They have the most unusual traffic islands in Turkey. But then again, what else do you do with a 4th century BC sargophagus when its in the middle of the street? We’ve been travelling along the Lycian Way, the stretch from Marmaris to Antalya, where rock tombs and sargophagi are strewn about everywhere. They are sunken in harbours, they’re littered along the rugged coastline, or they’re in the main street. Until relatively recently much of this coast had been inaccessible by road, which probably explains why so many ruins abound. It’s the sort of place where the waterfront restaurant has an underground Lycian cistern, where water, wine, oils and other foodstuffs were stored more than 2000 years ago. Turkey is a truly fascinating country, with a rich history of Byzantine and Ottoman empires, yet the Republic itself so young, born in 1923.
Did you know that Santa Claus was Turkish? I didn’t before I visited Demre, where St Nicholas was bishop in 3rd century AD. The story goes that he wanted to provide a dowry for the daughters of an impoverished family, climbed onto their roof and dropped a bag of gold coins down the chimney. The daughters had been drying their stockings fireside, into which the booty dropped. Where the sleigh and reindeer fit into this story, I’m not quite sure, but it makes for a good yarn. Although the church dedicated to the saint is somewhat disappointing, some original Byzantine frescoes and mosaic floors have been maintained. St Nicholas is apparently the patron saint of both sailors and pawnbrokers. An odd combination, or did he perhaps forsee the cost of running a boat?
The real pleasure of visiting Demre was going three streets back from the church, away from the shops selling tourist tat and being instantly in real regional Turkey. I found a gozleme place (savoury Turkish pancake) where no-one spoke English except for the 8, 10 & 12 year old kids playing in the street. I am ashamed to say their English was alot better than my Turkish, but there were gales of laughter and much guffawing as these kids practiced their English. This provided a much better memory of Demre than Noel Baba.
Not all the ruins here are of Lycian or Byzantine origin. I also visited the “ghost village” of Kayakoy, abandoned after the religious-based compulsory population exchange between Greeks and Turks as part of a deal brokered following Turkish independence in 1923. The Christian Greeks living in Anatolia had to pack up and leave, whilst the Muslim Turks in Macedonia copped the same deal. As a result this village ended up deserted. Kayakoy is the inspiration for Louis de Berniere’s novel “Birds Without Wings”. Guess what I’m reading at the moment?
I now have an idea of what it might be like to be a gulet sandwich, which thankfully didn’t happen. If you’ve not sailed in the Med, gulets are the cruise boat tractors of the sea, albeit some are very well appointed. We were at Gemila Adasi, anchored stern-to the shore with gulets either side. Very nasty squally weather, with a building beam-on breeze. We’d been keeping a regular watch on deck. It was late and I was finishing reading a chapter of my book and contemplating bed when I heard a fair amount of ruckus outside, poked my head on deck to be greeted by crew from the 80′ gulet next door saying: “YOU MUST LEAVE, YOU MUST GO NOW, YOUR ANCHOR IS EMPTY!”
Well! We hadn’t dragged anchor (although it did look a tad iffy for a bit) and we didn’t leave, but the gulet on our starboard side certainly had dragged and took off at a rate of knots, with cushions flying off their aft deck, as they narrowly avoiding being blown down onto us. They were pushed to weather as they went by the very helpful guys in a RIB from the gulet on our port side, and thankfully ended up not hitting us. Two yachts in the anchorage lost their dingys that night, but they were happily reunited come daylight. Not a great night’s sleep. Why does the bad shit always happen at night?
Despite all that the cruising around Turkey is spectacular and some of the best we’ve done in the Med. We’ve been as far east as Finike (then bused up to Antalya), but all good things must come to an end. After about 2,700 nautical miles Fitzy now knows how to say: “my keel is 3 metres deep!” in 6 languages and it’s time for us to head home soon. We are back in Gocek in boat maintenance and pack-up mode, getting ready to put Loki to bed on the hard-stand for the winter. We’ll be home in about a couple of weeks. And really looking forward to seeing family and friends, both on the way home and when we get back. Hope all is good with you and yours. Bye for now, Kate.