Blue paradise

Blue paradise

fine discovery  The enchanting Marmaris photos by author

Heads bobbed in the sparkling blue waters as swimmers splashed around but I didn’t join them. Sun worshippers lay sprawled on white deck chairs, their backs blistering in the blazing heat of the Mediterranean sun but I didn’t join them, either. I was already toasted to a deep brown, wandering around the fascinating ruins of Ephesus, earlier that week.

Next to me a man snored, lulled by the music of the waves, his mouth agape. Much as my heavy lidded lids demanded, I loath to succumb to the forty winks and miss the happenings around me. For the moment, I was content doing what I loved best — people watching with a tall glass of fresh fruit juice by my side. Lolling in the lotus eater’s paradise I basked in nature’s treasure chest.

The quiet and quaint town at the confluence of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea demanded that I spend time day dreaming and staring at the amazing blue waters before me. Not everyone is fortunate enough to find himself in such exotic locale and I was determined to extract maximum mileage from my luck.

A generously endowed Russian couple ventured out in the water holding hands and I smiled. The romance of the place didn’t leave many people untouched. One of the largest natural harbours in the world, surrounded by pine clad hills; Marmaris is hardly the place for unromantic human beings.

Sultan’s orders

Known as Physkos, the city was once a part of the ancient Carian Empire and then the Lydians till it saw Alexander the Great on its shores, during the Hellenistic period. According to an interesting legend, the name was changed to Marmaris when Sultan Süleyman, while returning from his expedition to Rhodes, took a violent dislike to the castle built by the Ionians and exclaimed “Mimar as!”, which in Turkish means “Hang the architect!”

He then went on to reconstruct the castle in 1522 but it was devastated by shells by the French forces in 1914. What remains is now a museum that showcases history. But then that is history, and who is interested in history when surrounded by such a beautiful ambience. Thankfully, I have had a fill of historical sites in the previous week. They are everywhere. Having seen the Byzantines, Greeks, Romans, Turks et al, Turkey is chock a block with historical places. It is a smorgasbord of culture.

In the past one decade the sleepy fishing village called Marmaris got transformed into the most beautiful and sophisticated resort town of the Turkish Riviera and the rest is history. This part of the history definitely interested me.

My first glance of the town as I drove through the pine forests was at a bend where a sign read Iste Marmaris (Viola Marmaris). Spread before me was a vista of blue sea and sandy stretches crowded by sparkling white structures. I immediately recognised it as a place for relaxation and rejuvenation. No wonder there is a crowd of rich Scandinavians pushing up real estate prices as they buy villas to luxuriate in.
A friendly waiter at the hotel told me that the best way to enjoy a vacation at Marmaris is by taking a Gulet Cruise. I was curious. What the hell are gullets, I wondered. A small tip opened up a new knowledge zone for me as the waiter went on to explain the details. “Gulets have existed for hundreds of years in these parts of the country,” he began, serving me another glass of cold drink. “They are typically double-masted sailing ships reputed for smooth sailing through the warm, placid waters because of the shape of their hulls. Just outside Marmaris is the shipyard where the wooden gulets are still built the ancient way, without using computers and plans. In fact, the locals swear by them and wouldn’t travel any other way than cruising in a gulet along the coast.”

“Where can I see them?” by now my curiosity had been whetted. “A cousin of mine has one. If you go to the Marina and ask for Mohammed 2, they will guide you to his gulet.” The Mohammed was alright but the 2 got me curious. The explanation that came was simple. Since there were many Mohammeds in the harbour, the cousin had been listed as number 2.

Gulet cruise

That evening saw me trudging towards the harbour, which is a very old one and yachting is a big thing in this town. Ever since Marmaris got recognised for its yacht production and maintenance in the workshops that stand in the Yalanci Strait, the harbour got crowded with yachts and boats from various countries. Recognising the business potential, the boulevard quickly filled up with bars, shops and restaurants that offered everything from a pleasurable dining experience to shopping and drinking as well as a vibrant night life.

Along the boulevard dozens of gulets, the big handbuilt wooden sailing boats were moored. The crew called out to the tourists, offering blue cruises that would take them to the close by islands and villages. On the menu were popular ancient sites and the delta of the Dalyan River which offered a sulphur mud bath with skin cleansing properties.

A group of adrenaline junkies were doing a research on activities like swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and diving. Loud banter followed as rates were discussed and discarded, bargains struck and happy faces creased in smiles.

I joined a couple of tourists as they clambered aboard a gullet for inspection. Contrary to my expectations, the interiors were luxuriously furnished. Nice cabins, a spacious main saloon, a large rear deck for dining, and sun loungers on the roof at the front; there was everything to make sailing a pleasurable experience.

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The breakfast menu parroted by the owner promised to be as lavish as one could desire with fresh bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, eggs, yoghurt and honey. My mouth watered at the thought of those luscious olives that Turkish countryside produces.

My Russian companions were not, however, impressed. They gesticulated frenziedly and got off the gullet, with me following at their heels. As they made their way to the next one, looking for a better bargain, I invaded the restaurant nearest to the boulevard. There I sat with my repast of kebab and Turkish bread with tzaziki — a cucumber, yoghurt and garlic sauce — imagining the thrills of a blue cruise. In my mind the visuals gathered speed — the slapping waves, crisp sea air, and the canopy of stars at night — almost goading me to book a cruise. Alas, I was scheduled to leave the town shortly.

But, of course, I had worked out time for a quick trip to the market. It was a Friday so the weekly bazaar in the old bus station area was where the tourists gathered. Browsing through the local pine honey, handmade rugs and carpets, spices and healing herbs, souvenirs and gifts, I wondered if I could afford a small apartment on the turquoise coast for my retirement.

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