Rain was smacking versus the window. It was actually icy cold. Sitting at nighttime depths of any British University’s library in 1994, I was gazing out dreaming of somewhere warm and exotic. Turkey was the area that lit up my imagination.
Three great things embody this country. Just four hours flight far from international London, it features 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 hundreds of years the middlemen around 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 next big plus with Turkey is its age. The location is steeped in the past. It’s the web page of a number 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 stuff that I longed to see, great sun-burnt plains which ancient battles were fought, theatres where Greek philosophers declaimed, as well as the marble clad ruins of Rome’s imperial ambitions.
It’s widely said that Turkey has more and much better preserved Greek and Roman archaeological sites than Greece and Italy combined. The landscape is simply riddled with ruins, many of which are virtually untouched. It is possible to literally stroll via an olive grove and come across a Greek temple still standing proud, and enjoy the place all to yourself. A lot of people say a part of Turkey’s charm is that it is like Greece was thirty years ago.
The third fantastic thing about gulet charter turkey will be the landscape. About three plus a half times the size of Britain, they have almost exactly the same population, leaving vast areas wide, empty, and pretty much as nature intended. Additionally soaring mountain ranges, brilliant white sunlight, plus a vast coastline stretching along three seas, the Black Sea, the Aegean, and also the Mediterranean, and you will have a truly marvellous holiday destination.
I first traveled to Turkey eleven yrs ago, on the 2,000 mile walking adventure, to retrace Alexander the Great’s footsteps from Troy towards the battlefield of Issus, in which 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 had been feted for an honoured guest; and south with the peaks and valleys of the Taurus mountains, where donkeys remain a favoured mode of transport.
Decade later and my love affair with Turkey still beats strong. Even though it was walking that brought me to Turkey, today I like a very different means of travelling: sailing. With some 5,178 miles of coastline, Turkey is actually a paradise for cruising. Its south and west coasts offer probably 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 by law, large sections 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 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 an incredible everchanging backdrop, I can’t think of a better way to see Turkey, to learn its culture, discover such rich ruins, and drink within the landscape, instead of set sail on a gulet. Spared the need to constantly pack, unpack, and change hotels, instead one travels in luxurious style. Maybe the key thing to me is that it’s travel how the ancients usually did. It can make taking into consideration the past altogether easier. Out on the waves, time can literally dissolve inside the water, two millennia can disappear from your mind.
A mad keen sailor, Peter Ustinov once wrote: “The ocean not only sharpens feelings of beauty and also of alarm, but in addition a feeling of history. You might be confronted with precisely the sight which met Caesar’s eyes, and Hannibal’s, while not having to strain the imagination by subtracting television aerials from your skyline and filling within the gaps in the Collosseum… off of the magical coast of Turkey you rediscover what the world was like in the event it was empty… so when pleasures were as simple as getting up every morning… and every day is really a journey of discovery.”
Gulets are really the vessel of choice for checking out 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 generally have three or four capable and helpful crew members, captain, cook, and one or two mates, who do all the work allowing passengers to unwind. Most gulets use a spacious main saloon, a sizable rear deck where foods are served, and sun loungers in the roof in front. Many operate for the most part under motor, but some may also be intended for proper sailing. If the sails go up, and also the engine turns silent, there is the same soundtrack as Odysseus on Homer’s “wine dark sea”, the slapping of water on the side of the ship, and the wind rushing through the canopy.
Aboard a gulet, one travels within the footsteps of ancient Greek pilgrims en path to an oracular temple like Didyma, or maybe in the wake of Byzantine merchants carrying a cargo of glass, such as the Serce Limani shipwreck now in Bodrum museum, or like Roman tourists on his or her strategy to begin to see the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one from the seven ancient wonders around the world.
I recall the very first time I visited the traditional city of Knidos, a sensational site for maritime trade perched at the very tip in the Datca peninsula, between Bodrum and Marmaris. We sailed and moored up in the city’s old commercial harbour, just like merchants from Athens, Rhodes, and cities right throughout the Mediterranean will have done over 2,000 years ago. My fellow travellers and I gawped in wonder, when we eased into the ancient port, and 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, maybe even some fighting triremes. Even today the traditional mooring stones where they tied up continue to be visible, projecting right out of the harbour walls.
One in the defining characteristics of any gulet trip may be the back to nature appreciation from the simple things: the clean clean air, the canopy of stars through the night, enough time to lounge about and look at. Swimming within the crystal waters of your celebrated turquoise coast is naturally one in the frequent highlights, and then there tend to be windsurfers, kayaks, and snorkelling gear readily available for the a little more adventurous.
Alongside the archaeology as well as the relaxed atmosphere, one of your greatest delights will be the food. Turkish foods are justly famed, often ranked as one of your three pre-eminent cuisines on the planet alongside French and Chinese. The main objective is focused on simple but incredibly fresh local ingredients, often grown organically or raised free range. You only have to taste a tomato in Turkey to find out the difference. It’s surprising how even around the smallest gulets, out from the 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 are usually 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 a cigarette shaped filo pastry wrap). Fruit is actually 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 choose to sail? Three areas are particular favourites of mine. First may be 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 brimming with archaeology. Here, behind the soaring Taurus mountains, an extraordinary culture as well as 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 of the Chimaera, a dreaded monster from Greek mythology, described as early as Homer: “She was of divine race, not of males, inside 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 your port city of Olympus. Here flames leap from the ground, a phenomenon as a result of a subterranean pocket of natural gas which spontaneously ignites on contact using the outside air.
Not just is gulet charter turkey the best way to explore such an essentially maritime civilisation, sometimes it’s the only way. Even now, there are tiny coastal villages which are accessible only by sea. One favourite is definitely the sleepy hamlet of Kale, around the southern tip of Lycia. Above a number of piers where small fishing boats jostle, rises a ramshackle number of houses made out of ancient stones. Dominating the complete scene can be a mighty Ottoman fortress built 550 years back to overpower the Christian knights of Rhodes and secure the 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 midst of the Ottoman castle, and all through the village are tombs hewn to the rock, and sarcophagi standing ten feet tall.
A 2nd great area for sailing is west of Lycia, the ancient region of Caria, between Bodrum and Fethiye. This was the traditional arena of Mausolus, a powerful dynast 2,400 yrs ago. A strategically vital region, densely pack in antiquity with rich cities, it was jealously guarded and sought after. Alexander the fantastic liberated it from Persia, Rhodes sought to annexe it into her 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 an awesome combination of architectural and historic marvels. The exquisite temple tombs of Caunos, carved in to a cliff face by masons dangling from ropes; the monumental city of Knidos, famed for Praxiteles’ infamous statue of Aphrodite, the 1st female nude in the past; and Halicarnassus itself, site of the fabled mausoleum along with the mighty fortress of St. Peter.
Another glorious area for cruising, is ancient Ionia, on the north of Bodrum. Along this stretch of coast created a civilisation of quite exceptional brilliance. In 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 increasingly rich, prosperous, and beautiful – packed with the best possible temples, theatres and markets those funds could buy. The highlights are plentiful: through the pretty little harbour of Myndos, where Cassius fled after murdering Julius Caesar; towards the marvellously preserved Hellenistic city of Priene, where the houses, streets, and public buildings are organized across a hillside in the perfect grid; not to mention, Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia. This was one of the initial cities on the planet to get street lighting. The website is magnificent, a cornucopia of colonnaded streets, agoras, baths, private villas, a theatre for 28,000, plus an extraordinary library.
When you fancy exploring some of the world’s finest ancient wonders, spring or autumn is the best time and energy to go. April and early May sees Turkey decked by helping cover their a stunning display of wild flowers. Through the end of May through the beginning of June the ocean becomes swimmable ahead of the summer heat scorches, while September through October is ideal for leisurely bathing.