The curious tale of the black and white bunnies
We were staying in a lovely marina at Warten in the Friesland area, north of The Netherlands, enjoying an evening stroll looking at the boats and exploring our new surroundings.
On our first evening we were casually strolling along when I suddenly spied a movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see a lovely, fluffy black and white domestic bunny nibbling the luscious looking green grass alongside a normal looking wild grey rabbit.
Then we noticed another black and white one hopping about nearby. Assuming they had escaped from a nearby house we thought nothing of it until we saw a lot more domestic rabbits mixed up in a big group of wild ones.
Where had they all come from? Were they escapees from a pet shop? Runaways from a petting zoo? Or two pets that had run away from home and had bred like er… rabbits?
The strange thing was that we also noticed a few unusual looking wild rabbits – one almost black and several totally black. Had the domestic rabbits mated with the wild bunnies? Is this even possible? Either way, they all seemed to be living very happily side by side.
With a full lockdown in the UK preventing us from travelling there we were taking the chance to get to know our daughter’s new home country better.
One of the things we love about the Netherlands is that we can do a lot of our sightseeing by bike.
The cycling possibilities in The Netherlands are beyond amazing – there seem to be as many cycle paths as roads and many of them go along canals, and through pretty villages and beautiful countryside.
As I hadn’t cycled for 50 years until we bought our e-bikes, I’m not as confident as most people here but as cyclists have priority over cars in most circumstances and with the huge network of bike paths I really feel quite safe and am getting quite comfortable riding now.
Even though our bikes are battery powered we still have to put some effort into peddling so we don’t feel too guilty about buying a traditional Dutch apple tart or some fish and chips after a longish ride – as we did after our trip from Warten to Earnewâld.
We sat by the canal to eat our lunch, watching the many different craft as they floated by. Watching the graceful Dutch sailing barge skim past us was a particularly lovely experience.
Soon we were joined by a non-too-subtle Labrador dog who was just wondering if we happened to have any spare food about us!
After a very pleasant stay in Warten we drove to Lauwersoog – a seaside village about 40 minutes north of Warten.
Again, we had a water view from our camping spot and the place we stayed had a very pleasant recreation room (with a piano!) that we could use during our stay.
We decided to give the bikes a miss and do some walking for a change. Of course we ended up walking where all the yachts were berthed and were fascinated to see some of the old working boats, some beautifully restored.
We were keen to explore one of the offshore islands so we booked ferry tickets to Schiermonnikoog which is just a short ferry ride from Lauwersoog.
On the appointed morning we woke up and looked out of the window to see a thick fog had settled and we could hardly see a thing! Nevertheless, having bought our tickets we decided we just had to go ahead with the trip.
We were able to take our bikes on the ferry and had a slow, steady trip over despite the lack of visibility.
Schiermonnikoog island is only 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) long and 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) wide and is the site of the Netherlands’ first national park. There are numerous cycle paths that take you around and across the island which we enjoyed exploring despite the still-misty atmosphere.
There is only one village on the island and it felt very empty and mysterious with all the restaurants and cafes closed because of Covid and the mist hanging over trees and buildings.
We thought it would be a perfect setting for a who-dunnit murder mystery!
After the extreme busy-ness of our daughter and son-in-law’s wonderful wedding it was great to be able to just relax and unwind for a few days while they enjoyed a “mini moon” in the beautiful Hotel des Indes in The Hague.
While they were away we looked after their cat and enjoyed daily walks around their neighborhood.
As in so many countries, a second spike in the Coronavirus infections had increased restrictions. In the Netherlands this meant a partial lockdown with all cafes, bars, and restaurants closed and households only allowed two visitors a day (although these rules didn’t apply to children under 13).
We felt very fortunate to be able to stroll through the local streets and see fantastic sights that we might normally have missed if it hadn’t been for lockdown. Coronavirus might have halted our plans but our eyes have been opened to so much beauty!
For example, a beautiful heron poised to catch a fish in a nearby canal and the many colours of autumn in the trees both on the streets and in local gardens. Other beautiful sights such as some amazing bright purple berries and the still evening light reflecting trees in the water, have us great pleasure.
Sadly Hannah and Pieter’s romantic honeymoon on a beautiful island somewhere had to be postponed as overseas travel was just not possible under the circumstances.
Despite all the restrictions, outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling etc have been encouraged and as Pieter and Hannah were still on leave they took the chance to show us some lovely forest areas within driving distance from where they live near Delft.
One such place was Den Treek Henschoten- a lovely old forest with winding paths and cycle tracks criss crossing many hundreds of acres of estate land in Leusden.
Hannah had heard that the estate was famous for its wide variety of fungi. We had only just started on our walk when Pieter discovered the first of many wonderful toadstools (and perhaps the occasional mushroom but we weren’t game to try and identify these!)
There were beautiful red toadstools – the ones with white spots much beloved in fairy tales; there were toadstool towns; we spotted gorgeous ones that looked more like sea creatures than anything belonging to the land.
There were purple ones, wet-look ones, lacy ones, flat ones, domed ones and many more besides.
We couldn’t believe how prolific they were, or the huge variety – it felt like a real revelation!
After so many years in Australia we have really relished experiencing a European autumn again.
The leaves have been so beautiful with many shades of yellow, orange, red and brown. As we waded through the crunchy, crisp leaves, enjoying the feel and sound of them, we started to relive our childhood – scooping up great armfuls and throwing them in the air and of course over each other! Such fun.
Another lovely outing was a walk in some woods quite near to where Pieter and Hannah live but somewhere we had not been to before.
After a really lovely hike we stopped at a popular and pretty cafe right in the middle of fields on the outskirts of Delft. In normal circumstances it would be crowded with customers – any day of the week and in any season- but because of Coronavirus it was only serving takeaways.
Fortunately it was warm enough to sit outside and we found a table nearby where we could enjoy our coffee and apple pie.
The Dutch arguably make the best apple pie in the world and we have been doing some serious research to establish whether this claim is true or not!
We also paid a visit to a wonderful farm shop situated close to the cafe and spent time patting cows before buying some lovely farm-fresh vegetables.
The weather was really glorious – wonderful sunshine although a little cooler than we are used to! It was so lovely to be able to sit outside at Hannah and Pieter’s in November!
After a relaxing time staying at Pieter and Hannah’s we decided it was time to hit the road again. We had planned a visit to see family and friends in England but the country went into full lockdown and travelling was banned unless it was for an essential purpose.
We decided to postpone our English trip and instead, travel in the Netherlands for a while. There is always something new to discover and although it’s a small country there are plenty of interesting places to visit.
As usual with us, we headed towards water and a yacht marina (I know, we just can’t help ourselves!) to a place called Warten in the province of Friesland in the north of the country.
We were the only ones in a campervan staying in the marina and it was blissfully peaceful. Our grassy site was surrounded on three sides by water and there were lots of boats to look at.
We were amazed at the bird life there – particularly the massive flocks of Canada geese flying overhead, filling the skies with the sounds of their belligerent honking.
Coronavirus might have stopped us doing some of the things we had planned but the plus side is that we have seen some natural wonders and new places that perhaps we would have otherwise not encountered.
Right up until just a few days before their wedding in The Netherlands on 19 October 2020, our daughter and her husband-to-be (Hannah and Pieter) were wondering if they would have to call the whole thing off.
Planning a wedding is nerve wracking enough in normal circumstances but during the time of Covid-19 with ever-increasing restrictions, anxiety has the potential to reach another level!
One big decision had already been made a couple of months earlier – predictions of a second hike in the number of Covid infections and possible further and stricter lockdown restrictions meant that if the wedding was to go ahead, the plan to have a friends and family attend the ceremony, reception and party would have to be shelved.
A “change of plan” card had been sent out and plan B was hatched – only their two sets of parents would attend the wedding (and be witnesses) and a celebratory meal for the six of us would take place at home. Plans for parties and other celebrations would have to be shelved for 2021 or whenever possible.
The surprising thing was that despite downsizing the celebrations there was still lots to organise – the rings, the wedding dress and groom’s outfit to choose and fitted, flowers, photography, the wedding cake, lunch menu, wines, transport to and from the wedding, meetings with the celebrant, hair and makeup, catering etc etc.
Suddenly after the busyness of preparations the big day dawned. The sky was grey but after weeks of constant rain we were all delighted that it was a dry autumn day.
The young lady doing the makeup and hair arrived promptly at 9 am and at the same time four of Hannah’s best friends from Australia joined in on a simultaneous video call.
How lovely it was to have their company while Hannah was getting ready for this momentous day! Thank goodness for modern technology which allowed them to be in the room with us, making Hannah laugh and cry and sharing these special moments.
While Hannah was having her hair and makeup done her flowers arrived – a stunning bouquet of autumn flowers – along with matching “button hole” sprays for the rest of us as well as two different arrangements for her hair.
The table decoration had been picked up the previous day and was already on the table. The autumn colours in all the arrangements were stunning and the talented florist had incorporated some lovely Australian wattle, eucalyptus and grevillias into the table arrangement and bouquet in a nod to Hannah’s birthplace and home of 21 years.
All the chatting with her friends had slowed the makeup and hairdo process – we realised that time was running short when the photographer returned from Pieter’s parent’s house where she had been taking photos of him getting ready. The next job was to take photos of Hannah getting into her wedding dress!
Well it was quite a struggle – the dainty little (and numerous) buttons just refused to be captured by the delicate loops running up the back of the dress. I tried, the makeup person tried, Jonathan tried. All to no avail. Time was marching on, my hair and makeup was still to be done, the limo arrived! EEK!
What we needed was an old fashioned button hook! “Wait I need to get my tools” the Father-of-the bride said.
He returned brandishing a small Phillips screw driver (an indispensable piece of kit for every emergency!) and niftily buttoned up the dress. In the meantime the makeup artist did a super quick job of my hair and make up – thank goodness she had experience in doing fashion shows where working quickly under pressure is the norm!
By the time we went downstairs to get in the car the poor driver was having conniptions about being late! Google maps told us that it would take exactly 13 minutes to get to the wedding venue- the beautiful Renaissance City Hall (Stadhuis) in the Market Square in Delft – and we had exactly 13 minutes! Brilliant!
We were just a couple of minutes away when we came to a dead stop – as fate would have it, the landmark Koepoortbrug (Cow Port Bridge) over the Rhine-Schie Canal was about to open to let a boat through! Talk about stressful!
In the end we arrived only a couple of minutes after the appointed hour just as the bells of Oude Kirke (the ancient Protestant Church opposite the City Hall) rang out “Here comes the Bride”.
As we got out of the car we had a wonderful surprise – Pieter’s sister and three brothers, their partners and children were all there!
We all had to wear masks in the car and as we entered the City Hall but once we were in chamber itself we were able to socially distance and were allowed to take them off.
It felt very strange walking in with our wedding clothes accessorized by fetching surgical masks. I kicked myself for not thinking of finding ones that at least matched our outfits – including a white lace one for the bride!
The ceremony was just so precious – small of course (six of us and the celebrant) – but so intimate and romantic. It incorporated music with special meaning to the couple, a lovely speech from the celebrant and both of the bride and groom making heartfelt and beautiful vows to each other.
Then it was time to don our masks again and step outside to the sound of the Church bells ringing and Pieter’s family blowing bubbles and making a wonderful racket on various percussion and other instruments!
Soon we had the other kind of bubbles cracked open and distributed and we all drank a toast to the bride and groom and posed for “socially distanced” photos.
While Hannah and Pieter went off to have a photo shoot around the picturesque alleys, canals and woods of beautiful Delft, the two sets of parents went back to Hannah and Pieter’s place.
When we arrived we found some of their good friends busy decorating the house with sheets bearing messages such as “just married” and “Mr and Mrs”. They had also left stunning flowers, chocolates and all sorts of lovely treats.
While waiting for the happy couple to return we enjoyed some delicious canapés prepared by Chef Ryan and served by his partner and professional front of house manager Jess.
It was so mild that we were able to enjoy our pre-lunch drinks outside! Later we sat down to a long and incredibly special meal lovingly crafted by Ryan who until Covid hit was a chef at the Neil Perry’s signature restaurant at Melbourne Casino in Australia, where his partner Jess also worked as front-of-house manager.
The food was sensational!
While we were enjoying our delicious meal we surprised Hannah and Pieter with videos recorded by friends and family across the world – from Australia, India, England, Japan and Vietnam. Hannah’s bridesmaid made a hilarious but sorrowful speech; there were beautiful songs, poetry, speeches and toasts proposed. It really felt like all those special people were with us and watching the videos brought much laughter and of course, a quite few tears. Then there were gorgeous cards and gifts to open.
We lost count of all the courses but each was more delicious than the last.
Lunch eventually finished well into the evening and then all too soon it was time to wave off the newly weds to their classy honeymoon hotel Hotel des Indes in The Hague.
What a spectacular day it had been. Everything had gone like clockwork and even the weather behaved! Despite Covid preventing loved ones from attending, we all agreed that it had been a really memorable and wonderful wedding.
On a quiet Friday night, just 10 days before the wedding of our daughter and son-in-law, there was a sudden and urgent banging on the back door of their house.
What was going on?! Who would be hammering on our door like that on a rather cool and drizzly autumn night during Covid times?
It was such a wonderful surprise to see three (and one on Skype) of Hannah’s choir friends who had come to give her an unexpected hen’s night!
This beautiful group of ladies brought champagne and wine, food (including home made brioche) and lots of gifts for the bride to be to unwrap – some fun or silly and some really special.
We quickly gathered up warm blankets, found some wood and lit a fire outside (the government Covid advice was to keep visitor numbers inside homes to a minimum.)
After a while the light drizzle turned into full-blown rain and despite the warming effect of the mulled wine (glühwein) we were forced inside.
Suitably socially distanced we had a wonderful time watching Hannah (ably assisted by Pieter) open her thoughtful gifts.
The following day we were fortunate to be part of an annual ritual/pilgrimage to Hannah’s all time favourite shop – the pumpkin store (the farmer grows each and every one on sale).
It’s traditional in The Netherlands to decorate your house with pumpkins in the autumn. Hannah has embraced this tradition wholeheartedly and each year her displays are more impressive and prolific.
As we stepped inside the pumpkin shop I could at last totally understand Hannah’s enthusiasm for these amazing vegetables.
There were pumpkins of every shape and size and of many hues of multiple colours – it was so hard to choose just a few. Fortunately with their wedding coming up Hannah and Pieter has the perfect excuse to buy extra this year.
Another favourite autumn ritual is to visit the local garden centre to buy autumn plants, visit the pet corner (particularly the rabbits!) and eat delicious apple pie.
We were so happy to be in the Netherlands at this lovely change of season to enjoy all these fun traditions!
The wedding was one week away – we were keeping everything crossed that it could go ahead as Covid appeared to be spreading like wild fire and the government were imposing restrictions that increased on a weekly basis.
Despite everything, the week before the wedding was filled with excitement- a trial makeup session, a visit to the hairdressers, a facial, gifts arriving and the stunning rings collected.
The engagement ring and the wedding rings were just so special and the Delft jeweller did such a fantastic job to produce really individual and unique rings.
The gold for the three rings came from both sides of the family – old pieces that were no longer worn – the green-yellow tourmaline in the engagement ring was from a tie pin thought to have been bought in Burma in World War 2 belonging to Jonathan’s Dad and the white diamond was also from a family ring. Such a wonderful idea and such a precious heirloom.
The evening before the wedding Hannah set and decorated the dining table ready for the six of us (the bride and groom and two sets of parents) to sit down for a celebratory lunch after the wedding ceremony – as you can see it looked stunning!
Exploring castles is always a favourite activity when we are travelling in Europe and our visit to Slot Loevestein, a medieval castle in the Gelderland region of the Netherlands, was no exception.
We had hoped to use one of the free camper van spots in the castle car park – the location was beautiful with horses grazing nearby and lots of walking tracks.
Unfortunately, the four spots were already taken and as there was a hefty fine for parking illegally we decided to head for a local campsite just a short distance away in a town called Woudrichem.
When we finally found the site (roadworks sent us on a diversion and we ended up lost at first!) the nice guy who ran it told us that they had closed for the season that day. However, he said that we could park outside the gates and that no one would move us on.
That evening we were delighted to find we had parked just along from a small harbour filled with beautiful sailing barges modelled on the working boats that once plied the nearby rivers.
What a lovely place we had inadvertently found ourselves.
As we walked along the grassy medieval ramparts that ring the charming ancient village of Woudrichem, we came across some delightful sculptures depicting characters from the town’s history.
We sat by the river and watched the massive barges loaded down with containers chug slowly by. There were rain clouds in the sky but the sun was shining and soon we saw a beautiful rainbow.
We felt like we were sitting in the middle of one of those typical old Dutch paintings, with a windmill on one side, sailing barges on the other and a brooding light in the leaden sky. Fabulous!
The next day we wandered around the old town, admiring the 17th century houses and the cobbled streets.
We came upon a fabulous but small museum that displayed exhibits connected to the life of the river – fishing equipment, model boats and old photographs.
In the afternoon we drove back to have a look at Slot Loevesteen built where the Meuse and Waal rivers converge.
This 14th-century moated castle was originally built as a place from which the knight Diederic Loef of Horne could levy tolls from trading vessels using the rivers. Later it was expanded to become a fortress surrounded by earthen fortifications with stone bastions and two moats.
There was an interesting museum in what we imagined had once been the barracks and afterwards we could wander through the castle itself, starting in the dungeons and up winding staircases into various bedrooms, a chapel, reception rooms, kitchens and a massive dining hall.
There didn’t seem to be too many visitors that day and we were impressed by the way the management organised a route and staggered the numbers – allowing only one family into a particular area at a time and leaving hand sanitizer in strategic locations.
It was amazing to think that when it was built, no one could have anticipated this great big impressive fortress would one day be taking action to defend itself against a microscopic virus as opposed to human invaders!
It was such a relief to be safely in The Netherlands in plenty of time for our daughter’s wedding to her Dutch partner. With COVID cases threatening to increase rapidly as the cooler weather hit, we were worried that we might get stuck in Turkey and end up missing the forthcoming celebrations.
Our daughter and partner were there to meet us from Amsterdam airport in our camper van. What a wonderful reunion it was!
They had come to pick us up straight from a two-week holiday travelling through France and Brittany in the van so were full of great travel stories as we drove to their home in Pijnacker near Delft. This was where we were to self isolate for the next ten days.
Although “confined to barracks” most of the time we managed to take walks around the neighborhood every day and to enjoy some lovely sunshine in the garden – although after the intense heat of Turkey it felt quite cool to us!
The weekend after we completed our quarantine period the weather was glorious so we decided to drive to a beautiful lake called Maarsseveense plassen (in the province of Utrecht) for a picnic and a walk round the lake’s perimeter.
The sun was really bright, the temperature perfect and it felt so good to be out and about.
A day later we cycled to the gorgeous historical town of Delft where the wedding was to take place.
It was very exciting to think that very soon the wedding would be taking place in the centuries old (the part facing the square was built in 1618 but the bell tower behind originated from 1300) and very majestic town hall.
After such a wonderful weekend we felt inspired to take the camper van for a short trip so a couple of days later we were heading towards the De Hoge Veluwe National Park, one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands. Of course by then it was pouring with rain!
The drive was less than two hours (everywhere is so close in the Netherlands compared to Australia) so we were soon happily tucked up in a camper van park in Otterlo, a small village near one of the National Park entrances.
The following day dawned dry and reasonably warm so after breakfast we hopped on our electric bikes and pedalled to the National Park.
We were booked in to visit the fabulous Kröller-Müller art museum – now a national museum but originally a private art collection – which we were introduced to by our friends from the Sail to Indonesia rally, Annemieke and Gerrit.
We loved the museum on our first visit and had been very much looking forward to returning to soak up all the beautiful paintings, drawings and sculptures once again.
As well as having the second-largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) there are works by many other famous artists including Picasso, Mondriaan, Gaugin, and Seurat.
Despite a strict booking schedule due to Covid, the gallery seemed to be quite full. Most people were mostly very good about social distancing but we were quite surprised to see so many visitors there on an autumn weekday.
The highlight for us this time was the outdoor sculpture park – 25 hectares of beautiful woods, lawns and gardens, with a fine collection of modern sculpture spread throughout.
As we strolled through the gardens we were enchanted over and again by the amazing works – often found in secret corners of the park.
At one point we were in a beautiful wood when we began to hear some mysterious, ethereal, rather desolate sounds – reminiscent of ships at sea sounding their fog horns.
As we got closer it sounded more like a school brass band with the participants playing random notes without a conductor!
We came to where the noises were emanating from – a magical circle of trees talking to one another via speakers in their branches. A haunting sound and one of the many interesting installations we saw that day!
Later we cycled for hours through the National Park – there are many tracks to choose from in the 55 square kilometres of parkland. The cycle paths took us through glorious woods, heathland and sand dunes.
The following day we travelled to the Westerwolde region of The Netherlands on the border of Germany to a fascinating village called Bourtange.
At the centre of this tiny hamlet is a Star Fort built in 1593 at the start of the Eighty Years War against the Spanish. This amazing construction defended the link between Groningen and Germany until its decommissioning in 1851.
The fort was restored in the 1960s and is still in wonderful condition.
The star shape was constructed using an incredible network of canals and ponds that provided a barrier to any potential invaders.
From above its beautiful star shape can be seen more clearly than at ground level but it was still fascinating to walk around on top of the grassy fortification walls and look out across the watery barriers.
This will be our last post from Turkey for a little while as we have hauled “Sunday” at Kas Marina while we travel to The Netherlands for our daughter’s wedding and to do some land travel (Covid permitting).
A few days before leaving we decided to have a day off from “winterising” the boat and had a fantastic morning at the ancient Lycian port of Andriake and then later at the Museum of St Nicholas in Demre (see my last blog entry).
In the afternoon we decided to drive back towards Kas and on through Kalkan to Patara, where the ruins of another important Lycian city lie.
Patara was famous for its temple and oracle of Apollo, apparently second only to the oracle in Delphi. Later, in 333 BC Alexander the Great captured the city. After many occupations and invasions it was eventually annexed by the Roman Empire in 43 AD.
The ruins of the city which was deserted around 1340, are numerous and spread out over a wide area.
Visiting them in the late afternoon with that beautiful light that you get around sunset in Turkey, we found the ruins to be really atmospheric.
The amphitheatre, built in the time of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (born 86 AD) was in remarkably good condition. It was only excavated in 2007 having been buried under tonnes of sand for hundreds of years.
Even more impressive was the “bouleuterion” – the parliament building where the elected representatives of the Lycian League (the first federation in history) met.
The building has rows of stone seats arranged in a semicircle. Its stone-vaulted main entrances are intact, and so is the thronelike dais where the elected Lyciarch, the president of the League, sat.
While we wandered up and down the rows of seats it was easy to picture the chamber full of representatives from the 23 city states (one, two or three from each – depending on the size and importance of the area) listening to speeches and debating important issues.
There were many more beautiful buildings and a stunning column-lined Main Street to enjoy.
While we were wandering around we heard the tinkling of bells in the distance and soon we saw a small herd of sheep stepping daintily along the dusty pathway.
Watching over them was a beautiful massive but gentle dog – we think it was a Turkish Kangal, otherwise known as an Anatolian Shepherd Dog. These dogs are specially bred to be flock guardians rather than as herding dogs. They live with their flock of sheep and actively fend off any predators.
We were fascinated to see a 14-metre boat made almost entirely from reeds on display in front of the bouleuterion.
The boat was built by German archaeologist Dominique Goerlitz, as part of an experiment to show it was probably on this type of vessel that Egyptian traders reached the port of Patara and other ports in modern day Turkey in in ancient times. It was modelled on the Egyptian reed boats seen in paintings from antiquity.
The trip back to Kas along the incredibly winding coast road – just as the sun was dipping into the ocean – was fantastic.
The wonderful sunset views over the sea would remain firmly in our memories while we were away from Turkey in the coming weeks and months.
Back in Kas there was as always, a flurry of activity at the end to get our boat prepared for the haul out. Some things had to be done just before we left, like deflating the dinghy and storing it inside (it takes up a lot of room so that was very much a last minute thing!)
Haul out day finally arrived and fortunately everything went very smoothly and the workers were extremely professional.
Jonathan did a great job of steering into the narrow pen (with just a few centimetres to spare on either side) and very soon we were settled in our spot propped up safely on the hard.
Despite all our preparations we were still working until the very last minute, flushing out the toilets, bringing in anything and everything that was on deck that could either blow off or be lifted off.
We also had to run around paying our last bills, chivvying the marina to turn our water on, looking for our sails which were meant to have been delivered and doing lots of last minute jobs.
Finally it was time to flop into the taxi that was taking us to Dalaman Airport.
On the way we stopped for a quick break and had some delicious gozleme filled with spinach and feta cheese.
Soon we were up in the clouds and on our way. Up, up and awayThe trip wasn’t too bad, people were generally good at social distancing and everyone wore masks.
We stayed the night at the airport hotel in Istanbul and the next morning we took off for Amsterdam and an emotional reunion with our soon-to-be-married daughter and her partner.
The flight was made so much more pleasant because no one was allowed hand baggage and passengers had to stay in their seats until the people in front were on their way out. There was no leaping up immediately the plane had landed, no pulling bags down on top of other people’s heads and no one’s back packs shoved in other people’s faces! One good outcome of Covid!
It was such a relief to arrive in the Netherlands in plenty of time to enjoy the lead up to our daughter and her partner’s wedding. With the expected second hike in Covid infections we could have so easily found ourselves stuck in Turkey and unable to attend this very important event!
Our tickets to The Netherlands were booked and “winterising” and cleaning the boat was almost completed so we decided to give ourselves a day off.
We hired a car and headed for the Demre district round about an hour from Kas where there were several ancient sites that we thought sounded fascinating. The first was just a few kilometres south of Demre town – the ancient harbour settlement of Andriake.
Dating back to the Lycian Union in the 3rd Century BC, this hugely important harbour and trading centre of what was once called Myra (present day Demre). The port of Andriake became particularly significant around the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian at the turn of the 2nd Century AD.
The river silted up and gradually trading stopped and the port ceased to function. The remains of this once thriving community have now become an open air museum with some buildings restored and with many ruins spread out over a large site.
There were lots of what had been shops, homes, at least two churches, several bath houses, a synagogue and an agora (market place) with an amazing restored underground water cistern which you could climb down into.
The tank was 24 metres long, 12 metres wide and 6 metres deep and the immense amount of water it contained must have kept all the businesses, shops and homes built in and around the agora well supplied with copious amounts of fresh water.
The highlight of our visit was the fabulous museum which was housed in what had been a granary in Lycian times.
Its seven rooms has been carefully and sensitively restored.
Within its ancient 56 metre by 32 metre walls, are displayed many fascinating treasures and information about the Lycian civilisations.
After an intriguing morning we drove into Demre for lunch and then made the pilgrimage to the birthplace of St Nicholas (Santa Claus).
Now I hear what you’re saying, – Santa Claus comes from the North Pole – but I’m sorry to tell you that’s just not true.
Saint Nicholas, a Christian Bishop and patron saint of young children and sailors (and others including pawnbrokers and prostitutes!) was born in Demre in the year 270 AD. His legendary habit of gift giving (often through windows but sometimes down the chimney) was the inspiration behind the much loved figure of Santa Claus or Father Christmas.
Around 200 years after he died, the Church of St Nicholas in Demre was built over the site of the church where he had served as bishop. It is now a museum and still a sacred place of worship, much beloved particularly by Russians as St Nicholas is also patron saint of Russia (as well as Amsterdam, Aberdeen and a host of other places).
He was buried on the site of the original Church but in 1087 most of his bones were taken to Bari in Italy. The remaining fragments were taken to Venice during the first Crusade.
Excavations at this ancient site have been going on since 1988 and have revealed some treasures including some beautiful frescoes, vibrant mosaic floors and a desecrated sarcophagus, thought to be the original burial place of St Nicholas.
There were a couple of big Russian tourist groups going round at the same time as us which was a bit confronting in this time of Covid as there wasn’t much social distancing going on!
From there we were heading to the famous rock tombs just in the outskirts of Demre but decided that there were too many tourist groups with the same idea so instead we headed to the ancient city of Patara, on the other side of Kas.
Perhaps too much history for one blog so look out for photos of this wonderful site in my next blog!
Despite his dramatic slip on the rocks ( see previous post) Jonathan was not about to give up on the lovely anchorage in Karaloz Liman on Kekova Island – however, after an influx of wasps, the right decision to evacuate was made as the persistent buzzing around our heads was driving the crew mad!
While pulling up the anchor I was literally swarmed by the little critters. It got so bad that my great-niece’s boyfriend had to squirt me with bug spray while I heroically operated the electronic anchor winch!
Finally we were away from the buzzing hordes and we motored gently back to lovely Gökkaya Liman – the first bay in Kekova Roads that we had taken my great niece and her boyfriend to.
The following day we headed for Kas just a few hours sail down the coast to give our guests a couple of days in a more urban setting before they left Turkey to head back to England.
Fortunately, while in Finike a week earlier, we had negotiated a year’s contract with Setur Marinas which enabled us to stay for a certain amount of days without payment in any Setur marina in Turkey. We also organised for Sunday to be lifted and stored at Kas Marina while we spent a few months away to attend our daughter’s wedding to her lovely Dutch partner and also do some land travel (Covid permitting).
So we were able to stay in Kas “for free” in comfort and our guests were able to enjoy the delights of the beach club just a few minutes walk away where they could swim in the pool and in the sea, and lie on sun beds and drink cocktails for a couple of days. As residents of the marina we were entitled to a generous discount off the entry fee.
The entry into the marina was so easy and smooth – most of the work was done by the efficient and capable marina employees who picked up the mooring lines that were threaded through a chain on the seabed, attached them to a long line on board Sunday and then gently manoeuvred us in.
We were very impressed by the marina which was very clean and well kept. There are several restaurants, a pub with a blues band several nights a week and even a supermarket within its precincts (much better to use than risking Corona virus from the tourists in town)
We had a couple of pleasant meals out in the town (sitting outside of course) and Jonathan and I started to organise the process of readying Sunday to leave and looking at possible flights to The Netherlands.
All too soon it was time for our guests to return back to England and rather than send them off in a taxi we decided to make a day of it and hired a car to drive them to the airport in Antalya. The trip was an enjoyable opportunity to see a little more of the interior of Turkey.
Once our guests had left we seriously go down to the getting our boat ready to leave and organising our trip to The Netherlands. It was quite an anxious time as we were concerned that the influx of travellers (particularly from Russia – 40,000 just in the first two days of Turkey opening up to tourists) would bring more Covid cases and subsequently possible closure of borders between Turkey and other countries (particular The Netherlands!) We were terrified that we wouldn’t make it to our daughter’s wedding which would have been heartbreaking – especially as along with her partner’s parents, we were the only guests.
The heat was relentless while we were working on the boat which made it all the more exhausting but thankfully we were able to swim in the clear cold water (the entire marina appears to be fed by icy streams off the mountains behind) in a roped off section off the hard stand area.
We also organised for some of the bigger jobs like taking down the sails and cleaning, drying and folding them ready for storage down below, to be done by the workers from the sail loft.
As the saying goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” so we decided to have a day off and hire a car to do some exploring on land. Watch this space to hear more about an amazing day.
The most remarkable part of our trip from Finike Marina to Kekova Roads – apart from the wonderfully dramatic Turkish coastline – was sighting a Turkish gunboat steaming past us the other way, leaving a massive wake behind it.
Having already witnessed helicopter gunships flying overhead on three separate occasions, the existence of the naval ship reminded us yet again that hostilities between Turkey and Greece over drilling rights were of grave concern.
But we had no time to worry about that! We had our guests from England – my great niece and her boyfriend – on board and we had a lot of fun planned!
Our first stop was a lovely inlet in the stunning Gökkaya Liman (Bay) near the tiny island of Asirli at the Eastern end of Kekova Roads.
After anchoring and a wonderful swim we took the dinghy over to the island to see the famous Blue Cave – so named because of the dazzling hue of its water.
It is also known as the Pirates Cave, as supposedly, once upon a time, it was used by pirates to lay in wait for trade ships that journeyed along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
Near to our anchorage there were some poignant ruins – not the usual Lycian tombs or Roman remains – this time they were from a Byzantine church.
Much of this coastline had been populated by Greeks for hundreds of years but in the 1922 population exchange they were moved out and Turks previously living in Greece were moved in and almost all the Churches were left abandoned to crumble back into the landscape.
During our swim we were surprised how cool the water was but then we learned that a cold water spring flowed into the bay. No wonder!
We decided to head up the creek to see if we could discover the source but weren’t able to locate it but it was fun trying!
We wanted to try and show our guests as many different highlights of this beautiful area so we quickly moved on to the village of Kaleköy – accessible only by sea- where we anchored just for a few hours while Jonathan and our guests walked up to the fort – built in the Middle Ages by the Knights if St John.
I stayed on board to keep watch as the holding at this anchorage isn’t very good and there are nasty looking rocks everywhere you look!
After the climb we reconvened for a light lunch at one of the restaurants at the water’s edge where we could keep an eye on Sunday.
We motored to a great spot just outside Üçağız, the sweet little village we had visited (and loved) previously.
The bay here is completely landlocked with three small entrance channels that lie between low rocky islets – hence the bay’s name – Üçağız which means “three mouths”.
We anchored just east of the village right in front of several sarcophagi and other ruins. Apparently they are thought to be the remains of ancient Teimiussa which used to be the administrative centre for the region.
My great niece and her boyfriend then had a chance to hone their driving skills when they took the dinghy to check out Üçağız. Later we all went again for another delicious meal at Hassan’s restaurant (discovered on a previous visit).
Our next “tourist destination” was to the sunken ruins over the other side of the bay at Kekova Island.
The ruins were once a vibrant ancient town called Dolchiste which was destroyed by an earthquake during the 2nd century AD.
The water there was turquoise and clear as gin and as we drifted slowly by we could see the shapes of walls, stairs and walkways.
We had heard that Karaloz Liman, a completely landlocked cove on the south of Kekova Island, was a beautiful, sheltered anchorage with wonderful clear water water for swimming and snorkelling, so we headed over there to anchor for the night.
What we didn’t realise was the cove was absolutely tiny and it was already quite full when we arrived. We tried to anchor and put a line ashore in one spot but after several unsuccessful attempts to get our anchor to grab before getting dangerously close to the rocky shore (and a neighboring tourist boat) we gave up and found the only other spot suitable for our sized boat – just inside the cove.
All seemed fine until Capt’n Birdseye decided to readjust the long line so we would be more comfortable if a swell came up in the night. Unfortunately while doing this he stepped on a very sharp rock, cut his foot, lost his balance, fell down into “a hole” and lost his glasses.
I saw him on his hands and knees, blood pouring down his face and not moving. Thinking he was concussed my great niece’s boyfriend (egged on by us!) dived in and swam to the rocks to “rescue” him.
Fortunately he was absolutely fine and was just looking for his glasses! The good news is that he found them – the bad news the glass in one of the lens was completely shattered! Fortunately he had a spare set on board – always a necessity for cruisers!
The anchorage close to the sweet village of Üçağız was as still as a lake but unlike the limpid turquoise waters we had experienced elsewhere in Turkey, the water here was opaque and green. This probably accounted for the fact that we had the whole anchorage to ourselves.
We didn’t stay to savour the sense of isolation for too long as we were on a mission – my great-niece and her boyfriend were arriving shortly from the UK and we needed to get up the coast to Finike so we could meet them from Antalya Airport.
It was very exciting to be having more visitors from the UK – despite Covid restrictions – but rather strange when friends and family in Australia and SE Asia were still quite severely limited in their movements.
We had an uneventful trip from Kekova Roads to Setur Marina in Finike and the entry into our berth was made very easy and stress free by the excellent assistance we received from the marina staff. We were also fortunate to have a big space next to us so there was plenty of room for manoeuvre.
Barbaros, the manager of Setur Marina, was extremely welcoming and helpful and we really liked the marina in every way.
We were considering leaving Sunday on the hard there while we left for our daughter’s wedding and during the winter months. Unfortunately it didn’t have a travel lift big enough to take Sunday but Barbaros very helpfully helped us negotiate a year’s contract with Setur Marinas and for their marina in Kas to lift and store her for an equivalent price to the one quoted by Finike.
Having all this organised set our minds at rest as time was ticking by and we really needed to organise flights to the Netherlands before all the rules changed again and countries started closing down due to the predicted “second wave” of Corona virus infections.
Our boat guests were arriving in Antalya in the evening so we had the whole day in which to enjoy the car we had hired.
We decided to take “the scenic route” to Antalya which took us through the Taurus Mountains and right past the wonderful remains of the ancient Lycian city of Arykanda.
Built on a series of terraces, high up on top of a mountain, Arykanda had stunning panoramic views. Set amongst glorious cedar trees whose needle laden branches sounded like the sea as the breeze ruffled through them, it was easy to imagine what an incredible place it was to live.