After 30 years of wanting to go to Turkey, we finally slipped into Bozburun, a small coastal town at the western end of Turkey’s south coast. This was our chosen point of entry as the agent here had a good reputation and the cost was a little less than in some of the other ports in the area. We were a little anxious though about our lack of a holding tank for black waste, a requirement for sailing in Turkey. Our plan was to check in at Bozburun and then go straight to Yacht Marina in Marmaris, where we had already contacted SK Yachting regarding fitting a tank. We had contacted the Bozburun agent prior to check in and he indicated that we should be allowed by the coast guard (who enforce the holding tank regulations) to check in under these circumstances. Sure enough check in went very smoothly, and the coast guard did not even ask about the holding tank. He just logged us onto the system and issued our blue card which is used to keep track of how frequently the holding tank is being pumped out. So onto Marmaris and check into the marina. We were keen to get SK Yachting onto the job ASAP, as the longer they took, the longer we would have to stay in the marina. Given that we had to wait for the tank to be fitted before we could go anywhere, we had organised to go on a tour to Cappadoccia – one of the “must see” areas of Turkey. Timing was very tight, but we managed to get SK Yachting to check out our job and get the holding tank ordered (made to our specifications), just in time for us to get organised and leave for the Cappadoccia trip.
Cappadocia, for those who have never heard of it, is an arid region in central Turkey famous for unusual rock and land formations, and for Bronze Age homes carved into the cliffs. You may have seen photos of hundreds of hot air balloons suspended over the area. We were picked up at the marina very early in the morning and spent the first day of our four day trip in the bus (very comfortable, and a world apart from the buses in Africa) driving, driving, driving to get to our hotel. Over the next two days, we were immersed in one of the weirdest landscapes we have seen. It was like we had been shrunk and put into a maize of children’s sand castle creations.
There are 150-200 underground cities in the Cappadocia region, hollowed out from the soft rock, created between 600-1100 AD. Each city included stables for animals, wineries, kitchens and communal and sleeping areas. The cities provided safety from various raiders who frequented the region. On our first morning, we visited the city of Kaymakli which provided shelter for about 10,000 people. The first 4 levels are open to the public, but there are I think about 10 levels in total. The cities were clearly well organised with the residents able to remain underground for quite some time. Quite incredible to think about the resilience of the residents who used these cities for protection.
During the afternoon, we had a very pleasant walk through the Ilhara Valley where we saw evidence of ancient homes carved into the cliffs, and a rock carved church from the later 13th century. Christianity flourished in Cappadocia from the 4th to 11th century. There are 105 churches and nearly 10,000 rock caverns scattered throughout the valley.
The Ilhara Valley
The second morning was spent visiting the Goreme open air museum. Goreme is full of rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries which are testament to its past as an important Byzantine monastic settlement and later a pilgrimage site.
Later in the day, we visited the famous fairy chimneys. We were able to actually meet a man whose family lived inside one of these chimneys and go inside the chimney, which is now a summer house and site for a coffee shop and silversmith.
A drive through another of the area’s valleys in the afternoon was made fun by our guide encouraging us to identify shapes of animals etc that we could see in the amazing rock and sand formations.
Our two days in Cappadocia was completed with a Turkish evening in a rock carved restaurant where we enjoyed some whirling dervish type dancing. We had met two English couples on the tour, Chris and Janet, Roger and Sheryl, and as the only six English speakers (apart from the guide), we quickly formed a nice social group and had some fun together.
The loooong drive back to Marmaris was punctuated with a visit to the Mevlana Museum in Konya, and the Aksaray Sultanhni Caravanserai. The Mevlana Museum is the former lodge of the whirling dervishes, a group inspired by Rumi who was one of the world’s great mystic philosophers and a very important figure in the Islamic world. After Rumi’s death in 1273, over 100 dervish lodges sprang up throughout the Ottoman empire, and these had considerable political, economic and social influence. The traditional dance of the whirling dervishes is actually a spiritual ritual, full of religious and mystic symbolism. The dance is meant to culminate in complete submission to, and unity with, God. The founder of modern Turkey, Attaturk, thought the dervishes were an obstacle to advancement and banned them in 1925. Some orders did survive as religious fraternities. The Museum is one of the biggest pilgrimage centres in Turkey and many Muslims visit Rumi’s tomb and the mosque to pray for Rumi’s help. It was certainly busy the day we were there to the point that it was difficult to fully appreciate the significance of the site.
The Aksaray Sultanhni Caravanserai was a stop on the highway, which is part of one of the oldest trade routes in the world, the Silk Road. Caravanserais were stops for the travellers where they could find food and accommodation and also conduct business. This particular caravanserai was built in 1229, eventually becoming the largest one in Turkey. It comprised two courtyards – an open one for summer and closed one for winter – around which were rooms used for kitchens, dining and living rooms, and sleeping quarters. Remarkable to stand in the caravanserai and imagine it pulsating with traders, swapping stories and information gathered during their journeys, and hustling for business.
The entrance to the Aksaray Sultanhni Caravanserai, and part of the closed courtyard
We arrived back in Marmaris late at night, tired but very impressed by our trip to Cappadocia. To our surprise and delight, our brand new, custom made, holding tank was in the cockpit! SK Yachting were back the next day and the tank was fitted, and any mess was cleaned up – all within one week of our arrival in the marina. We had booked and paid for one month in the marina, fully expecting the job to drag out, as almost every job on a boat does, especially when relying on the trades. However, we did not let this time go to waste and we set about working our way through the list of things we wanted done. Among other things, we appointed an upholster to make a new dodger and bimini for the cockpit (these provide wave, spray and sun protection), provide new foam for our cockpit cushions, and new upholstery for the saloon. We also arranged for Elvstrom sails to make us a new genoa to replace the one that tore during some strong winds in Greece. We attended to a whole list of other things and we actually ended up being really very busy.
Of course, we had time for some fun social times too, as we got re-aquainted with friends Bill and Natalia from Island Bound whom we had not seen since the end of the Indonesian rally in Oct 2015, and made a number of new friends around the marina. One of those new friends was a fellow Aussie Noel, who had a couple of crew members join him for the local race weeks. You wouldn’t believe that one of those crew was the brother of my friend Jan, with whom I did my midwifery training in 1980, and subsequently shared a house with in Melbourne. Jan and I haven’t seen each other for years, and it was just unbelieveable that her brother Michael should turn up at the very time we were in Marmaris! We caught up with our four English friends who we met in Cappadocia before two of them returned to England. The other two, Chris and Janet, were living for some of the year in a town near Marmaris. We had a wonderful evening with our Turkish friends, Elif and Mustafa from Balakcil, who we met while crossing the Indian Ocean. They arrived back in Marmaris, their home port, not long before we got there, having gone the long way around South Africa. They were very excited to be home after 4-5 years away, and it was very special indeed to have dinner with them in their home where we were made very welcome.
As is the way of things though, the season was changing, Paseafique had a date with a boat yard and we had a date with Turkish Airlines, so we took a short cruise east from Marmaris along the south coast of Turkey, and had a magical ten days or so of perfect autumn weather (which also means very little wind), changing sunlight, and stunning vistas as we made our way to Gocek and Fethiye. As well as enjoying the uncrowded and spectacular anchorages, we also saw many examples of the famous Lycian rocks tombs cut into the hills.
Examples of rock carved tombs in the hills around Tomb Bay
While anchored at Fethiye, we took a bus to visit the abandoned village of Kayakoy. This had been a thriving community of Greeks (Christian) and Turks (Muslims) who lived and worked side by side while maintaining their own religious faith and traditions until the 1923 population exchange which seemingly was designed to create religious homogeneity in those two countries, although I think that the reasons for the population exchange are much more complex than that. This was a compulsory exchange so the people had no choice and it resulted in misery for many as they were forced to leave behind their homes, their friends, their livelihoods and in many cases, their language. The Turkish Muslims remained behind in the village but it was never the same, and it was eventually abandoned altogether. Today the ruins of some 4,000 houses and other buildings remain as a silent testament to the personal, economic and political disruption that the population exchange created. When we were in Greece, we visited a small museum in which Christians displaced from Turkey had re-created the interior of a house typical of those they left behind. It was filled with photos of the people (sad people) who had come to this Greek village from Turkey, and with many items of the every day life they had left behind, and with which they sought to hold onto their lost way of life. We were very touched by the human cost of this political decision, and felt privileged to have had some experience of this in both Greece and Turkey.
Back in Marmaris, we started to prepare the boat for hauling out and ourselves for the long flight back to Melbourne. Paseafique was booked into a boat yard around in Bozburun where we had checked in, and with a patch of bad weather looming, we hurriedly arranged an early lift out with the yard. We spent another few days living on the boat once it was out of the water, propped up and secured for the winter. The yard is just that – a yard for storing boats with very basic facilities. The most difficult thing was the lack of water taps in the yard and also the absence of any where to wash clothes. Consequently, the last of the cleaning and packing up was challenging and we were well and truly ready when the time came to catch the bus to the airport. The prospect of seeing family and friends, attending a very special wedding, and becoming grandparents again put a smile on our faces and a spring in our step as we trudged up the road to the bus stop in the early morning light.