Rain was smacking up against the window. It was actually icy cold. Sitting in the dark depths of your British University’s library in 1994, I had been 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 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 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 individuals are famed with regard to their warmth and hospitality, a gift of the nomadic ancestry and Islam’s code of respect for strangers inside a strange land.
The next big plus with Turkey is its age. The place is steeped in the past. It’s the website of a number of the very earliest cities, like Çatal Hoyuk, stretching back 10,000 years. Ever after it absolutely was a veritable crossroads of civilisations. When archaeologists dig in Turkey they can be 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 of the stuff that I longed to view, 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 claimed that Turkey has more and 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 may literally stroll using an olive grove and come across a Greek temple still standing proud, and have the place all to yourself. Many people say a part of Turkey’s charm is that it is a lot like Greece was thirty years ago.
The 3rd fantastic thing about gulet charter turkey will be the landscape. About three as well as a half times the size of Britain, it provides almost exactly the same population, leaving vast areas wide, empty, and pretty much as nature intended. Add to that soaring mountain ranges, brilliant white sunlight, as well as a vast coastline stretching along three seas, the Black Sea, the Aegean, along with the Mediterranean, and you will have a really marvellous holiday destination.
I first visited Turkey eleven years back, on a 2,000 mile walking adventure, to retrace Alexander the Great’s footsteps from Troy to the battlefield of Issus, the location where the epic warrior defeated the Persians for the second time. A five month journey took me down the western Aegean coast past some of the giant cities of classical history, like Ephesus, Priene, and Miletus; deep in the interior through tiny farming villages where I was feted as an honoured guest; and south from the peaks and valleys from the Taurus mountains, where donkeys continue to be a favoured mode of transport.
Decade later and my love affair with Turkey still beats strong. Although it was walking that brought me to Turkey, today I prefer a very different strategy for travelling: sailing. With many 5,178 miles of coastline, Turkey is really a paradise for cruising. Its south and west coasts offer probably the most spectacular sailing inside the Mediterranean, loaded 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 where the giants of ancient history sailed: Achilles, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar…
In places, mountains of limestone drop sheer in to the sea, elsewhere pine forested peninsulas extend like sinuous fingers hiding a cornucopia of golden beaches, deep gulfs, and tiny offshore islands. With your a wonderful everchanging backdrop, I can’t visualize a better way to see Turkey, to discover its culture, discover such rich ruins, and drink from the landscape, than to set sail over a gulet. Spared the requirement to constantly pack, unpack, and change hotels, instead one travels in luxurious style. Maybe the key thing for me is the fact that it’s travel the way the ancients usually did. It makes taking into consideration the past altogether easier. Out on the waves, time can literally dissolve in the water, two millennia can disappear through the mind.
A mad keen sailor, Peter Ustinov once wrote: “The sea not just sharpens feelings of beauty and also alarm, but additionally feelings of history. You happen to 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 from the skyline and filling within the gaps in the Collosseum… away from the magical coast of Turkey you rediscover what the world was like if it was empty… and whenever pleasures were as simple as getting up each day… and each day can be a journey of discovery.”
Gulets are actually the vessel of choice for going through the Turkish coast. Handbuilt from wood, usually pine from local forests, they’re often around 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, that do everything allowing passengers to relax. Most gulets have got a spacious main saloon, a large rear deck where meals are served, and sun loungers around the roof at the front. The majority operate typically under motor, however, many will also be intended for proper sailing. As soon as the sails climb, and also the engine turns silent, you will have the same soundtrack as Odysseus on Homer’s “wine dark sea”, the slapping of water on the side of the ship, as well as the wind rushing from the canopy.
Aboard a gulet, one travels in the footsteps of ancient Greek pilgrims en path to an oracular temple like Didyma, or perhaps in the wake of Byzantine merchants carrying a cargo of glass, just like the Serce Limani shipwreck now in Bodrum museum, or like Roman tourists on their own approach to start to see the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven ancient wonders around the globe.
I recall the first time I visited the ancient city of Knidos, a sensational site for maritime trade perched at the very tip from the Datca peninsula, between Bodrum and Marmaris. We sailed and moored up from the city’s old commercial harbour, equally as merchants from Athens, Rhodes, and cities right over the Mediterranean might have done over 2,000 years back. My fellow travellers and that i gawped in wonder, when we eased into the ancient port, along with its monuments took shape: the little 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, possibly even some fighting triremes. Even today the ancient mooring stones where they tied up remain visible, projecting out from the harbour walls.
One from the defining characteristics of the gulet trip is definitely the straight back to nature appreciation in the simple things: the clean outside air, the canopy of stars during the night, enough time to lounge about and look at. Swimming inside the crystal waters in the celebrated turquoise coast is obviously one of your frequent highlights, and then there are often windsurfers, kayaks, and snorkelling gear readily available for the a little more adventurous.
Alongside the archaeology and the relaxed atmosphere, one of the greatest delights may be the food. Turkish meals are justly famed, often ranked as one in the three pre-eminent cuisines worldwide alongside French and Chinese. The main focus is all about simple but incredibly fresh local ingredients, often grown organically or raised free range. You only need to taste a tomato in Turkey to find out the difference. It’s surprising how even in the smallest gulets, out of the tiniest of galleys, the boat’s cook can produce such a number of fresh local delicacies.
A Turkish breakfast typically is made up of bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and honey. Lunch and dinner are generally one or two main courses, associated 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 can be a mainstay item, and ranges from the seasons from cherries and strawberries, to melon and figs.
But because of so many miles of coast where do you decide to sail? Three areas are particular favourites of mine. First is definitely the ancient region of Lycia, a giant bulge into the Mediterranean on Turkey’s underbelly. Situated between Fethiye and Antalya, it’s a region oozing with myths and packed with archaeology. Here, behind the soaring Taurus mountains, an extraordinary culture plus a fiercely independent people developed. Their funerary architecture, unlike other things on the planet, still litters their once prosperous ports.
It was the fabled land in the Chimaera, a dreaded monster from Greek mythology, described as soon as Homer: “She was of divine race, not of men, from the fore part a lion, at the rear a serpent, and at the center a goat, breathing forth in terrible manner the force of blazing fire.”
The legend probably owes its origins for an extraordinary site high up inside the hills. Sacred since time immemorial, it absolutely was the main sanctuary of the port city of Olympus. Here flames leap out of your ground, a phenomenon as a result of a subterranean pocket of natural gas which spontaneously ignites on contact with the outside air.
Not just is blue cruise turkey the best way to explore such an essentially maritime civilisation, sometimes it’s the only method. Even now, you will find tiny coastal villages which are accessible only by sea. One favourite will be the sleepy hamlet of Kale, in the southern tip of Lycia. Above a few piers where small fishing boats jostle, rises a ramshackle number of houses produced from ancient stones. Dominating the complete scene is actually a mighty Ottoman fortress built 550 in the past to overpower the Christian knights of Rhodes and secure the all important sea lanes between Constantinople and Jerusalem. The castle, however, was a latecomer. 1,800 years before, a small 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 in to the rock, and sarcophagi standing ten feet tall.
An additional great area for sailing is west of Lycia, the ancient region of Caria, between Bodrum and Fethiye. This became the ancient arena of Mausolus, a powerful dynast 2,400 years ago. A strategically vital region, densely pack in antiquity with rich cities, it was actually jealously guarded and desired. Alexander the Great liberated it from Persia, Rhodes sought to annexe it into her own empire, as well as the legacy of Crusader castles still speaks of the epic battle that raged along this coast between rival religions, Christianity and Islam. Today, there remains a wonderful mix 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 of all time; and Halicarnassus itself, site from the fabled mausoleum as well as the mighty fortress of St. Peter.
Still another glorious area for cruising, is ancient Ionia, for the north of Bodrum. Along this stretch of coast developed a civilisation of quite exceptional brilliance. Inside 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 ever more rich, prosperous, and exquisite – filled with the best temples, theatres and markets those funds could buy. The highlights are readily available: in the pretty little harbour of Myndos, where Cassius fled after murdering Julius Caesar; for the marvellously preserved Hellenistic city of Priene, where houses, streets, and public buildings are laid out across a hillside in a perfect grid; as well as, Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia. It was one of the very first cities on the planet to get street lighting. The site is magnificent, a cornucopia of colonnaded streets, agoras, baths, private villas, a theatre for 28,000, plus 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 amazing display of wild flowers. From the end of May through the beginning of June the water becomes swimmable ahead of the summer heat scorches, while September through October is great for leisurely bathing.