Why on earth go to Turkey?

I know this is supposed to be a blog about writing.  But sometimes even I can’t resist sharing my vacation photos!

When I told people I was planning to visit Turkey for my vacation, more than a few of them gave me a puzzled look and asked: “Why would you want to go there?”  Sadly, in this post-9/11 era, Americans seem to feel that visiting any country with a predominantly Muslim population is a somewhat scary proposition.  But I’d heard about the beauty of Turkey’s coastline, its great cuisine, and its fascinating history.  Most of all, I’d heard about its many archaeological sites, many of them still barely excavated. 

My internet search turned up an archaeological tour that sounded too good to be true: a 2-week cruise of the southwestern coast aboard a traditional Turkish sailing vessel called a gulet.  There are only 8 cabins aboard the boat and the tours are personally conducted by the ever-personable and energetic Peter Sommer, a young archaeologist from England who has, among his travels, walked the length of Turkey in the footsteps of Alexander. 


While his tour looked great online, I couldn’t really be sure what I was getting into.  But I took a leap of faith.  I paid upfront for the tour, invited some friends to join us, and boarded the plane to Istanbul.

A few days later, in the little port of Gocek, I caught my first glimpse of our boat, The Almira.  And I knew that it was going to be a fabulous vacation.


For two weeks, Peter escorted his intimate little group of 11 tourists to archaeological sites along the Carian coast — some of them obscure sites that were accessible only with a small boat.  There were many times when we were the only people walking among the ruins, sharing the landscape with just the goats and sheep.  The ship’s crew of four men took care of all the sailing and cooking — we didn’t have to do a thing but enjoy the sights, swim in incredibly clear waters, and enjoy lavish Turkish meals.  Every night we anchored in a different cove or harbor, and often we were the only boat around.

terry on boat

Because archaeology was what had brought these tourists together, it was a lively, curious group.  We weren’t there to get drunk and carouse and play obnoxiously loud music.  We were there because we wanted to watch sunsets while standing on ancient sites.  We wanted to learn.  And so we hounded poor Peter with questions, and probably drove him crazy, but he never stopped smiling. 


Knidos (below) is still under active excavation, and you can scramble about on walls that are still in the process of being fully unearthed.  Since I’m in the middle of re-writes, I figured it was a good time to say a prayer to the Muses.


By the time the trip was over, we’d bonded.  And we posed together for one last shot, at Bodrum castle:


Finally, it was back to Istanbul for one last day, and a visit to the spice market — where you can just see my hat in the crowd:


So now it’s back to work on the edits for THE BONE GARDEN.   The next blog post, I promise, will be about writing! 



25 replies
  1. Rikkesoft
    Rikkesoft says:

    Great to hear you enjoyed it.

    A couple of years ago I also participated on such a Blue cruise: and it was fantastic too. The only downside was the absence of airco on the boat: it was sometimes so hot at night that we just had to sleep outside.

    And accidently, this fall I will return to Turkey, passing a week in Istanbul.

  2. Kyle K.
    Kyle K. says:

    That sounds amazing.

    I love going to places and experiencing the culture… In that sense, I don’t view myself as the typical tourist. The most appealing thing to me is to go somewhere and just sit in a cafe and people-watch. (As a writer, I vehemently deny the sketchiness of the above comment and chalk it up to research.) I’m not a big fan of going to see the ‘tourist attractions’, per-se, so the trip you took sounds like it would be right up my alley (though I doubt I would have gone swimming. I have a deathly fear of sharks stemming from an unpleasant childhood pool experience… yeah, it’s best not to ask!).

    I’m glad you were able to get away for a while and hope that it fueled your creative juices for the editing process…!

    Good to have you back, though!

  3. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    as a non-writer i really enjoy your blogs on other subjects-it looks like a very interesting trip you had-i studied the history of alexander and that period in great detail years ago-i think most of us know that turkey is not like taking a trip to pakistan or iraq-did you eat any of those stuffed zucchini-like things-they put rice and lamb(i think) in them and they are pretty good-there are a lot of turkish restaurants in amsterdam which is where i found them-thaks to kemal ataturk,turkey became modernized and was freed from domination by the mullahs early in the 20th century and i believe the kemalist attitudes largely prevail today-anyhow welcome back and i bet the trip took your mind off deadlines!!

  4. Gabriele
    Gabriele says:

    Turkey is still one of the favourite holiday countries for Germans, so I wasn’t surprised by your choice. 🙂

    Though most care more about the beaches than the antiquities. 😉

  5. Gabriele
    Gabriele says:

    I’m afraid it’s probably a bit much for my purse, but I’d like to know about that tour – it sounds totally like something I’d love.

    Btw, I made a trip to the Hadrian’s Wall while you were scrambling over stones in the south – there are pics on my blog (scroll down for more) and more to come.

  6. margaret
    margaret says:

    So glad to know the trip lived up to your highest expectations.

    Perhaps we should’ve tagged along–I, took could use a visit to the Temple of the Muses!

    Many thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.

  7. wendy roberts
    wendy roberts says:

    Beautiful pictures! Could the water truly be that blue?

    The Temple of the Muses sounds like the perfect vacation stop for a writer. So wish I could take my muse there 🙂

  8. JanetK
    JanetK says:

    I grabbed a book titled something like FOOD MARKETS OF THE WORLD off a remainder pile a while back — the photos were amazing. Seems like I remember seeing pictures of that Istanbul spice market in there…

    Anyway, sounds like a tremendous trip — and good for you for trying something different. Just hope you didn’t miss the donkeys too much 🙂

  9. Therese Fowler
    Therese Fowler says:

    Lovely to see and hear about your trip!

    Such a dramatic change of scenery should assure that you return to THE BONE GARDEN with fresh eyes.

    Much envy here as I begin reading through my first-pass page proofs while also trying to get a first draft of book 2 written. (There, I helped make this post writing-related!)

  10. Meike
    Meike says:

    Sounds like a wonderful trip. Good thing, too, you managed to avoid the uber-tourist Valhalla’s on the west coast.

  11. 5harmaine
    5harmaine says:

    Ooh it sounds so serene and educational… well, at least the parts of the trip on the water and among the archaeological sites. The spice market still looks pretty funky with the banners (?) hanging from the roof!

    I’m glad you had fun, and I hope your work/correspondence didn’t pile up like a snowball, as it tends to… It’s so great to have you back, Tess, and be able to hear your insight! =D

  12. Chrissy
    Chrissy says:

    I’m so jealous! I’ll never be able to afford to leave New Zealand. I would love to travel, I want to go every where. I have penpals, and online friends all over the world because I love seeing, and hearing about the places they live.. I think it’s also why I love hanging around with the international students so much, they have so many interesting stories to tell of their own countries!

    I love the photos, it looks like you had a good time. The Almira looks *beautiful*. (A nice name too.) My .. well he was my Grandad I don’t consider him that now, a stranger really.. he had a yacht named Yvonne (hence the fact that all my evil characters tend to be named Yvonne!) She truly was a beautiful little yacht, and I absolutely loved going out on her, I think I only ever went twice… and once I saw dolphins in the harbour, it was a truly memorable experience. 🙂

  13. Patricia Wood
    Patricia Wood says:

    Great photos! Glad you’re back. How was living on the boat? Now you know what makes me reluctant to ever move off my sailboat!
    I found it difficult to stop thinking of my novel and relax while in Norway last month. How was it for you?

  14. Vanessa F
    Vanessa F says:

    No worries, I love your blog even when you’re not talking about writing 🙂 I’m glad you had a great trip!

  15. soniahkamal
    soniahkamal says:

    to Joe Bernstein–
    you say “i think most of us know that turkey is not like taking a trip to pakistan or iraq-”
    Putting Iraq and Pakistan in the same boat is unfair–I’m not sure what taking a leisure trip to Iraq in the current political clime would be like, but Pakistan is not at war. Pakistan has a rich history, including Alexander’s footsteps. It is home the of the Indus Valley Civilization and one can visit Mohenjodaro, one of the oldest cities of the ancient world. There is also architecture from the Muhgal period and forts and British Colonial artifacts galore including Kipling’s Gun. In fact every city– Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, as well as the smaller towns, offer tourists much to see. Not to mention mountains like K2 and the scenic northern areas of Swat, Gilgit, Baltistan. May I add the cuisine is very very good too.
    Tess– enjoy your blog, no matter what the post.

  16. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    to soniakhamal-i have known more than a few pakistanis and many of them left there because of turmoil starting in the period when bhutto was overthrown by a military coup-there is at the present time quite a serious amount of sectarian violence and a an ongoing struggle between the government and extremists-it is only one of many countries in the world with this situation-if it would make you feel any better pakistan could be replaced with colombia,new caledonia,papua new guinea,sierra leone,congo,ivory coast etc,etc-and most of those places have great natural beauty and historical sites as well as nice people but they are not the best places to vacation,that’s all i was saying

  17. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    oh,and by the way don’t tell anyone in kashmir or the northwest frontier that pakistan is not at war-in those areas it has been more or less continuous with the only variation being intensity

  18. Trace_ZBullet
    Trace_ZBullet says:

    Wow, the scenery is truly beautiful! I’m glad your vacation was good and I hope the muses heard your prayer! I’m looking forward to Bone Garden’s release!

  19. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    I LOVE hearing about your vacation, Tess!!!!!!! I guess you got to see the Bosphorus and everything else there, too, I hope. Dad was back in the Middle East in January, so he doesn’t have any problems going to mostly Muslim places. I wouldn’t either except that I REALLY hate to travel, but like you, I love to chase history. When Dad and I had our mini vacation in May, I rented a “land yacht” (RV) and dragged Dad along. We were on or along the old Santa Fe Trail and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (now the Burlington Northern and SF) RR “chasing history” as I call it. I just do Old West history and don’t chase ancient history so much.
    I wonder, though, if anything weird or funny happened to you, too, because unusual things happen when you go on a trip. Dad and I are still laughing about my accidentally stepping on that snake in the middle of a cemetery in Kansas.

  20. kristiw
    kristiw says:

    Thanks for blogging about the fantastic Turkey/Greece tour on the Almira. It was quite possibly the best vacation of my life and very inspiring and our little gang of tourists became fledgling archeologists by the end of the trip. We finding all sorts of stuff… coins, pottery, new plant life, other alphabets, porcupine quills…., and the trip changed my thinking to: it would be nice to have a temple to Aphrodite or Apollo in the backyard…. I had some of the same fears about Turkey, but upon arrival the earth energy felt great, the people were so nice and helpful and everything had an air of the mystical. It was easy on the gulet to expect great things every day, like newly uncovered archeological sites, or when this group of sheep just exploded out of this one temple, or the pod of baby dolphins, or this giant snake at one of the last big sights that seemed to jump from ancient wall to ancient wall or the baby owl on top of the column at Knidos. I am not sure I am fully back from there yet!!

  21. Tom Young
    Tom Young says:

    That sounds like a awesome trip. I would love to do something like that. Turkey is one country I’ve never been too. Spent most of my time searching the left overs of WW2 in the Pacific areas. Amazing what can be found just walking along a coral reef.

    So glad you had a wonderful time

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