Saturday, October 15, 2011

Turkey - Cashing in on Its Waters


Ataturk's Yacht on Bosphorus Strait


With 4454 miles of coastline at the crossroads of Europe and Asia,  Turkey has long been a popular spot for traders and conquerors.  Today, tourists are the newest invited invaders who are taking advantage of this now stable democracy.  On a recent trip, we discovered it has some of the most beautiful waters in the world to be enjoyed on both land and sea.
View of Antalya harbor

View of water and mountains


Antalya, a city of three million, lies on the edge of the Turquoise Coast along Southwest Turkey.    Originally a small town with a safe harbor, Antalya has grown exponentially with the advent of tourist resorts.  The Russian crowd particularly enjoys vacationing here.  On the rooftop terrace of our pension in the old section of town,  we could see the advance of the new condominiums and resorts as the lights extended around the crescent shore.  Despite this boom in building, the city’s perfect view over the waters with the Taurus mountains in the distance has not changed from Roman times.



View of Kas from Plateau above
Further around the coast and directly in the heart of the Turquoise Coast lies Kas, a small fishing village that has managed to stay charming despite the growth in condos in nearby areas.  The British are major visitors here.  We rented a boat for the day with Captain Ergan, a remarkably young (24) and poised Turk, who plans to own a fleet of yachts someday.  We snorkled and kayaked in the clear blue green waters, explored a Crusader castle, and ate fresh seafood on board.  At the end of a very pleasant day,  Ergan passed out cards that encouraged us to evaluate him on Trip Advisor.  Such savvy marketing had already led us to him and would surely bring him even more business.  Someday soon, the other captains will need to figure that one out.

2400 year old Lycian tombs in Dalyan
Beach at mouth of Dalyan River
Up the coast but inland is Dalyan, a German favorite located on the river of the same name.  This is another small town that grew up quickly, thanks to the international airport built nearby in 1981.  It has a rather odd combination of tourist sites that have been brilliantly combined into one daylong boat ride.  We stopped first at Roman ruins of the seaport it once was and then moved down river to the spawning grounds of the large Loggerhead turtles, saved from development by the Turkish government.  A bonus from this ecological decision is a pristine beach with only a snack bar and umbrellas.   Returning to the river, we motored past carved 2400 year old Lycian tombs and stopped at Aqua Mia, some hot springs that provided our first (and last)  mud bath experience.


The ferry boats of Istanbul are another rich source of “on the water” experiences.  In a city of 15 million (give or take five million), only 2 four lane bridges link the European and Asian sides of the city.  This means ferry boats must transport thousands to and from work every day.

Ferry on Marmara Sea, near Istanbul
On a crisp, clear October morning, we boarded a ferry on Buyukada Island for the hour and a half ride to the city.  The skyline of greater Istanbul lay to one side and Princess Islands to the other.  As the boat neared the mouth of the Bosphorus Strait, large tankers lay idle on the Marmara Sea, waiting their turn to sail to the Black Sea.  The famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi  Palace began to take shape.  Small fishing boats and many more ferry boats passed by.   And at our ferry terminal, two enormous cruise ships moored nearby, patiently awaiting the return of their guests who had been released for the day.

Yali or shore mansion 
Our final Turkish water experience centered on a boat ride on the Bosphorus, a place that gives strength to the residents of Istanbul.  Its history plays out on the shores with several Sultan Palaces, many yalis or shore mansions that have been rebuilt or restored in the original Ottoman style, a military high school, Ataturk’s yacht, restaurants, hotels, and of course, minarets.  Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, describes the experience  - “To be traveling through the middle of a city as great, historic and forlorn as Istanbul, and yet to feel the freedom of the open sea — that is the thrill of a trip along the Bosphorus.”


Most of Turkey is inland, without access to the seas or rivers.  But it is the country’s waters that attract the growing international crowd.  After exploring the shores of Turkey, it is easy to understand why Troy, the Hittities, Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks wanted to control these beautiful waters.  We’re just grateful the Turks have opened their world for all who now want to enjoy it.

On Bosphorus Strait



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