Turkish gulet, Almira, anchored overnight in a cove. Peter Sommer
by Beatrice Faulkner
In June 2010 our author entered a Current World Archaeology (CWA) magazine competition that resulted in her winning an eight-day archaeological cruise for two along Turkey’s Lycian (Turquoise) Coast courtesy of Peter Sommer Travels, CWA and the Turkish Office for Culture and Tourism. Following her cruise in late September 2010, Bea Faulkner was invited by the editor of CWA to contribute an article to the publication’s February/March 2011 that documented the winner’s experience of the trip. We welcome this opportunity to share her article with Travel with a Challenge readers.
To sail the Turkish Coast is to embark on an archaeological adventure that spans over 3,000 years of history. It brings to life successive civilizations of Lycians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans, all of whom stamped their mark on this remarkable region. These great cultures have not only left beautiful and inspiring physical relics of their presence, in the form of crumbling cities and tumbled temples, but also a tradition of myths and legends so rich that at times it seems as though they are woven into the landscape itself.
A shore excursion to some Lycian tombs. Cem Yucesoy
Many of these myths were familiar to me from my childhood, for this is a place of gods, Trojan War heroes, and the monstrous chimera. To see how this unique combination of terrain and belief gave birth to timeless tales of mortals and immortals is an exhilarating experience in itself. There is something about standing in temples dedicated to mighty deities, and seeing the sites of their legendary feats that brings their world tangibly closer.
Our transport was a traditional form of Turkish schooner, known as a gulet. Laid on by Peter Sommer Travels, and the Turkish Office for Tourism and Culture, this was a true voyage of discovery. We caught the first glimpse of our vessel, Almira, at dusk in the picturesque harbor of Göcek. Terry, my husband and travelling companion, loves boats and was delighted at first sight by Almira’s elegant, handcrafted design.
Never having been on a small-ship cruise before, I was pleasantly surprised to find our quarters were larger and more comfortable than expected with a well-proportioned en-suite bathroom. After unpacking we joined our fellow passengers for the first dinner on the stern deck. How wonderful to eat al fresco in a warm climate under a starry sky!
It was an auspicious start, and over the following week Almira — herself a product of a more refined age — seemed almost like a time machine, sailing us through a vanished world. It was all a far cry from when I entered the competition in Current Archaeology World, issue 41. Back then, fully aware of a world of internet scams, I needed to be convinced that the email informing me of my win was even genuine!
All meals served on the Almira are a daily gastronomic adventure of fresh local ingredients and wines. Peter Sommer
Who were the Lycians?
The picturesque region of Lycia is located along the southwest coast of Turkey. Its people are identified as far back as 1200 BC as allies of the Hittites, Trojans and Persians, and later coming under the rule of the Greeks, Romans and Ottomans. Founded in 168 BC, the Lycian League was an early federation of 23 city-states with democratic principles which much later influenced the content of the United States Constitution. Many ancient Lycian relics remain visible today along the coast, most distinctive among them the enormous rock-cut tombs in the sides of cliffs.
The imposing rock-cut tombs of the ancient Lycians give testimony to their architectural skill and sophistication. David Mansfield
Each day was a voyage in itself, a few hours cruising along a magnificent coastline, some swimming in a beautiful bay, and then a trip ashore to explore an archaeological site. From the stories of St. Nicholas on Gemiler Island (who would have thought that Santa Claus originated from this coast?), to the ancient necropolis at Teimiussa, where tombs like stone treasure chests are scattered along the shore, the cruise tour never failed to surprise. Its magic was perfectly captured by a visit to the ruins of the Hellenistic theater at Kas.
After soaking in the breathtaking view of a shimmering, azure-blue sea — a match for any Ancient Greek drama — I strolled into town to admire the carpet shops. There, tucked away in an alley between the shops was a huge Lycian sarcophagus in magnificent condition, its lid emblazoned with roaring lions.
Our fellow shipmates, comprising Americans, Australians, and a delightful Spanish lady, provided stimulating company. Our eminent tour leader, Dr. Nigel Spivey, was the only other ‘Brit’ on board. A Cambridge University classicist, he was friendly, easy going, but brimming with information and passionate tales of the past.
A sunken Lycian tomb has been flooded by rising coastal seas. David Mansfield
At Xanthos, the great capital city of Lycia, Nigel perched himself on a tomb pedestal and recounted the story of Sarpedon. This native of the city and hero of Homer’s Iliad, was killed by Patroclus in the Trojan War. Thrillingly, the French archaeologists uncovering the city had excavated a tomb in 2010 that was apparently the final resting place of a great hero. Speculation is rife that this might be a mausoleum built to honor Sarpedon himself. Is it hopelessly romantic of me to wish that this is the case?
A snug ensuite twin cabin aboard the Almira. There are also double bed cabins. Peter Sommer
Perhaps the prettiest place was Kale, ancient Simena, which is only accessible by sea. As we approached, our view was dominated by a picturesque village and an Ottoman castle, with crenellated ramparts like old teeth, perched high above it. On the final day in Fethiye, we sipped fresh orange juice at a little café while admiring a colossal temple tomb carved into the cliff face.
As we basked in the October sunshine, Terry and I reflected on our very first visit to Turkey. The holiday had been the perfect combination of intellectual stimulation, delicious food, good accommodation, relaxation and interesting companions. Our appetite was surely whetted to go back and explore more of Turkey’s wonders!
Bea Faulkner participated in the eight-day “Cruising Western Lycia” tour, sailing the exquisite Turquoise Coast and visiting some of the finest historical sites in all of Turkey. This tour is offered annually in September.
Each June aboard the same vessel, Peter Sommer Travels also offers a longer, more geographically extensive cruise of 15 days, “Cruising the Lycian Shore“. During either of these tours, there is also plenty of opportunity for swimming, windsurfing, kayaking and hiking.
Turkey Culture and Tourism website: http://tourismturkey.org/.
Each bi-monthly issue of Current World Archaeology includes stimulating articles on archaeological travel around the world. CWA has 25,000 subscribers in the UK and the US.
Click here to browse other Turkey vacationing feature stories in our Travel Article Library.
A retired social worker with an interest in writing, Bea Faulkner and her husband have visited many interesting places over the years. These have included motorcycling from Scotland to Morocco and round the Atlas Mountains (circa 5,000 miles); visiting temples in Japan; caravanning in Italy, Sweden and France; visiting Santa in Lapland and, most recently, renting a farmhouse in southern France. She lives on a small holding in the east of Scotland with her husband and a rescue Border Collie. Her travel and culture blog site is www.naomiflashman.co.uk.