Rain splashed the window. It was freezing cold. When I sat in the dark depths of the University of Birmingham Library in 1994, I dreamed of a warm and exotic place. Turkey was the place that enlightened my imagination.
Three great things embody this land. Only four hours by air from the UK, it has a profoundly different culture, clearly unknown. A country at the head of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously East-West, embodies the magic and mysticism of the East. Formerly known as nomads of Central Asia, Turks were for centuries the global mediator, famous merchants who connected three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia – with China. Today its inhabitants are known for their warmth and hospitality, a gift of their nomadic origin and respect for Islam for foreigners in foreign countries.
The second big thing about Turkey is its age. The place is steeped in history. Here are some of the oldest cities, such as Catal Hoyuk, which are 10,000 years old. Since then it is a true crossroads of civilizations. When archaeologists dig in Turkey, they encounter layers of people and cultures ranging from Hittite fortifications to Byzantine churches. Even before I embarked on it, Turkey awakened everything I longed for: large sunburnt plains fought over ancient battles, theaters in which Greek philosophers declaimed and marbled ruins with imperial ambitions. Rome
It is widely said that Turkey has preserved the Greek and Roman archaeological sites more and better than Greece and Italy together. The landscape is dotted with ruins, many of which are virtually untouched. You can literally walk in an olive grove and always fall proudly on a Greek temple and have room for yourself. Many people say that part of Turkey’s charm lies in the fact that it looks like Greece thirty years ago.
The third fantastic thing about Turkey is the landscape. It is about three and a half times larger than Britain and has almost the same population. It leaves large areas empty and sparsely populated, which we observe at home. Add to these imposing mountain ranges, a glorious white sun and a breathtaking coastline that spans three seas, the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean, and you get a truly wonderful holiday destination.
In 1994 I went to Turkey for the first time because I wanted to follow the path of Alexander the Great of Troy on the battlefield of Issus in a 3000 km long adventure where the epic warrior defeated the Persians the second time. A five-month journey took me along the western Aegean coast to some of the great cities of classical history, such as Ephesus, Priene and Miletus; deep inside through tiny farming villages, where I was celebrated as a guest of honor; and in the south of the peaks and valleys of the Taurus Mountains, where donkeys are still a popular means of transport.
Some years later, my love affair with Turkey is still very strong. While I was walking in Turkey, I now prefer a very different way to travel: sailing on a luxurious schooner. With a coastline of 5,178 kilometers, Turkey is a paradise for cruising. The South and West coasts, with their steep bays and sleepy fishing villages, lively ports and secluded bays in the form of grand theaters with breathtaking views, may offer the most spectacular sailing in the Mediterranean. The vast, antiquated areas that are protected by law remained unused, still lapped by the clear waters on which the giants of ancient history sailed: Achilles, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar …
In some places, the limestone mountains rush steeply into the sea, and in other places, pine forests stretch like smooth fingers that hide a cornucopia of golden beaches, deep gulfs and tiny islands off the coast. Ribs. With such a stunning and ever-changing backdrop, I can not think of a better way to see Turkey, explore its culture, discover such rich ruins, and drink in the countryside rather than navigate on a schooner. The need to constantly pack, unpack and change hotels has been spared rather than luxurious travel. Perhaps the most important thing for me is that the elders act that way. That makes it much easier to think about the past. On the waves time can literally dissolve in the water, two millennia can disappear from the mind.
Peter Ustinov, a ruthless seaman, wrote:
“The sea not only sharpens the sense of beauty and alarm, but also the meaning of the story, and you are confronted with the spectacle that Caesar and Hannibal caught in the eye, without forcing your imagination to fill in. Remove the TV antennas fill the gaps of the Coliseum … in front of the magical coast of Turkey, rediscover the world when it was empty … and if the pleasure was as simple as getting up in the morning .. and every day is a journey of discovery. ”
Schooners are truly the ship of choice for exploring the Turkish coast. Of wood, mostly pine from local forests, they are often 20 meters long and can accommodate between 6 and 16 people in attractive double or double cabins. They usually have three or four competent and helpful crew members, a captain, a cook, and one or two friends who do all the work that allows passengers to relax. Most schooners have a spacious main saloon, a large back deck where meals are served, and sun loungers on the roof at the front. The majority work mainly with the engine, but some are also designed to navigate correctly. When the sails go up and the engine stops, you have the same soundtrack as Odysseus on Homer’s “Sea Cries”, the water flutters on the side of the ship and the wind crosses the awning.
Aboard a schooner, walk in the footsteps of ancient Greek pilgrims en route to an oracle-like temple, such as Didyma, or Byzantine merchants with a cargo of glass, such as the sinking of Serce Limani at Bodrum Museum, or see Roman tourists Halicarnassus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.
I remember the first time I visited the ancient city of Knidos, a sensational sea trading center at the end of the Datca peninsula between Bodrum and Marmaris. We sailed and moored in the old trading port of the city, as the merchants of Athens, Rhodes and Mediterranean cities had done for two thousand years. My traveling companions and I were astonished when we rushed into the old harbor and discovered the monuments: the little theater, the rows of houses, the kilometer-long fortifications climbing a steep ridge. We dropped anchor where there were countless ships – big freighters, local fishing boats, maybe even combat triatheses. Even today, the old anchor stones to which they were attached were still visible and protruded from the harbor walls.
One of the defining features of a saver tour is the return to the natural appreciation of simple things: fresh, fresh air, starry tents at night, time to relax and read. Swiming in the crystal clear waters of the famous turquoise coast is one of the frequent highlights, and for the more adventurous there are usually windsurfers, kayaks and snorkeling equipment.
In addition to the archeology and informal atmosphere, dinner is one of the greatest delights of a schooner cruise. Turkish cuisine is well known, often as one of the three most important cuisines in the world, except French and Chinese. The focus is on simple but incredibly fresh local ingredients, often organic or outdoors. Try a tomato in Turkey to see the difference.
It is amazing to see how even on smaller schooners, smaller galleys, the boat’s cook can produce such a variety of fresh local specialties. A typical Turkish breakfast consists of bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and honey. Lunch and dinner are usually one or two main courses, accompanied by salads and mezes, Turkish appetizers, including cacik (garlic and cucumber yoghurt), beaver dolma (stuffed peppers) and Sigara Borek (white cheese and herbs in the form of a cigarette) , Filo). The fruit is a main ingredient and extends over the seasons, from cherries and strawberries to melons and figs.
But with so many coastal miles, where are you sailing?
Three areas are my special favorites. The first is the old region of Lycia, a huge Mediterranean bulge on the belly of Turkey. Located between Fethiye and Antalya, it is a place full of myths and archeology. Here, behind the towering mountains of the Taurus, has developed an extraordinary culture and an incredibly independent people. Her grave architecture, unlike anything that exists in the world, is still her once-prosperous haven.
It was the legendary land of Chimaera, a monster of dreaded Greek mythology that Homer describes:
“She was of the divine race, no one, in the front of a lion, behind a snake and in the middle a goat that terribly radiated the power of the fiery fire.”
The legend probably owes its origin to an extraordinary place in the hills. Holy since time immemorial, it was the main shrine of the port city of Olympus. Flames spew out of the ground, coming from an underground natural gas pocket that ignites spontaneously in contact with the outside air.
A schooner cruise is not only the best way to explore a civilization that is so largely maritime, it is sometimes the only way. Even now there are tiny coastal villages that can only be reached by sea. A favorite is the sleepy hamlet of Kale, on the southern tip of Lycia. On some pillars, on which small fishing boats rest, rises a dilapidated row of old stones. The entire scene is dominated by a mighty Ottoman fortress built 550 years ago to submerge the Christian knights of Rhodes and secure the important sea routes between Constantinople and Jerusalem. The castle, however, was a latecomer. 1800 years ago, there was a small town called Simena. His small Greek theater is located in the middle of the Ottoman castle. In the whole village, carved tombs and sarcophagi of three meters in height.
A second major shipping area is west of Lycia, the former Caria region, between Bodrum and Fethiye. It was the ancient Mausolus, a powerful dynasty 2,400 years ago. A strategically important region, densely populated in the past with rich cities, was jealously guarded and sought after. Alexander the Great freed him from Persia, Rhodes tried to annex it to his own empire, and the legacy of the Crusader castles still speaks of the epic battle that raged along that coast between rival religions Christianity and Islam.
Today it remains a wonderful mix of architectural and historical wonders. The exquisite temple tombs of Caunos, which were carved by stonemasons on ropes in a rock face; the monumental city of Knidos, famous for its famous statue of Aphrodite of Praxiteles, the first female nude in history; and Halicarnassus itself, site of the legendary mausoleum and the mighty fortress of St. Peter.
The ancient island of Ionia, north of Bodrum, is a quiet third place for schooner cruises. Along this coast has developed a civilization of extraordinary brilliance. In the centuries before Alexander the Great, the bustling cities of Ionia helped lay the foundations for Greek literature, science and philosophy, and to forget about architecture. Under Rome, these cities became richer, richer and more beautiful – full of the most beautiful temples, theaters and markets that money could buy.
The strengths are numerous: the pretty little harbor of Myndos, where Cassius escaped after he had murdered Julius Caesar; in the wonderfully preserved Hellenistic city of Priene, where houses, streets and public buildings are spread out on a hill in a perfect grid; and of course Ephesus, the capital of Roman Asia. It was one of the first cities in the world to be lit. The place is beautiful, with cobbled streets, agoras, spas, mansions, theaters for 28,000 spectators and an exceptional library.
If you want to explore the most beautiful wonders in the world, spring or fall is the best time for you. In April and early May, Turkey is adorned with a stunning splendor of wildflowers. From the end of May to the beginning of June, the sea is suitable for swimming, before the summer heat burns, while you can swim from September to October.