Ingenious Roman engineering, a massive mosque and more delectable delicacies

Our tour of south East Turkey was drawing to a close but there were still some fabulous things to see and do.

So many wonderful sights to see

We left the incredible and innovative Museum Hotel in Antakya and drove for around 50 minutes to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea near Samandağ (the medieval port of Saint Symeon).

Almost at journey’s end
The incredible Museum Hotel – built over an important archeological site

It was wonderful to see the sparking blue waters of the Med as we walked up the hill to visit the next amazing historical landmark – the Vespasianus Titus Tunnel.

It was wonderful to see the
sparkling Mediterranean

The tunnel is part of a water diversion system built during the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD to divert floodwaters that ran down the mountain carrying sand and gravel and threatening to silt up the harbour.

The entrance to the Vespasianus Titus Tuncel

This ingenious piece of Roman engineering transferred flood waters to the sea through an artificial canal and tunnel.

The tunnel is part of a water diversion system built during the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD

According to the archaeological records and the various epitaphs on the tunnel, around one thousand people – mostly slaves – constructed this technological marvel.

Around one thousand people – mostly slaves – constructed this technological marvel

The tunnel has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the Roman Empire’s most incredible engineering feats.

The tunnel is one of the Roman Empire’s most incredible engineering feats

We were able to walk along most of the tunnel’s 1,380 metres (4,527 feet) and imagine what a ghastly time the slaves (many of them from the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 66-79 AD) would have had during its construction.

What a ghastly time the slaves would have had during its construction.
Around one thousand people – mostly slaves – constructed this technological marvel

The tunnel is seven metres high and six metres wide and was built with no heavy machinery and no explosives. Just those poor slaves chipping away with hammers and chisels, day after day – for years on end.

No explosives used here! Only poor slaves chipping away with hammers and chisels
We were able to walk along most of the tunnel’s 1,380 metres (4,527 feet)

We walked back down the hill to our mini bus, taking a closer look at other Roman remains including some tombs in a cave and a pretty bridge.

Steps to a tomb carved out of the rock
A tomb in the hillside
The pretty Roman Bridge

By this time we were feeling peckish and our guide Baran, knowing how much we all loved being by the ocean and near to boats, took us to a small fishing harbour for a late lunch.

Time for a late lunch but first we had
to look at the boats

The wharf was a hive of activity with fishing boats being made ready for sea and lots of comings and goings.

The wharf was a hive of activity

After watching one of the larger craft leaving to fish in the open sea, we went to sit down at a “pop up” restaurant where we ate absolutely divine “Balik Ekmek” (a grilled fish fillet inserted in a half-loaf of bread along with a scoop of “salata” (lettuce, tomatoes and onions,) made all the more delicious by being washed down by a bottle of beer obtained from another restaurant nearby.

Balik Ekmek (fish in bread) – delicious!
Waiting for our Balik Ekmek
In the meantime we enjoyed our beers!

The following morning was taken up with the drive to Adana from where we would all fly back to our respective boats. Before going to the airport there was still some brilliant surprises! First of all, Baran – our guide – took us to the second largest mosque – and one of the most marvellous – in Turkey, called the Sabancı Merkez Mosque.

The Sabancı Merkez Mosque – the second latest mosque in Turkey

The mosque was largely paid for by the Sabanci Foundation (run by a mega wealthy famous Turkish family) – hence its name.

The mosque was largely paid for by
the Sabanci Foundation

Located on the banks of the Seyhan River, Sabancı Central Mosque is a majestic structure with six minarets. Eight massive pillars carry the main dome that has a diameter of 32 metres (105 feet).

Eight massive pillars carry the main dome

The interior of the mosque was breathtaking – everything about it was designed to inspire and impress. The sheer scale of the auditorium (built to contain 28,500 people) the massive tiled panels, the wide expanse of luxurious wool carpet, the immense lighting structures – everything was designed to be awe inspiring.

The interior of the mosque was breathtaking
Enjoying the feel of the wide expanse of luxurious wool carpet
Everything about the mosque was designed to inspire and impress.
Posing by one of the massive tiled panels
The ancient design and colours used for the tiles were just so beautiful
A lovely detail from one of the many tiled panels
Due to the light this photo doesn’t do justice to the vibrant colours

Next was a very pleasant lunch on the terrace of a restaurant/patisserie overlooking the Golden Lake where there were some very tempting and delicious looking cakes on offer.

Lunch overlooking the Golden Lake
There were some very tempting and delicious looking cakes on offer

We were then whisked off for a quick look at some of Adana’s main sites, including the 32 foot Great Clock Tower, (Büyük Saat), the bazaar and the Oil Mosque, (so named due to an Oil reservoir in its precincts) which was once a crusader Church and converted into a mosque in 1501.

The Great Clock Tower in Adana
Pigeons outside the Oil Mosque
We enter the precincts of the Oil Mosque, a Crusader Church until 1501
A peep inside the Oil Mosque
The minaret at the Oul Mosque

Parts of the madrasa (Islamic school) in the courtyard were used as craft workshops and we were able to see some of their marbling and felting work during our rather brief visit.

Chatting to one of the marbling artists
Some of the artist’s handiwork
Who can resist a Simit vendor?

By this time the sun was becoming low in the sky and Baran hurried as back onto the bus as he wanted us to experience the sunset in a very special spot.

Our driver Cezar, dropped us off on the banks of the Seyhan River near the majestic Taşköprü (stone bridge) – a historic Roman Bridge known as the Ponte Sarus when it was built in the second century AD.

The the majestic Taşköprü (stone bridge)

Since 2007 it has only carried foot traffic but up until then it was one of the oldest bridges in the world open to motorized vehicles. The bridge has 21 arches but some of them are now not visible due to stabilisation work on the river banks.

Walking onto the bridge we were surprised to find a festive atmosphere with lots of people milling around, vendors selling snacks and drinks and a group of people launching Chinese paper “sky”lanterns.

There was a large group of people trying to launch Chinese paper “sky”lanterns
“Where did that one go?!”
A successful launch!

The views from the bridge were stunning – especially those of the Sabancı Merkez Mosque that we had visited earlier in the day.

A stunning view of of the Sabancı Merkez from the Stone Bridge
Just before sunset

The river was completely calm and serene with not even a ripple of wind to disturb the perfect reflection of the twinkling lights of the mosque as the sun set.

The river was completely calm and serene
We gather again for a group photo

It was almost time to head for the airport but there was one last stop to accomplish something very important – something that everyone one who visits Adana is urged to do – eat an Adana kebab!!

Baran took us to the famous Cik Cik Ali restaurant where we feasted on the delicious kebabs cooked on hot coals and served on a wide metal skewer.

Baran took us to the famous
Cik Cik Ali restaurant

Made from lamb mince meat, mixed with red bell peppers, the Adana kebabs are served with charred peppers and tomatoes, an onion-sumac-parsley salad, and lavaş (thin flat bread).

All ready for our kebabs!
Getting into those Adana kebabs!

These delicious kebabs are hand minced with two rather curious implements more reminiscent of scimitars than kitchen utensils!

These curious implements are used to make the mince for the Adana kebabs

Ali, the owner was delighted to demonstrate his prowess with his “swords”, twirling them in the air above his head like an oriental warrior.

Ali was very adept with his “swords”

Too soon it was time to drive to the airport to fly off to our various yachts. All that was left to do was say a goodbye to our new friends and to say a huge “çok teşekkürler” (thank you very much) to our amazing guide Baran and our ever patient driver Cezar for giving us a trip of a lifetime round South East Turkey.

Time to say a sad goodbye and “çok teşekkürler” to our brilliant guide and now friend, Baran
Thanks for keeping us safe Cezar –
great driving!

Antioch – foodie heaven and incredible sights

It was a lovely drive from Gaziantep to Hatay, Turkey’s southernmost province – bordered by Syria to the south and the east.

The route of our SE Turkey road trip. Hatay is at the bottom of the “loop” on the left
Hatay is bordered by Syria to the south and east

Out of the minibus windows along our way we gazed at vast fertile plains that extended as far as the eye could see – with mountains looming in the far distance.

The fertile plains we drove passed on
our way to Hatay
The plains were extended as far as
the eye could see

Antakya, the capital of Hatay, had a quite different vibe to some of the other places we had visited on our marvellous tour of SE Turkey. This was hardly surprising as the city is very cosmopolitan and home to Sunni and Alawi Muslims, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Protestants, Maronites, Greek-Orthodox Arabs and Armenian communities.

Walking in the old quarter of
cosmopolitan Antakya

Sovereignty over the province still remains in dispute with Syria and a substantial proportion of the population are of Arab origin.

Sovereignty over the province still remains in dispute with Syria

The busy town which in Biblical times was known as Antioch, has been described as “the cradle of Christianity” and fact is was here that the term Christianity was first coined.

Because of its diverse population Antakya is full of exciting sights and sounds and there is a plethora of delicious foods and drinks to try.

Our friends Jan and Jack sampling some of Antakya’s delicious food

Our fantastic guide Baran took us to some amazing eateries. First we visited Pöç Kasabı ve Kebap – a busy three-floor restaurant where all the food is cooked in a roaring wood-fired oven in a tiny kitchen at the entrance to the shop.

Pöç Kasabı ve Kebap was full
when we first arrived

Our tasty Tepsi (tray) kebab (the region’s most famous meat dish) made with spicy minced meat disappeared very quickly – it was delicious!

All the food was cooked in a roaring
wood-fired oven

We went for a delightful walk through the bustling bazaar and were fascinated by the stalls making something that looked like a cross between shredded wheat and fine noodles that was being spun like candy floss. This turned out to be one of the main ingredients of künefe – an Antakya specialty.

The shredded-wheat like pastry that is
used to make künefe

Baran took us to a a tiny cafe under a centuries-old plane tree near an equally old mosque in the Long Bazaar where we tasted this wondrous confection.

The centuries-old plane tree near an
equally old mosque

The strange thin strands of pastry that we had seen being made were steeped in a sweet sugar-based syrup and then baked around a core of mozzarella-like cheese and finished off with a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachio nuts. Even though I’m not normally a lover of desserts, I have to admit it tasted divine!

Waiting for our künefe
Even though I’m not normally a lover
of desserts, I have to admit the künefe
tasted divine!

We also stopped at Çayırcı Bakla Humus Salonu – a hole-in-the-wall cafe which has two items on the menu, bakla (a mashed fava bean spread) and humus.

We arrive at Çayırcı Bakla Humus

We were able to watch as both these delicious dishes were made by hand. No whisks or mixers were used – just old fashioned mortars and pestles and elbow grease!

We watched while the bakla (a mashed fava bean spread) and humus was made by hand

Both dishes were served with beautiful garnishes of various pickled vegetables, rosy tomatoes and chopped herbs as well as fresh flatbread known as tırnaklı ekmek. The food looked and tasted superb – I don’t think I have ever tasted such creamy hummus!

Both dishes were served with beautiful garnishes of various pickled vegetables, rosy tomatoes and chopped herbs
Ten out of ten for presentation!
Just some of the pickled vegetables
bottled at Çayırcı Bakla Humus

While wandering through the bazaar we came across a drink seller with a colourful sash around his waist and a silver ledge over it on which plastic cups were placed.

We came across a drink seller with a
colourful sash around his waist

He had a massive silver jug with a long spout and a bunch of flowers attached at the top from which he flamboyantly poured a rather ghastly viscous-looking brown liquid into the plastic cups – rather like a fez-wearing cocktail waiter.

The drink seller had a massive silver jug
with a long spout and a bunch of
flowers attached at the top

It turned out that this was a cold (non alcoholic) liquorice-based drink. It didn’t look very appetising so I didn’t try it and judging by the faces of those who did, I made the right decision!

As well as being a foodie heaven, the town has some intriguing sights. On a walk round some of the streets in the old quarter of Antakya we had the good luck to find the Italian-born priest “at home” in the tiny Catholic Church, set in a beautiful courtyard garden.

The priest leading us into the
tiny Catholic Church

The padre welcomed us cordially and told us some history of the building and of the Catholic Community in Antakya. He said that the location of the Church was important as it was located where several of apostles, had lived.

Inside the Catholic Church
The priest told us some history of the building and of the Catholic Community in Antakya

From a flat roof of a church building we were able to see the Church, a nearby mosque and a Jewish Synagogue all within a stone’s throw of each other. The priest explained that their proximity to each other typifies the friendship, respect, tolerance and peace between the different communities in Antakya.

The proximity between the Church, a mosque and a Jewish Synagogue typifies the friendship, respect, tolerance and peace between the different communities
A lovely courtyard in the old quarter

One of the fascinating places we visited was the cave Church of St Peter, one of the oldest Churches of the Christian faith.

The entrance to St Pierre’s (St Peter’s) Church

The original simple grotto dug out of the soft volcanic rock is said to have been by carved out by St Peter himself. The oldest surviving parts of the church building date from at least the 4th or 5th century and include some pieces of floor mosaics and traces of frescoes.

The original simple grotto is said to have been by carved out by St Peter himself

There is still a tunnel inside the Church which opens elsewhere on the mountainside and is thought to have served as an escape route in case of attack on the early Christians.

A tunnel inside the Church opens out elsewhere on the mountainside

The Church facade was constructed by the Crusaders in 1100, and rebuilt in the 19th century.

The Church facade was constructed by the Crusaders
Beautiful sunshine flooding into the Church
A star-shapedwindow in St Peter’s Church

From the Church of St Peter we headed to the splendid Hatay archeological museum where we saw many fabulous treasures including the impressive two-tonne, 3,000 year-old statue of the Neo-Hittite King Suppiluliuma, found in 2012 at the ancient site of Tayinat, 35 kilometres from Antakya.

The impressive two-tonne, 3,000 year-old statue of the Neo-Hittite King Suppiluliuma

Inscriptions on the back of the statue provide a whole catalogue of information about his victories and border expansions.

Inscriptions on the back of the statue provide a information about his victories

There were many fascinating exhibits including some amazing mosaics. One of my favourites depicted a skeleton enjoying a drink which was unearthed in 2013 and dates from the third century AD.

The museum had some amazing mosaics
A mosaic featuring the head of Oceanus – the god of the seas

It apparently warns people “Enjoy life as much as you can because tomorrow is uncertain.”

“Enjoy life as much as you can because tomorrow is uncertain.”
A Ninth-Century sculpture of a lion
A stunning piece of sculpture

Another stand-out exhibit of the museum’s huge collection was the Antakya Sarcophagus (Antakya Lahdı), a spectacularly carved marble tomb from the 3rd century with a reclining figure on the lid that has remained unfinished.

The Antakya Sarcophagus (Antakya Lahdı), a spectacularly carved marble tomb
from the 3rd century
Some amazing heads, including one of a satyr from the 1st/2nd Century AD, found in Antakya

Moving on from the archeological museum we went to what turned out to be the absolute highlight of our visit to Antakya – the Museum Hotel.

The Museum Hotel was an absolute highlight

This is a unique archeological site where ancient remains lie exposed under an ultra modern hotel.

This is a unique archeological site where ancient remains lie exposed

The extensive archeological findings were discovered when the foundations of the hotel were being dug. Work halted immediately and the hotel owners told that the site would have to be excavated before any more work was carried out.

The extensive archeological findings were discovered when the foundations of
the hotel were being dug

Because of the importance of the findings which included the largest intact mosaic ever found, the original plans for the hotel were scrapped and an innovative and impressive design to incorporate the archeological site into the hotel structure was created.

The largest intact mosaic ever found – damage caused by floodwaters and earthquakes in the distant past

The result was a combination of engineering marvel and architectural beauty.

An innovative and impressive design to incorporate the archeological site into the hotel structure was created

The hotel is an astonishing combination of contemporary steel columns with stacked rooms that “float” above the archeological remains. These are linked by walkways and bridges.

The hotel is a combination of contemporary steel columns with stacked rooms that “float” above the archeological remains

The mosaic under the hotel is a 1,050m² work of art which was started around 300 BC and, it is believed, was a work in progress for more than 15 centuries.

The mosaic under the hotel is
a 1,050m² work of art
It is believed the mosaic was a work in progress for more than 15 centuries.

Walking on the labyrinth of raised glass ramps and bridges we were in close proximity to the remains. We were able to gaze down not only on the mosaic but also a Roman streetscape complete with a bath house, forum and other buildings.

Walking on the labyrinth of raised glass ramps and bridges we were in close
proximity to the remains
We were able to gaze down not only on the mosaic but also on a Roman streetscape
We could see a bath house, forum
and other buildings
The owners of the hotel have done an amazing job to preserve these historical treasures

Antakya was absolutely full of treasures and surprises and we felt incredibly privileged to have been able to see just some of the highlights of this fascinating part of the world.

Submerged village and miraculously rescued mesmerising treasures

Our visit to the mysterious tumulus and the ancient heads on top of Mt Nemrut left us feeling intrigued and slightly overwhelmed – quite sure that we had seen the very best that South East Turkey had to offer.

The ancient heads on top of Mt Nemrut

However, the following days were equally fascinating and just as enjoyable.

The next adventure began with a bus ride from our hostel on Mt Nemrut to Halfeti where we went on a boat ride – a great choice for a group of cruising yachties who hadn’t been on the water for a few days!

The view from our hostel on Mount Nemrut (photo credit: Janice Holmes!)
The rugged landscape on the way to Halfeti
Arriving at Halfeti
Looking down on the Euphrates River

We picked up the timber boat on the banks of the Euphrates River at Halfeti – a town that had partly been submerged under water when the Birecik Dam was commissioned in 2000/2001.

The timber boat that we picked up on the banks of the Euphrates
Halfeti as we draw away on the boat

Shortly after our boat took off we stopped at a waterside restaurant to pick up lunch supplies – delicious Turkish gözleme (savoury stuffed turnovers) and (after everyone’s hands shot up to the question “who would like a beer?”), bottles of Turkey’s local brew – Efes.

We stopped at a waterside restaurant to pick up lunch supplies

Chugging along happily over the clear waters we admired the beautiful scenery- particularly the soaring cliffs that rose high above the flooded area.

It was great to be on the water again!
Enjoying our gözleme and beers aboard
We admired the beautiful scenery- particularly the soaring cliffs

At one point we saw the remains of a once magnificent Roman Fort that was another “victim” of the dam project. It is now only accessible by boat.

The remains of a once magnificent Roman Fort
The fort is now only accessible by boat

The construction of the dam meant 6,000 people lost their homes and had to be resettled.

A partially “drowned” village

Seeing the remains of a village partially “drowned” was very poignant. We could not help thinking about all those displaced people and how hard it must have been to leave their homes that had possibly been in their families for many generations.

The minaret is the only part of the mosque that remains above the water

In addition, many important antiquities had to be rescued as below the area to be flooded by the dam were the ruins of the ancient city of Zeugma which had only been excavated sporadically and not at all thoroughly.

Homes and gardens partially sunk in the flood waters of the dam

With only a fraction of the site excavated, archeologists feared that many mosaics and other treasures would be permanently lost. Thankfully, only few months before the flooding was to start the American philanthropist David W. Packard donated US$5 million to fund an emergency excavation allowing archeologists to preserve the mosaics that would otherwise be inundated by the dam.

Just before we boarded our minibus after leaving the boat, we witnessed the most extraordinary sight, one I had never seen or heard of before – a dog suckling a rather large kitten! We were told that she lost her puppies at the same time as a litter of kittens had lost their mother and the dog adopted the kittens!

Believe me, this was a cat being fed by a dog- a sight I’d never seen or heard of, before

Our next stop was our digs in Gaziantep – a glorious caravanserai that had been converted to a thoroughly modern hotel with an old world vibe.

Our hotel in Gaziantep
Even the bathroom lampshade was gorgeous
The caravanserai now transformed into a beautiful hotel
The hotel cat always has food provided
The cat has free rein throughout the hotel
There were some interesting things to see in the hotel lobby
There was a display of items that would have once been used in the caravanserai

The bazaar at Gaziantep must be one of my top favourites in Turkey. The atmospheric narrow lanes were packed with gorgeous wares – everything from colourful spices and dried fruits to balls of string and rope; sparkling copper and stainless steel wares to lovely handmade leather shoes – I bought two pairs! You could even buy a brass topper for your minaret!

Gaziantep’s fabulous bazaar
The bazaar was very atmospheric
I loved seeing these strings of dried vegetables
Aromatic spices, pistachio nuts and walnut “sausage” (walnuts on a string and dipped in a grape molasses)
More wonderfully aromatic spices
You could every kind of string or rope
in this lane
These sparkling copper and stainless steel stalls are very enticing!
It was interesting watching this
craftsman working
My new shoes!
And the man who stitched them
His fingers tell a tale
You can buy a top for your minaret here!

Our wonderful guide Baran, took us to various stalls to sample local delicious delicacies such as Burma kadayıf, Kunāfah and delicious baklava.

Waiting to taste local delicacies
That disappeared very quickly!

At the baklava shop where we tasted the most divine examples of this delicious dessert. The shop owner told us that the best baklava shouldn’t be “drowned” in honey. To prove his point he turned a tray of his most delicious wares upside down. They were sticky enough to cling to the tray but not a drop of honey fell as they hung precariously over his head!

I was very tempted to buy some of this delicious baklava
The owner of the shop with his best baklava
To prove his point the owner turned a tray of his most delicious wares upside down!
A simit (the Turkish version of a bagel) seller

Early the next day we headed to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, where the treasures saved before the ancient city was inundated by the dam flood waters.

A reminder that Gaziantep was an important stop on the Silk Road

Now I have always appreciated mosaics as a pretty amazing art form – making a picture from thousands of little chips of stone must be extremely painstaking and require a lot of patience and talent. However, I don’t think I have ever been that excited about mosaics. I have to tell you though, the exhibits at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum have changed all that! The mosaics there were absolutely mesmerising!

Brian from our tour group entranced by this gorgeous mosaic
The level of detail was remarkable
The mosaics were absolutely mesmerising!
Amazing how they even made
them three dimensional
Who would believe that this work of art was made from thousands of tiny chips of stone?

Some of these fabulous works of art would have been buried for ever had it not been for the rescue operation that happened at the eleventh hour.

This border was so intricate that it was difficult to believe it was a mosaic
Some of these fabulous works of art would have been buried for ever had it not been for the rescue operation

Photos of the mosaics do not do them justice – the nuanced shading, the intricacy of design and the absolute genius of imagination and artistic ability – but I would highly recommend this unexpectedly wonderful, brilliant museum.

Photos of the mosaics do not do them justice
We were captivated by the nuanced shading, the intricacy of design and the absolute genius of imagination and artistic ability
The colours in this mosaic were so vibrant
The intricate detail is hard to comprehend
I would highly recommend this unexpectedly wonderful, brilliant museum

In addition to all the beautifully presented mosaics – two highly recognisable treasures reside there. The first being a stunning statue of Mars found during the excavation campaign of Zeugma.

The stunning statue of Mars found in the emergency excavations of Zeuma

The statue is not only one of the most interesting and spectacular finds from this city but also gave experts an important opportunity to study ancient working and casting techniques.

The Mars statue gave experts an important opportunity to study ancient working and casting techniques

The second very famous piece – dubbed the “Mona Lisa” of Turkey – is the Gypsy Girl mosaic, rescued from a 2nd Century Roman villa.

The famous “Gypsy Girl” mosaic

Even though there is still debate about “her” gender, this haunting face has become – in the public imagination – a mysterious “Gypsy Girl” and an important symbol of Turkey’s classical heritage.

Dramatic, spectacular and mysterious Mount Nemrut

Each day of our tour in South-East Turkey was simply amazing. Every place we visited was fascinating, beautiful, or spectacular – usually all three.

Every place we visited was
fascinating, beautiful,
or spectacular – usually all three.

In addition, we managed to tick off several places on our bucket list – one being Mount Nemrut, surely amongst the most dramatic ancient sites we have ever visited.

On top of this 2,134-metre high mountain sits a mysterious mausoleum scattered with massive stone heads.

On top of Mt Nemrut mysterious mausoleum scattered with massive stone heads.

Fortunately we didn’t have to walk all the way up from the bottom of the mountain – there is a car park about 750 metres from the summit! Nevertheless, the climb was steep and quite rugged in places.

The climb was steep and quite rugged in places

Our lovely guide Baran joined me at the tail of the group and we took the precipitous path in a sedate manner.

We took the precipitous path in a
sedate manner.

The steep climb was absolutely worth it! That first glimpse of the magnificent stone heads was breathtaking.

The steep climb was absolutely worth it!

So what were these heads doing there? Apparently they were built by King Antiochus l of the Kingdom of Commagene in 62 BC as a “very modest”enhancement to his tomb and a “gentle” reminder of his greatness and power after his death.

That first glimpse of the magnificent stone heads was breathtaking

This ambitious construction included statues of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek and Iranian gods such as Heracles and Zeus, Apollo and Hermes.

The construction included statues of the King, two lions, two eagles and various Greek and Iranian gods

At some point in the long and distant past the heads had been knocked off their eight or nine-metre-high seats. How the statues lost their heads remains an unsolved question, although the most popular suggestion is that it was a result of natural causes – a combination of earthquakes, snow and strong winds.

At some point in the long and distant past the heads had been knocked off their eight or nine-metre-high seats

The magnificent heads have remained “knocked off their perches” and never restored to their original positions.

The views were spectacular!

Another unsolved mystery is what lies under the 50 metre tumulus – the artificial embankment made from crushed rock sitting on the peak of the mountain?

Another unsolved mystery is what lies under the 50 metre tumulus

It is possible that the tumulus of loose rock was built to protect what was underneath from robbers, since any excavation would quickly fill in.

Despite extensive excavations conducted since the beginning of the 1880s, the actual burial site of King Antiochus l has never been found and the mystery of what lies beneath the loose stone tumulus still remains unsolved.

Despite extensive excavations conducted since the beginning of the 1880s, the actual burial site of King Antiochus l has never been found

After soaking in the magnificent sight of the heads and the tumulus from the East terrace, we walked round to the West terrace where there were more heads – bathed in the last vestiges of the golden sunlight.

We walked round to the West terrace where there were more heads – all bathed in the last vestiges of the golden sunlight
What a magnificent sight
The massive heads gaze out towards the
setting sun
The heads looked particularly striking in the glow of the setting sun

It was really, really, icy cold but fortunately we came prepared with red wine to help warm us as we watched the sun sink lower and lower over the horizon.

Baran found us a great spot to
watch the sunset from
It was really, really, icy cold but fortunately we came prepared with red wine to help warm us
Our yachtie tour group
Baran our wonderful tour guide
We watched the sun sink lower and lower over the horizon in the company of the massive stone heads
It was a magnificent sunset
We’ve seen plenty of sunsets at sea but very few from mountain tops!
Farewell to the sun

After the magnificent sunset we walked back down to the car park on a different route. It was rather rough in places but perhaps a little shorter.

After the sun set we walked back down on a different track

We slithered and slid down the uneven slippery path and soon were in the minibus heading for our hotel for the night.

We slithered and slid down the
uneven slippery path

The mountain lodge we stayed at was fairly basic but the room we ate in had a cosy fire and the meal was warming and substantial.

We stayed at a mountain lodge

After we had finished dinner we sat round the fire chatting and exchanging stories.

The best bit about the lodge was the open fire

A perfect end to an incredible day.

Sitting round the fire chatting – perfect!

The mysterious secrets of the world’s oldest temple

After leaving atmospheric Mardin in South-East Turkey, we travelled onwards to what has been described as the world’s oldest place of worship – Göbekli Tepe – a mysterious Neolithic archeological site that dates back to between 9600 and 8000 BCE – 6,000 years older than Stonehenge and 7,000 years older than the pyramids!

The view across the plains of Mesopotamia from atmospheric Mardin

Excavations of this extraordinary place started in 1995 and what has been discovered has upended the conventional view of the rise of civilization.

The extraordinary Göbeklitepe

Previously archeologists believed that the adoption of farming was the impetus to cause people to settle down and begin to build permanent homes and religious and iconic structures. The discovery of Göbekli Tepe has led many experts to believe the reverse – that the building of such a massive collection of structures actually caused people to adopt farming in order to feed the hordes of people that would have been required for the building work.

The building of such a massive collection of structures might have caused people
to become farmers

Whatever the truth is, the remains that are on display are absolutely extraordinary especially considering that’s they were built in the the Pre-Pottery Neolithic age.

This hill at the Göbeklitepe site is still a
place of pilgrimage

Looking down onto the excavations we could clearly see a number of T-shaped pillars, about five metres tall, many of them carved with marvellous studies of animals such as foxes, lions, snakes, as well as boats and abstract symbols.

The T-shaped standing stones are
about five metres tall
This was just one of a number of stone circles
There are amazing carvings on
some of the stones
A closer look at one of the many carvings

The stones are arranged in giant circles and ovals — each structure is made up of two large central pillars surrounded by smaller inward-facing pillars.

The stones are arranged in giant
circles and ovals

There is a mysterious reason why this amazing site remained undiscovered for so long – the enclosure was deliberately – and very carefully – buried under hundreds of metres of dirt consisting of small limestone fragments, broken pieces of stone vessels and tools and other refuse, creating a tell.

Why was the enclosure deliberately – and very carefully – buried under hundreds
of metres of dirt?

Why on earth would these lovely structures with extraordinary artwork be totally buried some time after 8000 BCE?

Why on earth would these lovely structures with extraordinary artwork be totally buried?!

Perhaps further exploration of this vast hilltop site will provide an answer – only five per cent has been excavated so far!

Perhaps further exploration of this vast hilltop site will provide an answer?

We left Göbekli Tepe with many questions swirling around our heads but we were totally enthralled by the experience.

Our next stop was the marvellous museum in Şanlıurfa (aka Urfa)which is just 12 kilometres from Göbeklitepe.

Our next stop was the marvellous
museum in Şanlıurfa

Here we were able to walk amongst a true-to-life reproduction of one of the stone circles we had just seen at Göbeklitepe. It was fantastic to see close up the reproductions of the absolutely beautiful and incredibly accurate carvings of animals that we had seen from afar at the site.

We were able to walk amongst a true-to-life reproduction of one of
the Göbeklitepe stone circles
We were able to see close up reproductions of the absolutely beautiful carvings
To think these carvings were made 7,000 years before the pyramids were built!
Another carving from Göbeklitepe
Fascinating to see how the patterns here look like letters of the Roman alphabet
I loved the artists attempt to show this creature “springing” into action

We also saw the renowned “Urfa Man” which dates (unbelievably!) from 9,000 BC and is the oldest life-sized sculpture of a human ever discovered.

“Urfa Man” – the oldest life-sized sculpture of a human ever discovered

There were also many wonderful exhibits from other nearby Neolithic sites – most importantly those from Nevali Çori which were excavated when plans for the Ataturk Dam and Reservoir were made and the site set to be inundated.

One of the discoveries from Nevali Çori
Thought this guy was “ahead“ of his time!

It was really mind blowing to see such fabulous artefacts that dated back to many, many, thousands of years ago.

So many fabulous artefacts on display
Owls or spacemen?

That evening we went to an excellent traditional restaurant in what used to be a caravanserai (a roadside inn where travellers could rest and recover from the day’s journey) for travellers on the Silk Road.

This was the name of the restaurant
It had loads of atmosphere
Conversation over the table was a bit difficult

After our meal we enjoyed listening to some traditional Turkish music that by chance was being performed at the restaurant.

The band was in full swing by the time
we were leaving
It was great to hear some genuine
traditional music

The next day we were able to see the Ataturk dam for ourselves. Built between 1990 and 1992, this massive construction definitely left an impression.

Our tour guide Baran adds our route to the dam on the road map

Located on the mighty Euphrates, the dam has a surface area of 817 km² and a volume of 48.5 cubic kilometers, making it the third largest lake in the country.

The mighty Ataturk Dam
Looking back the other way from
the Ataturk Dam
The dam has a surface area of 817 km²

After stopping to view the dam (where we enjoyed a glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice!) we drove on to the Karakuş Tümülüs, the burial place of the mother and sister of Mithridates ll.

Lovely juicy pomegranates
The juicing process is very simple

This fine funerary monument was built between 30 and 20 BCE and the site commands the most incredible views. The tumulus is surrounded by three columns – each about 9 metres (30 ft) high. The columns are topped with reliefs and statues of a bull, lion and eagle.

The Karakuş Tümülüs
This funerary monument was built
between 30 and 20 BCE
These columns were about nine metres high
A majestic eagle on top of one of the columns

The tumulus was covered with hundreds of thousands of river pebbles – such a clever idea as this made it impossible for robbers to dig down to find the tomb’s entrance – try and dig a hole in the gravel and a load more pebbles fill it immediately!

The tumulus was covered with hundreds of thousands of river pebbles
The site commands the most incredible views – that’s Mt Nemrut straight ahead!

Our next stop was Cendere Bridge (yes we packed in a lot in that day). Also known as Septimius Severus Bridge, it was built in late Roman times.

The Cendere Bridge

The bridge is a simple and unadorned single arch and is thought to be the second largest remaining Roman Bridge in existence!

This bridge is thought to be the second largest remaining Roman Bridge in existence
The bridge was built in late Roman times
It is also known as Septimius Severus Bridge

Up until quite recently it was used to carry traffic but now a replacement bridge has been built nearby.

A replacement bridge was built recently. I wonder if it will last as long as
the Roman Bridge?!

Our final stop before reaching our main destination for the day – iconic Mount Nemrut – was another site that was associated with Mithridates ll. It is thought that this place (Arsameia) was where his father, Antiochus (who was responsible for the construction of the mausoleum at Mt Nemrut) had his summer residence.

We met this donkey working so hard
on the way up to Arsameia

There are few remains to see now but there is an intriguing network of man made caves here – possibly used for storage of supplies but no one seems certain about this.

One of the man- made caves at Arsameia

After a reasonably short but steep climb we reached an impressive carved stone block depicting King Antiochus shaking hands with Hercules.

On the way up to see the carved stone block depicting King Antiochus shaking
hands with Hercules.
The views on the way up were incredible!
The impressive carved stone block depicting King Antiochus shaking hands with
Hercules (note how King Antiochus towers over Hercules!)

Next to this, over the entrance to the nearby cave, is an important inscription that gives invaluable historical information about the establishment of Arsameia and the life and laws of the kingdom including all the elements to be followed during rituals.

The writing is hard to see but over the entrance of the cave was a massive inscription
A close up of part of the inscription that gives invaluable historical information about the establishment of Arsameia and
the life and laws of the kingdom

It was late afternoon by the time we reached Mt Nemrut but the story of that adventure must wait until next time!

Iconic Mt Nemrut in the distance

Renovators dream – Roman cistern found!

Just imagine that your family had lived in the same modest house for generations. One day your father starts some renovation work – when he starts digging he finds what appears to be the remains of a staircase.

Imagine living in this modest house …

Soon it is apparent that there is something significant down there and he digs down further. Archeologists became involved and it is discovered that there is a 6th century Roman water cistern underneath what used to be your barn!

Then one day your father by chance finds a Roman cistern!

This is what happened to Mehmet- our guide at Dara, an important Roman fortress city in what was once northern Mesopotamia and which now sits close to Turkey’s border with Syria.

Mehmet, our guide at Dara (left)

The remains of Dara lie close to Mardin where we stayed for two nights on the start of our tour of the culturally rich and fascinating South-East Turkey.

A moody sky on our way to Dara
Remains of Dara, a Roman fortress city, as seen from the road

Mehmet led us through a small gateway, right next to his house and led us down deep underground into the cistern. Apparently the 18 metres deep and fifteen metres wide cistern was used to supply water to travellers such as merchants who during the turbulent 6th Century wouldn’t have been allowed inside the fortress.

Mehmet led us deep underground

It was fascinating to hear Mehmet talk about the discovery and the family’s amazement and excitement when it happened.

It was fascinating to hear Mehmet talk about the discovery (ably translated by
Baran, our tour guide
Mehmet took excellent photos too!
The cistern as seen from the entrance

Close by to Memhet’s home is a massive gallery grave where hundreds of people were buried together. The massive burial site in which the gallery sits dates back more than 1,500 years and was only unearthed in 2010.

The massive burial ground in the Roman fortress city of Dara
There were masses of tombs
On our way to the gallery grave

Mehmet told us that he used to play soccer here blissfully unaware of what lay below.

Mehmet remembers playing football where the burial site is located before it was excavated
The entrance to the mass gallery grave
The mass gallery grave dates to the early Christian Era
Thanks Mehmet for this photo of some of us
One of the hundreds of bodies buried in the mass grave which was unearthed in 2010

From Dara we drove to Dayro d-Mor Hananyo – an important Syriac Orthodox Monastery usually better known by its nickname, the “Saffron Monastery” because of the beautiful honeyed stone from which it is constructed.

Entering the “Saffron Monastery”
The monastery was completed in 493 AD
Room with a view

It is said to have been built on the site of the temple to the Mesopotamian sun god Shamash, and we were able to go down to the basement room to view what is believed to be the site of the temple.

Going down to the basement room to what is believed to be the site of the temple dedicated to the Mesopotamian Sun God
The site believed to be the location of the temple dedicated to the Mesopotamian Sun God

Dayro d-Mor Hananyo became a monastery in 493 AD and was the residence of the Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch from 1166 to 1923.

An ancient Christian symbol

We were very fortunate to be invited to observe the monks at midday prayer which was quite different from any Church service we had ever been part of.

Inside the chapel

The service was conducted in a form of Aramaic – close to the language that Jesus would have spoken.

The service was sung in a form of Aramaic

It was quite an experience to listen to the ethereal sound of the sung prayers and to observe the ritualistic movements of the bearded monks in their black habits and their unique embroidered hoods.

It was an amazing experience to observe the monks at prayer

After the service we wandered around the courtyards and tried to identify the many species of trees that had been planted there.

There were many species in the courtyard

A friendly volunteer helped us and I took a photo of him – he had such a gentle demeanour and had striking Syriac features. Later that day, I was intrigued to see an image of Christ in the Mardin Museum with the same strong features – so reminiscent of the monks we had met at the “Saffron Monastery “.

This volunteer had striking Syriac features
It was interesting to observe the similarity between today’s inhabitants of the monastery to this 12th Century wood cut of
the image of Jesus

Our next stop was the 15th Century Kasımiye Medresesi, originally an Islamic university until 1924 when Medresesis throughout Turkey were closed down in an attempt to secularise the country.

The 15th Century Kasımiye Medresesi
The entrance to the Medresesi

Our tour guide Baran explained the significance of the conduit and pool in the courtyard.

Baran explains the significance of the conduit and pool in the courtyard

The source of the water is a funnel in the wall that represents birth. The water from the pool drains along a channel (representing different stages of life) and ultimately travels through a narrow slit that represents death and sirat (the narrow bridge which leads to paradise).

The water source at the wall represents birth.
The narrow slit at the end of the conduit represents death and the path to paradise

Back in Mardin some of us had a wander round the small but well curated museum located in what used to be the grand headquarters of the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate, before gathering for a glass of wine before dinner.

View from the museum
I loved this photo of Mardin locals from bygone days
The museum was small but well curated

It had been a wonderfully varied and fascinating day, full of interesting experiences that left us looking forward to the rest of our tour of South-East Turkey over the coming days.

Met this hardworking little donkey on the streets of Mardin
Visiting a local wine seller before “sundowners”
The view over Mardin and the Mesopotamian plains from our hotel room
Mardin left a lasting impression

Travels in the “Cradle of Civilisation” – part one

Even though we have been travelling more or less full time for six years we never quite get used to saying goodbye to our friends and family.

However, the sadness we feel at the parting of ways makes reunions all the sweeter – especially when you meet people again who you last saw in a completely different part of the world!

We sadly farewelled my sister Julia (right)

And so it was that we sadly farewelled my sister Julia who was returning to England and then the very next day, welcomed our friends Jan and Jack who sailed into Didim marina on their yacht S/V Anthem after crossing the Atlantic from Florida via Bermuda the Azores, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

The next day we welcomed Jack and Jan
Tying up right opposite S/V Sunday

We hadn’t seen these two since February 2018 when they had joined us on our previous boat S/V Bali Hai for the Sail Thailand Rally. Such a long time between drinks but of course, as soon as we saw them it seemed as though we had met up just last week.

So good to see the crew of S/V Anthem
once again
The last time we had been together
was in Thailand

Fortunately Jan and Jack had arrived just in time to join us on a fantastic trip of South-East Turkey organised by travel agent Tarik Toprak.

Our itinerary for the incredible tour of
South-East Turkey

Tarik is based at Finike Marina where we spent a couple of months earlier in the year. He had already taken two other groups of yachties from Finike Marina on trips to this fascinating part of Turkey.

Finike Marina, where Tarik is based

We had first heard about the tour from Sue and John on S/V Catabella when we had just arrived in Finike Marina at the beginning of April. They had just returned from South-East Turkey and absolutely raved about it. From then on, we were determined to see this incredible part of the country for ourselves.

Sue and John raved about the tour

Tarik had very obligingly opened up the third tour to yachties from outside of Finike Marina. In addition to Jan and Jack, other recent arrivals to Didim Marina – Aussies Brian and Lyn from S/V Ariel – joined us on the new adventure which took us from Izmir in the South-west of Turkey right over to the other side of the country – 1421 km away in Diyarbakir where we started our tour.

We flew from Izmir (far left) to Diyarbakir, a distance of 1421 km

Because we had an eye wateringly early flight to Diyarbakir and the airport at Izmir is a two hour drive from Didim, we decided to spend the night before in an airport hotel. This meant we had the chance to stroll round the sprawling Kemeralti bazaar (which has been in existence since Medieval times) and then along the seafront in Izmir before catching an early night.

Strolling through the sprawling
Kemeralti bazaar
There were many places to eat
There were also lots of coffee houses
Or you could eat “takeaway” as you stroll through the bazaar

The bazaar is a maze of narrow lanes, some covered and some open to the elements, and covering a vast area. You can buy almost anything you want there from girdles and trusses to wedding dresses and everything in between.

Girdle anyone?…..
….Or would you prefer a traditional wedding dress?

In the middle of the bazaar we came across the 16th Century Hisar Mosque several times in our wanderings. This historical mosque is one of the biggest in the city centre and its interior contains one of the most striking examples of Ottoman Islamic artwork in İzmir.

Wherever we wandered, we seemed
always to end up at the
16th Century Hisar Mosque (in background)
The fountain at the Hisar Mosque where worshippers wash before entering
A very good handicrafts shop

Despite the early hour we made it on to our flight without too much drama although the flight was very full. Our guide Baran was waiting for us and suggested a quick breakfast stop at a nearby bakery while we waited for the Finike based group ( English couple Colin and Maggie and Canadian traveller Marje) to arrive.

Within minutes our driver Cezar delivered us to our breakfast stop and after a reviving coffee and various Turkish pastries shared between us we boarded our minibus once again for a whistle stop tour of Diyarbakir before we headed back to the airport.

Passing the bazaar in Diyarbakir
The 4th Century AD city walls of Diyarbakir

We drove past the ancient city walls which stretch almost unbroken for about 6 kilometres and surround the historic fortress of Diyarbakir.

The ancient city walls stretch almost unbroken for about 6 kilometres

We made a quick stop at the famous 11th Century Dicle Bridge built over the mighty Tigris River. The bridge is made up of ten arches and known as “the ten-eyed bridge” by local people.

The “ten-eyed” bridge over the
mighty Tigris River
We had the bridge to ourselves

The black volcanic stone bridge (built in 1065) is usually thronged with tourists but the early hour meant we had the place to ourselves.

Looking towards Diyarbakir- the city walls can be seen clearly on top of the hill
Looking back the other way
There were musicians performing
on the bridge

Then it was back to the airport to meet our fellow travellers for the first time and drive to our destination for the first night – the ancient Mesopotamian city of Mardin – such a wonderful place to start our adventure!

Mardin, a wonderful place to start
our adventure

This gem of a place has recently suffered from dropping tourist numbers due to it’s proximity (35 kms) to the Syrian border but I would highly recommend a visit!

I would highly recommend a trip to Mardin, it was a really fascinating, beautiful and atmospheric place

The town is dominated by a ruined Roman citadel, rebuilt in medieval times which rises behind the the limestone houses that cling to the side of the hill and look out over the famous plains of Mesopotamia which lie between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

The ruined Roman citadel

The plains stretch as far as the eye can see – all the way to Iraq and Kuwait.

We found this view captivating and
almost overwhelming – some of the most important developments
in human history, occurred here

Mesopotamia is known as the “cradle of civilisation” and it is believed that some of the most important developments in human history, occurred here including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture.

The famous plains of Mesopotamia lie between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

After we had settled in our hotel which had fabulous views over the plains, Baran took us on a walking tour of the narrow alleyways and cobblestoned streets, through the bazaar, stopping frequently to marvel at gorgeous buildings such as the Ulu Camil Mosque, and to buy local delicacies such as Elmali Kurabiye and other sweet delicacies tasting of wonderfully exotic ingredients such as almonds, cinnamon, dates, honey, pistachio nuts and sesame seeds.

Our very comfortable hotel room
Baran took us on a walking tour of the narrow alleyways and cobblestoned streets
The town was very atmospheric
It was also very colourful
So much to see in the bazaar
We loved these colourful lanterns
There were many shops selling shiny brass objects- I loved the teapots
Local delicacies (above and below)
We bought some to eat on the minibus!
Blue sugared almonds!
Mardin is famous for its beautiful Arab horses
Baran did a wonderful job of giving us a short history of Mardin and
pointing out interesting sights

We visited a 4th Century Assyrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church called the Kırklar Church by its congregation. One of the Church members talked about the history of the Church and the fate of many Assyrians who had fled to Sweden and Germany. He also explained that the Church members read the bible in Aramaic – the language that Jesus is thought to have spoken.

The Ulu Camil Mosque
Listening to Baran talking
about the Ulu Camil Mosque
The entrance to the 4th Century Assyrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church
One of the congregation of the Assyrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church tells us a little about the Church and the history of the Assyrian people

That evening we had a fabulous meal in spectacular surroundings at a restaurant called Bagdadi. Perched high on the hill that leads up to the fortress the restaurant was entered via a steep stairway.

The superb restaurant Bagdadi
The restaurant was entered
via a steep stairway

At the top of the stairs was a terrace where some people were eating but we were led to a private room where we were served a sumptuous meal of traditional dishes from Mardin and the region.

We were led to a private room where we were served a sumptuous meal of traditional dishes from Mardin and the region
The food was delicious ….
…and the surroundings gorgeous
This amazing samovar graced our table

What a great way to end an amazing first day on our tour of South-East Turkey!

Such a fabulous view from our
hotel room after dinner

The splendour of Ephesus and a sad farewell

The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey draws massive crowds of visitors – both local and international – every year. I have read that this might partly be because the ruins are easy to access from Izmir airport and Kusadasi, a nearby cruise ship port, but that seems a far too cynical assessment to me.

Arriving in Ephesus

Compared with other ruins we have visited throughout Turkey I would say the well preserved ruins of Ephesus are easily right up there with the best.

The ruins of Ephesus are right up with the best
Julia exploring an ancient staircase

We visited this precious ancient site on my sister Julia’s last day with us after a beautiful few days visiting a couple of our favourite anchorages on this part of the coast.

We visited this extraordinary ancient site on Julia’s last day with us

Founded in the 10th Century BC, Ephesus is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Excavations first started in 1863 and are still ongoing – led by the Austrian Archeological Institute, founded by German archeologist Otto Bendorf.

Ephesus is a UNESCO World Heritage site
Excavations of this incredible site first started in 1863

The ruins which mostly date from 27 BCE onwards, span over 662 hectares – one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean.

Most of the ruins date from 27 BCE onwards
This was only the small theatre!
Ephesus is one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean.

As we wandered through the ruins we were able to imagine the splendour of Ephesus in its heyday.

We were able to imagine the splendour of Ephesus in its heyday

One of the most magnificent buildings is the Library of Celsus, originally built around 125 CE, the façade of which has been carefully reconstructed from original pieces.

The magnificent Library of Celsius

A major highlight of our visit was the walk through the excavation site of terraced housing.

A highlight of our visit – the walk through the excavation site of terraced housing
Beautiful mosaics in the terraces
The well heeled of ancient Ephesus lived in beautiful homes

Covered by an amazing roof structure to protect the precious mosaics, wall paintings and other artefacts, the area is crisscrossed with glass and iron walkways leading through various levels, so you can view different aspects of the once magnificent homes of the wealthy citizens of Ephesus.

An amazing roof structure has been built to protect the precious mosaics, wall paintings and other artefacts
It was amazing to see the wall decorations and mosaics from Roman times still intact
Black marble in one of the terraced villas
The area is crisscrossed with glass and iron walkways leading through various levels

You could even see the clay pipes that once ran beneath the floors and behind the walls to carry warm air through the houses.

Clay pipes were used for drainage and for underfloor heating

It was impossible to walk around and take in the whole of Ephesus in one day and we left promising ourselves another visit as soon as possible.

The marble relief of winged Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory
It was impossible to walk around and take in the whole of Ephesus in one day
The public latrines!
Feeding time for the cats of Ephesus

Sadly, the following day we had to say farewell to Julia at Izmir airport. It of course, felt sad but on the other hand, we realised we were absolutely privileged and fortunate to see each other and to be able to move about freely when so many others have their lives totally on hold due to Covid.

Sunrise in Didim

On the way back from the airport we dropped into the popular coastal resort of Kuşadasi for lunch.

We stopped in Kuşadasi for lunch

The place was absolutely heaving but away from the busy seafront we did find somewhere very quiet to have something to eat.

A colourful carpet shop in Kuşadasi

We walked around the bazaar and on the way back to our car went into the old caravanserai (Kervansaray) close to the fishing harbour.

The old caravanserai (Kervansaray)

These lovely buildings served as roadside inns where once upon a time, travellers and their animals on the Silk Road and other trade routes could safely rest and recover from the day’s journey.

These lovely buildings served as roadside inns
Travellers and their animals on the Silk Road and other trade routes could safely rest and recover from the day’s journey

There was a lovely cool and peaceful atmosphere in this one and we could just imagine weary travellers enjoying the refreshing sound of the water fountain and the shade of the palm trees after a long amd day of walking or riding a camel or donkey.

There was a lovely cool and peaceful atmosphere
Gorgeous tiles at the caravanserai
The sturdy front gate to the caravanserai that protected travellers from thieves

The place “to be – and to be seen”!

How lucky we were to have brilliant weather for the short voyage with my sister Julia who was visiting our boat Sunday from her home near London, England!

First day out!
Catching up after a long time!

We set off from Didim Marina with our sailing buddies Sue and John on S/V Catabella. The weather was glorious and the sea calm and a wonderful deep blue.

How lucky we were to have brilliant weather
We set off from Didim Marina with our sailing buddies Sue and John on S/V Catabella

On our way to our first anchorage – Kıyıkışlacık, we went past several fish farms which smelled pretty disgusting but are hopefully a more sustainable way of producing sea bream and sea bass than traditional commercial fishing methods.

We went past several fish farms

As we approached Kıyıkışlacık we felt thrilled to see once again the ruins of the Byzantine fortification tower looming out of the water at the entrance to the anchorage.

The ruins of the Byzantine fortification tower looming out of the water

Once we had safely anchored in this beautiful place we went for a look around the village.

S/V Sunday and S/V Catabella safely anchored at Kıyıkışlacık

Although Jonathan and I had already spent an excellent few days there earlier in the season, it was still great to have another opportunity to explore this lovely spot.

Beautiful crabs on sale at the fantastic
fresh fish shop

As we wandered we came across a group of community minded villagers painting murals on the public toilets, the pharmacy and other walls around the village. It was lovely to watch them work together harmoniously with the sounds of Pavarotti in the background.

A group of community minded villagers painting murals on the public toilets, the pharmacy and other walls around the village (above and below)

Later, when we went past the painters again there was a chap playing a stringed instrument which I think is called a baglama. Whatever it’s name, it created a great atmosphere!

Music while they worked

One of the nice things about Kıyıkışlacık is that it is still very rural and hardly touched by the tourist boom that before Covid hit, had wrought such changes to nearby Bodrum and other coastal towns.

Kıyıkışlacık is still very rural and hardly touched by the tourist boom

In this village, life carries on as it has for centuries, with fishermen arriving back at dawn with their catch, farmers driving their tractors through the village and cows being walked through the streets and milked by hand.

Tractors are a common sight in Kıyıkışlacık
We saw lots of cows
We even saw them being milked by hand

We were thrilled to show the others around the ruins of ancient Iasos including the agora, the bouleuterion (theatre) and the portico.

The ruins of Iasos
Julia at the top of the stairs that
lead to the bouleuterion
Photo op in Ancient Iasos

Although they aren’t outstanding in any way, the ruins are atmospheric and for us, definitely worth a second visit.

Julia at the top of the bouleuterion
Meanwhile at the bottom John and Jonathan take a rest

We enjoyed our sundowners aboard Sunday in the sunshine that evening and a little later we watched the brightest and reddest of full moons rise.

Julia and I on board Sunday (photo credit Sue Done)
Sundowners on Sunday
The amazing red moon rising

The following day we visited the remains of the Roman Villa where on our previous visit we had seen some marvellous mosaics.

One of mosaics in the Roman villa
Another of the mosaics

This time the work on the shelter over the mosaics had been completed and some of the most elaborate and impressive mosaics had been covered over, presumably to protect them from the winter weather to come.

The shelter over the mosaics had
been completed
A room in the Roman villa

The views from the top of the hill where the crusaders built their fort were magnificent and well worth the climb.

The views from the top of the hill where the crusaders built their fort were magnificent
We could see our boats at anchor
Ruins of the Roman dock area
Getting back on board Sunday (photo credit Sue Done)

The following day we set off for Tükü Bükü which we had been told, was the place “to be and to be seen”! Sometimes described as “Turkey’s St Tropez” – probably aspirational rather than rooted in reality – it is definitely favoured by the more “well-heeled” traveller.

Indeed, while we were there we saw three massive and luxurious-looking mega super yachts anchored together and observed the coming and goings with one of the tenders which was larger than our entire boat and which was stalked closely by another security vessel.

One of the mega super yachts with its
tender in the foreground

We saw the delivery of copious bouquets of flowers and wondered what sort of event was going to take place.

The tender on the way to picking up copious bouquets of flowers

It turned out that the largest of these three mega yachts – Firefox – (the 14th biggest in the world) was said to be owned by Jeff Bezos and the event taking place was Bill Gates’ 66th birthday party!

Sunday on the left with Firefox to the right

Not sure why but we weren’t invited to the shenanigans! A little disappointing but we made up for it by having a glorious Turkish breakfast at a beautiful waterside restaurant before we left this prestigious location.

We had a glorious Turkish breakfast at a beautiful waterside restaurant

The location was stunning, the weather was glorious and the food was delicious! Needless to say we really enjoyed ourselves!

The location was stunning, the weather was glorious and the food was delicious!

One of the special delights of sailing is the occasional dolphin sighting. These have been very few and far between in Turkey but on our trip to Tükü Bükü we were delighted to spot one in the distance and soon a whole group of them were playing around our bow waves.

Julia spying dolphins ahead of us

They didn’t stay for long but we were so thrilled by their visit – especially as Julia was with us! What good fortune!

“It’s behind you Julia!!“

All too soon, we had to go back to the marina in Didim as we wanted to do a couple of land-based things with Julia before her return to England.

First, was a swim in the marina “Yacht Club” pool. It was too cold for us but Julia braved the autumn chill to add to her sea swimming over the previous few days.

Braving the cool water of the marina pool
Proof Julia swam in the sea too!

We also wanted to take her to the fabulous Saturday markets in Didim before her flight home and then visit the amazing archeological site of Ephesus (but that’s another story!)

Colourful spices at the market in Didim
Love those shiny aubergines
Everything is so colourful
Beautiful bunch of cauliflowers
This market has everything you can think of for sale!!

It’s a small world!

It really is a small world, especially when it comes to the yachting community!

We had been anchored in Yalikavak for a couple of days when a beautiful Amel ketch called S/V Dusk came into the anchorage. It turned out that this lovely boat belonged to Tracey and Steve Bell from South Africa. After a quick radio conversation they came over to our boat S/V Sunday in their dinghy.

Sailing vessel Dusk in Yalikavak

“We’ve just spoken to our friends on the Aussie boat Sunday,” they said. “We just had to tell them there was a boat here with the same name and they told us they knew you and to come over and say ‘hi’!”

On our way into town with Tracey and Steve

Turns out that Tracey and Steve had spent nine months in Tunisia and Sicily (and various places in between) with the owners of the other yacht called Sunday – a young couple, Britnni and Ryan, who have a popular YouTube channel called “Sailing Sunday”.

Strangely, Brittni and Ryan were the first people we met when we sailed into Turkey in June last year and then we were the first people Tracey and Steve met when they first arrived. Sure is a small world with many coincidences!

From Yalikavak, a popular place for super yachts to stop, we went to Tükü Bükü which is described as being the place “to see and to be seen”.

One of the super yachts in Yalikavak

There were plenty of swanky looking vessels Med moored on the way into the bay but thankfully we didn’t have to join them as we managed to find a good place to anchor.

There were plenty of swanky looking
vessels in Tükü Bükü
Even people water ski-ing

Although it was very much the end of season, and many shops, bars and restaurants were closing down, there were still some lovely looking restaurants open and a few very exclusive shops!

One of the many restaurants being
dismantled for winter
There were still some lovely looking restaurants open (above and below)
A typical laneway in Tükü Bükü
There were some exclusive (and very expensive) shops

There was also a fresh food market where we stocked up with a few things.

The market was quite small but had
plenty of variety – the peaches were unreal!
Love these packages of herbs – fresh mint, thyme, marjoram – all very fragrant

After a pleasant couple of days we sailed across the bay to Didim marina, our base for the next six months.

Didim Marina

We had to wait for quite a while (at least half an hour) at the entrance before the marinaras came to help us into our berth. Not a great start!

We had a long wait outside the entrance

When eventually the dinghy came out to greet us there was only one (young and inexperienced) guy to assist us. The whole exercise did not go well! Fortunately, things got a little better the following day. We were visited by two different companies, both very professional, who set to work immediately on the small jobs we needed doing.

The passarelle (electronic gangplank) had stopped working after we had it fixed (at vast expense) in Finike Marina. Hydraulic fluid was now pouring out of the newly installed seals. This time the repair was made in two days – a job that took two months previously – and the price was way less than half the amount we had paid previously.

Our passerelle had stopped working
Hydraulic fluid was pouring out of the new seals installed in Finike

The second company sent a guy up our mast to check our masthead light and replace the bulb. Other small jobs were completed in record time.

Our second day in Didim and our masthead light was being replaced
Birdseye view of the masthead light

We were delighted to be reunited with Sue and John, our travelling companions and friends from our buddy boat S/V Catabella. They had been in Greece (doing a ten-day cruise rather than undergo hotel quarantine in England) and then spent several weeks with family before returning to Didim a few days before us.

It was lovely to be reunited with Sue and John

It was great to have them to show us around and we quickly settled in, enjoying the facilities at Didim marina such as the beautiful “Yacht Club” hotel.

The beautiful pool which we are allowed to use
Sue and I enjoyed our Scrabble games
by the pool

The first Saturday we went to the massive and wonderful market in town. Stall after stall of fantastic fresh fruit and vegetables, fat and juicy olives, dried fruit and nuts of every variety, as well as clothes, household goods, tableware, hand carved wooden implements and much more.

The wonderful Saturday market in Didim
Beautiful plump olives
A wonderful array of dried fruits
Colourful sweets
Made a colourful tray bake with some of the vegetables we bought at the market

A couple of day’s later we experienced something which we hadn’t come across for more than six months – RAIN! Beautiful, torrential, soaking rain!

Glorious rain
We were thrilled to see the rain
hitting the water!

Although we were absolutely thrilled – Turkey has been coping with a terrible drought this year – we were also concerned about the change in weather as my sister Julia was arriving from England for a week in just a few days time.

Before Julia’s arrival we were amazed to see a strange and rare phenomenon – Mammatus clouds. They looked like fluffy bubbles in the sky and John (a retired airline pilot who knows about such things) explained that they indicate the arrival of harsh weather and alert pilots of potentially dangerous conditions .

A strange and rare phenomenon
– Mammatus clouds.
Mammatus clouds indicate the arrival of harsh weather and alert pilots of potentially dangerous conditions

The rainy, stormy weather continued for several days but on the day Julia arrived the blue skies were back and we had perfect weather on every day of her stay.

The rainy, stormy weather continued for several days
On the day Julia arrived the
blue skies were back

We decided to spend our first day together in and around Didim. We had a good walk to the beachside suburb of Altinkum and back – Julia had a swim in the sea even though the water felt a bit cold for Jonathan and me!

Julia and I pose at the peace statue in Altinkum
A detail of this dramatic sculpture
More posing!
Altinkum harbour
Julia bravely having a dip in the sea

Later that night we had a good meal in one of the restaurants within the marina precincts – a great way to end Julia’s first day aboard!

Cheers – having a good meal on Julia’s first night aboard!

Treasures from the deep

Before leaving the picturesque village of Gümüşlük, we were determined to walk across to the other side of the isthmus and up the hill to see the remains of the ancient city of Myndos.

Picturesque Gümüşlük

The walk across the isthmus didn’t take long and once there, we were captivated by the gorgeous little bays with gin-clear water and what looked like the remains of buildings in the shallows, perhaps relics of Myndos?

The walk across the isthmus didn’t take long
We were captivated by the gorgeous little bays
The water was gin-clear
Perhaps the remains of buildings in the shallows, are relics of Myndos?

The walk up to the summit was quite steep but there was a good path with stairs in places.

The views were glorious – we could clearly see the Greek islands of Kalimnos and Leros surrounded by a sparkling deep blue sea – a truly beautiful sight!

The views were glorious!
The Greek islands of Leros and Kalimnos
in the distance

Some parts of the original city wall were still visible but apart from those and a few scattered stone piles, there were disappointingly few remains. The walk was really lovely though!

Remains of the city walls of Myndos
There were disappointingly few remains

Although there wasn’t an obvious path down the other side of the hill, we decided to give it a go – what could possibly go wrong?!

At the top! But where is the route down?!

Actually nothing did go wrong really but the walk down was rather more precarious than on the way up so it took us a lot longer. The views of Gümüşlük were lovely though so it was well worth the extra effort.

There wasn’t an obvious path down so it was a little more precarious
But the views of Gümüşlük were lovely

It was misty as we left Gümüşlük – there was a strange and eerie atmosphere – hundreds of gulls had flocked to the small island at the harbour entrance and everything was so unusually still. The sounds of our engines were muffled as we travelled across the dead calm waters out into the open sea.

Hundreds of gulls had flocked to the small island at the harbour entrance
There was a strange and eerie atmosphere
Everything was unusually still
The sounds of our engines were muffled as we travelled across the dead calm waters

Before too long the sun came out and a couple of hours later we were back for a second look at historic Bodrum.

Back in Bodrum for a second look

On our first visit there we had visited the underwater archeological museum, housed in the Crusader Castle, and just loved it – particularly the treasures found on the numerous wrecks along the coast in the area.

The crusader castle at Bodrum, home to the fantastic underwater archaeological museum
Inside the castle walls
A “Birdseye” view from the castle

Situated within the walls of Bodrum Castle, the museum is chock-full of fascinating exhibits.

The museum is chock-full of
fascinating exhibits
So many wonderful treasures
found in the shipwrecks
We loved seeing the treasures found on the numerous wrecks along the coast

There was so much to see but that we ended going to the museum twice in as many days.

It’s hard to believe this sculpture was made many hundreds of years ago

One of the highlights was the collection of artefacts from the world’s oldest known shipwreck, discovered in Uluburun in 1982. This incredible wreck, found by a local sponge diver, dates back to the Early Bronze Age – 14th Century BC.

Some stunning gold pieces found in the Uluburan shipwreck
A model of the Uluburun shipwreck

As well as the 10 tonnes of copper ingots, and a ton of tin ingots, there were 175 glass ingots of cobalt blue, turquoise, and lavender – the earliest intact glass ingots ever found. There were also many artefacts that proved there was a thriving commercial sea trade network existing in the Late Bronze Age in the Mediterranean.

175 glass ingots of cobalt blue, turquoise, and lavender were found – the earliest intact glass ingots ever discovered

Some of the most fascinating relics were already antiques when the ship sunk – one which captivated us was a worn scarab of pure gold inscribed in hieroglyphics with the name of Nefertiti (c. 1370 – c. 1336 BCE).

A pure gold scarab (centre) inscribed with
the name of Nefertiti
A close up of the Nefertiti scarab

In between museum visits we enjoyed strolling through the town looking at the many wonderful sights.

We enjoyed the sights of Bodrum
We loved seeing this lovely little vessel built in Bodrum and used for sponge hunting
for many years
This carved window caught my eye as we explored Bodrum
It was lovely to come upon these street musicians who were playing at some wedding celebrations

On one of our explorations we walked up to the 4th Century Greco-Roman theatre perched high up on the hill overlooking Bodrum.

The 4th Century Greco-Roman theatre is perched high up on the hill overlooking Bodrum.

We then went to seek out the remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus which in its heyday was one of the Seven Wonders of The World.

We had to follow this lane to find the entrance to the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
A model of the wonderful Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

Sadly after standing for 2247 years, the Mausoleum was destroyed by a series of successive earthquakes between the 12th to the 15th centuries.

Earthquakes began the destruction
of the Mausoleum

In 1402 the Crusaders arrived at the site and recorded it as being in ruins. They then proceeded to steal many of the massive stone blocks from the mausoleum to fortify their waterfront castle. Much of the beautiful marble was burnt into lime.

After earthquakes and the crusaders helping themselves there wasn’t much left of this fabulous structure
The Crusaders stole many of the massive stone blocks from the mausoleum to fortify their waterfront castle

At some point (probably at the time of the Crusaders), grave robbers broke into and destroyed the underground burial chamber, stealing all the treasures that had remained there since the burial of Mausolus.