In my previous post, I talked about Hedonism as the first word to describe Blue Voyage in Turkey. Today, I will talk about the next word: History. The other two words: Nature and Culture+Food will follow this post.
It does not matter which route you take on Blue Voyage, you will end up marveling at the span of history mingled with the beautiful Aegean and Mediterranean coastline. Do not get surprised if you encounter some ruins on a little island that your gulet is tied to for an afternoon break. Do not get surprised if your captain does not even know what it is. But, there are always books to refer to or ask the locals. They can tell you the entire history including the myth surrounding the area.
In one of our trips, we walk up to a hill called Chimera or Chimaera (Turks call it Yanartas, which means ‘burning stone’). I always heard about this hill near the Lycian city of Olympus. close to Kemer, Antalya. According to the Greek mythology and mostly from the Iliad by Homer, Lobates, the Lycian King, tells Bellerophon to kill Chimera, a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and a tail of a serpent. Bellerophon is the greatest hero long before Heracles, and might have been the son of Poseidon. Bellerophon rides Pegasus, the untamed winged horse which sprang from Medusa’s severed neck, and flies off to kill Chimera. Rumor goes either Poseidon or Athena helps Bellerophon to tame the wild horse. He gets a large block of lead and puts it on the head of his spear. When Chimera opens his mouth to breathe fire, Bellerophon sticks the lead block inside Chimera’s throat. The lead melts and blocks the air-passage of Chimera, eventually suffocating him. Bellerophon returns to King Lobates who gives even more daunting tasks for him to complete, including defeating Amazon-woman warriors. Bellerophon completes each one with success, with a little help (!) from Poseidon. Eventually, King Lobates lets him marry his daughter and shares his kingdom with Bellerophon. However, Bellerophon, feeling powerful, rides Pegasus to Mount Olympus to join the gods. This angers Zeus. He sends a gad-fly to sting Pegasus which causes Bellerophon to fall back to the earth. Pegasus completes the flight to Mount Olympus and becomes Zeus’ horse and carries his thunderbolts. Bellerophon spends the rest of his life in misery as a blind and a crippled man.
I have tried to keep this long story as short as possible. As in any Greek Mythology, there are so many arms and legs of this story including one regarding Bellerophon’s grandsons being a soldier who fought at the Trojan war. But for now, back to Chimera/Yanartas…..
This amazing rock formation at the hills of the Taurus Mountains still breathes fire like the dragon. It is believed that since the 4th century BCE, methane gas is released from the rocks’ crevices and as soon as it reaches the air, the gas burns. This eternal flame has been burning for about 2500 years. We walk up to the higher elevations on the rocks trying not to step on the eternal flames. When we reach the top, we see a villager brewing Turkish tea on a rock on top of one of the crevices – free gas with no lighting required. We drink our tea and buy water from him and walk down the rocks. There are ruins of churches, houses, and temples including a temple dedicated to Hephaestus, the Greek god of volcanic fire! (a perfect match of mythology with history). The roman name is Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera.
We go back to our gulet as the darkness of the night is slowly coming down on us. Then, we see why the sailors, for centuries, used Chimera as their lighthouse for centuries. The whole rock formation is completely covered with eternal red flames. They look beautiful with a backdrop of the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean surrounding us taking its blue-gray shade for the night.
The entire coastline of the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea is dotted with historic sites like the City of Olympus and Chimera to explore.
Let it be Phaselis with its ruins of aquaducts, baths, a theater, Hadrian’s gate, and the Acropolis, which was set up by Rhodians in 700 BCE, a prosperous city once a port for the shipment of timber, rose oil and perfume. Just imagine that Alexander the Great loved Phaselis and spent an entire winter there with his army.
Let it be Myra where you can visit St. Nicholas’ church and his tomb (Santa Claus was the bishop of Myra during the 4th century). Don’t miss the amazing ruins of the City of Myra when you are there.
Let it be the private beach of Cleopatra and Anthony at Sedir Island in Gokova Bay where the sand is made out of perfect sphere-shaped white sea shells which gives the water an unbelievable pure blue color. At Sedir Island you can explore a number of Roman ruins of the ancient city of Kadrae including an agora and an amphitheater from the 4th century BCE. Just add the feeling of a cool sea breeze under the shades of olive and pine trees and the chickens running around the ruins looking for food.
Let it be Bodrum where you can visit the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (Bodrum), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the St. Peter’s Castle built by the Knights of Hospitaller in 14th century .
Let it be the ancient Greek city of Knidos (Cnidus) perched on a hill at the tip of Datca Peninsula with breathtaking views of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.
Let it be the sunken city of Simena where your boat hovers above sunken houses and staircases and tombs.
Indulge in history, while soaking in the sun. It feels endless.
Just within the boundaries of Mediterranean coastline of Anatolia, there are more than 100 archeological sites. Many of these sites are accessible during Blue Voyage.