An intrepid traveler who now divides his time between New York and Sydney, Tony Perrottet began his freelance career straight out of college with a lengthy stint as a correspondent in South America. He recalls that on his first journey around the Mediterranean two years ago, he traveled primarily by ferry. “I kept ending up in places that were quite crowded and overdeveloped and found myself wondering just what was the attraction.”
That changed when he started taking other kinds of boats. Says Perrottet, who is currently working on a book about early travelers in the Mediterranean, “The great thing about traveling by boat is that you can drift into remote corners where it’s easy to get caught up in the Homeric myth, where you can see why the place has fascinated people for so long.”
Nik Wheeler arrived in Turkey just after a catastrophic earthquake devastated the country – and left just before another huge temblor caused additional destruction. But Wheeler, like most photographers, was focused more on weather than earthquakes when he got to the Turquoise Coast. He arrived during an intense rainstorm, but fortunately the sky cleared the next day and stayed that way for the rest of the trip.
Wheeler, who had driven across Turkey several times while working as a photojournalist in the Middle East during the 1970s, had also sailed the northern part of the Turquoise Coast more than a decade ago. “I had such a wonderful time,” he says, “that I jumped at the chance for a trip to the southern half.” Yes, the traffic has increased, he says, “but I think it is still one of the great boat trips in the world.”
Accommodations along the Turquoise Coast range from small guest houses to private villas (figure about $1,200 a week for a two-bedroom villa). An appealing spot near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul is the Yesil Ev (“a great little hotel,” says Wheeler); it has doubles for about $150 a night. Speaking of great accommodations, a former prison for political subversives of the “dissident artist” type has since been converted into a Four Seasons hotel. The rooms there range from $270 to $700 a night. (We hear the food is better now than before and the staff more congenial, too.)
All journeys to Turkey begin in Istanbul, where water is everywhere. Ferryboats run along the Bosporus River, the narrow waterway dividing Europe from Asia, while Topkap’ Saray’, the former palace of the Ottoman sultans, looms over the spectacular harbor called the Golden Horn. Istanbul has many hamams (baths), several cavernous underground cisterns dating to the Roman era, and dozens of fine fish restaurants with views of the sea. Perrottet says it’s well worth spending at least three days in Istanbul before flying south to Dalaman, gateway to the Turquoise Coast.
Sand is a rare commodity on the Turquoise Coast, and in season the few existing strands (legend has it that Cleopatra brought the sand over from Egypt) are usually packed. Which is why traveling by boat is such a pleasure. (“You can sail to any number of beautiful, deserted coves,” Perrottet says, “and then leap right into the water.”)
The high season along the Turquoise Coast runs from May to October, with the peak in July and August, but both the sun and the crowds can be brutal then. The Mediterranean weather is changeable in fall, but the sea remains warm enough for swimming through mid-October in the southern region. A good place to get the lay of the land – and sea – is http://bluevoyage.exploreturkey.com/bvfgaler.htm It features a gallery of more than 200 alluring color photos from all along the Turquoise Coast.
Ketch-rigged Turkish boats called g¿lets (pronounced goo-lets) have operated in these waters for decades. Over the years many have been transformed into cruising boats accommodating 8 to 12 passengers. (For photographs and a floorplan of a g¿let, go to www.turkishcruises.co.uk/melanurya.htm, the Web site of DayDreams, a well-established British charter company. (Using such obvious Web search words as “Turquoise Coast,” “sailing in Turkey,” and “g¿let cruises” will net a wide range of relevant sites.) Prices of, and standards on, g¿let cruises vary tremendously, but expect to pay about $1,200 to $1,500 for a weeklong trip for two. (DayDreams cruises start at about $1,000 per person for ten days; private weeklong charters are priced from about $3,300.)
A one-week Blue Voyage allows plenty of time to get from G¿cek to G¿kkaya Bay in the east, with stops at Kas, Kalkan, and Myra, and a day-trip to Kastell¿rizon in Greece.
The schooner M/S Amazon Solo – the top of the line in the eastern Mediterranean – can be hired by the week, with a full crew and a cook. For information about Amazon Solo, contact Vela Dare in Turkey, 011-90-252-645-2682, fax 011-90-252-645-2683, or you can E-mail [email protected] Note: Whatever kind of cruise you decide to take, book early, since many of the preferred boats are reserved as much as a year in advance.
WHAT’S TO EAT
Welcome to the land of dolma, kabob, and baklava. Turkey’s extensive cuisine is based on grains (rice and wheat, primarily), vegetables, and grilled meats and seafood. As for restaurants, Istanbul is loaded with them, but Perrottet’s favorite turned out to be The Alternative, on the waterfront in G¿cek. The chef-owner there uses less oil than is typical in Turkey, and he has added a touch of French culinary style. And while Turkish red wines aren’t great, the whites are fine (“very palatable,” according to Perrottet).
ATMs are ubiquitous and user-friendly. But before dashing out on a shopping spree, get familiar with the Turkish lira: The highest-denomination note is 5,000,000TL (that’s right, five million – worth roughly $9). The catch is that it is similar in color to – but definitely not to be confused with – the 100,000TL note.
READ IT AND LEAP
The Rough Guide to Turkey is a solid guidebook, while the history-minded reader should look for Diana Darke’s Guide to Aegean and Mediterranean Turkey, which contains the best coverage of the Lycian culture.
To get into the proper frame of mind for a Blue Voyage, rent the Italian comedy Mediterraneo, shot on the Greek island of Kastell¿rizon; the film offers good insights into the relaxed Mediterranean attitude toward life.