Europeans vacation in Turkey all the time, but among Americans the country is often overlooked when it comes to travel plans. That’s a shame. I visited Turkey for the first time earlier this year – not really knowing what to expect – and was blown away. It’s a Muslim country with billboards advertising lingerie. It has a history stretching back to the Ancient Greeks, yet Istanbul is among the most forward-looking of European capitals. The food alone – mezes and kebabs and koftas – is worth the trip. Part of my whirlwind tour took me to the Aegean town of Bodrum, where I spent a week sailing on a traditional wooden gulet for an article for Bombardier’s Experience magazine.
Into the Blue: Sailing Turkey’s Aegean Coast
By Remy Scalza for Bombardier Experience Magazine
Hassan is a man of few words. So when he begins shouting in Turkish early one morning
and pointing to a spot off the stern, I spring to my feet and crowd the rail. The bonito
are jumping: Dozens of rainbow bodies shimmer in the sun, then plunge back into the
chalky blue water off Turkey’s Aegean coast. Hassan, a deckhand who moonlights as
the ship’s cook, reaches for a fishing rod, while the captain veers starboard to cut off the fleeing
school. I cup my hands over my eyes and scan the water. Nothing. Then, with a wild burst, his reel
clicks to life. The struggle that ensues is brief. “Dinner,” he says two minutes later in accented
English, dropping the foot-long fish in a bucket before descending merrily to the galley.
We’re a two-day sail out of the seaside city of Bodrum aboard Casa Dell’Arte’s 115-foot-long
(35-meter) CDAII, a traditional Turkish gulet that I’ve chartered for the week, with captain and
crew. Handsome two-masted schooners built of mahogany and decked in teak, gulets have sailed
the country’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts for hundreds of years. Long favored by fishermen
and sponge divers, these boats are also the vessel of choice for Turkey’s fabled Blue Cruise: a weeklong
voyage along some of the most secluded and storied stretches of the coast.
“The Blue Cruise is a process,” wrote Turkish novelist Azra Erhat, who, in 1962, penned the
seminal travelogue about the experience, Mavi Yolculuk (Turkish for “Blue Cruise”). “It not only
shows us the heavenly corners of the world. It shows us how to merge with the world.” For generations
of adventure-seeking Turks, the voyage has represented an almost spiritual rite of passage – a way
to connect with sea and sky, the distant past and the ageless rhythm of seafaring life. Now, growing
numbers of international travelers like me are climbing aboard, eager for a glimpse of an ancient
coast and a time-honored way of sailing.
Read the full article here.