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Thursday, August 8, 2013

SHIP AHOY on a Turkish Gulet Cruise

archeological sites - sunken cities - endangered turtles...

Through years of travel, my partner and I had been fascinated with Turkey-Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus - but for our next travel choice to the exotic middle-east we decided to book a traditional 'Gulet Cruise(traditional fishing vessel) along the Lykia coast in the relatively undeveloped area of the Mediterranean Riviera. After the cruise we planned to extend our journey to Dalyan, noted for flora and fauna, ancient Carian rock tombs and endangered Caretta turtles. 

We booked the Doğan Hotel built in the  Ottoman architectural vernacular, located within the fortified walls of the old city 'kaleici' of Antalya with its winding streets of restaurants, pansiyons and bazars.  With multi coloured kilms hung from balconies alongside antiques, vendors offer çay (tea) to potential buyers along with the expected friendly bargaining . The Antalya Museum with its open air sculpture gallery is one of the best in Turkey with priceless collections of sculptures, sarcophagi and Greek and Roman marble statues from the nearby ruins of Perge.  Not to be missed are day trips to Said and Aspendos to experience the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world with Summer Opera and Ballet performances capable of seating 7000 people.

The next morning our motorized wooden Gulet sail boat with its white hull, wood detailing and navy blue upholstery seating  set sail upon the sparkling azure waters of the Mediterranean. Like a can of sardines we squeezed into our tiny cabins that reminded us that we had not expected five star accomodation until we proved otherwise by sleeping on deck under a moonlit sky with only a light warm breeze and the sound of water lapping at the side of the hull .What bliss! Meals were served on deck with wine, pastas, vegetables and the choice of fish caught the night before.

After our first stop at Miro we navigated towards the ancient submerged Lycian city of Simena with its steps and foundation still visible and a  partial sarcophagi poking above. We then anchored at Kekova, originally part of the underwater Simena and now a charming fishing village dominated by a well preserved crenellated castle above the village. A profusion of pink geraniums and small bobbing fishing boats at the quayside restaurants would seduce any patron or artist to stop and reflect.With limited time we wandered about the area of rectangular barrel vaulted stone sarcophagi scattered like children’s toys while  a local resident kneaded her leavened dough in front of her home among these ancient reminders of another era.

Kas was among one of the other attractive ports with umbrellas and lounge chairs on the promenade overlooking the sea with boats moored close by for excursions and scuba diving. Restaurant tables hugged the quayside that would lead us to another area of charming  shops of  ceramics and carpets terminating  with a monumental fifteen foot high Lycian sarcophagi with carved lions under a massive tree. Contrasting with the new contemporary hotels we encountered a well preserved amphitheatre and necropolis with more sarcophagi randomly situated among the grassy hillside down to the water’s edge.  We predicted this charming town of Kas would take off as the next “in place” on the Turquoise coast as we noted a real estate office promoting villa rentals and development proposals that would change the landscape and our magical moment of reverie. As we concluded our relaxing week we sailed into our port of Kemer gustily singing-     
                                Row, row, row your boat,
                      Gently down the stream,
                                Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
                                Life is but a dream!

For the next segment of our journey we travelled by land to Dalyan, a laid- back town that ranks among one of the paradise corners of Turkey. The 'Happy Caretta' hotel with its shaded gardens and floating river deck became our breakfast and viewing platform for the famous Carian tombs carved in the rocky mountain face that were flood-lite  in the evening  like a theatre  production.  During the day small river boats with blue fringed canvas tops flutter in the breeze, as they ply the river towards the river reeds and closer views of the tombs for photographing. The town itself is similar to the other small villages we had visited with their colourful markets and tempting seaside restaurants. Close by one could book river cruises such as the "Caretta Turtle" discovery tour where we sailed through the tall reeds and river locks to reach and feed the endangered turtles. In early Summer the Caretta turtles lay their eggs in the unspoiled sands of   Ïztuzu Beach, a conservation area that can also be visited by bus or regular boats. There are also boats to the ancient ruins of Kaunos but you can also walk past the Carian tombs and explore the extensive ruins and the interior of the Kaunos amphitheatre among many other ruins.

Our vacation was like a 'Turkish Delight' – a savory in an assortment of flavors as colourful as the Mediterranean sunsets and as traditional as the history of Turkey and its ancient monuments. Call 1 877 411 6359 or Visit for your next Turkey vacation


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