"Cruising the Lycian Shore" is our first cruise in Turkey since October 2019, On this occasion, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a kind of travel diary. Every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
Yesterday, I described a day that did not go to plan but ended up with a beautiful surprise. Today did go according to the new plan - and began with another beautiful surprise!
It was our intention to have two archaeological visits today, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon, to two sites set near to one another on the shores of the Bay of Kekova. One is ancient Teimiussa (modern Üçağız), with a fascinating Lycian cemetery, primarily of sarcophagus tombs, stretched out among rocks along the coastline, overlooked by a tiny ancient fortification and standing next to a tiny village that's set in a small coastal plain (by the way, I have written about Teimiussa on this blog). The other is ancient Simena (modern Kale or Kaleköy), with a likewise fascinating Lycian cemetery, also primarily of sarcophagus tombs, standing among old olive trees on a ridge high above the coast, next to a tiny slope-side village, all overlooked by a substantial medieval castle. Together, they offer a nice set of similarities and contrasts.
To cut a long story short, we did indeed visit both and both were lovely - especially the views from the castle at Kale!
Once again, we had unexpected luck. At the start of our walk around Üçağız, just as we were showing our guests the impressive remains of a Roman-era warehouse (or bathhouse?), we were interrupted by loud and rhythmic music, from an invisible source, but approaching. We returned to the street-side to investigate and soon, two men passed us, one playing a nasally droning clarinet, the other beating a drum. They were followed by a small gaggle of village-folk. Soon, more villagers filed past us and we understood that this was the beginning of a traditional Turkish wedding celebration, namely the groom collecting his bride-to-be from her home. We followed.
A few corners away, most of the village had assembled in a narrow alleyway, listening to the music and waiting for what was to come. Soon, the groom, clad in a formal suit and driving a flower-bedecked convertible, turned up and disappeared among the crowd. After some time, he reappeared, followed by the bride, led by her father, who was overcome with emotion. Wearing a fine white dress with red sash and veil, she looked demurely at the ground, approaching the car with great dignity. Once she reached and entered it, the music stopped, some prayers were read, sweets were thrown and off they went. The whole thing took little more than half an hour, and it was full of joy.
Our image shows a moment during the wait for the bride to appear, and it exemplifies much of today's Lycia and Turkey. The setting is a modest village lane, paved with late twentieth-century interlocking blocks, but overlooked by a huge and finely-carved ancient doorway, perhaps from a temple or an Early Byzantine church. Side-by-side you see more traditional attire, with puffy trousers and headscarves, and modern 'western' gear. The celebration itself is a traditional Turkish one, framed by folk music and Islamic prayers, but the symbolisms it entails are not much different from those that a local wedding would have evoked in Christian days and in pagan ones long before. Indeed, it is easy to imagine similar weddings with similar celebrations taking place here again and again over the millennia. This sense of ancient and modern, of continuity and change rolled into one, is an essential part of experiencing Turkey.
For us and our guests, it was more than a lucky coincidence: an unforgettable instant. May the marriage be a happy one!
The plan for tomorrow (fingers crossed) takes us inland to a spectacularly beautiful site...