"Cruising the Carian Coast" is our second cruise in Turkey since October 2019, On this occasion, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a kind of travel diary on our blog, following precedents from Greece, Ireland and Turkey. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that), every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
Time flies when you are enjoying yourself! Today was already the penultimate day of Cruising the Carian Coast (not counting the day of departures).
In the morning, we took our guests on what many of them will remember as the trip's finest adventure. During breakfast, the gulet crossed from its previous spot to just south of the Dalyan River's estuary. There, we transferred to a local riverboat. For the next half an hour (or so), we progressed along the river's winding course, surrounded by a vast wetland filled with reeds. Among the living things we spotted were ducks and ducklings (who doesn't like ducklings?) and a graceful heron taking flight (herons always seem to be taking flight when we notice them, probably because we don't spot them when they don't).
Eventually, we disembarked and walked towards and into the ancient city of Kaunos, once one of Caria's wealthiest ports. I have written about Kaunos years ago and what I said then is still true: it's a site that rewards the visitor in multiple ways. Approaching it the way we did permitted us to let the ruins unfold in a similar sequence to what most ancient visitors must have seen: starting with scattered tombs, progressing via mighty defensive walls and terraces to the city's harbour and nearby agora, then winding our way up stepped lanes past a series of sanctuaries, to reach a central plaza set on a saddle, overlooked by an imposing Roman bathhouse on one side and one of the most beautiful theatres in the region on the other.
Kaunos is a place of many sights and many stories (Herodotus, who was Carian by origin, commented on the Kaunian identity), so we took our time to see what we could and tell what we could. Afterwards, we proceeded past great groves of pomegranate down to another landing place on the river, where we reembarked on our local boat and continued a short distance upstream to see the most famous part of Kaunos: the great rock-carved Temple Tombs.
These huge edifices, cut out of the sheer cliff, are a rare sight, a Carian speciality incorporating Anatolian tradition and Greek architectural styles. They probably date to the late fourth and/or early third century BC and there can be little doubt that they were meant as the final resting places for important people, maybe the city's aristocratic families. Alas, we cannot attach specific names to the graves, nor can we tell why the biggest remained unfinished, only its top third having been carved from the pre-smoothed rock. Clearly, that order was cancelled - maybe the client died? Jokes apart, the Temple Tombs of Kaunos are among the most impressive monuments in southwest Turkey, and seeing them from a riverboat is a wonderful treat. Their grandeur and their mystery make them a landmark, not just physically, but culturally as well. They represent an era when Kaunos was thriving, a group or class of people who were in a position to commission such grand and innovative monuments, and a cultural context in which they made sense. At the time they were carved, they would have been impressive and memorable to a visitor from abroad and that they still are.
Having re-navigated the river, we joined our gulet and set out for a long eastward cruise. Our final overnight cove is another beauty, deep and narrow and surrounded by verdant slopes. The water is clear and there is a fair amount of sea life visible for those snorkelling. The place is called 'turtle bay' by locals, but I'll admit we have not spotted any sea turtles here (we saw several during the various crossings earlier on this cruise though!).
Tomorrow, we go on a final walk to another place of mystery, before reaching our last stop.