Blame the heat, but I’m currently suffering from an aggravated case of goulette envy – I have adopted the French form in the hope it will go some way to eradicate the undeserving pronunciation abuses that dog these lovely Turkish traditional boats – even though I spent a week on one not a month ago. I’ve taken solace in The Lycian Shore by Freya Stark which tells of her travels by boat – ‘the first of its kind, I rather think, to have followed this route for pleasure,’ as she described it – which she took along the coast of Lycia in 1952.
The best part of a lifetime ago, then, but even so this coast of Turkey clearly spoke to the formidable Dame Freya as it does to us today. It’s just that she says it better, insisting that a Turkish ‘journey without history is like the portrait of an old face without the wrinkles. Every bay or headland of these shores, every mountain-top round whose classic name the legends and clouds are floating, carries visible or invisible signs of its past’.
I find myself delighting in her journeyings, not least because it took in many of the same places I visited on my own recent trip: St Nicholas Island, Fethiye, where her explorings were truncated when her ship’s captain David Balfour, Consul-General of Izmir and formerly a Greek Orthodox priest – Freya kept a strong suit in patrician and interesting friends – hurried her on so they might make a rendezvous with some French archaeologists at Kaş; lovely Kekova, then so little known that even Freya was to mistake it for Aperlae; and Andriake, the site of Hadrian’s great granaries, where there were ‘camels moving across the sand’ and boys ‘drumming bare heels into donkeys’ sides’.
The camels are mostly gone, donkey numbers in definite decline, and Hadrian’s granary has been turned, not very successfully, into the Museum of Lycian Civilisation. But beyond the old stones and the sun and the bare heels another aspect of our recent trip recalled The Lycian Shore – which is that it proved as easy, exceptionally enough, for our captain to find an anchorage all our own in May 2017 as it was for the Consul-General sixty-five years ago.
The same was true of the sites – so much so that the lone sailor we encountered among the glorious ruins of Arikanda felt like an intrusion. In this vital respect – however turbulent the politics in this increasingly autocratic country – these are glorious times to visit Turkey.
After running last month’s tour – ‘as good as we hoped and in some ways better’, in the words of repeat guests Craig and Frankie Davidson – Turkish guide Yunus Özdemir and I are beginning to think about next year’s offerings. The same emphasis – great swimming, fabulous food, overnight anchorages, enchanted ruin sites, a wealth of insights – will apply, but Yunus’ presence gives us more flexibility in cases, for example, where some guests wish to extend their walking. We are also keen to add a few more lunches on land, especially where there are irresistible options to hand like Hoyran Wedre.
The focus remains goulettes but we also want to offer a few land-based options. In most cases these will be just three or four days – perhaps at the wonderful Agora Pansiyon on Bafa Lake, a great base to walk and explore a wealth of wonderful sites like Labraunda – which guests can join as an extension to a goulette holiday or as a stand-alone experience. We’d also love to get guests to Cappadocia in central Turkey, home to Yunus (when he’s not away guiding) and to the fabulous Kale Konak, the base for exploring these hauntingly other-worldly and surpassingly lovely landscapes. And I’m very keen to do something in the Meander Valley where there’s another cluster of magnificent sites – Laodicea, Magnesia, Nysa, Aphrodisias – to drool over.
Email email@example.com with any Turkish travelling ideas or ambitions, however outlandish, that you may have. Anything is possible, numbers permitting.
We’ll be putting together itineraries for your consideration, and updating our tours page, over the summer. Enjoy it – whatever the temperature.