THE BLUE CRUISE – Bodrum to Lydae

Odysseus Cruising – Visiting Notes

Bodrum - Lydae map

  • BODRUM (ANCIENT HALICARNASSUS)
  • CNIDUS
  • LORYMA
  • CAUNUS
  • THE DALYAN RIVER
  • LYDAE

The route of ‘The Blue Cruise’ runs along the coast with a great variety of scenery from the red lands, covered with pale green pine trees, to the noble limestone cliffs and mountains toward the western end.  It is in this latter area, principally, that the sea turns to sapphire blue.

You can hire our luxury gulet MS Odysseus by private charter to enjoy the holiday of a lifetime – sailing the Blue Cruise.

The route spans part of the ancient state of Lycia and a large part of ancient Caria.  The Dalyan River was the boundary between the two for most of their history. The route was an important artery for trade, from the 2nd millennium BC until the Early Christian period when it was replaced as a trade route by internal roads.

The ancient land sites thus exhibit features from the Pre-Greek (Lycian and Carian), Greek classical, Hellenistic (after Alexander) Roman, Byzantine and Early Christian periods.

After the 9th Cent. AD, the route was still used by Crusaders en route to the Holy Land, the Genoese traders, the Ottoman Navy, the British Navy and 19th Cent. Levantine merchants’ sailing ships and, today, by touring gulets.

VISITING NOTES

BODRUM

Half-day sightseeing tour of Bodrum.

Known in history as Hallicarnassus of ancient Mausoleum (Tomb of Mausolus) fame (one of the ‘The Seven Wonders of the World’).  It also contains the Crusader Castle of St. Peter, built by the Knights of St. John (1402 AD onwards and occupied by them until 1523AD.).   Home to the unique Museum of Marine Archaeology  (established by Professor George Bass) which contains, amongst several other ancient boats, an impressive display of the oldest shipwreck (1300BC) ever discovered, with its remarkable contents.   A pure Greek Theatre (being carefully restored) and the gigantic Myndus Gate, assaulted by Alexander in 332BC.  At that time, Bodrum was the strongest fortified city known in Asia Minor.

The Myndos Gate; a very large magnificent fortified gateway to the west of the city, which has been excellently excavated and partially restored. It shows the remarkable skills of military engineers of the time (late 4th Cent. BC ) and the finest example of its kind on the coast.

The Classical Theatre; a fine example of a pure Greek theatre, recently well-restored and now used for performances.

The Famous Mausoleum; once the monumental tomb of the ruler Mausolus and a wonder to behold, designed and built by the greatest architects and sculptors of the day. Sadly destroyed, nevertheless. The site is worth visiting and the museum is well illustrated with a model of this unique artefacts.

The Crusader Castle of St. Peter, spectacularly sited, it contains the fine Museum of ancient ships Roman glass,sculpture the special museum of 4th Cent. Princess Ada (known to Alexander the Great), which contains a statue of her, her sarcophagus and her exquisite golden jewellery and the Tower of the English Knights of St. John (15th Cent.)

After the tour you should have time to explore the attractive town and do some shopping.

CNIDUS

Unlike most cities which grew from small beginnings, progressively expanding, this city was designed as a single entity from the beginning.  It is positioned at the extremity of a long peninsula and was built here as an act of civic policy to move the earlier city of Cnidus from further down the coast.  The reason was probably that at the extremity, lies Cape Krio and in the days of sail, it was difficult to pass this cape without waiting for favourable winds and also boats needed a safe haven to rest up, gather supplies, rest and relax before attempting the next leg of their journey.

It is said that the Roman grain ships sometimes had to wait six weeks in some parts of the year.  In that time they would arrange for their grain to be ground into flour.  The reasons for moving the city were that it would be good for business and easier to defend.  (Its very long life, 12 centuries, amply proved their point.)

This planned city was built according to principles of a Greek town planner, Hippodamus, who laid out towns like a grid.  Here, however, the design is imposed, with difficulty, on two sloping sites facing each other.  At the start, an ingenious man-made land bridge joined a small offshore island to the mainland, thereby forming two harbours.  One, the larger, for commercial purposes, the other, smaller for warships.  Thus, with great foresight and determination, the founders of the city created an opportunity to build a beautiful ideal Hellenistic city state, for the 4th century BC and the future.  Before the city could be occupied, however, it’s council had to design and order a large civil engineering project to terrace both sides of the harbours.  This involved the building of large retaining walls in heavy coursed masonry with steep stepped streets to connect the terraces.

The island side seems to have been mostly residential and the mainland side was laid out to provide two theatres, several market squares, temples, a council chamber, dockyard and naval/military stores and headquarters.  In addition, a famous architect, Sostratus, designed and built an ambitious lighthouse on Cape Krio. He later went on to build an even larger and more famous lighthouse at Alexandria.  All these facilities were surrounded by large defensive walls which reached a crescendo at the defended acropolis, the ‘high town’ the ultimate safe place.

The commercial harbour was partly closed by a man-made mole and the warship harbour was protected by large defensive castles an walls.  Thus was a complete city created which lived for 12 centuries from 4th Cent. BC to the 7th or 8th Cent AD.  In Hellenistic times it was famous for a remarkable nude statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles.  The figure became the symbol of the city and its own coins carried the image.

During the last 4 – 5 centuries, five Early Christian churches were built here, probably for a declining population living in difficult times.

Features to be seen

Theatre; on the north side, the area of public buildings, is a fairly typical Hellenistic design (Capacity 5000 seats) modified, as is common, in Roman times. This is alongside the harbour and easy to reach. There is a second theatre high up the hill, mostly ruined.

Roman shops; west of the theatre, these are set back from the quayside with a line of fallen columns in front which had supported a roof for shade. One can imagine this as the ‘top street’ when you see the remaining broken marble mouldings around the doorways of the shops. Afterwards walk to the west in the direction of the sea to pick up an excellent map from the kiosk. Look left at Church D, built from broken pieces of the city nine centuries after the founding of the city.

The rest of the walk will take 1 ½ – 2 hours.  Walk to the edge of the sea, turn right, up a short slope to the Doric Temple (fine pink marble). Then walk on (watch out for excavators’ pits) to the Temple of Apollo and look at the very fine carved white marble on the altar (the finest work on the coast).  A further walk up hill will take you to the site of the round Temple of Aphrodite positioned appropriately at the highest and most conspicuous position.  Sadly, of the fine marble statue, nothing remains.  It is said that it may have perished in the lime kilns during Early Christian times.  It is a slight compensation that a head of Aphrodite, attested by experts, to be the work of Praxiteles exits in England, although it may be from the sister statue from Kos, a clothed Aphrodite.

Walk back down to the ‘Propylon’ at the crossing of the two main streets.  Here you can see the columns (Ionic) and the remarkable structure of the main drains (Roman).  Follow the line the East-West main street until you reach the large water cisterns then walk south (toward the harbour)/ through the upper Market to the expensively built Corinthian Roman Temple (2nd Cent. AD, built six centuries after the founding of the city).  See the stone sundial and the remains of a massive Doric Colonnade (Stoa) which, when viewed from the harbour, must have been a bold statement about the might of the city.  Walk in the direction of the theatre so that you arrive at the top (back) of the seats and admire the view and try to imagine the beauty of the city twelve centuries ago with a harbour full of ships.

Time required = Theatre, shops and Church D.  1 ¼ hrs.

The rest of the city an extra 1 ½ – 2 hrs and you will need a map from the kiosk.

LORYMA

This site is positioned strategically at the junction of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.  At this point on the coast there is a 13 mile channel between the coast of Turkey and the Greek Island of Rhodes. At this point is a gigantic Hellenistic fortress on a low hill, apparently to protect, or at least supervise, a beautiful deep-water inlet.   The true reason for this impressive fortification, which is the best example of military masonry on the coast, is not immediately obvious.  The raison d’etre is to be found in history.  After Alexander, one of his successors, Antigonus and his brilliant son Demetrius, ‘besieger of cities’, decided in the 4th Cent BC to attack Rhodes and gathered a huge invasion fleet in Loryma harbour, with large besieging towers.  The attack failed (See ‘Plutarch’s Lives’ – Demetrius). The Rhodians, always a great naval power, were so shocked that they decided to build a fortress here to prevent its occupation in the future by another attacking force.

It was probably never finished but it must have served an important defensive, if symbolic,  role, together with the Rhodian commander-in-chief’s headquarters on the highest hill nearby. (you need binoculars to see it.)  That site, which is hard to reach, had 350 degrees of all-round vision of the surrounding sea.

The Loryma Fortress (Turkish name Bozukkale, ie. ‘broken castle’)

It is an easy walk up the hill to the round signal tower, from which point you can, with great care, walk the full length of the walls towards the sea, where there is a further round signal tower.  Note the bastions on each side of the fortress which, no doubt, held catapult artillery to attack enemy ships with ‘Greek Fire’ – a combustible and inflammatory mix of pitch and tar, which terrified sailors.

The signal towers were effective in sending important messages to Rhodes.

The Kasara Valley and Port Serci

This is an optional excursion, and a good chance for exercise which involves an hour’s journey down the coast to an old Genoese safe haven and a 2 hours walk/trek through a three-thousand year old agricultural area, still cultivated.  Most customers enjoy this.

‘Odysseus’ will land you at the beach.  There is a nearby place to drink wine or soft drinks before beginning your walk through the level valley.  The atmosphere of the valley is heightened by the silence, the dark Carob trees and the mysterious stepped pyramidal blocks. What are they? Bases for bronze memorial statues? After 2 hours, depending on how much you drink, you reach ‘Goats Cleft’ a narrow defile with rough steps down to the beach where you will be met by ‘Odysseus’ for a cruise/sail in a quiet inland gulf within an area known as the Rhodian Peraea.

CAUNUS

This once great city possessed a large harbour within extensive protective walls and was active the 7the Cent. BC to the 7th Cent. AD.  It is one of the most interesting sites on the whole coast and is still under active excavation.  After leaving the riverboat at the wooden quay, follow the path to the entrance and then walk further up the path to see the theatre, the church and the Roman baths.  After refreshment, follow the road down behind the high acropolis hill to the river to re-join your riverboat which will be waiting for you.  Turn RIGHT just before you reach the river.

Time of site visit and walk from boat to rejoin it: 2.5 – 3 hours.

The Theatre is a fine example of the Hellenistic theatre modified in Roman times (Capacity 5000 seats) As normal, it faces South West with a good view over the ancient harbour, now largely silted up. Leave by the arched tunnel.

The Church is a third-generation design. An exquisite design built of cut blocks with vaults and a rare dome, now lost. (All stones collected and reused from previously ruined buildings.) Probably a bishop’s church in the 6th Cent. AD. The area around the church includes a Baptistery and a necropolis. Look at the latest excavations of streets and walls nearby.

The Roman baths are the best preserved of its kind in the coast, but not yet fully accessible. It includes all the main spaces of a Roman bath such as;

  • Palaestra for exercise and wrestling
  • Ambulacrum for indoor sports
  • Piscina for cold plunge/swimming
  • Frigidarium for cold water bathing
  • Tepidarium, a warm room for relaxation
  • Laconicum, a sweat room adjacent to the cold plunge
  • Caldarium, the hot room (12m x 24m internally) with three large windows overlooking the harbour

The whole complex of grand symmetrical architecture speaks of the importance of the city in the 1st and 2nd Cent. AD and the number of citizens grown prosperous from trade during the period of the Pax Romana.

There are many other interesting features of the site further down the hill towards the old harbour but more time is required to inspect them properly.

THE DALYAN RIVER AND CAUNUS

Caunus

As the mouth of this once large river is now silted up you start your visit by transferring to a flat-bottomed riverboat from Odysseus (Captain will order up) for your journey up the river stopping to visit the ancient site of the city of Caunus, then the riverboat will pick you up after your site visit and take you to the small town of Dalyan for refreshments, afterwards returning you to ‘Odysseus’.

Time required: After breakfast until late afternoon.

LYDAE

Located close to a small bay just to the west of the beautiful Gulf of Fethiye.  A steady walk up a clear unmistakeable path from the shore takes you to a ridge where you can see a magnificent view across the gulf towards Father Mountain, Baba Dag, (7500ft, 2000m.).  On this ridge are two large mausolea, one with a barrel vault and one with a ruined dome.

Total time needed: 1.5 – 2 hours.

The barrel-vaulted tomb is of particular interest for the broken marble sarcophagus bearing the name of SARPEDON.  Founder of Lycia and hero of the Trojan wars.  A family name of the area in ancient times.

The ruined dome tomb is an interesting and sophisticated design with the remains of columns and a pediment. Inside can be seen the pendentives which held up the dome.  In the rubble are the broken remains of a Roman statue of a wealthy and important person.

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