Sunday, February 5, 2012

Traveler Al’s “Almost a Last Hurrah Voyages" - Mamaris, Turkey

Boat at the "Girl Sand Beach"

Friday, November 11, 2011 I awoke to find the Constellation docked in the Turkish resort town of Mamaris.  The weather was somewhat gloomy, but the day soon brightened and warmed up considerably. 

Mamaris is a beautiful town of about 30,000 inhabitants on the Mediterranean Ocean on Turkey’s southern coast.  During the summer, tourist season, the town’s population swells to over 300,000.

The Southern Turkish coast is very convoluted with a myriad of small coves and large bays formed by hills and mountains along side the sea. The area was the perfect hiding places for pirates and corsairs in antiquity.

Plutarch mentions that when his military career was just starting out, (about 78 to 75 BCE) young Gaius Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates from the Southern Coast of what is now Turkey - Bithenyia. Throughout his captivity, Caesar maintained his superiority. When the pirates demanded 20 silver talents as ransom, Caesar insisted that they raise the amount to 50 silver talents! 

Caesar had memorized the number of coves and bays the pirates had passed to return to their base. He kept telling them that he would return and crucify the lot of them on his own authority.  The pirates thought this was a joke. When ransomed Caesar did raise a small army on his own authority, captured the pirate’s base and crucified them, however he did show them the mercy of cutting their throats after they were put on the cross.

Collen McCollough has written an excellent series of books about the History of The Emperors of the Roman Empire.  The pirate incident is also mentioned in her first book, – “The Grass Crown”, of the series.

Mamaris was twice used as a base for invasions once by the Ottoman Turks (Suliman the Magnificent) to successfully capture and expel the Knights of St. John of Rhodes at Christmas time in 1522, and as a shelter for British Admiral Lord Nelson’s fleet in 1798 by before his fight against Napoleon’s army in Egypt.

Now, Mamaris is a summer resort town that thrives on visitors.  The town and surroundings have many marinas for pleasure boats and yachts large and small. 

One of two marinas at Mamaris, Turkey

The waterfront is reminiscent of a much cleaner Cozumel, Mexico but with pine covered hills and mountains.  The tour guides told us that temperatures in late July and August often reached 40 to 45 degrees Celsius!  That is well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit!

I took a tour that promised to be “easy” without a lot of walking. I wanted to save myself for the highlight of my Holy Land cruise – visits to Jerusalem and Bethlehem that coming up in a few more days. 

Residential area - Mamaris, Turkey

The tour bus wandered through the hills, going through the forests, up and over ridges and then back down and around small coves and seaside bays.  The water surface in all of the coves was very smooth because there was so little wind and they were so well protected from the open sea. The air was hazy from all the pine resin vapors and smoke from small wood fires  that hung in the still air.

A marina on a cove not far from Mamaris, Turkey

Another cove near Mamaris, Turkey

I did not have a chance to get a photograph, but every little village and outlying house had many bee hives.  It seemed to be the high season of gathering honey. Quite a number of families had set up tents for camps throughout the forest as they collected honey. 

I did not take too many photos as we drove around the hills and sea coves.  I do not like to photograph through window glass as it causes odd reflections in the photos. But I did take a few - there was no alternative.

We stopped at one broad cove that had a thin sand bar stretching from one shore to another.  This is called the “Girl Sand Beach” which has a 3,000 year old legend attached to it.  The legend relates that a young girl, a beautiful princess of the City Kingdom of Baybasso, wanted desperately to flee the pirates who captured the city kingdom and killed her father, the King.  The young princess could not swim, so she filled her skirt with sand to spread before her to create a walkway to the far shore. She became extremely exhausted from her labors, fell off the walkway she had created and drowned!  So goes the legend of how the sand bar across the cove came about.  I did not really see the sand bar even though we stopped for a cold drink at a seaside café right on the “Girl Sand Beach.”

Girl Sand Beach with cafe

There was a Turkish camera crew working on a movie, or a soap opera or a TV commercial.  There was a very young, beautiful actress in a sophisticated, but revealing costume taking a break in the café.  She looked about 14 or 15 years old. Sorry, I did not want to risk taking her photo as the crew had several big, burly guys as security intently watching all of us in the tour group!

Filming set up at Girl Sand Beach

It was almost like seeing a Turkish version of the stereotype of Hollywood characters:  There was a guy with a shaved head wearing a black leather jacket and black leather pants with sunglasses perched above his forehead; there were business guys in a no nonsense suits, there were female assistants - well dressed, glamorous with their sweaters draped over their shoulders or loosely tied around their neck!

Hooray for Hollywood!

After our short break for a soft drink or tulip shaped glasses of chi (tea) we left on the tour bus to go to the small mountain village of Bayir (BYE-ir). 

I do not know how the bus driver managed, but he got the big bus through the narrow streets of Bayir. He let us off at the village center near the village’s small mosque and somehow turned the bus completely around for our return trip out of the village.

Bayir, Turkey

Bayir is famous for its almost 2,000 year old Plane tree which is said to bring a long life and good fortune to those who walk around it 3 times.  The trunk is massive.  The tree creates a nice shaded area for the cafés and small stores there.  Around back of the café, I met some men playing chess, but they waved me off when I started to take their photo.  I purchased some pistachio nuts, some potato chips (Pringles) and a few 1 liter bottles of Coke Zero at the tiny store to take back to my stateroom on the ship.

The Plane Tree of Bayir, Turkey

Walk around the plane tree 3 times and achieve luck and a long life. No, I did not go around even once!

Information about the plane tree of Bayir, Turkey

Souvenir shop and a Turkish flag with a portrait of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk - the Father of modern Turkey,

The local elementary school let out just before we left the village. 

School is out! Bayir, Turkey

Just outside Bayir as we drove away.

We left Bayir to return to Mamaris by a different route.  The bus had not gone too far when a traffic jam developed due to a truck making a delivery in a small village with only one road through it.  The bus was stuck for about 15 minutes.  

Boys and motor scooter, near Bayir, Turkey

I was surprised to see that the boys still wear the blue smocks with the wide white collars as their school uniforms.  Girls wear plaid skirts and white blouses. I watched the antics of a very young boy and some school boys playing with a parked motor scooter at a bar / café next to the bus.

The bus made one more stop high on the mountains outside of Mamaris so we could take photos of the great view of the town, our ship and the bay far below.

Mamaris, Turkey with the Celebrity Constellation from the hills.

Those members of the tour group who wished to had the option of being dropped off at the waterfront and major tourist shopping area.  I wanted to find an internet café to check my e-mail.  I found one not too far away climbed some narrow stairs to the second story internet café and checked my e-mail.  After an hour, I was able to find a  ”taksi” (taxi) to drive me back to the ship. The ride cost me about $15.  I paid the fare in Euros.

Shops near the Mamaris, Turkey waterfront

Shops near the Mamaris, Turkey waterfront 

Part of my taksi ride back to the cruise port

I was happy to get back to the ship and rest.  At dusk, I went upstairs to take some photos of the marina and the town from the high elevation of Constellation’s upper decks.  We sailed away from the beautiful resort town of Mamaris, Turkey just after dark fell.

The main marina. The Constellation was docked right next to this small boat harbor.

Panoramic view of the bay at Mamaris, Turkey - Shadows on the water are from the clouds

Next – Asdod, Israel – Jerusalem & Bethlehem

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