Jewel of a Coast Page 2

Jewel of a Coast - Cruising Turkey
Jewel of a Coast
Part 2: Turkey's Turquoise Coast continued

Story and Photos by Roy Attaway — August 2001

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• Turkey

An hour later we descended, following the course of a riverine canyon, and when we emerged the red-tiled roofs of the town spread before us like fezes in a market. With its tiny acropolis surmounted by a 13th-century Ottoman castle, its broad seaside boulevards, and its 900-slip marina, Marmaris has, in the span of a decade, become the St. Tropez of Turkey. There, under a market umbrella on the quay, we met our hosts, Robert Versteeg and Silvia Nellisen of Sunshine Charters, the only powerboat charter company in Turkey.

The next morning we entered the Homeric wine-dark sea where the city states of Caria and Lycia meet and the Aegean is subsumed by the Mediterranean. There was no wind and even the gulets, the wooden-hulled sailing vessels, were under power. This, we soon realized, is the norm: The wind doesn't pipe up until about 1 p.m., so they spend much of their time under power. We were totally under power in the Bayliner, which gave us many advantages over the gulets. Notably, we always got to the best anchorages long before the others.

Our initial run was no more than an hour and a half, and we found ourselves gliding into the stunning cove at Ekincik (eh-KIN-jik), one of the countless such anchorages in the scented shade of pines where, in days to come, we were to swim in water the color of  summer skies, eat the freshest imaginable food, glimpse history as old as mankind, and succumb to the spell of raki, Turkey's version of ouzo. As soon as we secured the boat, Sentürk summoned the kayik, and we were off to the Dalyan estuary.

The next morning, after a late, unhurried breakfast, we went to sea again, making a leisurely passage down to the Gulf of Fethiye and into an archipelago of islands, each surmounted by a castle or a lighthouse or some other vestige of antiquity. By lunchtime we had probed a dozen inviting coves, finally settling on one called Deep Bay, a narrow inlet of brilliant aquamarine with a rickety wooden quay running down the left side and a small encampment at the end. There was a semicircular bar with sawn tree trunks for stools and a dining shed at the water's edge. As with many other such cafés we were to encounter, bread was baked fresh daily in the wood-fired oven.

In desperate need of exercise, Robyn and I took off after lunch and discovered why the landscape was considered inhospitable by the ancients. In the company of a friendly mongrel, we scrambled up a dry riverbed, arriving hot and scratched at the crest of the ridge. Our reward, however, was to stand in a cool grove of olive trees and survey islands set like precious stones in the quilted sheen of the sea.

From Deep Bay we crossed the gulf and moored stern-to in the quay in the busy port city of Fethiye--Telmessus to the Greeks. Sentürk hired a taxi, and we drove first to the gorge of the Salkikent River, hiking up a stream the pale celadon color of glacier melt, flowing between high, smooth walls. For lunch we sat cross-legged on cushions in a grove of figs tucked against the riverbank. Underneath, a small torrent gushed from a wound in the rock. We were brought grilled local trout and meze, Turkish hors d'oeuvres. If we wanted a drink, we simply leaned over and scooped a glass of the spring water.

We then drove to the ruins of Tlos, another Lycian city built around an outcropping of rock with a majestic view of the Xanthan Valley. Here, in one wall alone, we could read layers of culture, including fluted Grecian columns turned on end by the Romans and used as land fill. To the south the valley stretched to the Lycian capital of Xanthos and then to the sea.

Later we walked in near silence through the gaunt ruins of the former Greek city of Kaya, which was abandoned in the infamous "exchange of populations" in 1923. Courtyards were overgrown by grasses blood-flecked with poppies. In the dank shell of a small chapel, we could make out the faded gilt of  frescoes of indeterminate age or veneration.

When we came down from the ghostly hill, we were offered apple tea in the tiny, neat home of Fatma, a Turkish woman who lives with her husband in one of the few occupied dwellings (such is the enmity between Greek and Turk thateven now the Turks spurn old Greek housing). She displayed delicate crochet and embroidery work, some of which Robyn bought for a pittance. That evening we ate in a roadside café and the taxi driver brought roses to Robyn.

So this was our routine: Spend the night in a charming anchorage and prowl the land by day--or cruise and absorb the beauty of the landscape, or simply sit at anchor and sun ourselves and read or swim or nap. We moored in Manastir Cove and waded through the ruins of Cleopatra's Baths (although provenance here is doubtful), climbed the rocky saddle of Gemiler Island, once the archbishopric of St. Nicholas, and stood in the shattered half-dome of his basilica. Our last evening we dined at a seaside café and sipped Turkish coffee while Sentürk and the place's owner sang old Istanbul songs.

From the Bosphorus to the Mediterranean, wherever we were, the sense of history was compelling. It is the land of Troy, Gallipoli, Ephesus, and Halicarnassus, of Alexander the Great, Constantine, Midas, and Süleyman. Perhaps more important for the modern traveler, it is a land of incomparable beauty and so accessible it is difficult to imagine that it was once considered ominous if not sinister.

Back in Marmaris we had dinner in the garden at the restaurant Türkay, chatted and laughed, and shared our stories with Versteeg, Nellisen, and Peter Casalis de Pury, Sunshine's boat sales director (Sunshine is a Bayliner dealership). In all the talk and remembrance, we were sure of one thing: We will dream of this place, often and forever.

Sunshine Cruising Phone: (90) 252-412-08-75. Fax: (90) 252-413-08-37.

Roy Attaway is a freelance writer and photographer.

Next page > Photo Gallery > Page 1, 2, 3

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

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