In praise of an October gulet cruise on the Turkish coast

The Bay of Marmaris

The Bay of Marmaris

In the autumn of 2009, I escorted a group of friends and paying guests on M/S ‘Odysseus’, cruising from the Bay of Marmaris to Bodrum. The weather was comfortably warm and the sea was calm and as delightful as ever. We swam twice a day and relaxed, sunbathed and dined in the open on the rear and front decks every day.

Turkey has one of the most spectacular ‘dark night’ skies as there is no pollution on the coast and the sparkling tapestry of stars was amazing. The clarity of the atmosphere in October meant that you could see along the beautiful coast for ever…

The colours of the sky at dawn and sunset were amongst the best I have ever seen. Watching the sun come up, whilst sipping coffee on the rear deck in a comfortable towelling gown, was an unforgettable experience.

When in the Bay of Marmaris we rehearsed the clever manoeuvre of Captain Hornblower in escaping from a Turkish battleship about 1811, as described by C.S. Forester in his novel Hornblower and the Atropos. Forester must have worked this out on the spot when visiting Turkey as it was accurate in every detail. Great fun – I had always wanted to do this.  Our charts, the novel and The Hornblower Companion, which we have in our library on board, helped us.

The ancient Greek and Roman sites we visited, always interesting as more is excavated each year, were exciting and particularly atmospheric as there were no other visitors. The Turkish sites are particularly good when compared with those elsewhere, as they have not been tidied up and brush cleared for tourists.

You are free to wander and be your own visiting archaeologist pondering all the while on the achievements of the ancients now laid low.  Food for thought indeed. Returning on board after a trip ashore exploring ruins, it is doubly comforting to find hot coffee, good food and service in the company of friends – and your own cabin.

Dargan Bullivant, architect and historian.