Rain was smacking versus the window. It had been icy cold. Sitting at night depths of a British University’s library in 1994, I used to be 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 clear of international London, it possesses a culture which can be profoundly different, distinctly unfamilar. A land around the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism from the orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for hundreds of years the middlemen around the globe, famed merchants uniting three continents – Europe, Africa, and Asia, as far east as China. Today, its folks are famed for warmth and hospitality, a present with 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 location is steeped in the past. It’s the internet 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 stuff that I longed to view, great sun-burnt plains on what ancient battles were fought, theatres where Greek philosophers declaimed, and the marble clad ruins of Rome’s imperial ambitions.
It’s widely mentioned 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, a few of which are virtually untouched. You are able to literally stroll through an olive grove and stumble upon a Greek temple still standing proud, and enjoy the place all to yourself. Many individuals say component of Turkey’s charm is that it is like Greece was thirty years ago.
The third fantastic thing about yacht charter turkey will be the landscape. Around three as well as a half times how big Britain, it offers almost exactly the same population, leaving vast areas wide, empty, and basically 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, and also the Mediterranean, and you have a totally 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 towards the battlefield of Issus, where epic warrior defeated the Persians for the second time. A five month journey took me on the western Aegean coast past several of the giant cities of classical history, like Ephesus, Priene, and Miletus; deep in to the interior through tiny farming villages where I was feted as an honoured guest; and south throughout the peaks and valleys of the Taurus mountains, where donkeys remain 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 an incredibly different method of travelling: sailing. With some 5,178 miles of coastline, Turkey is actually a paradise for cruising. Its south and west coasts offer maybe the most spectacular sailing from the Mediterranean, loaded with 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 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 into the sea, elsewhere pine forested peninsulas stretch out like sinuous fingers hiding a cornucopia of golden beaches, deep gulfs, and tiny offshore islands. With such a wonderful everchanging backdrop, I can’t imagine a better method to see Turkey, to explore its culture, discover such rich ruins, and drink within the landscape, than to set sail on a gulet. Spared the desire to constantly pack, unpack, and change hotels, instead one travels in luxurious style. Perhaps the key thing to me is that it’s travel just how the ancients usually did. It can make considering the past altogether easier. Out on the waves, time can literally dissolve in the water, two millennia can disappear in the mind.
A mad keen sailor, Peter Ustinov once wrote: “The ocean not simply sharpens feelings of beauty as well as alarm, but in addition a feeling of history. You happen to 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 the skyline and filling within the gaps inside the Collosseum… from the magical coast of Turkey you rediscover just what the world was like in the event it was empty… and whenever pleasures were as simple as getting out of bed in the morning… and every day is actually a journey of discovery.”
Gulets are really 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 generally 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 on the roof at the front end. The majority operate typically under motor, however some will also be designed for proper sailing. Once the sails go up, along with the engine turns silent, there is 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 throughout the canopy.
Aboard a gulet, one travels from 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, like the Serce Limani shipwreck now in Bodrum museum, or like Roman tourists on their own way to view the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven ancient wonders on the planet.
I recall at the first try I visited the original city of Knidos, a sensational site for maritime trade perched with the very tip of your Datca peninsula, between Bodrum and Marmaris. We sailed and moored up in the city’s old commercial harbour, in the same way merchants from Athens, Rhodes, and cities right over the Mediterranean might have done over 2,000 in the past. My fellow travellers and that i gawped in wonder, when we eased into the ancient port, along with 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 ancient mooring stones where they tied up continue to be visible, projecting out of the harbour walls.
One of the defining characteristics of the gulet trip is definitely the straight back to nature appreciation from the simple things: the clean outdoors, the canopy of stars during the night, enough time to lounge about and look at. Swimming inside the crystal waters from the celebrated turquoise coast is needless to say one from the frequent highlights, and there are generally windsurfers, kayaks, and snorkelling gear readily available for the slightly more adventurous.
Alongside the archaeology as well as the relaxed atmosphere, one of your greatest delights will be the food. Turkish meals is justly famed, often ranked as one in the three pre-eminent cuisines on earth alongside French and Chinese. The target is all about simple but incredibly fresh local ingredients, often grown organically or raised free range. You simply have to taste a tomato in Turkey to find out the visible difference. It’s surprising how even about the smallest gulets, out of your tiniest of galleys, the boat’s cook can produce such a number 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, together 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 actually 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 choose 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 brimming with archaeology. Here, behind the soaring Taurus mountains, an extraordinary culture as well as a fiercely independent people developed. Their funerary architecture, unlike everything else on the planet, still litters their once prosperous ports.
This 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 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 with an extraordinary site high up in the hills. Sacred since time immemorial, it was the main sanctuary of your port city of Olympus. Here flames leap out of your ground, a phenomenon arising from a subterranean pocket of gas which spontaneously ignites on contact with the outside air.
Not only is yacht charter turkey the easiest way to explore this type of essentially maritime civilisation, sometimes it’s the only way. Even now, there are actually tiny coastal villages which can be accessible only by sea. One favourite may be the sleepy hamlet of Kale, on the southern tip of Lycia. Above a couple of piers where small fishing boats jostle, rises a ramshackle series of houses made out of ancient stones. Dominating the full scene is actually a mighty Ottoman fortress built 550 yrs ago 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 tiny town called Simena was perched here. Its small Greek style theatre sits slap during the Ottoman castle, and all through the village are tombs hewn in the rock, and sarcophagi standing ten feet tall.
Another great area for sailing is west of Lycia, the traditional region of Caria, between Bodrum and Fethiye. This was the traditional world of Mausolus, a powerful dynast 2,400 years back. A strategically vital region, densely pack in antiquity with rich cities, it was jealously guarded and preferred. Alexander the excellent liberated it from Persia, Rhodes sought to annexe it into her own empire, along with 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 mix of architectural and historic marvels. The exquisite temple tombs of Caunos, carved into 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 from the fabled mausoleum along with the mighty fortress of St. Peter.
Still another glorious area for cruising, is ancient Ionia, to the north of Bodrum. Along this stretch of coast created a civilisation of quite exceptional brilliance. Inside the centuries before Alexander the truly amazing, 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 exquisite – packed with the best possible temples, theatres and markets that cash could buy. The highlights are readily available: from the pretty little harbour of Myndos, where Cassius fled after murdering Julius Caesar; towards the marvellously preserved Hellenistic city of Priene, where houses, streets, and public buildings are presented across a hillside in the perfect grid; and naturally, Ephesus, capital of Roman Asia. This was one of the very first cities on earth to possess street lighting. The website 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 some of the world’s finest ancient wonders, spring or autumn is the ideal a chance to go. April and early May sees Turkey decked out with an incredible display of wild flowers. From the end of May through the start of June the ocean becomes swimmable prior to the summer heat scorches, while September through October is great for leisurely bathing.