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Between the Taurus and the deep blue sea

Sailing to Cilicia

Few travellers to Turkey enjoying the hedonistic delights of Mediterranean cruising venture east of Antalya, capital of Anatolia’s Turquoise Coast – intimidated perhaps by rumours of a wild hinterland that even Alexander the Great found hard to tame. But those who dare to leave the crowds behind will discover an awe-inspiring landscape of cliffs that drop sheer to the sea, epic castles and remote Byzantine retreats. Kate Clow and Jacqueline de Gier joined ten other guests and a lecturer for a twelve-day voyage of enlightenment aboard a traditional gulet

  • Kate Clow admires the view along the coast

A spectacular point of view, by Jacqueline de Gier

This southern crook of the Turkish coast, from Antalya to Mersin, is perhaps not as easy to enjoy as the picturesque bays and harbours of the Turquoise Coast to the west. Dominated by the Taurus Mountains, its beauty is in its austerity. Its wild, often deserted unpredictability no doubt explains why it was a favourite hide-out for pirates, priestesses, oracles, nuns and heretics. It lured the most eccentric men and women, as, in an odd way, it still does… The moment I saw our lecturer (a former classics master and deputy head of St Paul’s School, London) take to the water off our twenty-six metre gulet and swim in his panama hat, any reservations I had about the trip wilted. He also carried an old-fashioned parasol to protect against the fierce sun…

Journal: Coasting into history, by Kate Clow

Day 1
As the sun rises over the old Selçuk walls of Antalya harbour, the Arif Kaptan B slips past the Roman watchtower, out to the open sea. Four hours’ sail takes us to Side, running eastwards with the imperceptible tide. The wide coastal plain and the heat haze almost screen the grey silhouettes of the Taurus Mountains. Above us, the two masts reflect the sun, while the guests recline in the shade, beers in hand, accustoming themselves to the endless swelling motion. My stomach is somewhat relieved when we slip easily into a vacant berth at Side, alongside the seafront disco and bars. In the museum, the plain vaults of the Roman bathhouse show off the worn and polished marble statuary to advantage – Hercules catches the light across his muscular shoulders; a dog peeps around a sarcophagus looking for his lost owner. The museum garden is fragrant with thyme and sea smells, and roses grow over a long frieze with mermaids and naval battles.

Day 2
As dawn gleams on the temples of Apollo and Athena – which is which? – the photographers slink off the gulet to capture the changing light. Sunrise on a Medusa’s head; silence in Side’s heart. We set sail for Alanya, another few hours away, where the anchor rattles out under the sheer cliffs of the citadel; we plunge into the clear waters, exploring a shallow phosphorescent cave. Seeing silver glints below, the youngest passenger gets out his fishing rod. On Alanya’s citadel, a dizzying descent down a narrow staircase below the Bedesten, or covered market, leads us to cavernous cisterns where we wander at will, tracing previous water levels on the walls. Then in the han above, we trace the levels in our beer glasses as we watch the sunlight dancing on dusty saddles, guns and saddlebags.

Kate Clow, Jacqueline de Gier and Julia Guest travelled with Westminster Classic Tours

To read the full article, purchase Issue 23

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Issue 23, 2001 Haute Ottoman
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 23
  • Love at first sight

    Geoffrey Lewis, acknowledged as the dean of Turkish studies in Britain and beyond, learned the language while serving in the RAF in Egypt. When he finally visited Turkey, he was smitten for good. By Andrew Mango. Portrait by Charles Hopkinson

  • Rough Journeys: George Bean and Terence Mitford

    For more than thirty years Terence Mitford and George Bean painstakingly identified and recorded the forgotten ancient sites of Turkey’s Aegean and southern shores. Their contribution to the preservation of the country’s archaeological heritage is incalculable, their guidebooks are legendary, yet the men themselves are unsung. Barnaby Rogerson, in this homage to his heroes, uncovers an extraordinary pair: a gentle giant and a man of steel

  • Master of plaster

    The dusty rooms of a crumbling Istanbul palazzo are a living museum of the plaster-caster’s art. Berrin Torolsan visits the heir to a fine tradition. Photographs by Fritz von der Schuelnburg

  • Shots of empire

    A new book on Vassilaki Kargopoulo: Photographer to His Majesty the Sultan. By Philip Mansel

  • Perfect Peach

    Dedicated to Venus by the Romans, no other fruit has so many symbolic and material associations with sensual beauty. Lovely soft pink flowers are followed by crimson velvetly fruit, soft and round, with a heavenly taste and aroma.
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  • Rapt in Silk

    William Morris and Mariano Fortuny familiarlised the West with the sumptuous floral designs of Ottoman textiles. But few are aware of the the bolder side of Turkish design

  • La Vie en Rose

    The intoxicating scent of attar of roses, the oil distilled from the petals of damask roses, has worked its magic on men and women for centuries. Martyn Rix traces the history of the damask rose from its roots in Neolithic times and travels to Isparta in southwest Anatolia to see how these precious petals yield up a liquid worth its weight in gold

Buy the issue
Issue 23, 2001 Haute Ottoman
£8.00 / $10.13 / 331.55 TL
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