"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.
Today was the mid-point of this September's "Cruising the Lycian Shore", a fact remarked upon by our guests with some surprise. It is certainly true that the first week of a two-week cruise tends to pass quickly, but we've seen a lot of things already! Today was another perfect one.
We left Finike early, cruising around Cape Gelidonya (archaeology buffs may recognise the name: it's the site of a famous prehistoric shipwreck), the forbidding headland that marks the southeastern tip of Lycia, then turned northwards into the Gulf of Antalya. Here, we followed a coastline of steep cliffs interrupted here and there by sheltered inlets. We picked one of those for a long stay, luxuriating in the perfect cove scenery of rocks, small beach, pine forest and miraculously clear water.
After lunch, we continued along the same shore until we reached the small headland that was once the ancient city of Phaselis, a Rhodian and Samian colony founded in 690 BC. The site's distinguishing feature then was a perfect seaside setting with three good harbours, a major asset at a time when maritime travel was as risky as it was important. We went ashore in our zodiac to explore.
Today, the location is still striking, as are the well-preserved remains (mostly of Roman and Byzantine dates) of grand boulevards, markets and public buildings, including several Roman baths and a theatre. Phaselis must have been a very wealthy place at times. Most of it is shaded by a dense and fragrant forest of pine trees, and in summer the site is an attraction to many tourists, lured more by the sandy beaches flanking it than by the ruins themselves. The result is a joyful but laid-back atmosphere and a constant bustling of happy crowds among the ruins. We loved it.
Of course, we had some stories for our guests. The most important of those is probably the connection with Alexander the Great, who spent the first winter of his campaign against the Persian Empire at Phaselis.
Our picture shows the well-preserved Hellenistic theatre, typically set in a convenient hollow of the hillside. It was already our third Greek theatre on this cruise, but we don't seem to tire of them. The key feature - arguably - is the stage structure, with its faux facade still standing to a grand height. For some of us, the day was crowned by a leisurely swim back to the gulet.
Now, some are still admiring the near-full moon and its reflection in the dark sea around us, while I am preparing for tomorrow and its long excursion ashore.