Encouraged by the travel lecturer on board, we got up at 5:50 a.m. to look at the skyline of Istanbul as the ship made her way up the Bosporus to the Golden Horn. It was hazy out, but strengthened by reasonably good coffee and pastry we stared over the railing until the sun came up and the buildings became more visible.
It became quite beautiful — although while dawn on the Bosporus sounded like it would be high on my romantic index, there is something about standing among some two or three hundred red-eyed tourists that doesn’t exactly create an intimate moment. I did see a few couples holding hands — and one couple where a young woman watched the scenery go by in her partner’s arms — so there were romantic possibilities for people who were able to shut out the rest of the world and only see each other. Continue reading »
The next stop was Kusadasi, one of the most popular seaside resorts in Turkey and gateway to Ephesus, a world treasure, and a place I visited many years ago. I don’t remember seeing Kusadasi then but it is retail central, with an attractive harbor walk full of restaurants, jewelry and carpet shops. I gather, however, locals find it noisy and miss the far more humble fishing village it used to be.
We didn’t stay long. With a quite lovely and articulate guide to help us understand Ephesus we drove for about a half an hour to join the hordes at the ruins. Note to self: remember last time you were here? It was unbearably hot. New note to self: it was unbearably hot this time too. Pick new season next time.
Well, you might reasonably ask, if it was so ridiculously hot, and you’ve been there twice, why would you go again? The answer, oddly enough, is that even though we are talking about a city created by the ancient Romans, the place keeps changing. Continue reading »
We sailed to Turkey and I found the port at Bodrum to be a nice surprise. I hadn’t been to this city before and didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a luxury development, a town that increases tenfold in the good weather months (which is just about everything except January and February) and, because it is on the Turkish mainland, has become a destination resort for urban Turks and world travelers.
The port is about a seven euro (or 16 lira) ride from the center of the city. The road into town goes by what looks like a lovely hotel with a smashing view (Diamond of Bodrum), good looking apartments and condos, and settles down into a bustling, clean commercial center that is a short walk from the historic castle in the harbor.
The water below barely rippled, a sheet of blue reflecting star sapphire or lapis lazuli, brilliant in the morning sun. From my spot on the bowspirt it looked impossibly distant. For more than two years I’d dreamed of being in this place, high above the Aegean Sea with the sun on my shoulders and that deep blue bleeding into indigo like a memory long forgotten.
I took a deep breath, gazed at the horizon, looked down once more, then dove toward that memory. Down, down, arms reaching, chin tucked, feet pointed, down to the sea, slicing without impact into that lapis pool, cool silk caressing my skin. Down, down, into that radiant mystical sapphire that dazzles like a sunrise, like a shooting star, like a full moon glimpsed through autumn trees. Down into that blue that is so blue it feels like it’s reaching into the cosmos. Continue reading »
In Turkey, the ritual of tea colors everyday life in ways not seen in many cultures. Sit down in a carpet shop with little likelihood of buying anything and tea will be served as long as you remain. Make a modest purchase in a shop—as I did in Bodrum when I bought three skirts for my wife and two daughters—and the owner will send out for tea, apple or black, your choice.
But I’d never seen or tasted “yellow tea,” served to us in a café seldom visited by tourists in the village of Bozalan. The men of the town had congregated there, as they no doubt do every day, and welcomed us to their fraternity. Continue reading »
An experience that’s hard to avoid in Turkey is a visit to a carpet shop. In heavily touristed areas the hustlers descend upon foreigners and seldom let go until the tourists are rounded up and brought to the shop. On our gulet cruise we were invited into a home, not by a hustler but by our ship’s captain, to see how carpets are woven and to get a glimpse into the lives of the people who produce them.
Carpet merchants from the cities know that the women of Bozalan make some of Turkey’s finest carpets, and they come regularly to buy finished carpets or place orders. The labor and skill involved in weaving these carpets staggers the imagination. Continue reading »
We were waiting on the dock at Oren for our dinghy to fetch us back to the Kaptan Sevket when Nicola asked Captain Mustafa about the sculpture of a dolphin with a child on its back high atop a pole there. Evidently there is a legend here, similar to the Greek Arion the Dolphin boy, that many years ago during a shipwreck dolphins appeared and rescued the children. The sculpture is there to remind the villagers of the kinship they have with dolphins.
It was a charming story and I thought little more of it until about an hour later when we were cruising toward our next anchorage. Suddenly Jennifer shrieked “Dolphin!” and Captain Mustafa dashed to starboard and up to the bow howling with joy. He grabbed a steel rod and began banging it against the anchor pulley and calling to them. One after the other they leapt out of the sea alongside us, a dozen or more sleek gray creatures arcing above the surface like dancers. We leaned over the rail, too awed to do more than shriek and wail. Continue reading »
The Aegean seaside town of Oren is not the sort of village that would register on the must-see lists of many travelers, but when our gulet dropped anchor there and we set out to explore we found a slice of Turkey as old as its traditions - with a modern overlay, of course, of cell phones and calculators and vehicles to transport goods. We arrived on a Wednesday, market day, when merchants from miles around roll in to sell their wares. And they sell just about everything: seasonal produce of all sorts, housewares, handcrafts, saddles for donkeys and cloths for the table, essential oils, farm goods, clothing. Continue reading »
When we dropped anchor in the harbor at Sedir Adasi, commonly known as Cleopatra’s Island, I expected to poke around the ruins of the Hellenic city, sink my toes in the famous sand found only here and in Egypt (from ground-up seashell, and according to local legend a place where Cleopatra and Anthony bathed on their honeymoon), and contemplate the Aegean Sea from an ancient stone wall before returning to the boat to swim. I did all of those things, but I was wholly unprepared for the sight that greeted me when I topped the rise of land protecting the modest dock, boardwalk and ticket shack where all visitors pay 10 Turkish lire (about $8) to set foot on the island. Continue reading »
I first heard about sailing along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast a few years ago when I read a story by San Francisco Chronicle Executive Travel Editor John Flinn, a story that was reprinted in Travelers’ Tales Turkey. From that moment on I wanted to do what he had done, and I had the opportunity in 2006. Setting sail in Gocek we meandered to Bodrum, stopping at the ancient city of Knidos and many other sites along the way. But once was not enough, so I returned in September, this time to explore Gorkova Bay in a loop out of Bodrum. Continue reading »