greek mythology, described around Homer: “She was of divine race, not of males, within the fore part a lion, in the rear a serpent, and in the middle a goat, breathing forth in terrible manner the force of blazing fire.”
The legend probably owes its origins to a extraordinary site up high in the hills. Sacred since time immemorial, it was actually the key sanctuary of your port city of Olympus. Here flames leap from the ground, a phenomenon as a result of a subterranean pocket of gas which spontaneously ignites on contact with all the outside air.
Not simply is blue cruise turkey the easiest way to explore this type of essentially maritime civilisation, sometimes it’s the only way. Even now, you will find tiny coastal villages which are accessible only by sea. One favourite may be the sleepy hamlet of Kale, about the southern tip of Lycia. Above a few piers where small fishing boats jostle, rises a ramshackle series of houses made out of ancient stones. Dominating the complete scene is a mighty Ottoman fortress built 550 yrs ago to overpower the Christian knights of Rhodes and secure the important sea lanes between Constantinople and Jerusalem. The castle, however, was really a latecomer. 1,800 years before, a little town called Simena was perched here. Its small Greek style theatre sits slap in the middle of the Ottoman castle, and all through the village are tombs hewn to the rock, and sarcophagi standing ten feet tall.
A second great area for sailing is west of Lycia, the original region of Caria, between Bodrum and Fethiye. This became the original realm of Mausolus, a strong dynast 2,400 years back. A strategically vital region, densely pack in antiquity with rich cities, it was actually jealously guarded and popular. Alexander the truly amazing liberated it from Persia, Rhodes sought to annexe it into her very own empire, as well as 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 a wonderful mixture 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 first female nude of all time; and Halicarnassus itself, site of your fabled mausoleum and the mighty fortress of St. Peter.
Another glorious area for cruising, is ancient Ionia, for the north of Bodrum. Along this stretch of coast designed a civilisation of quite exceptional brilliance. Inside the centuries before Alexander the excellent, the dynamic cities of Ionia helped lay the foundations of Greek literature, science, and philosophy, nevermind architecture.
Under Rome, these cities became more and more rich, prosperous, and beautiful – full of the very best temples, theatres and markets those funds could buy. The highlights are readily available: through the pretty little harbour of Myndos, where Cassius fled after murdering Julius Caesar; to the marvellously preserved Hellenistic city of Priene, in which the houses, streets, and public buildings are presented across a hillside in a perfect grid; and of course, Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia. This was one of the very first cities on earth to have street lighting. The internet site is magnificent, a cornucopia of colonnaded streets, agoras, baths, private villas, a theatre for 28,000, and an extraordinary library.
Should you fancy exploring several 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 out with an amazing display of wild flowers. From your end of May through the start of June the ocean becomes swimmable before the summer heat scorches, while September through October is great for leisurely bathing.