Some take the hard dusty route to the Mediterranean’s ancient sites. Christian Tyler approached them the hedonist’s way: cruising on a gulet along some of the most breathtaking coastline in the world. Photographs by Sigurd Kranendonk
There is no point travelling a thousand miles to see the Taj Mahal if your first view of that pearly shell is a distant cutout, flattened by the dead light of noon. Wise travellers know that it is not the sight that counts, but how you see it. This is particularly true of ancient ruins. Taken at the wrong time of day or year, under a blazing sun and in the thick of a crowd, classical remains can be about as rewarding as a pile of rubble in a stonemason’s yard. A good solution is to approach the ancient sites from the sea. A week sailing in a gulet round the southwest corner of Turkey, with a small group of enthusiasts, convinced me that there is no better way of taking your history on holiday.
Each day began with the wooden vessel rocking gently at anchor while the coast of ancient Caria struggled to assemble itself in a murky dawn. The first sight would be of bare calves and knees flitting back and forth past the small cabin window as the crew ran about deck preparing to cast off. Then the diesel would jump into life and set the wooden hull throbbing. Soon the vibrations of the motor would themselves be overwhelmed by the long, complaining creek of timbers as the vessel ploughed into the grey furrows of the open Mediterranean. The dozen passengers would drift back to sleep and dream of breakfast.
Breakfast, on the aft deck of the 80ft Arif Kaptan B, was the time for planning the day’s programme and sizing up the rest of the ship’s company. For the hazards of sailing into the ancient world are social rather than nautical: unless you get up a party yourself, you do not know what eccentrics have elected to join you, what stranger will have his ear pressed to the thin partition as you wrestle with the lavatory pump in the small hours.
It doesn’t matter. I quickly discovered that a common objective works wonders for passenger solidarity.
This excursion beginning in the little port of Göçek, near Dalaman airport, and ending in the ugly bustle of Bodrum, brought experts and non-experts together. Our instructor was the retired head of classics at St Paul’s Boys School in London, and the enthusiasm which had motivated generations of lackadaisical schoolboys could hardly fail to win over a class of eager adults…
Christian Tyler travelled with Westminster Classic Tours
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