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Of Aqua, Ether and Terra, The Türkish Utopia Part 1
Türkiye’s transcontinental culture-clash, its east-west spice-mix of influences, flavours, cultures, religions and histories, make it so intriguing. So, when I decided to take a month-long sabbatical from work to travel International, Türkiye was an obvious choice. The land of sensorial richness, the bazaars and the mosques, its food and arts; of exoticism and its romance, from the Ottoman palaces to fairy-tales of Cappadocia, its beauty spots are equally diverse. I set out to explore the otherworldly landscapes and ancient wonders, once the playgrounds of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Caesar and Alexander the Great.
It was summer, Turkey's exceptionally beautiful Turquoise Coast, plied by boats sailing on their Blue Voyages from the Aegean to the eastern reaches of the Mediterranean, bays of crystal-clear water, blue-painted tables and chairs framed with canopies of pink bougainvillaea, life had gone unchanged for thousands of years.
The first Milestone in the month-long journey across Türkiye was at the pools of Pamukkale
The mineral springs are an extraordinary sight – Pamukkale means ‘cotton castle’. The series of natural pools of pale greenish water, cupped in shallow, organic-shaped basins of gleaming-white travertine, are terraced into the hillside, overspilling with the mineral-rich spring water that formed them and which appears to have frozen in time in petrified waterfalls, stalactites of limestone like wedding-cake icing dripping down the hillside.
Often overlooked, built at the very top of the site, around the healing springs are the ancient ruins of the Greco-Roman spa town Hierapolis. Here you can bathe in Cleopatra’s very own hot bath, said to have been a gift from Mark Antony. The doric columns once covered by the Roman temple of Apollo, now lie in the water, and the pool is flanked with flowers.
Blue Lagoon at Olüdeniz
Our next stop was at this bay of turquoise water, a finger of white sand curving around it, is so supernaturally vibrant that it has become a poster child for the Turquoise Coast. The sands of Belcekiz beach slip into the limpid shallows, protected by the promontories which lie around it like sleeping furries, creating swirling seascapes of blue, green and white.
Patara Beach is the longest and the most vivid beach in Turkey, also one of the emptiest. Deep, wide stretches of pale sand; dunes, pine trees, marshes, lagoons, also a natural park rich in birdlife, I was effectively surrounded by water and wildlife – most notably, the endangered loggerhead turtles. It’s thanks partly to the turtles that the beach remains unspoilt and protected, and also to the ruins that lie at the back of the beach, the ancient city of Patara, built by Apollo’s son. These ruins include an amphitheatre, parliament building and the column-flanked remains of the main street. Apollo’s temple is still believed to lie underneath, as yet undiscovered.
Far enough from the big seaside hubs, the old fishing village of Kaş keeps it offbeat and remains a hideaway for hippie travellers. Crazy-paved streets lined by historic white-washed houses, wooden balconies and billowing bougainvillaea, against a backdrop of mountains. It sits beside the most eloquent turquoise sea, rustic swimming terraces and daybeds built over the water, piled with bright cushions and textiles.
Scuba-diving, off the island of Kekova, was a mind-boggling experience as I got to witness an underwater city, a sunken ship, with schools of vibrant fishes and hordes of the Caretta turtles, visible beneath the crystal-clear water.
The very next day, I took a day long boat tour from the old harbour. The trip included meals as well since we caught live fish from the sea. The whole experience was a bang for buck as it cost me a meagre 80TL which comes out to be around 450Rs.
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