Sailing the Turquoise Coast of Turkey
Our six-day sea odyssey along the Turquoise Coast of Turkey began in Finike where we boarded the Polaris, a 75-foot, 12-passenger Turkish gullet. The Polaris had sails, but it was too heavy to move with sails alone and we had to rely on the motor. We quickly settled into our cabins, each with private facilities, but it was a bright sunny day and the colors of the clear turquoise water were daring us to dive from the decks and enjoy a decidedly cool but refreshing swim.
As I reflected on the days that led to this exotic adventure, I marveled at how quickly the time had passed since we first landed in Turkey seven days before.
Wildland Adventures’ begins its Turquoise Coast tour in Istanbul, which is where most visitors arrive. Our hotel, the Armada, was located on the Bosphorus within walking distance of most of the attractions of the old city. Our group used our van as little as possible. Mostly, we walked. We spent an entire day exploring the historic grandeur of Constantinople.
The spectacularly beautiful Blue Mosque and the massive Aya Sophia took up most of the morning. After lunch at a 500-year old Ottoman soup kitchen, we resumed our explorations at the Roman Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace, the Kapali Carsisi (covered bazaar) and the fragrant Spice market. Pleasantly tired after a day of exercise, we boarded a ferryboat for a sunset cruise on the Bosphorus. We floated past what used to be small fishing villages, but are now mostly million dollar mansions and trendy restaurants. Remnants of history are still visible in the tumbled-down remains of old wooden houses tucked between the walls of posh refurbished homes and condominiums.
The ferry, a major means of transportation in crowded Istanbul, made stops on both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus. High over our heads, we pass beneath bridges, which are bumper to bumper with cars and busses carrying workers between Europe and Asia.
Early the next morning we flew to Kayseri, an agricultural town surrounded by snow-capped mountains, which is the gateway to the fabled Cappadocia. We spent two days hiking and exploring among the historic and picturesque fairy chimneys in the area. We climbed to tiny hidden churches and descended into narrow and claustrophobic underground cities that served as safe havens for thousands of early Christians.
We visited rural villages where, until as recently as 1954, people still lived in caves without electricity or indoor plumbing. Our home for one night was the elegantly appointed Elkep Evi, which is a restored cave-house hotel with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Each room is an original cave, with windows in the front and modern amenities added. Cappadocia is truly a magical area, whose beauty cannot be adequately described with either words or pictures. It simply must be seen.
Our journey through thousands of years of history continued as we made our way leisurely towards Antalia and the Mediterranean Coast. A memorable day was spent at a “home-stay” with a family in the tiny village of Urunlu, which is rarely visited by western travelers. In the home where we stayed, we were not treated as foreigners, but as guests.
Upon bidding our host family farewell, we began a scenic drive over the Taurus Mountains with a stop at the Aspendos, the best preserved and one of the largest Roman theaters in the world. We were now ready for the second part of our adventure on the Polaris.
We moved slowly down the coast, anchoring each night in a different private cove for swimming and snorkeling. Each day we left the ship for several hours to explore a new region. Each hill we climbed took us back thousands of years in history.
One day we scaled a steep, densely forested mountainside to visit the remote site of Arycanda. At Andriace, we visited the Lycian rock tombs of Myra and the 3rd century church of St Nicholas. In a wide, remote valley we visited a young goat herder and his wife and child. We spent one evening in the harbor at Kekova Bay where we swam and watched the sunset.
Everywhere we went, we discovered interesting historical sites and ruins—even beneath the water where we swam, we found remnants of old walls and coastal cities.
The crew of the Polaris truly pampered us. Each day for lunch and dinner bountiful meals appeared to tempt us to overeat. There was fresh fish from the sea, chicken, lamb, beef and eggplant prepared with mysterious Turkish spices. Fresh salads, bowls of yogurt, dishes of olives and local cheeses were always followed by delectable desserts with unpronounceable names. Somewhere in between we managed to fit in tea and cookies and an evening cocktail hour. It is a good thing we spent our days climbing, hiking and swimming or our waistlines would have expanded more than just a little bit.
We visited the charming Mediterranean village of Kas, with its narrow streets and bougainvillea flowing over the walls. It was everyones favorite shopping mecca.
One morning we were taken by mini-bus to the abandoned Greek ghost town of Kaya Koy, which at one time housed over 5,000 people. The 600 abandoned homes, belonging to Greeks until 1930, were in near perfect condition. The murals and much of the floor in the church were still intact. We spent over an hour wandering through the empty city speculating on the lives of the people who had so recently inhabited the impressive buildings. The boat had moved while we were ashore,and we returned by a meandering route, which descended quite steeply to Soguksu Cove where we once again boarded our floating home A late afternoon swim did much to revive us after a rather rigorous hike. As we floated in the cool, dark water, I knew that paradise was not lost — it was alive and well in the tiny, deep, secluded coves of the Turquoise Coast of Turkey.
On our last day aboard ship, we sailed to Iztutu Beach, which is well known as the place where each year, rare sea turtles lay their eggs. We boarded a fishing boat and cruised up a narrow channel on the Dalyan River to Dalyan through a maze of bamboo and cattails to visit the magnificent 4th-century rock cut tombs and the Carian ruins at Caunos. Later,the evening began with a barbecue on deck that lasted far into the night, as we prepared reluctantly to leave the ship in the morning at Marmaris. We had traveled about 145 miles.
About two hours from Marmaris, we visited the most spectacular of the ruins on our tour, Ephesus. This amazingly well-preserved, excavated city, winds its way up a hillside with colonnaded avenues, ancient temples, agora, stadium shops, houses and the ornate two-story Library of Celsus.
A late afternoon flight from Izmir returned us to Istanbul, where we had a final farewell dinner at a lively traditional restaurant in the fish market. The waiter presented two very large fresh fish for our approval before cooking them to perfection. We drank several bottles of mellow Turkish wine and nibbled on tasty little bowls of seafood, while we waited for the fish to cook. No one was in a hurry. The music was loud and boisterous as strolling musicians serenaded the patrons all around us. Carole struggled valiantely to be heard, as she read the poem that she and Geoffrey had written and we all tried to delay saying goodbye. A last, leisurely late night walk along the Bosphorous to our hotel and we knew that our idyllic interlude had come to an end. None of us will ever forget our time in Turkey or the beautiful turquoise coast.
The Rock-cut tombs at Caunos
A Traditional Turkish Gulet
Village Children watching us watch them
on 7 August 2006.
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