Travel to Turkey for a Passage in Time and for the Peaceful Blue

Turkish Riviera, the Turquoise Coast

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Turkish Riviera Authors: Milan Miki

Related Topics: Greek Isles, Yacht Charter Blog, Turkish Riviera

Greek Isles: Article

Turkey: Sailing Through History on Your Yacht Charter Vacation!

Dreaming of somewhere warm and exotic

Let Turkey light up your imagination. Three great things embody Turkey. Just a four hour flight away from international London, it has a culture which is profoundly different, distinctly unfamilar. A land on the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism of the orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for centuries the middlemen of the world, famed merchants uniting three continents - Europe, Africa, and Asia, as far east as China. Today, its people are famed for their warmth and hospitality, a gift of their nomadic ancestry and Islam’s code of respect for strangers in a strange land.



The second great thing about Turkey is its age. The place is steeped in history. It’s the site of some of the very earliest cities, like Çatal Hoyuk, stretching back 10,000 years. Ever after it was a veritable crossroads of civilisations. When archaeologists dig in Turkey they are confronted by layers upon layers of peoples and cultures, from Hittite fortifications to Byzantine churches. Before I’d even set foot there, Turkey conjured up images of all the things that I longed to see, great sun-burnt plains on which ancient battles were fought, theatres where Greek philosophers declaimed, and the marble clad ruins of Rome’s imperial ambitions.

It’s widely said that Turkey has more and better preserved Greek and Roman archaeological sites than Greece and Italy combined. The landscape is simply riddled with ruins, many of which are virtually untouched. You can literally stroll through an olive grove and stumble upon a Greek temple still standing proud, and have the place all to yourself. Many people say part of Turkey’s charm is that it is like Greece was thirty years ago.

The third fantastic thing about Turkey is the landscape. About three and a half times the size of Britain, it has almost the same population, leaving vast areas wide, empty, and pretty much as nature intended. Add to that soaring mountain ranges, brillant white sunlight, and a vast coastline stretching along three seas – the Black Sea, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean – and you have a truly marvellous holiday destination.

I first went to Turkey eleven years ago, on a 2,000 mile walking adventure, to retrace Alexander the Great’s footsteps from Troy to the battlefield of Issus, where the epic warrior defeated the Persians for a second time. A five-month journey took me down the western Aegean coast past some of the giant cities of classical history, like Ephesus, Priene, and Miletus; deep into the interior through tiny farming villages where I was feted as an honoured guest; and south through the peaks and valleys of the Taurus mountains, where donkeys are still a favoured mode of transport.

A decade later and my love affair with Turkey still beats strong. While it was walking that brought me to Turkey, today I prefer a very different way of travelling: sailing. With some 5,178 miles of coastline, Turkey is a paradise for cruising. Its south and west coasts offer perhaps the most spectacular sailing in the Mediterranean, full of craggy coves and sleepy fishing villages, bustling harbours and deserted bays shaped like giant theatres with breathtaking vistas. Littered with antiquities, protected by law, large sections of it have remained undeveloped, still lapped by the clear waters on which the giants of ancient history sailed: Achilles, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar...

In places, mountains of limestone drop sheer into the sea, elsewhere pine-forested peninsulas stretch out like sinuous fingers, hiding a cornucopia of golden beaches, deep gulfs, and tiny offshore islands. With such a stunning everchanging backdrop, I can’t think of a better way to see Turkey, to explore its culture, discover such rich ruins, and drink in the landscape, than to set sail on a gulet. Spared the need to constantly pack, unpack, and change hotels, instead one travels in luxurious style. Perhaps the key thing for me is that it’s travel the way the ancients usually did. It makes thinking about the past altogether easier. Out on the waves, time can literally dissolve in the water, two millennia can disappear from the mind.

A mad keen sailor, Peter Ustinov once wrote:

“The sea not only sharpens a sense of beauty and of alarm, but also a sense of history. You are confronted with precisely the sight which met Caesar’s eyes, and Hannibal’s, without having to strain the imagination by subtracting television aerials from the skyline and filling in the gaps in the Collosseum...off the magical coast of Turkey you rediscover what the world was like when it was empty...and when pleasures were as simple as getting up in the morning...and every day is a journey of discovery.”

More Stories By Peter Sommer

Peter Sommer runs a specialist travel company offering archaeological tours, cruises, and yacht charters in Turkey. An archaeologist and documentary producer/director he has worked on many acclaimed BBC/PBS/CNN TV series including In the footsteps of Alexander the Great, Commanding Heights: the battle for the world economy, and Millennium: a thousand years of history. His most recent series, Tales from the Green Valley, about life on a Welsh farm in the year 1620, was shown to rave reviews last autumn on BBC2 in the UK. For more information please visit www.petersommer.com

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Most Recent Comments
YV&C News Desk 08/12/06 11:05:47 AM EDT

Let Turkey light up your imagination. Three great things embody Turkey. Just a four hour flight away from international London, it has a culture which is profoundly different, distinctly unfamilar. A land on the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism of the orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for centuries the middlemen of the world, famed merchants uniting three continents - Europe, Africa, and Asia, as far east as China. Today, its people are famed for their warmth and hospitality, a gift of their nomadic ancestry and Islam?s code of respect for strangers in a strange land.

YV&C News Desk 08/12/06 10:51:22 AM EDT

Let Turkey light up your imagination. Three great things embody Turkey. Just a four hour flight away from international London, it has a culture which is profoundly different, distinctly unfamilar. A land on the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism of the orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for centuries the middlemen of the world, famed merchants uniting three continents - Europe, Africa, and Asia, as far east as China. Today, its people are famed for their warmth and hospitality, a gift of their nomadic ancestry and Islam?s code of respect for strangers in a strange land.

YV&C News Desk 08/12/06 09:45:00 AM EDT

Let Turkey light up your imagination. Three great things embody Turkey. Just a four hour flight away from international London, it has a culture which is profoundly different, distinctly unfamilar. A land on the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism of the orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for centuries the middlemen of the world, famed merchants uniting three continents - Europe, Africa, and Asia, as far east as China. Today, its people are famed for their warmth and hospitality, a gift of their nomadic ancestry and Islam?s code of respect for strangers in a strange land.