Turkey: Istanbul and the Lycian Coast
May 16 - 30, 2001
The gulet charter arranged through Kathleen O'Neill of Culinary Expeditions in Turkey. - Highly Recommended!
Wednesday, May 16 - Depart Houston
Houston to Atlanta to New York. Depart New York for Istanbul at 6:00 PM.
We arrive in Istanbul about 10:30 AM. We took two taxis from the airport to the hotel. That was an experience. Istanbul taxis are not for the faint of heart. We all arrived safely at the Yesil Ev (green house) hotel. This is a small hotel with only 19 rooms, but it is very nice. It's in the Old City near the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia. The location can't be beat. We checked in, unpacked, and spent the rest of the day just wandering around the Old City.
Today we visited the Hagia Sofia. Also called "Aya Sofya", this was built as a cathedral by Justinian I in the 6th century between 532 and 537. In 1453, during the Ottoman Period, it was turned into a mosque and all the mosaics were painted over. The Hagia Sofia served as a mosque until 1934 when it was turned into the present day museum and the Byzantine mosaics were uncovered.
Later in the day, we visited Istanbul's Underground Cistern, also known as "Yerebatan Sarayi" or Sunken Palace. This was built by Constantine I in the 4th century and enlarged by Justinian I in the 6th century.
We spent the morning at the Topkapi Palace. The original palace was built by Mehmed II after he conquered the city in 1453. After the reign of Mehmed II it grew steadily over the centuries to form a city-like complex of buildings and annexes. A highlight of the palace is the Harem or private apartments of the Sultan and his family.
We all did some shopping in the afternoon. I bought a very nice leather jacket.
Today was a lazy day. While the girls shopped Bert, Will and I just walked around, had a few beers and enjoyed the sights. Our walk took us through Gulhane Park, formerly part of the Royal Gardens of Topkapi Palace. This park is very popular among Istanbul residents. Our walk continued on to completely circle Topkapi Palace.
We had an early start this morning. We checked out of the Yesil Ev about 6 o'clock and took a pair of taxis to the airport for our 8:10 Turkish Air departure to Dalaman. We arrived at Dalaman about 9:30 and were met by a hired van which took us to Göcek where we met our gulet, the Gömez (cho-mez). Before boarding, we stopped at one of the ship provisioners and arranged for several cases of Efes Pilsner (the local beer) to be placed aboard. All food and soft drinks were provided by the Gömez but we had to provide any alcohol.Leaving, Göcek, we cruised to a quiet cove and had lunch. After lunch we cruised to Gemiler Island (Island of Ships) where we anchored for the night. There are a number of ruins on Gemiler Island, including a church that is associated with St. Nicholas. At one time St. Nicholas was thought to have been buried here, but current thinking is that he was buried at the church in Myrna. Bert, Will, and I climbed the hill to the ruins of the church. we also had a good view of the Gömez at anchor.
It was a long run today of just under 60 miles. This took a while at 8-10 knots. There is only one safe harbor (Kalkan) between Gemiler Island and Kas so Captain Ömar was concerned about the weather (didn't want anyone getting seasick). It looked good so the crew began the voyage before breakfast while we sleep in. It was an interesting trip as we followed the coast all the way. We passed by Meis Island just before arriving at Kas. Although only about 2 miles off the coast, Meis Island belongs to Greece, not Turkey. Kas is a nice town and we enjoyed walking through the market and seeing the sights.
Today was a busy day. We left Kas and cruised to the Aperlai peninsula, site of the ancient city of Aperlai. Bert, Will and I dropped off at the neck of the peninsula and walked across while the Gömez went around to pick us up on the other side. This was an interesting walk with Lycian sarcophagi visible everywhere.
After lunch, it was a short cruise to Kekova. We anchored between Kekova Island and the mainland village of Kalekoy. This is the site of the ancient city of Simena and the ruins of Simena Castle dominate the hill behind Kalekoy. Bert and I climbed up to the castle. Will went along also but stopped in town and had a beer. I made it to the top of the castle while Bert remained on the lower slopes and provided moral support. There are essentially no improvements at the castle. Tourists climb up at their own risk. We saw one tourist take a bad fall and suffer some nasty cuts from the rocks. The view from the top is, however, spectacular.
This was another busy day. Captain Ömar took the Gömez into Demre Creek and arranged for a car to take us into Myra to the Church of St. Nicholas and the rock tombs. The church was quite interesting. St. Nicholas is known as Noel Baba in Turkey.
After touring the church, we drove to the tombs. These are not just holes in the rock, but massive decorated doors and windows set in the cliff face. Adjacent to the tombs is the Myra Theater. This theater was built in the 2nd century AD. In wandering around, we noticed an overgrown path that seemed to lead into the theater. We took it and it led us inside, around some collapsed rooms and out to the aisle between the upper and lower seats. This gave us a great view of the theater. We walked around to the other side, and out the back for a close up look at the rock tombs. Then we returned and descended the steps through the lower seats just as citizens of Myra did two-thousand years ago.
We made an early start this morning, setting off before breakfast, to give us more time to explore some of the larger towns on our way back to Göcek. We arrived at Kalkan, our first stop, about noon. The inner harbor was very crowded, but Captain Ömar casually backed the Gömez into a space that didn't look as though it would take a boat half our size. There was much concern expressed from boasts on both sides but no paint was scraped as we slid perfectly into the space.
Kalkan is a really nice, picturesque town. It is situated on a hill overlooking the harbor which gives it a lot of charm. While the wives shopped, Bert, Will, and I found a nice outdoor cafe with a grape arbor shading tables overlooking the harbor and ice cold Efes beer. Ah, heaven on earth. Later, we all returned to the Gömez and moved into the outer harbor for dinner. We remained in Kalkan overnight.
Fethiye is a major town with a large, well-protected harbor. This is where we shopped for t-shirts and other tourist goods. Bert needed a haircut so Will and I went along to kibitz. He found a nice barber shop and let them know he wanted "the works". He got it. He almost came out of the chair, though, when the barber started waving a flaming alcohol swab around his ears. He survived without injury and we will never let him forget getting his ears burned out in Fethiye.
We left Fethiye harbor and motored around the point to tie up in a small cove for the night. The practice was to tie off to shore and set an anchor off shore. Several other gulets were in the cove with us.
We had now returned close to Göcek so bad weather wouldn't delay our departure. Today we saw the ruins of Cleopatra's Bath where she is said to have bathed during her honeymoon with Anthony. Bert, Will and I also walked around the shore to explore the ruins of the wall at Wall Bay. This wall crosses the Lydae peninsula and formed the land side defense for ancient Lydae.
This was our last day on the Gömez and we spent it cruising the islands and inlets around Göcek. We began to pack for departure in fits and starts as we continued to enjoy the great scenery. As always, lunch and dinner were highlights of the day but our enjoyment was tempered by the realization that our great vacation was coming to an end.
This was a sad day as our wonderful vacation was at end. We left the Gömez, checked into the Nirvana Apart Otel and then wandered through Göcek. We had a doner kebap for lunch then returned to the Nirvana where we arranged with the proprietor to serve us a traditional Turkish meal for dinner. We had a wonderful dinner and retired early as the morrow promised to be a long day.
Wednesday, May 30 - Göcek to Houston
We departed Göcek via van well before dawn for Dalaman. We were among the first folks at the airport and we make our 6:05 AM departure on Turkish Air to Istanbul with time to spare. Arriving in Istanbul at 7:15 AM, we had a good wait before we departed for New York at 12:05 PM. We arrived in New York at 4:05 PM and then it was on to Atlanta and Houston, finally arriving at Houston 1 AM on May 31.
Copyright © 2003 by J. E. Rickenbacker. All rights reserved.