Cruising Western Lycia Article by CWA competition winner.
Current World Archaeology
“Sail away with me” by Beatrice Faulkner
Travelling the ancient Lycian Coast is an unforgettable experience, as the lucky winners of a CWA competition have been discovering. Beatrice Faulkner shares the highlights of her trip with Peter Sommer Travels.
To sail the Turkish Coast is to embark on a historical and archaeological adventure that spans over 3000 years of history. It brings to life successive civilisations 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. Many of these myths were familiar from 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 a truly exhilarating experience. There is something about standing in temples dedicated to mighty deities, and seeing where they performed their legendary feats that brings their world tangibly closer.
Our transport along this mythical landscape 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 harbour of Göcek. Terry, my husband and travelling companion, loves boats and was delighted by its elegant, handcrafted design. Not having been on many cruises before (I was expecting a tiny cabin), I was pleasantly surprised to find our quarters were eminently comfortable with a well-proportioned en-suite bathroom. After unpacking we joined our fellow passengers for our 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, itself 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 CWA 41. Back then, fully immersed in a world of internet scams, I needed to be convinced that the email informing me of my win was genuine!
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 tour never failed to surprise. Its magic was perfectly captured by a visit to the ruins of the Hellenistic theatre 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 them 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. Alongside us, our eminent tour leader, Dr. Nigel Spivey, was the only other ‘Brit’ on board. A Cambridge University classicist, Nigel was friendly, easy going and brimming with an extraordinary range of information. Amateurs such as ourselves listened with rapt attention to his passionate tales of the past. 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 earlier in the year that was apparently the final resting place of a great hero. Speculation is rife that this might be a mausoleum built to honour Sarpedon himself. Is it hopelessly romantic of me to wish that this is the case?
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 the 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 we reflected on our very first visit to Turkey. The holiday was the perfect combination of intellectual stimulation, delicious food, good accommodation, relaxation and interesting companions. We so hope we can go back and explore more of Turkey’s wonders!
Many thanks to Peter Sommer Travels, CWA, the Turkish Tourist Office and the crew of ‘Almira.’ Also, to everybody else who enabled us to experience this holiday of a lifetime.