For me, the Blue Voyage (or Blue Cruise or Gulet Cruise or, in Turkish, “Mavi Yolculuk”) can be described in four words:
Culture (food included)
Once Al and I were having lunch with a friend and I was excitedly talking about the Blue Voyages we have taken in the past on the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas in Turkey. And the last two Blue Voyages were with our friends from Keyport, Hoboken, Red Bank and the Princeton area in New Jersey. In my explanation, I was really concentrating on the first two words of my description (hedonism and culture). Our friend interrupted me before I even went further with the other two words (nature and history). He said “if I ever do arrange a trip to my country, it will be a scholarly trip, concentrating on history, not an entertainment trip.” I am not sure what his purpose was while interrupting me. Turkey has so much history that you do not need to take a specific history trip to see the 12,000 years of history.
I will still stick to my four words to describe the Blue Voyage in Turkey to you. All four are essential—it’s not just about traveling from one historic site to another without absorbing the rest of the beauty, culture, and food with all our senses. Maybe my friend could not see that all those four words can live together in a blissful voyage on a boat while soaking in the sun, dipping in the azure blue Mediterranean Sea, swimming around ancient ruins, getting off onto the land or little islands carrying history for thousands of years. Just add a sprinkle of mythology on top of it.
HEDONISM: The Epic of Gilgamesh was written more than four thousand years ago (2750-2500 BCE) on 12 clay tablets and is probably the oldest written story on Earth. The story is about Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk. In the Old Babylonian (Sumerian) version, during his travels, King Gilgamesh meets Siduri, the Babylonian Goddess of wine and beer, wisdom, and merry-making. She runs a tavern on the shore of the sea. After hearing all the distresses that King Gilgamesh is filled with, she tells him:
“Whither are you wandering?
Life, which you look for,
you will never find.
For when the gods created man,
they let death be his share,
and life withheld in their own hands.
Fill your belly,
day and night make merry,
let days be full of joy,
dance and make music day and night.
And wear fresh clothes,
and wash your head and bathe.
Look at the child that is holding your hand,
and let your wife delight in your embrace.
These things alone are the concern of men.”
– Old Babylonian Version of The Epic Of Gilgamesh, Sippar Tablet
(The later version (Akkadian) replaces Siduri with an old wise men – first encounters with sexism!)
Many scholars describes Siduri’s life advice as the first description of understanding, joy, and family. And some describe it as the first recorded advocacy of hedonism. Hedonism is not just having fun. It is much deeper. It is appreciating the moment, it is feeling the present. I think Lynn, a dear friend of mine (we met in Cappadocia), describes it best:
“listening to the sounds of silence, laundry dancing on the clothesline and leaves singing in the wind … bliss. so nice and simple.”
Just think of yourself surrounded with family and/or friends or wonderful travelers like yourself: You wake up in the morning – early so as not to miss the sunrise over the sea, watching the sea turning gray to azure blue, smelling fresh coffee and tea, listening to the clatter in the galley with anticipation of a great breakfast. You quickly put your bathing suit on and jump into the sea, so blue and so clear that you see every pebble and every little fish swimming deep in the water.
After that refreshing swim, you climb on the boat, dripping salty Mediterranean water that smooth’s your skin better than any skin lotion you can buy. A long table filled with freshest breakfast items is awaiting you and your friends while two of the boat crew are ready to serve you. You can take another dip in the water after breakfast, or just start reading your book. You look around the little cove that you just anchored at the evening before. It is so serene and so beautiful. Breathe in that salty sea air and let go.
The boat you are on now is your home for the next 7 days. It is called a gulet. This is a traditional two-masted wooden sailing boat. It is made in Turkey, probably in Bodrum or in Bozburun. It is very comfortable with a rounded aft with lots of cushions and a big table for meals and a comfortable front for evening cocktails and sun tanning. In between, there is a covered sitting area in case of bad weather (very rare!) and a staircase to the cabins, a chest-high deck filled with sun mattresses that you can choose to sleep on at night to watch the stars and the moon.
Al and I have never slept in our cabin during any of our blue voyages. Without any light pollution, the stars are spectacular. Without noise pollution, your boat just lulls you to sleep.
After breakfast, your gulet captain takes you to another little cove with pines reaching over the sea, casting their shadows over the rocks and the blue water. If you wish, you can spend all afternoon, evening and night here. Or, after a good swim, snorkeling, or kayaking, a delicious lunch and a glass of wine, your captain can take you to another cove for the evening. While you are resting in the afternoon, an ice cream boat or a boat filled with souvenirs approaches. A village woman hands over wonderful handmade embroidered tunics, scarves, and Turkish towels so you can try them on in the boat. All you have to do is to go to your cabin to find your wallet …you might have forgotten that it exists in the last several days.
There is a captain, a cook and two crew members on the gulet. They make sure you have the best food, best service, and best locations to visit. Sometimes, your captain may go for a dive for the day’s catch. Or, you can catch your own daily fish yourself. And the cook will grill the seafood for you off the bow. Once in a while, the captain docks at small villages, like Selimiye, to get supplies. You have plenty of time to explore the village and the historical sites surrounding it. Sometimes, a crew member takes you to the shore in one of the small coves because you are curious about a remains of a monastery at the top of a hill by the bay. It might turn out to be the stopping point for travelers heading to Jerusalem for an ancient pilgrimage.
For me, the evening is the best time. First, you get that tingling sensation of the sun tan on your back, a bit of tiredness from swimming, feeling refreshed from the sea water (do not take a shower if you prefer to let the salty sea water do wonders on your skin) or from the shower you just took. You and your fellow travelers gather in front of the boat, while munching on the hazelnuts and fresh fruit and sipping your cocktails. Again, the clattering noise from the galley makes you hungry and you wonder what kind of food will be served on fine china tonight.
After dinner, you can choose to sing, dance, read books, chat with your blue voyagers, or just drift yourself to sleep. Or do all. The night is yours. Until you wake up to watch the sunrise.
And It is not a coincidence that TurkishTravelBlog just posted How to Prepare for a Gulet Cruise in Turkey . It is still Summer Time! And Blue Voyage is one of the top ten best things you can do in Turkey.