Jewel of a Coast

Jewel of a Coast
Ancient history, intimate coves, lovely beaches, delicious food, and friendly people are around every corner when you cruise Turkey's Turquoise Coast.

Story and Photos by Roy Attaway — August 2001

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• Part 1: Cruising Turkey
• Part 2: Cruising Turkey continued
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• Turkey

We sat on cushions in a wooden kayik, a shallow-draft vessel with a fringed canopy and Turkish carpets underfoot. A small diesel thumped and drove us through a maze of channels in the tall, rattling bulrushes while our pilot perched on the engine box and steered with his foot. High on the cliffs to the north we could see Lycian tombs incised in the rock. My wife, Robyn, touched my hand.

"This is magical," she said.

We were in the delta of the Dalyan River, whose source lay to the east in the 10,000-foot Gölgeli Dagla range, mountains as bald as Turkish wrestlers. Also with us on this, our second day of cruising southeast Turkey, was Ahmet Sentürk, skipper of our chartered Bayliner 45 motoryacht and a new friend.

Soon we emerged from the reeds and ascended the Dalyan to the same-name town where we met Abidin Kurt, a local tour operator and avid amateur archeologist. We ate lunch in the shade of a mulberry tree at a small café, all the while looking up and across the river at the classical façades of the Lycian tombs, built by a people noted for their fierceness. Afterward Kurt guided us through the ruins of Kaunos, the westernmost Lycian city. Its earliest benefactor was the satrap Mausolus, whose tomb (up the coast in Bodrum) was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We clambered over jumbled stones and stood at both the top and bottom of the Roman amphitheater and tested its still-resonant acoustics.

Although we were now immersed in the allure of what the Turks call the Turquoise Coast, our journey had started a few days before in Istanbul, a city that wears layers of culture the way the sultans donned silks and cottons and linens: Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Seljuk, Ottoman, and the modern state wrested from the past by the visionary Kemal Atatürk. We had stood in the nave of the Aya Sofya, which the 6th-century Emperor Justinian built as the Hagia Sophia, with its flying buttresses and an ethereal dome that established an architectural standard for all time. The great Islamic architect Sinan lived in its shadow for his entire career.

We had prowled the spice market, dined in an alley given over entirely to fish restaurants, climbed the narrow old Cadessi (JAH-dessi; the Turkish C is pronounced like the English J) or streets, stood on the esplanade overlooking the Golden Horn, strolled through the Hippodrome where Justinian met the circus girl and harlot Theodora--the role model for Eva Peron--and, yes, we had even bought a carpet. More than a century ago, Herman Melville wrote of "The horrible, grimy tragic air of these streets..." Now it is a cosmopolitan metropolis where you can stand in the shadow of 10th-century buildings and withdraw millions of Turkish lira from an ATM. But the city's rich, mysterious past is omnipresent. Neither the romance nor the intrigue has diminished.

From Istanbul we had flown into the regional airport at Dalaman, taking a taxi on a road that skirted through the foothills. We passed blond fields of wheat, orchards of figs, oranges, and cherries, gray-green knots of olive trees, hot groves of pine, dry glades of eucalyptus, and banks of oleander. We saw storks roosting on a village mosque and women using sickles to cut the early grain by hand.

Next page > Cruising Turkey continued > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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