We departed from Marmaris on June 21 along the Carian coast of Turkey, bound over seven days for tranquil Turkish coves and Greek Dodecanese isles. The gulet pulled away from the harbor at a moderate clip and traced the jagged coastline bearing west. These types of boats don't use their sails anymore, they are just for show. Steady diesel engines chug them along the whole way.
The mountains which isolate the inner mainland from the sea form a nearly impenetrable barricade. We ambled past them with a slow roll. The contrast of colors between the sky and Aegean Sea is unmistakably definitive. It is like holding up two paint chips on a wall, one of blindingly light blue, the other of deep undulating navy, and seeing for certain the contrast between your choices. When I gazed at the coast to the north, strips of grey and green separate the two blues like a demilitarized zone between competing factions. Every few kilometers, a small peninsula or island juts out from the mountainous wall, bare of vegetation. The fissured geometric rocks resemble dirty, grey ice cubes stacked upon each other, reflecting the sunshine but defying the melting forces. And to the south, the colors clash at the unending horizon at a line so straight, you could calibrate your carpenter's level to it.
We first stopped for a swim and lunch near Arap Island. Each day went similarly. An early start is made, then a stop for swimming and lunch at a tranquil cove, then an afternoon cruise to the next port or harbor for the night. The first night was spent in silent Bozukkale. The second just north up the coast in Bozburun, where we witnessed a breathtaking sunrise over the mountains. The third was spent in a quiet natural harbor east of Datça. Each of these legs of the trip were full of gorgeous scenery. Our activities for the day consisted of sunbathing, swimming, reading, and chatting with our fellow passengers.
The fourth day brought a morning stop at the small resort town of Datça. We had previously considered coming to Datça over land and staying a few nights. We are glad we didn't because this small town doesn't have enough to keep you occupied for more than a few hours. It is somewhat charming, but the beaches and sights are not enough to make it worth the several hour bus ride from Bodrum. In the late afternoon, we cut across he bay into open water toward Greece. A short time later, we arrived at the island of Symi.
After a swim break in a quiet harbor, we rounded the corner for Symi's main port, following in the wake of a giant German cruise ship. Symi harbor seems way too small to accommodate a cruise ship, but they somehow cycle through multiple ships in a day one at a time. We disembarked from the gulet right before the cruisers did. The small town was chaotic for the two hours during their "excursion" period. When they finally left, the town settled down and we took a quiet post-dinner stroll. The unique architectural style and array of pastel colors have made Symi famous. There are still winding alleys with traditional shops and cafes, but the waterfront is totally geared toward short term visitors. I can only imagine what this town was like 20 or more years ago, or at least before the mega ships came calling.
On our fifth day, we departed Symi bright and early for Rhodes. For such a large island (the largest in the Dodecanese), Rhodes has a rather small port. It can handle a cruise ship or two, along with a handful of gulets and private yachts. Again, we disembarked around the same time as a flood of cruising Germans. The super touristy old town center was swarming with cruisers. As the afternoon went on, it thinned out and allowed us to experience more of the town's charm. We visited some typical sites like the town castle and walked the old moats. Our favorite activity, however, was a stop at the Cellar of Knights. We spent over an hour chatting with the owner, Nektarios, and sampling traditional Greek wines. Rough weather that night forced us to move from the main port to another natural harbor on the other side of the island. Fierce wind made for a difficult night's sleep.
The final day, we cut back to Marmaris and slept terribly on the boat one last time before disembarking on the seventh morning. If the weather is calm, your best chance of getting good sleep is on top of the deck, where cushions cover the sunbathing area and allow stunning starry scenery at night.
Prior to visiting Turkey, we were totally unaware of the Blue Cruise phenomenon. This type of trip is incredibly popular with Germans, Dutch, and other Northern Europeans. In our group of 12, there were four Dutch and six Germans, all over the age of 50! It made for an interesting week. They made us feel old because we drank the least, went to bed the earliest, and spent the most time reading. The party moniker clearly belonged to them!
For the price (€450 per person for a week including all meals), this is the best way to see the coast of Turkey and visit some Greek islands. We booked our tour through Bodtur.com, and the staff were very responsive and helpful. There is an abundance of time to relax, and enough beautiful sights to make your eyes bulge and jaw drop permanently. It is fun to do alone or as a couple, but would be perfect for a large group to have a really memorable week.